Showing posts from July, 2012

Crazy for Kids in the Big Ugly House

Last night we hosted Ann from Crazy for Kids and (some) of her children for the night as one of their stops on their mondo adventure across a good portion of the US. Ann and I had met before and became real friends instead of virtual friends a couple of years ago. Then, because we live too far away to really easily see each other in our home country, we had great plans to see each other when we were both in China. We overlapped for approximately 12 hours, and we were even in the same hotel, but due to various inconveniences, we didn't get to see each other.
So it was wonderful that they could stop here on their road trip. Plus, our (most) of our children got to meet each other. After a little of the usual reticence, they all hit it off famously and everyone wished the visit could have been longer. I am a little tired today, though, because Ann and I stayed up too late talking. It was worth it.
Some pictures.
Ann and I
Vu and D. (These boys met the last time Ann was in town and ha…

Ahoy, mateys!

The murder mystery party which happened here on Saturday was a huge success. Great fun was enjoyed by all and it's just plain fun to watch these no longer little people. A. went as the official photographer, so these photos are just some of what she took. I've posted them in no particular order, but I'll try to tell you what's going on.
P20 and P18
This picture and the one below are at the very beginning of the party when everyone was gathering.

A couple of the pirates
A lot of socializing/playing took place in my front yard.
Not everyone was a pirate... some were scripted to not like pirates at all.
P20 and another of "my" girls. ("My" girls being the original five which I started the girls' Bible study with.)
B. - He was a commodore and was charged with arresting pirates.
Practice sword fights in my front yard.
The last of "my" girls. (I include P20, AL H-S, and, of course M. in that group.)
More front yard pictures. Evide…

Mohawk boy

Since I'm busy making a commodore's costume for B. for the big shindig tonight, plus doing myriad other things, you get a funny picture.
Here it TM with the mohawk that A. put in his hair yesterday evening:

That's some pretty amazing hair gel, huh? TM has been growing his hair out, though we have the agreement that in mid-August, we will cut it. Recently, he had been doing a great imitation of a K-pop boy band member. Good looks (I think I'm allowed to say that since I have no genetic responsibility for it) and the whole hair-flip-thing he does to get it out of his eyes really complete the image. Of course, he's probably never heard of or seen a K-pop band in his life. (For those of you scratching your heads, it stands for Korean pop or Korean popular music.) And he's not Korean. But you get the idea.
Back to the commodore.

Keeping track of library books

I had another reader ask how I keep track of library books. (And thank you for the questions! It's a nice break from coming up with topics on my own.) Since we do use our library quite a bit, possibly vying for the single heaviest used award, I have a little experience with this.

First off, I really, really dislike paying library fines and having to pay to replace books, so I work really hard to keep track of them all. It happens every now and then, but I have a remarkable track record considering I have ~100 books checked out at a time. Every so often I do lose track of one of them and sometimes it's even my fault. Like the time I accidentally mailed a book instead of putting it in the book drop. Yes, I did. It wasn't until the next time that I drove by the drop box that I even realized I had done it. I suddenly had a memory of putting a book in the drop box, except the drop box was a different color. Something didn't seem right. And then I look up and see the mailbox…

Homeschooling: The early years

Those would be my early years. A commentor asked on my last post what it was like when I first began homeschooling and I thought it was an interesting question. I don't think about them very often, other than recall they were enjoyable. So over the past 24 hours, I've been asking myself how it was different then than it is now. The biggest difference is these:

I kept records. A lot of them. Even though I live in Illinois where we are not required to keep records and no one is authorized to look at them even if we did. (As far as homeschooling regulations go, Illinois has done something right.) But for my first 7 years of homeschooling, everything we did went into each child's binder.

These binders were divided by subject and each included a sheet where I could write down activities and field trips, plus room in the section to insert completed work. I also kept a list of every book we read. It was a lot of work, especially by the time P. started kindergarten, but I don'…

Homeschooling : Doing it right

I've been doing this homeschooling-thing for a while now, so I don't often thing about how intimidating it can seem to someone just starting out. And if I'm honest, since I tend to suffer from an over-abundance of self-confidence, the early years didn't really phase me, either. I figured I could probably handle kindergarten and went on from there. (The beginning of high school threw me for a bit of a loop, but I recovered.) But I do know that the leap into homeschooling can seem really scary at first.

I think it's because there is a preconceived idea that there is a "right" way to homeschool; that to not follow the rules means that you will somehow injure or ruin your children. It's as if there is some sort of magic formula out there that only the "experts" have the inside scoop on and without their wisdom or product, you're doomed. Doomed to have children who will go through life as obviously having been homeschooled, so great are their…

Potlucks 101

M. and her friends are planning a big murder mystery party bash for Saturday night. (You may remember some previousones that she and her friends have put on.) This one promises to be bigger and better and I can't wait to see all the costumes based on the advance discussions from many of the participants. To make it a bit easier on themselves, they've decided to make it a potluck. It suddenly occurred to me this morning to go over how they divided up what was being brought that the directions which they gave. You see, this is not a small party, and half the guests are young men between the ages of 16 and 21. If you've ever spent any time with this particular demographic, you know these young men are in their prime eating years. They consume a lot of food. I suddenly had visions of everyone bring a bag of chips or a small green salad and me scrounging my freezer for more food the feed the hungry hoards.
Some of you, especially if you live in areas where potlucks are common a…

Some days

I know some of you who read this blog are adoptive parents and there are others who are considering it. Since I'm firmly of the belief it's always better to tell the truth, here's a little truth for you.

Some days are hard.

Some days you think that there is never going to be any progress. Or if you had been seeing progress it can feel as though it disappears in the blink of an eye. Some days you feel as though the hurt is too deep and there is nothing you can do.

Some days you do worry for your other children and wonder what you have done. All the what ifs... that you thought you had put away begin to resurface.

Some days all you can do is cling to God. You may not feel as though He is close by. In fact at the moment when life goes haywire (again) you'd be happy to feel as though God is in the same state much less the same house.

Some days you have to remind yourself you've been here before. That you can't trust your feelings because you've learned that God…

Some cute little girls

J. is home; I had a good night's sleep; all is well. While we enjoy family time together, you can enjoy this video of the little girls that M. took while they were visiting her in her room. (The frog G. is talking about is an African clawed frog, a species of aquatic frog that is pretty much just an eating machine. It's just what it does. Eat. Anything.) The girls are acting pretty true to form in this. G. is the talking one and L. is the spinning one.  Enjoy. Oh, and M. has taken to calling them velociraptors because they remind her of those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park... they just leave less death in their wake. Perhaps not less chaos, though.

T minus 5 hours and counting

That would be counting down to the J.'s estimated arrival time home. He has been gone since last Saturday morning because his doctoral program requires a week of classes on-site. For the most part, the week has gone pretty well. The house is still standing, every one has had meals on time without resorting to breakfast cereal (though there were those banana splits...), and we spent some time today doing some organizing. But I'm pooped. I think it's mainly because I haven't been sleeping well and if you know me I really need my sleep to function. Each night it has been something... upset child, older child coming in, just plain restlessness... that has interrupted my sleep. So I have become increasingly foggy as the week has progressed and perhaps not as chipper and patient as usual. I know many of you deal with being the sole parent on an ongoing and longer basis, so I do feel a bit of a wimp for whining about it.

I'm sure it doesn't help that some members of t…

Cleaning with children

I have just spent a good chunk of time sitting in the boys' room while they cleaned it up. You'll notice that I was sitting and they were the ones cleaning. This is how I have trained all of my children to pick-up their rooms and it works. Well, it works in that eventually they are actually capable of cleaning up a room, not that they always keep their rooms clean.

If I have not trained a child to clean a room, it is too overwhelming for them if I just send them upstairs with the instructions to clean it up. (There are always some children who come by it naturally, but it really is a learned skill.) This is especially true is the room has exploded. A child will look at the mess and not have the slightest idea of where to start. Consequently, it seems to be a task that will never end, so what's the point of even beginning? So I have learned that I need to help. This help does not involve me picking up at all. I settle myself into a chair, preferably with a cup of coffee, an…


I sometimes feel that advocating for adoption and also advocating for a realistic picture of what adoption looks like are at odds with one another. I know first hand both the joys and the difficulties adoption can bring to a family. The trick is to communicate the joy while being realistic about the difficulties. It is a fine line to walk, it seems.

I want people to adopt children. Really, I do. But I also worry about some families and wonder if they really know what they are getting into. I'm sure it stems from one too many, "I didn't know it was going to be this way" conversations. The majority of people have the best of intentions when they adopt. They know there is a need and they want to help. It is a good thing to want to provide a home and a family for a child who does not have one. I don't doubt their motives. 
It is so easy to look at the smiling face of a child, a child who needs a family, and to imagine onto that picture a personality. A personality wh…

Some days you just have to be the fun mom

If any of you are like me, being the fun mom needs to be scheduled in. I can get so caught up in keeping the house relatively tidy and making sure school work gets done and starting laundry and all the myriad other things that can consume my day, that I forget to just sit back, relax, and enjoy my children. I also forget that I want my children to have memories of me other than telling them what to do or telling them they'll have to wait. It is easy to fall into the trap of so wanting to do the best for our children that we forget the reason we wanted to do our best in the first place.

That is why tonight I planned a surprise dinner. Now this completely unnerved some of my children. The ones who just want to know everything that is going on were a little focused on figuring out my plan. Others who just need to know what is going to happen had some brief moments of spinning toward out-of-control-ness. (As a side note, I am aware that for everyone's mental health being able to k…

One of those days... or practicing grace

This has been a particularly Monday-ish Monday. You know it's not going to be the best day in the world when you are awakened long before your alarm by a screeching 6 year old. He was screeching because he wakes at the crack of dawn and feels the need to wake up brothers and sisters. Not surprisingly, he didn't get the reception he hoped for and needed to screech out his frustration. The day didn't improve. We had drama. We had irritation. We had annoyance. And it wasn't all from me. It was also one of those days when every room I walked into looked as though a tornado had arrived before me. It was not the calm, serene, peaceful home I aspire to. I was also not the calm, serene, peaceful mother I aspire to be, either.

Now, I don't know about you, but sometimes when I get into one of those moods (the irritated at the world and my children in particular mood), I have very little motivation to get out of it. There is a part of my brain which blames my children for my …

Correcting a possible misconception

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Blessing of Verity. In reading her post this morning, I was convicted that I may have unintentionally created a misconception in what I was trying to say in my post about institutionalization. I'm concerned that I may have communicated one of a couple of things... that because it seems that H.'s diagnosis of mental delay is incorrect, life is good and we can move on knowing that we dodged a bullet, or... that we don't accept into our family children who have mental delays and will work, work, work to make them as "normal" as possible.

If this is what came across then I have done a disservice because this was certainly not my intent and I want to speak very carefully in case I have. It really doesn't matter to us whether H.'s mental delay diagnosis is correct or not. She is our daughter and the way God created her. Everyone has value and God loves all His children and in the end, this is what really matters. We somet…

Children's craft storage and organization

I want to show you the results of my newest organizing project, but before I show you the pictures, I'll have to write a whole bunch of words. Because I am long-winded and can't just show you pictures.
The problem about craft supplies has been brewing for a while and I hadn't quite figured out what to do about it. Now, I find when I need to organize something that there is often more going on than just having to find a container for stuff. There is usually a deeper problem that led to the disorganization in the first place. If this isn't identified and tackled, all the pretty containers in the world are not going to help.
So first the problems. 1) While I had a designated place for supplies and those supplies were nicely organized, they had become inaccessible to many children because the craft porch is a tandem room through the new room that A., P., and H. are in. I'm sure I don't need to outline all the reasons why a bunch of brothers trooping through a sist…

Large families and the state of IL

Yes, I know this topic is becoming tiresome to some of you. Frankly, it's becoming tiresome to me as well. And yes, this is not what I should be doing right now, but it is better for my family to have me process all of this by writing it out than by ranting at them.

It all started with a phone call this morning. A friend had alerted me that a mother of four children, who desperately wants to keep her children, finds herself in a place where she needs some time to get herself to a place emotionally and financially in order to be a good parent. She needs respite care for her children while she does this so she contacted Safe Families.  Do you know of Safe Families? You should. It is an organization started here in IL which provides short-term care for children. It may be care because a parent has been admitted to a hospital and has no one to help out, or it could be like the mother I just mentioned who needs some time to get her life back together but wants to keep her children. It …

A funny pair

H. and K. are currently best buddies. I think one of the reasons is that they are both at about the same developmental level and can do about the same things. Plus, K. is really good about helping H. to understand what is going on and doesn't mind if she doesn't catch on to the rules for a game right away. (Probably because K. views rules as fairly flexible himself.) They just enjoy each other's company. 
Academically, they are at just about the same point as well, though I think that will be short-lived because I anticipate H. jumping ahead by leaps and bounds as she gains mastery of English. It's a good thing that we tend to have pairs of things already thanks to G. and L. Sometimes it is a little crazy making... such as when both Phonics Fireflies are going.
Aren't these pictures cute? And, I should add, completely unposed. This is how M. noticed them a little bit ago.

On another note, we've been taking advantage of the local movie theater's $1 movies t…


We had a guest preacher at church on Sunday and his sermon was on the feeding of the 5000 and the idea of the impossible. It has made me think about the idea of impossibility and of the fact that nothing is impossible for God. I'm afraid that many may have interpreted the meaning of the sermon incorrectly because I think much of the time, those of us living comfortable, middle-class lives have very little concept of what impossible really is.

Our culture does not accept the idea of the impossible. I don't mean in the modern, miracles aren't possible, rational thinking way (though that is a part of it), but because of our high need of control. We only do things that are possible, that we can have control over, that make sense, and are fiscally sensible. We are all too busy controlling our lives to allow any possibility of impossibility into them. I would venture to say, when asked what seems impossible in someone's life, the answer has more to do with paying bills than …

Institutionalization, large families, and expectations

I'm a bit hesitant to write this because I don't want to appear ungrateful for the care my daughter received before she came home. But because I think it has broader implications, I'm going to anyway and make it a bit more generic.

I have been reminded constantly of several things over the past four months. 1) There is nothing that can replace a loving family in a child's life 2) The presence of long-term committed parents in a child's life trumps the number of children in the environment and 3) A child is able to intuit the expectations of the adults around them and will live either up or down to the those expectations.

I do not doubt that many of the adults who care for children in institutions love the children they are caring for. Let's get that out of the way first. Short-term care workers are needed and provide love and care which a child desperately needs, but the children these workers love are not their children. To know you will be caring for a child …

Creating with cereal boxes

When my parents arrived in town at the beginning of the week they brought with them boxes and boxes of cereal. This is a huge treat for my children since they love it and I rarely buy it. (Just for the record, they brought ~15 boxes and there is only part of one left less than a week later. It takes a lot of cereal to feed between 14 and 15 [my family, my parents, and a house guest] people every morning. That's without seconds and why I don't buy it.) But the boxes are filled with potential for craftiness when they are empty of cereal. This is what we have done for the past two days. 
First, we took the boxes and turned them wrong side out so that we had a (mostly) blank, non-glossy surface to work with, and hot glued them back together.

For this project, we were making houses. Some people used paint brushes...

and others used bits of sponge.

It looks like a lot of paint, but I'm realizing that it consists of mostly empty bottles and we are missing some key colors. I thin…

Creativity involving my sewing machine

Incredibly, I still know where my machine is and also how to make it work. Life has seemed so busy around here that relaxing and sewing hasn't really happened much. (And it's not that I lack for projects!) One of the ways I made myself crazy last month was to want to make a pair of matching tops for G. and L. for their birthday. The trouble was, we were celebrating their birthday immediately after returning from our camping trip which meant I had to have everything done before we left. I got them done. Barely.

Here are the completed tops:

These are made from a curtain valance that I found at the thrift store for a dollar. I used the bottom of the valance for the bottom of the shirts (and I didn't have to hem them!) Then for the other parts I used some leftover lavender fabric from an Easter dress I made for P. and the top part of the valance for the yoke and sleeves.

The whole thing took much longer than it should have because there wasn't quite enough fabric to cut ou…