Showing posts from January, 2012

Hope for the hopeless, or baring my soul

A comment was left on the post about disruption yesterday that I wanted to address here, so everyone could see my response.

Dear Anonymous,

My heart has been so heavy for you ever since I read your comment yesterday and I have been praying for you and for your family.  I know that sounds trite.  Frankly, when you're in the midst of something like this, when there seems to be no way out and nothing you can do to change the situation, everything sounds trite.  And believe me when I say I understand this feeling.  That would be the stuck-in-a-hopeless-situation-of-my-own-causing feeling.  I've been there.  Some days I am still there.

I was speaking with another mother of many the other day who is interested in adoption and has been asking me questions.  I try not to sugar-coat our experiences when talking to potential adoptive parents because it is far better to know what to expect than have unrealistic expectations.  As I was relating our experiences, I could tell she was wonde…

Weekly schedule

I know I have mentioned before that as a way to organize my homemaking, I use the old-fashioned concept of assigning a task to a certain day of the week.  Currently here is what my week looks like:  Monday - shopping and errands; Tuesday - desk (making appts., paying bills, filing, etc.); Wednesday - sewing (plus mending); Thursday - kitchen (making anything out of the ordinary for the coming week and any extra baking); Friday - laundry (getting caught-up plus any finicky or special wash which needs to be done); Saturday - cleaning.

I am struck again with how well this system works.  Last fall, I never really settled into a set schedule.  Consequently, I always felt a bit behind and certain things never seemed to get done.  In desperation, I sorted out my week and began again with the new year.  It makes such a difference in how smoothly I feel life is going.  When I know I am going to get to something later in the week, because it has an assigned day, it is easier to set it aside gu…

"You're so good"

I'm sure most adoptive parents are familiar with variations on this phrase, and I'm also quite sure that the majority of them find it just as irksome as I do.  Because it just isn't true.  We are not any better than anyone else.  Frankly, being an adoptive parent can sometimes make you face up to the fact that not only are you not any better than anyone else, but that you are not even as good as you imagined yourself to be.  While I know people mean for it to be a compliment, it's just not.  What it ends up sounding like is that there must be something quantifiably different about us than other people; that they are off the hook because they are not like us.

Very rarely does anyone go into adoption already practiced at the skills they need.  Usually they just start with the desire to be a parent and perhaps with some experience in raising biological children.  Our skills are learned with tried and true practice.  And like most practice, sometimes the process is discour…

The ancient Egyptian game Senet

Our history co-op is studying ancient Egypt this year.  Today's lesson was on the game Senet.  The older group took turns playing on an already constructed game board:
That's P13 sitting there.
The younger group made their own game board, playing pieces, and throwing sticks, then spent some time playing the game.

TM working on making his playing pieces.
The whole group as they work upstairs.
D. showing his game board.  
The mom of the P. family sewed all of these blank game boards for each child and then they used markers to decorate the squares.  While the empty spaces are not normally numbered, it was easier for the younger group to see where they were as they played.
The throwing sticks.
Instead of dice, four throwing sticks were used.  One side is decorated and one is blank.  They are thrown and the number of spaces moved is the number of blank sticks facing up.  If all the colored sides are up, the player would move 5.
P.'s (in process) playing pieces.  She has constructed fi…

Homeschooling with the two year olds

I am always surprised when people ask me what I do with the girls (G. and L.) for school... and they follow up with a second question asking if they go to preschool.  They are two for Heaven's sake!  They don't need school.  They need to follow their Mommy around all day and watch and play and learn.  (And get lots and lots of hugs and kisses and conversation.)  But that isn't to say they are not learning.

On a regular day, I will spend some time with them first, either reading stories or playing games or singing songs, before I begin with the older people.  Then the little girls are still in the room, but they are playing with toys while the rest do their schoolwork.  Sometimes they will join us in what we are doing... coloring a picture, building something, tasting food, listening to stories.  But it is very informal and they are welcome to come and go as their interest dictates.  (The pen is still in use, believe me!  Currently, we have it across the doorways to keep th…

It's not about you - warning, hot button topic ahead, read at your own risk

As you all know I am a big advocate of adoption.  But I have been seeing things in the adoption community that disturb me a little.  This isn't directed at any single situation, but to a general sense of what is going on.  You know it's great that people want to adopt and give a child, especially an older child, a home.  But too often I hear stories of people disrupting an adoption for reasons that bother me.  (Hear me correctly.  Not all disruptions are wrong... sometimes it is necessary.)  I don't mean to make light of how these families are feeling or the difficulties they are going through, but I wonder what prompted them to adopt in the first place.  You see, if you choose to adopt because it is a good thing to do; because you are rescuing a child; because you feel guilty over the plight of orphans and you would like to appease that guilt, because it is your duty; I'm not sure you have a strong enough basis to keep going.

Let me tell you the honest truth.  Adoptio…

Not quite a year later, it's finished

Remember a loooong time ago I wrote about the felt book and doll I was making for H.?  Well, I'm happy to report, except for a hook and eye, it is all done.  Want to see it?
The biggest part of finishing it was to figure out how to do her name in my embroidery software and then stitch it on to the cover material.  I'm feeling pretty satisfied with how it turned out and it has given me a confidence boost to go ahead and try out other things with my embroidery unit.  Here's the cover.  It has a handle and the little loop in the upper center will fold over and fasten the whole thing closed.

Inside, the first panel has two pockets for holding all the loose bits.

Then comes a bedroom with rug and bed.  The pillow, bear, and book are loose and the sheet on the bed is attached at one end so the doll can be tucked-in.

The last panel is outdoors with a picnic blanket and an apple tree.  The picnic basket is loose and holds two plates each with a sandwich and banana.  I even made remo…

Year of the Dragon

Last night we celebrated the first night of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year.  We had a really fantastic lemongrass roasted chicken (ga nuong xa) from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham.  We also has the traditional banh chung (sticky rice surrounding meat, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed):

Last year we sliced it and just ate it plain.  It was, um, an acquired taste, I think.  Or perhaps not so much taste as texture.  It is very sticky and gelatinous.  I remember G. and L. loving it very much.  This year, I read that you can also fry slices of it in oil, so we tried that instead.  It was significantly more palatable to Western palates and we'll probably fix it this way from now on.

Since it is now the year of the dragon, we also had a dragon cake:

And we made dragon puppets:

There are supposed to be streamers hanging down from the bottom, but P. opted not to add those.

Chuc mung nam moi! (Happy new year!)

Saturday pictures

G. and little bit of K.

Building the Tabernacle, part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, we had read through the account of the building of the Tabernacle and that I was quite struck with it.  Aside from just how beautiful it was, I also noted that the skill and ability to create this thing of beauty were a direct gift from God.  He gave the ability to 'devise artistic designs'; to work in gold, silver, and bronze; to carve and set stones, to weave, to embroider, to carve wood, to engrave, and to teach these skills to others.  God does not reserve creativity just for Himself, but allows his created children to get in on the fun as well.

Because, really, creating is fun.  It is rewarding. Usually, if we do not let ideas of perfectionism take over, that is.  I find I am at my most calm and satisfied if I have had time during the week to create and use my imagination.  It must be because creativity is part of who God is, and if we are created in His image, being creative must be part of who we are as well.  And the ability to create is given…

Building the Tabernacle, part 1

As part of our study of Ancient Egypt we have been reading the Biblical accounts of the Israelites in Egypt, including the Exodus and the wandering in the wilderness.  Last week we read about the Israelites building the Tabernacle, so I thought it would be helpful to see what we were reading about.  I found a free, printable model of the Tabernacle which I printed out, and children assembled:

It was a successful activity and helped to clarify some of the things that we read about. With lots of people cutting, it didn't take that long to put together.  It also helps to have a stash of mat board in one's basement to act as a base.

As so often happens, I probably got much more out of reading about the Tabernacle than my children did.  I was struck by several things as I read through the chapters.  My first reaction I will discuss today, the second I will tackle tomorrow.  I was struck by how beautiful the Tabernacle must have been.  The beauty didn't just come from the materi…

Grammar, adoption, and homeschooling

I learn surprising things from homeschooling... about my children.  They are things I'm not sure I would find out if we didn't choose this educational path.  This is especially true with TM.

Learning a new language can be a tricky thing, especially if that second language is being learned while the first language is being lost.  Adopted children seem to effortlessly begin to communicate in an apparently fluent manner just months of coming home.  TM was functionally fluent in just three months.  I had read many places that spoken, day-to-day language comes first, with more sophisticated, academic-type language lagged behind for many years.  I knew this, but we weren't doing formal schooling at first, and surely the second type of language acquisition would catch-up by the time he needed it.

I am realizing just how naive my expectations were.  There have been multiple occasions when TM will ask a question and demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of something I was convin…

The top 11 posts of 2011

I have several chapters of Isaiah to prepare, so I'm doing an easy post.  I went back over the past year to see which posts garnered the most comments (minus those which contained give-aways or requests for information), and I'm going to share them with you.  It will give you something to read if you missed them the first time around and give me the needed prep time.  Here they are, from least to most comments:

11.  Foolishness

10.  Circus side shows

9. Summer canning

8.  Mudroom mayhem

7.  Behavior and consequences

6.  Rules for family meals, Big Ugly House style

5.  Homeschool resource room

4.  An open letter to President Obama

3.  Bees!

2.  Prayer requests

1.  To God be the Glory, Great Things He Hath Done

And a bonus... I have a new article up at Heart of the Matter Online on dealing with cold and flu season.

A good lesson

"She sighed.  'Some people turn away from following Yahweh over the least hard thing.  I'm not brave, but one lesson I learned from my father -- stick to the job, whatever it is.  I can't help it; I just plod ahead.  The hard jobs sometimes turn out to be the ones that make you feel best about yourself when the thing's done.'"

From Tirzah by Lucille Travis.  We just finished reading it at lunch today.  Recommended.

The observant among you will notice a new button on my sidebar inviting you to buy fabric.  (Because everyone needs more fabric, right?)  This is a direct link to Vogue Fabrics, a terrific fabric store dangerously close to me.  If you were planning on buying fabric online,  I'd appreciate it if you'd take a look a Vogue and go through my button.  I receive a portion of everything bought through this link... and every little bit helps.

Girls' rooms - big and little

So, when you have two 2 year olds, I have discovered that there is never a good time to clean their room, much less organize it.  Because they want to help.  And the word help in the 2 year old mind evidently means, "very carefully watch what Mommy does and then undo it" because if Mommy wanted to do it once, she must  want to do the same thing over and over again.  My usual solution to this problem is to do things that they may want to help with during their nap.  But you can't clean a child's room while they nap in it.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Thankfully G. and L. love Winnie the Pooh and will happily sit and watch for as long as I will let them.  Today was a bonanza for them and also for me since I was able to really clean their room.  Here are the results.  (Enjoy them because it will probably never look so neat and tidy again.)
Walking in from the doorway:

Their closet (which they still share with their older sisters, since their new room do…

New picture

I love opening up my email and having new pictures of H.  And I love this picture of her, too.  It seems unreal at this point, after all the waiting and seeing pictures of her that we are so close to receiving our travel approval.

Making memories

Well, it looks as though winter has finally arrived.  It started snowing mid-morning and hasn't stopped, much to the delight of all the children in residence.  I actually don't mind snow as long as I don't have to drive in it.  (I really don't enjoy driving our giant van in the snow.  Even getting out of our driveway can be dicey with the much narrower street.)  And since I don't have to go anywhere until church on Sunday (and even then I don't have to drive), I can be excited, too.

This official change of seasons has made me think about how much I like having four distinct seasons of the year and all the things which go along with them.  It is a way of keeping time and also a way to create memories for our children.  Creating memories is so much more than just checking off a list of activities done and places visited.  The best, I think, are the ones that give us a sense of security and belonging and place.  They are also the memories that involve all of the s…

Fear and learning

In a response to a post on a homeschooling adopted children Yahoo group, something I wrote made me wonder.  Wonder if what I wrote was correct, that is.  (This happens a lot to me... I need to write to think about things and sometimes I am quite surprised at how a post ends.)  Anyway, the topic at hand was the difficulties that some adopted children experience in trying to learn and retain information.  My contribution to the discussion involved having observed the difference in G. and L.'s experiences compared with K. for the first two years of their lives.  That it seems these little people spend the bulk of their days playing, but what is going on inside their brains is nothing short of spectacular.  How else do you explain all that G. and L. can do that no one has ever directly taught them?  (The spontaneous counting comes to mind as well as having caught G. very carefully writing with a pencil while saying the names of letters.  The shapes didn't match the letters, but it…


I happened across a post on a blog I had never read before and it got me thinking about the term 'radical'.  I have to admit that I have wanted to read the book, Radical by David Platt, but haven't had a chance yet.  (Plus, I don't own a copy.  Someone want to loan me one?)  But I have a pretty good idea of what it's about... eschewing the normal and societally-approved way of living and choosing instead to live in a radical way; living as Jesus calls us to live.  Often this is interpreted as doing great, big, somewhat scary things for God.  And I don't think there is anything wrong with this.

Then I read the blog post and she posits that we can't always live in this way every single minute.  That it can sometimes become the purpose of our lives as opposed to a way we serve God.  And I understand her point as well.  That Jesus is in the everyday stuff of our lives.  That every day won't and can't be a big 'fire from Heaven' day.

Well, some …

Money and a little embarrassed self-promotion

I have so many thoughts about faithfulness, money, debt, following God's will, etc. roiling around in my head that at some point I will probably need to write them down.  But I hesitate, because I can't quite figure out how to write what I want to write without it coming off as though I'm begging for money; as though I seem to think that other people should finance my life.  And since that wouldn't be my intent at all, I don't feel free to share those thoughts at this point.  Instead I'll just write out some of the questions I've been grappling with.

Can God's will ever involve debt?Can the goal of living debt-free ever become an idol and stop us from pursuing God's will?Have I been guilty of not listening close enough to the call to share what I have with others?  (I can answer this one... yes!)Can we tie the funding of some endeavor to the faithfulness of the people involved?I can't say I have the answers to any but the third question.  They ar…

Aesop's fables in my backyard

Aesop wrote a lot of fables about foxes and in at least one of them, the fox was at odds with a crow.  Well, based on my very scientific sampling of one fox and three crows, it seems that there is a natural animosity between these two species of which I was unaware.
There has been a fox roaming our neighborhood for a few days now and he seems to be particularly fond of our backyard.  Since we still do not have the chickens which B. so desires and we have a larger than normal population of intelligence-impaired rabbits, we do not mind his presence.  He is actually quite fun to watch.  For those of us in rather urban environs, it's a bit like having a zoo in one's backyard.
Well, this afternoon he was back, sunning himself quite happily.  That is, until three crows decided to complain about his being there.  These crows would not let him alone.  They continually cawed at him, and while they didn't actually dive bomb him, they did fly over him at bit.  It evidently made him ner…

Why this Luddite loves her Kindle

I want to say again how much I love my new Kindle.  Before Christmas, I had been in a bit of a book drought, which is unusual for me.  I would start a book, get through the first few chapters, and for one reason or another, returned it to the library.  The reasons were either that it was so poorly written that I couldn't bring myself to spend any more time with it or that the characters were so unappealing that I didn't want to spend time with them.  This has gone on for a couple of months.

Enter the Kindle.  I have read at least four books in the past week and enjoyed every single one of them.  I had to stop and think about why this would be, given that I don't normally feel the need to rush out and purchase the newest electronic gadget.  (I've only had a cell phone for the last couple of years and I still use a paper calendar. Perhaps more telling is that B. had to explain to me what the heck 'angry birds' were.  I know now. Sort of.)  I think I know now why …

IKEA aftermath

This is what it looks like after a trip to IKEA because nearly everything to be purchased there needs to be assembled:

This is A., P., and TM working on putting together the white boxes which are going to slide into the large bookcase in their room.  Instead of trying to disassemble the huge bookcase and purchase yet more dressers, we decided to use the bookcase as a dresser.  For this to work, there really needed a way to contain everything to stop if from falling and out looking very messy.  These boxes fit into each cubby and we'll keep the lids underneath because it would become tiresome to lift the lid every time something was wanted.  I'm hopeful this will work.

I'm trying to get that room looking somewhat put together so I can take a picture of it.  I'm making the welcome book to send to H. this weekend and would like her to have a decent idea of what her room is going to look like.  We are probably at least a month away from Shepherd's Field being able to t…

God's to-do list

I'm sure every single one of you has had one of those days where you think you are going to do one set of things and you end up doing something completely different.  This can either be because it was a conscious decision on your part, but more often (at least in my experience) it is because of series of interruptions or distractions to an otherwise planned-out day.

I don't think that planning our days so they run in an orderly way and so that things are done to keep a family functioning is wrong.  The difficulty comes when we start to see our to-do list enshrined as divine decree instead of as merely suggestions.  God's to-do list, it seems, often looks very different from ours.  It is easy to forget that people take precedence over tasks, but God never does.

Recently I have had a couple of days in row like this.  A sick child needs to go to the doctor, a friend needs comforting, another child needs to talk.  These are the things which are important, but are very difficul…

Slowly easing back into reality

J. went back to work this morning, but we are not getting back into our regular school schedule until next week. (Can I tell you just how happy I was when I discovered I had planned this week as a vacation week long ago last summer?)  I am spending this week doing a spurt of organizing.  Yesterday I made curtains for G. and L.'s room and started reorganizing it.  Still to go are curtains for A. and P.'s room and some sorting and organizing in there as well.  I also plan on getting caught up with the laundry before real life begins again.

Last week I sorted and cleaned J.'s and my bedroom, which makes me breath contented sighs every time I go into it because I love not being confronted with dirt and chaos.  We had also done a pretty thorough cleaning of the rest of the house.  I feel as though I can think again, getting everything sorted out once more.

Of course, life is never so simple that I can make my list of things I want to do and then do them.  Instead of paying bill…