Friday, June 29, 2012

Best friends

I have a sneaking suspicion that I may hold a minority opinion on this, but you know what? My children, even my older ones, are not my best friends, and I don't have the expectation that they will be. I am also not best friends with my mother or father. At face value all of this sounds rather dreadful, especially given the friend culture we live in. To be friends, especially best friends, bff's,  is the ultimate goal in any relationship, it seems.

But I want more than this in my relationship with my parents and with my children. Ideally, the parent/child relationship is deeper and stronger than mere friends. This is not belittle close friendships; I am blessed with many of those and I know that those friends would literally give me the shirts off their backs if I needed them, and vice versa. But a parent/child relationship is a deep, deep part of who we are. It is our first relationship as an infant and that infant is what transforms an adult into a parent. It comes with a love that literally knows no bounds and a responsibility as well. Parents are to care and nurture their children and children are to honor their parents. The loss of either a parent or a child is traumatic at best and devastating at worst.

We (mostly) understand this when our children are little, but something happens as our children grow. It is as if parents abdicate their parental responsibility and choose to become friends with their growing children. While older children need to be parented differently and have much more control over their lives, I think parents should still act like a parent.

I have a wonderful relationship with my parents. We enjoy talking with each other, we enjoy doing things with each other, we get along well, but my parents are still my parents. My mother will still call me and strongly suggest my attitude about something needs a bit of an adjustment. I may not seem as though I appreciate it at the time, but really I do. It is nice to have someone still looking out for me and who is willing to say the hard things. And I also know that if ever I am in trouble, one or both of my parents will be on a plane. Immediately. This isn't just supposition, More than once my parents have dropped everything, bought the expensive plane ticket, and boarded the plane within 24 hours of my calling them.

And this is the kind of relationship I want with my own children. They may be taller than I am and nearly grown up; they may not even live in my home for much of the time anymore; they may be incredibly responsible and mature; but they will always be my children. I will always want what is best for them and if that means I need to say the hard things to them I will. It's why I feel comfortable (and justified) in turning to my 17 and 19 year olds after church and announcing that I don't care how old they are, if I ever see them texting during church, their phones are mine. Heck, if I saw my 30 year old child texting during church, I'd probably take his or her phone as well. I think we cut the apron strings a little too severely and much too early for anyone's good. It's not a bad thing for someone to not do something because they don't want their mother to find out. My plan is to be the type of grandmother whom everyone loves, but no one relishes crossing. (Don't worry.  My children are all well aware of this.)

I think this mistaken idea that parenting is only for when the children are little also affects how we view our relationship to God. We are told that we have been adopted into God's family and as such He is our Heavenly Father. This is wonderful, but only if we have an accurate view of what a father really is. We are too quick to turn God into our BFF. I'm pretty sure that this idea of being God's friend (and please, I won't even go into all the reasons why I can't stomach the "I am a Friend of God" song), is scripturally unsupportable. To imply that God is my friend in some way implies I am His equal. But if you get right down to it, there is really nothing friendly about God. Loving? Yes. Mighty? Yes. Overwhelming? Yes. Cute and cuddly? Not at all. He is not a tame lion. Only a domesticated cat can be a friend.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


If this rambles more than usual, I apologize.  H. had an EEG this morning which required her to be sleep deprived because she had to sleep during the test. Well, we all know that a sleep deprived child equals a sleep deprived parent, don't we? So, when the masses ask to watch a Leap Frog video, I happily said yes! Please. There's probably rules about blogging when fatigued, but I'm going to write anyway.

In the past few years it has seemed as though God is working on small areas of my life at a time. Before the little girls were born, the message was definitely waiting. Waiting on God's timing. Daring to be idle and letting God work. Learning that there is nothing that God needs me to do for Him. He is sufficient without my help. What I do is out of my great love for Him and not because He needs me in any way.

Then, it seemed I moved on to working on serenity and fearlessness. I may never live up to my mental image of what it means to be serene, but God has really been working on my fear. I am a world-class worrier. If I don't have enough real things to worry about, I am quite capable of coming up with a whole list of imaginary things to worry about. I am not completely fear-free, but there has been so much that has happened in the last year and a half and so much was out of my control, that I got to practice handing my worries and fears over to God. A lot. And practicing something really does make it more automatic. I am at least aware of when my thoughts are beginning to head off in the fear and worry direction. The minute they do, I try to consciously always give those fears and worries over to God. Because I've already supposedly learned that God is in charge and I'm not.

This fearlessness-thing is still a work in progress, but I'm feeling nudges towards something new these days. That would be learning to focus on God's abundance. I believe I've mentioned more than once that I have definite miserly tendencies. While it is good to not be wasteful of one's money, I sometimes feel that I take it a bit too far. In some areas of my life I can be grudging with my generosity and secretly worry if we will have enough. Being frugal can put us into a scarcity mind set. A mind set that says there isn't enough... food, money, time, love... to go around.

This is not how I want to live, and it certainly isn't how God shows us He works. When He created the earth, He didn't do it halfway. Think of the abundance of the different types of plants and animals. The abundance of stars. When Jesus fed the crowds, they all ate their fill. They all had enough. More than enough, there were baskets left over. In the vision of Heaven which Isaiah shares in 25:6 we see abundance.

"On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, 
of aged wine well refined."

And God abounds in love. His offer of salvation is open to anyone who repents and calls on the name of Jesus. God's love never runs out or runs dry. Therefore our love can never run out or run dry if we allow God to be our source.

And that's the crux of it all isn't it? Who is our source and who is the real owner of all these things in our lives? If we start to mistakenly assume that we are the possessors of our things, the source of our income, the director of our time, the originator of our love, we become impoverished. We may still have disposable income, but we have made our souls disposable as well.

What changes if we realize that we are not in charge of anything? What happens if you start with the assumption that ALL of your money is God's? ALL your time is God's? ALL your love comes from God? For me, what is important changes, because I'm constantly asking myself what does God want me to do with this food, time, money, space, love. It allows me to be extravagant. Don't you love that word? Imagine being able to be extravagant with your money and sharing it with someone who needs it. Imagine being extravagant with your home and opening it up to others. Imagine being extravagant with your love. Love is the most costly of all, yet, because God abounds, we can be extravagant with our love. Imagine the possibilities.

Who wants to join me in focusing on God's abundance this year? Because I've found, when you stop focusing on the fear, you can see the abundance.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy 9th birthday, D.! (A little bit late)

My mother has reminded me that I have neglected to share pictures of D.'s birthday celebration. I will now remedy that.

D. had pie (of course!) We missed the blowing out the candles picture, but he blew out all three candles that a sister was holding without incident.

And there were presents. (G. and L. have figured out the whole present-thing and always are game to 'help'.)

What else does a 9 year old boy want but Lego?

And more Lego?

My handsome boy. He is the most big-hearted and caring child I know. And how this child loves Jesus. It has been a while now that he insists that he plans on being a missionary when he is older. I love you my dear boy. Happy Birthday!

And now for something unrelated, but rather funny. This is what we discovered when we walked through the front hall yesterday.

Yes, K. is sound asleep. On his back. In the car seat that was removed because D. no longer needed it. We are unsure of how this actually happened. Did he sit in the seat, fall asleep, and then tip backwards? Or did he sit in the seat, tip backwards, and decide he was too tired to get back up and just closed his eyes? We'll never know, but it shows how much energy the child uses during the day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Siblings and adoption

I realize I have never written about this before, but it has been on my mind recently. Actually, it's always on my mind, but just not in a very coherent way. Adoption has been a part of our family's life for 6 years now. M. was 13 when TM came home, B. was 11, A. was 8, P. was 5, and D. was 3.  For many of them, this has been their reality for a good chunk of their lives. And there are times when I wonder how my children are different because of it. Because, frankly, life isn't always easy. There are some days we have bigger issues than just your average annoying little brother or sister moments. There have been moments where I have felt I wasn't raising my children in a home, but a war zone. And I worried a bit that I was creating trauma in some children while helping to heal trauma in another.

These days I'm feeling a bit better about the whole thing. I would like to say it's because our lives are pretty peaceful compared to those early days, but this would be an outright lie. In some ways, things are immeasurably better, but in others it all feels pretty much the same. What I can say has changed has been my reaction to it all (mostly... I still have my not-so-stellar moments as well).

Much of this change in myself has come about from two different sources. The first is education. Parenting a child with a difficult past is just very different from parenting a healthy child. Parenting healthy children is intuitive to me, parenting hard children is not. In fact, it is very counter-intuitive. It has taken a lot of trial and error and reading and listening to others to help me change how I react to certain children. Being able to do this has helped to create a much more peaceful home because while we still deal with trauma's after-effects, I am not pushing my child into corners and thereby forcing some of the chaos.

The other thing I try to remember is to not forget to focus on my other children. It doesn't matter how many children are in your home, one child with a hard background can (and will) command every ounce of your attention and energy if allowed. Because they are miserable on the inside, they will try their darndest to make everyone else miserable as well. Sabotage is an effective weapon. At one point Lisa Qualls at One Thankful Mom wrote about needing to comfort her injured children first instead of immediately confronting the perpetrator. This was a wake-up call for me. I realized that I had allowed my needy child to siphon off all my attention (even if most of it was negative) leaving me with little energy left for all my other children.

Now, I focus on not giving more attention to a situation than it truly deserves and I end up ignoring a lot. Ignoring behavior that in another of my children would be unthinkable. But I have found that when I thought I was being a corrective force (as I would be with a healthy child), instead I was just confirming what that hurt child already knew to be true... that he was not really any good. I do have to explain to my other children that I parent them each very differently, based on what they each need. That while it all seems terribly unfair on the surface, what would be truly unfair would be for me to treat them all exactly the same regardless of what they each needed. This ignoring also means I make an effort to be pleasant and enjoy the moments with my other children even if we have unhappiness (in whatever form) in the background. For the sake of the rest of my children, I cannot let one child hold the rest of us emotionally hostage. That is not good for anyone, and it is not good for the hurt child to feel he has that much power. I wish I could say I was 100% successful at this, but it is something I am continually working on. I don't want my other children to wish they had the mother they had before we started adopting.

The other thing that has helped me to let go of the worry of having hurt my children is that in reality, the opposite seems to have come true. I have watched my children grow into very compassionate and patient people, even with people who may seem difficult on the surface. We have always been up front with all of our children about the losses and hurts their adopted brothers and sister have experienced. And we have tried to educate them as we have become educated about how these hurts can manifest themselves and what we can do to help them. At the very beginning, during the height of the raging, I purposefully always let it happen in the open areas of the house. I figured it would be far worse for my children to imagine what was going on than to see what was happening. We have urged them to pray for their brother when upset and supported them as they processed things. We have been vigilant to not make one child the scapegoat for anything bad that happened in the family and worked to encourage positive sibling interactions.

I know we have not done things perfectly, nor are we done with the process, but I have had enough people comment on my older children this summer to give me hope. All the comments have had to do with my children's ability to work with difficult people, with their patience and caring, with their maturity. Boy, I wish I could take credit for this, but I think the only credit I can take is that I put them in a situation where they learned caring and compassion in the crucible of the refiner's fire.

I have always loved Jeremiah 29:11:  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" (NIV) But, rarely do I see it put into its context. This is God's promise to the people who will be in exile. It is given to Israel as a promise which we be fulfilled AFTER Israel completes the 70 years in exile. The exile comes first. God doesn't just give us the good stuff, it usually comes after we've been through the tough stuff. Without the tough stuff, we might fall into the mistaken assumption that we had something to do with the good. The tough stuff brings us closer to God, because He is the only way we will get through it. I continually remind myself that the best is yet to come.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An economics lesson

I don't often write on our philosophy of children and money, but every so often it comes up. The short version is that we don't do allowances and we provide them with what they need. Household jobs are not tied to money because it is something we all do to serve each other and to jointly keep our home a nice place to live. If a child wants something special... iPod-type stuff, or special clothing that's not in the budget, etc.... they're welcome to earn the money and buy it themselves. (Or they can ask for it for Christmas and cross their fingers.) My children with phones also buy their own phone minutes on a pay-per-use phone since we don't have a family cell phone plan. Don't feel too sorry for them, they (nearly) all have the gadgets they desire and also have a pretty good sense of the worth of money.

Perhaps this is why TM's tendency toward planning out his next get-rich-quick-scheme was a little bothersome to me. I didn't want him to grow into an adult who thought that these types of schemes would a) work and b) be less work than actually working for the money. To continue in this mindset seemed to be filled with future misery, or at least dissatisfaction. All of this background explains why I was so thrilled with the results of a little experiment which happened last week.

TM loves lemonade stands. I think he actually loves the money, but he enjoys selling things to passers-by as well. He struck up a deal with J., that is J. would loan him the money to buy supplies, TM would pay him back. TM happily went to the store (with A. to supervise) and purchased lemonade mix and paper cups and ended up spending about $10. For the next several days, TM sold lemonade and earned enough to pay back his loan. At first we though this would be the end of it, as TM loves lemonade and he seemed to be drinking his own profit, but then (assisted by A.'s yo-yo mania), he decided he wanted to buy a cool, new yo-yo. We pointed out if he wanted one, he could sell more lemonade and see if he could earn enough to pay for the desired object.

Now, I have to pause here a moment and explain our location. We get a lot of foot traffic on our block, and we have learned, much of this foot traffic is susceptible to cute children while at the same time lacking common sense. (In my humble opinion.) My evidence? Last summer TM and a friend from next door decided to have an art sale. The scribbled (not really exaggerating) dozens of "pictures" and then set up their table. Both of us mothers warned them that they may not sell anything. (We had personally seen the level of artistic commitment which went into these things... they were not even representational!) Well, the joke was on the mothers, since those silly children earned nearly $20! This will help explain how TM could earn so much money in just a couple of days.

The short version of the story is TM earned enough to buy his yo-yo, extra string, and then yesterday he quickly set-up another stand because he saw some items at a nearby yard sale that he wanted. So, step one, in that we have convinced TM that actually earning the money is a good thing has been accomplished. I suppose the next step is to convince him of the beauty of saving his money and not spend it on whatever enticing thing crosses his path.

And now after I have written this, I'm not so convinced that we have actually accomplished step one because truly a child with a stand on our block is about as close to get rich quick as one can get.

Friday, June 22, 2012

21st Anniversary

It's been a busy (good busy, not crazy busy) day and I haven't had time to write.  Here is my public service announcement for the day, if you think you can just zip down to the Museum of Science and Industry for a couple of hours on a beautiful summer afternoon in Chicago, think again. You can't. Zip, that is. I'm just glad we hadn't planned on Lincoln Park Zoo... we would have never found a parking space. Anyway, we didn't have as much time as we liked but we enjoyed ourselves. And H. really like her first real museum experience. But the traffic... !

What I really began this to say was Happy Anniversary to my dear husband. Twenty-one years has zipped by (unlike the traffic) and I have enjoyed every single one of them. I am the most blessed woman in the world to be married to my best friend and such a remarkable man. Boy, did I win the husband contest. (Really, I did. You other women may think you won... I'll just let you keep thinking that.) I am so proud of my husband. He works hard to provide for his family, he is smart, caring, fun, and a terrific father. Frankly, I don't sing your praises enough. There is no one else I would want to travel this life adventure with.

So, Happy Anniversary and here's to at least that many more!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Let's talk about seizures

Parenting often takes you places where you never thought you would go. This is particularly true the more children you have as the different possibilities multiply exponentially. Then when you add adoption into the mix, well, all bets are off. In keeping with my plan to focus on the positives of life, I am choosing to look on it all as one great big adventure.

And where is the great adventure taking me this time? Into the land of parenting a child with seizures. We knew H. had a history of seizures when we accepted her file, we just didn't know what type or why she had them. When she came to us, she was on anti-seizure medicine and for the past three months we had never seen one.

In talking with the neurologist earlier this month, he believes that the syndrome which she has (Linear Nevus Sebaceous Syndrome) is what is causing seizures. Now, I'm a skeptic at heart, and there was a part of me which didn't really believe she had seizures. They were reported as absence seizures, lasting a very short time. Now, I have observed that when something is upsetting or doesn't go her way, she does have a tendency to freeze.  As in go to her happy place and disappear. This is K.'s preferred mode of dealing with negative emotions as well, so I am well-versed in it. It is not a seizure. Since no medical personnel had ever witnessed a seizure, I was inclined to take it all with a grain of salt, and after a long discussion with the neurologist, he agreed to decrease her medication.

Things were going fine until Tuesday morning. J. and I were upstairs getting dressed and the few children still at home this week were eating breakfast. And then we hear calls for Mommy and Daddy in tones that make you drop everything and run. Fast. H. had been sitting at the table eating breakfast, when her sisters noticed something was wrong. When they tried to get her attention and H. was unresponsive, they assumed that H. was choking. I logical conclusion. J. started to perform the Heimlich maneuver and I decided to sweep her mouth to see if I could dislodge anything. Except that her teeth were clenched. She was not choking, she was seizing, and upon closer look was still breathing. We laid her down on the floor and she came to in less than a minute. Frankly, J. and I were relieved it was just a seizure and she wasn't actually choking. I find the idea of choking far scarier. (The child who does not panic, also relaxed after hearing H. was not choking, the one who does, took a bit longer to recover.) There seemed to be no after effects of the seizure for H. No overwhelming fatigue or killer headache. That's good. She was just concerned that she was no longer sitting at the table eating her food.

I called the neurologist later that day and I can't tell you how thrilled I was at the response of the entire office. They were responsive and caring, provided immediate replies, and get this, when I was connected to his nurse, she knew who I was even though we had only been in once so far. Since this looks like a long term relationship, I am thrilled that I like them all and they are so responsive.

I will say, the whole experience was much less stressful than it would have been because I felt educated and prepared. I have been reading Seizures and Epilepsy in Childhood: A Parent's Guide by Freeman, Vining, and Pillas. I highly recommend it as a resource and I credit my overall calmness to the information I learned from it.

Since this is now part of my life, I feel the need to help do my part to educate the public about seizures, because a lot of the things I have learned are different than what I thought. So, did you know...

  • a person cannot swallow their tongue while seizing (or at all) and you should never put your fingers in their mouth?
  • seizures do not cause brain damage, but the underlying cause of the seizure may?
  • seizures can last for up to a half an hour and the person will not suffer any ill effects?
  • you do not need to call 911 for a person having a seizure and in fact it is not recommended? (This is true unless the seizure lasts for more than 30 minutes.)
  • the best thing you can do for a person having a seizure is to lay them down in a safe area and just wait?
  • seizures are far more disturbing for the person watching than for the person experiencing them? (They won't remember anything.)
  • there are many different types of seizures and not all are the tonic-clonic type (used to be called grand mal) where a person stiffens and then spasms?
Life's an adventure!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ticks and poison ivy

There are a couple of things I left out of my description of our camping trip last week. That would be the prevalence of large ticks (happily not the Lyme disease kind) and poison ivy. They were both all over. As evidence, I snapped a picture of B.'s leg right before he used his pocket knife to scrape off the two ticks which were on it. (You're welcome! I know I made everyone's day with this one.)

But these annoyances got me to thinking. Much of our contentment with life has to do with what we focus on. We had a great camping trip; everyone had fun, we were in a place of natural beauty, and we enjoyed a relaxing time of fellowship with good friends. But that is because that is what we chose to focus on. The trip would have been much different if we had chosen to focus on the ticks and poison ivy. They were everywhere. The poison ivy grew thickly just about everywhere, and particularly on the second hike, most of the path was lined with it. The ticks were almost as frequently occurring, and tick hunting and disposing became a sort of past time. Or a great big science experiment as people tried different methods of extermination. (The results? Not much actually kills them. You really need a knife or very sharp rock... something with a strong point.) Next year we may try tick races because they are naturally drawn toward body heat. Do we know how to have fun, or what?

If we had spent our time complaining and trying to eradicate and avoid these nuisances, we would have been miserable.  We would have been so focused on the negatives that we wouldn't have been able to see or enjoy the positives. Granted some of these negatives can be painful and uncomfortable (J. reacts pretty badly to poison ivy), but they were really just a small part of our trip.

This is very much like life in general, isn't it? There is a lot that is positive, but there are also negatives, some painful. It's all mixed together. Because we live in a fallen world, in this life we are not going to get only the good stuff and if we wait to be content until we have only good stuff we will be waiting a long time and miss out on enjoying a lot of the good.  I'm not proposing that we all put on rose colored glasses and pretend the bad stuff isn't there. It is and needs to be dealt with. We had to be alert for ticks and poison ivy and take the necessary precautions against them. We also had to deal with the after effects. But this is different from focusing on them.

When we focus on the negatives instead of the positives, we give those negatives more attention and energy than they deserve. It is so easy to become consumed with them. We need to be Pollyanna in the best sense of the phrase. We need to look for the things in our life to be thankful for and focus on them, because what we focus on is what we remember and is what influences our actions and attitudes. Yes, the ticks and poison ivy are still there, but it's far more satisfying to remember the children and friendship and fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Camping, the second half

On our second day, we decided to try a more adventurous hike, though in the great scheme of hikes, it was still pretty tame and easy.

So we started off, with the little girls under their own power.

There was a nice view on the way to the main view.

But, then the little girls got tired. And recently, when they (well, L.) get tired, they cry. Loudly. Without stopping. No matter what anyone does. B. was pretty sure he lost a bit of hearing by the end.

H. did pretty well. She stuck close to J. on our hike the day before, so I took charge of her for most of this one. But since J. is the far more favored parent at the moment, this did not make her entirely happy. She would tell me she was hot and tired, to which I said that was too bad and encouraged her along the path. H. would then ask me where her daddy was. I said he was on the path somewhere (we were pretty spread out at this point), and H. took this to mean J. was ahead of us. So, despite her hotness and tiredness, she would bolt ahead of me , leaping over tree roots in her quest to find the favored parent. We repeated this little sequence of events more than a few times.

Eventually we reached our vista. I'm happy to report that no one fell off the edge of the cliff. No doubt because of my nervous warnings to stay back from the edge.

There was a great frog pond near the trail head. My frog loving girl was in heaven and announced that this is where she wants to live someday. The pond had duckweed!  Imagine.

Shhhh! The frog hunter is in action. Or inaction as the case may be.

The next day it was time to pack up and head home. We decided that really, a camping trip should be at least four or five days long. It seems to take that long for everyone to relax and get in their camping groove. Plus there were still many things that we wished we could have done. Next year.

On the way home, we decided to stop off at the cypress swamp that is in the park. There was a really nice visitor center. It had a snake! (I don't really have girly-girls, can you tell?) H. even decided the snake was OK, though that was not her initial reaction.

We walked around a small wetland in back of the visitor center. It was a bit anti-climatic because southern Illinois is in the midst of a drought, so the wetland wasn't too wet. Plus, the temperature had soared and it was pretty hot outside. G. decided that she didn't really feel like walking.

In search of a real cypress swamp we got in the car and drove some more. We did find it.

Our children, on the other hand, were not convinced that they really needed to see it. TM brought his battery powered fan along in protest of the heat.

The duck weed was fun to play in, though.

And put on your face. (You will need to click on this picture to make it larger to really appreciate the green stripes on L.'s face.)

We then force marched our children to see the 1000 year old tree that is in the swamp. Here it is:

I think they were all expecting something a bit grander... along the lines of a redwood, I think... because they were all quite underwhelmed.

The wild blackberries we found along the trail back to the car made up a little bit for the heat and unexciting tree.

Then it was time to load up the van and start the drive home. A good camping trip, I think.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'm interrupting the camping pictures to bring you other pictures

of birthday celebrations and more camping.

Saturday night we celebrated the June 15th birthdays. The trouble with having three on the same day is what to do about the candles. Since strawberry pie doesn't lend itself to candles anyway, we decided to sing three times so each person could blow out their own candles.

B. wasn't sure he wanted to be sung to and blow out candles, but we did and he did anyway. No one wanted to hold 17 lit candles, so P. held three for him to blow out.

G. was next. Both little girls took a long time to blow out their candles, so they were eventually helped to share the fingers of the candle holder.


Then came presents. Grammy and Grandpa sent stuffed animals and games to G. and L. Can you tell they were a hit? G. is the panda bear lover and L. has a new obsession with Micky and Minnie Mouse.

B. received gifts, too.

Three birthdays worth of gifts creates a bit of chaos.

B.'s big gift was a slack line. I'm sure there will be many slack line pictures to come later in the summer.

The next afternoon (yesterday) it was time to take people up to church camp. P. and D. are campers this year and B. is a counselor.

P. on her bunk.

We like to hang around for a while and let everyone play before heading back. Here is K. playing carpetball.


K. doing his monkey imitation

And a rare picture of me and J. (I'm holding L.) together. This is because one of us is usually holding the camera and because I'm not overly fond of being in pictures.
A few things to let you know about. First, I have a new article up at Heart of the Matter... History Feasts: A User's Guide. I also have another article: 5 Rules for Kids' Summer Safety up on another website. And finally, I will be leading a monthly book discussion for women at our church this summer. We will be discussing A Life That Says Welcome by Karen Ehman. Our first meeting is this Wednesday night. Contact me if you want to come... and please do, even if you haven't read the first three chapters!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Camping, large family style

So all that discussion about investing in enough camping equipment for our family wasn't entirely theoretical. We needed it because we had planned a three night camping trip for this past week and it was quickly approaching. I'm happy to report that everything worked out extremely well. 

We found a small, used trailer on Craig's List and it was just the ticket to carry all of our needed supplies.

Here is the large tent we bought. I love it because it has two rooms and I can stand up in it. It makes taking care of small people so much easier. We had G., L., K., and H. in the tent with us adults. Then we put the older boys in a second tent and the older girls in a third.

And since there were going to be so many of us anyway, we thought we'd invite a couple of other families to join us; the P family and the H-S family. (I've written about these two families a lot... we do many things together and watch each others children when one family is adopting.) Now, these are good friends of ours, and they just happen to have a few children themselves, so for this little camping adventure we had 28 people:  22 children (though a couple of those children were 18 and 19 years old) and 6 adults.

It made for a nice little tent city where the younger ones pitched their tents.

We were camping in Shawnee National Forest at the very bottom of Illinois. It was beautiful and because there were so many of us, we reserved the group campsite called Duck Bay on Lake Glendale. This was lovely because it was completely separate and we had ~6 acres all to ourselves. Plus we had this shelter complete with stone fireplace and several picnic tables.

Here is a larger view of the group campsite.

Here is the view from the other direction.

It rained all the way down on Monday and we kept hoping that it would let up so we could at least put the tents up. It did start to clear and we were able to set-up camp and eat dinner without getting too wet. That was the last of the rain and the rest of our trip had beautiful weather.

The other unique thing about the campsite was the presence of at least four different species of frogs and toads. (This pleased M. to no end.) Within five minutes of us arriving and getting out of the car, at least 5 or 6 frogs were caught. It became a major activity. Here is TM's collection that he caught one evening. It's difficult to tell, but there are probably 15-20 frogs in this picture.

One night, M. recruited most of the children and they went on a major frog hunt. They counted as they caught and gave up at about 200 frogs. I suppose I should have taken a picture of all 200+ frogs in the empty ice cream container, but one glance at them all was enough for me, and I didn't run to get my camera.

There were other less squirmy activities as well. Here are L. (on left) and G. posing for me before they went wandering again. (I really did wish I had brought the pen with me.)

We brought a badminton set and that received heavy use.

There was also at least one game going on inside the shelter.

And P18's hammock was always a hit. (G. is on the left) Can you tell these little girls are everyone's favorites?

And we went hiking. It takes a while to get this many children ready to go, so there was some waiting around before we departed.

For our first hike, we thought we'd keep it simple and hike around the lake we were camping next to. The obligatory pre-hike picture. (All the children who were camping are in this, but we are missing three children from the families' overall child totals.)

Our campsite from the other side of the lake. (It's that clearing in the trees across the water.)

The little girls started out under their own power, but got tired about a third of the way and we stopped and put them in the backpacks. A. and B. were great about toting them around... not an easy job. (And they both volunteered; we didn't force them.)

Days two and three will follow.

And some are probably wondering what H. made of the whole experience since it was her first time camping. She was very excited about the tent when J. and B. set it up in our yard after it arrived. She thought the 6+ hour car ride was a bit long and has probably used up her allotment of the "Are we there yet?" question. She did great sleeping in a sleeping bag and the primitive conditions, but you probably won't be surprised to hear that hiking was not her favorite activity. I felt we definitely had moments again where she had ended up with the insane family. More on that later as well.
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