Friday, September 28, 2012

Revisiting some past posts

I am completely going to cheat on writing this post and link to a bunch of stuff I've already written. Today was one of those hectic days where I feel as though I can never quite catch my breath. First, I spent a long time sitting in the boys room "encouraging" them as they picked it up. Then I went and had my hair cut and helped back to the color I was born with. (This part of the day was absolutely necessary due to a passing comment asking about my grandchildren earlier in the week.) From there I went and picked up some paper so that we can make paper lanterns tomorrow so we are ready to celebrate the Moon Festival on Sunday. After quick bite to eat, it was back out to the grocery stores. Dinner preparations had to immediately follow because B. and A. needed to leave for their youth group's fall retreat. After putting children to bed this is the first moment I've had to even think about blogging and I don't have a lot of energy to think about it even now.

So as I was wasting some time the other day I realized that I have quite a few old posts that very people have ever actually read. Instead of writing something new, I'm just going to direct to something old that you might not know about. I'll try to post something more current tomorrow... maybe about our attempts at making paper lanterns. (In my head it's going to work rather well, as long as I can find battery-operated tea lights.)

I will sort these out by topic. I tend to write on the same topics over and over, so it's pretty easy to do. We have:


Family Life:




  • Tableaux - One of my all-time favorite homeschool history co-op activities
  • Land-form Pans - A great resource for teaching geographical features
  • A Little Honesty - How homeschooling changes our children

and Homemaking:

That should keep you all busy for a while. I should add that if you want to comment on anything, I have the comment moderation turned on, so I will see it. If you want to comment. If...

Oh, I can share one more post that's new and up at Heart of the Matter on how to do a unit study on the California Gold Rush.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


H. has come down with her first cold since we have come home. I should have known something was up when she turned down the trail mix snack (complete with chocolate chips) that we had this morning. It was a very unusual occurrence. And then my normally perky, animated girl was looking droopier and droopier. When all of this finally connected in my head and J. checked her forehead, she was indeed running a slight fever and when asked admitted that her head hurt. Sigh. I forget how long the path is to a child being comfortable enough to be vulnerable. I'm not sure she would have told us if we hadn't asked.

H. was given some pain reliever and tucked into bed and after a few minutes A. came to get me to say H. was crying in her bed because she didn't feel well. She must have felt horrible since we have only seen tears once before when she got hurt. Tears are a very big deal. I felt so badly for her. I know that it is hard to be away from what is familiar when you feel sick. (Remember the first time you were sick away from home? I was fairly pathetic.) And even though she has been with us for six months, she was at Shepherd's Field a whole lot longer. I'm sure part of the tears were that she was sick in a place where she had never been sick before and what brought her comfort in the past wasn't available. It really was terribly sad.

She is up and feeling a little better and will be joining us for dinner, but having a few crackers instead. She does look a little perkier than she did earlier. It will be a wonderful day when she is secure in her place here and when she knows that this is where she will find comfort.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I am part of a group of people at our church who are starting a ministry aimed at orphaned and vulnerable children. In our meeting last night we spent some time discussing where we were initially going to put our energy and focus and it was decided that we needed to start locally and in ways that didn't seem overwhelming. To that end, we are going to be working on bringing Safe Families to our church and encourage the membership to go through the training to participate. (Fellow church members... consider yourselves warned about what you're going to hear me talking about. A lot.) We are also going to look into where we can help serve the many teenage mothers in our community because we all agreed that this population is the modern day widow of Scripture.

We decided to go in this direction for the moment because sometimes looking at the big picture can just be too overwhelming. And an overwhelmed person cannot make good decisions or sometimes even act to make things better. We want people to see where problems are and also offer tangible ways that they can act and help.

And recently, I have been too well acquainted with feeling overwhelmed. Not with raising my own family and making my own home (though I wouldn't be honest if I didn't have those feelings some of the time), but I have been so consumed with the plight of children in desperate circumstances that it sometimes makes it difficult to focus on my family's immediate needs.

I have shared before about the children in the orphanage in Pleven, Bulgaria. Children who have warehoused and starved and neglected to such an extent that we find it virtually unimaginable (how can a 14 year old be just 12 pounds?!), all because they either were born with an extra chromosome or because they have a physical problem such as CP. These were children who were born as healthy as anyone else except for their special need, and the extreme disability they each face was brought on by either the inaction or mistreatment by the adults in their lives. No child deserves to live like that.

And part of the feeling of being overwhelmed by it all is that fact that I don't feel I can do a thing about it. I can pray for them, and I know that is no small thing, but it doesn't quite fit the 'doing' bill. (Probably it should, but we'll save that deep theological discussion for another time.) I can also badger all of you about these children in the hopes that people will decide to adopt one of these children. A home and a family is their best hope of ever knowing what love is. So I will provide the links again. If you haven't clicked on them, please do so now. Read about these children, pray for them, and see if God is moving in you to showing one of these children the love of a mother and father for the very first time.

The Blessing of Verity. The blog of a family who adopted a daughter (look for posts about Katie) from this orphanage is and now working on bringing home a son.

No Greater Joy Mom - children who desperately need families. Look at these children. There are three on the list who have a family working to bring them home, but there still others who need a mother and father. Please, won't someone adopt little Kramer?

No Greater Joy Mom - Zach - This little boy is in a different orphanage in Bulgaria and desperately wants a family to love him.

Eric Ludy calls knowing about the plight of the poor and helpless and then going about our lives depraved indifference and it's not how God would have us live. Rise up and say, "No More!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Or so J. tells me that's what it is. So I decided to blog about it, because I really like grammar and punctuation. At least I like it when it is well-used, but I will admit to being vaguely (OK, very much) disturbed by poor punctuation. I am likely to correct it in books... even library books. I have yet to actually deface a public sign due to poor punctuation, though we as a family "collect" public displays of improper punctuation. Contractions and quotation marks are the usual suspects. Why is it that stores, when they display sale notices for things, have a tendency to use quotation marks? You know, a sign that reads Sale! "Apples" $.79/lb! I always wonder what the apples really are because it is something obviously (to me at least) pretending to be apples.

Who's and whose and its and it's are always troublesome, as are they're, their, and there. Speaking of the Oxford comma... What? You didn't know we were? Oh, sorry. I just used it so I guess I was thinking about it in my head. The Oxford comma for those who don't feel as compulsive about these things is the last comma in a set of commas used to separate a list of items in a sentence, such as my example of they're, their, and there. It is the one that comes before the word 'and'. While some style manuals do not think it is necessary and do not recommend its use, I really like the Oxford comma for clarity.

Take the panda joke, for example. (I also really, really like pandas, as you know, so this works out well.)

A panda walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich. He eats the sandwich, pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter dead.

As the panda stands up to go, the bartender shouts, "Hey! Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for your sandwich!" 

The panda yells back at the bartender, "Hey, I'm a PANDA! Look it up!" The bartender opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: 

"A tree dwelling marsupial of Asian orgin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.

The panda could have used a lesson in punctuation. The only way he gets away with shooting the waiter is if the definition of a panda had commas, as in "eats, shoots, and leaves".

Speaking of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, you really need to read this book if you are the least bit interested in punctuation. (And maybe you need to read it even more if you're not.) It has been around for a while, but it is funny and informative and the author's dedication to punctuation makes my little obsession pale in comparison.

I think this punctuation-thing runs in the family. As we were driving last week and stopped at a light, TM looks out of the window and says, "They should have put commas in that sign." And he was right. Good boy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hopscotching through the colonies

We are studying the Revolutionary War this year. (Writing this makes me realize that I need to update the homeschooling tab up there on top. I'll work on that in the next few days.) Especially with my younger ones (and ones who are still developing listening skills), I try to do as much hands-on learning as possible. This is why if you had walked by my front yard this morning you would have seen us all out hopping around our driveway.

In order to help everyone visualize the location and each name of colony, I drew them in a fairly large format on our driveway in chalk. Do you know how difficult it is to get the scale correct when you are doing something like this? Connecticut has never been so big, but the locations and shapes were relatively accurate. 

After it was drawn, and I finally convinced everyone to put down the sticks they were waving around (is anyone else driven insane by waving sticks?), we did several different things. First we just practiced finding each colony by tossing stones onto them... like hopscotch. Then I would name a colony and everyone raced to each one and tried to stand in it. This didn't quite work for Rhode Island, so each child putting a finger on it had to suffice. Last, each of us tried hopping through the colonies, only one hop per colony was allowed and you had to say the name of each colony as you landed in it. 

The only downside I can see to all of this is that we have now spent a lot of time with a map from 1775, which is a bit different from a modern one. This means that Vermont doesn't exist and that Maine is not Maine, but a part of Massachusetts. I may have to do an activity so they become acquainted with a modern map as well.

It's also difficult to take photographs of children hopping. A. tried, but all she got were photos that she was not thrilled with and didn't want me to share. The trouble with having a child who is studying photography is that she gets pickier about her own photographs and is less likely to let you put any old thing up on your blog.

So that was the good part of the day. The other parts of my day were taken up with cleaning up after the puppy. I think a vet visit is in order soon because the intestinal distress has not abated. She (Gretel) isn't dehydrated, I've been making sure she has been getting lots of water, but I don't think it should be continuing this long.

Plus I had to take a daughter to the optician to see if the glasses she accidentally sat on and broke the nose pieces off of could be fixed. Of course not. The entire front of the frame has to be reordered. From Spain. My checkbook is not happy. Nor am I for that matter.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More randomness due to fatigue

Thanks for everyone's kind comments on yesterday's post. I continue in my belief that God uses parenting as a spiritual discipline. Not only that, but God uses parenting large families as a super-intensive spiritual discipline boot camp. It is a very effective way to move a person out of their comfort and ability zone and cause them to lean on God in a way they might not have before. Too much competence is not always a good thing.

But that's as much deep thought as you're going to get out of me at this moment. Life with a puppy is tiring. (For those of you nodding your head knowingly, I knew what we were in for. She is not my first puppy.) But still, no one really enjoys getting up in the middle of the night because the puppy had some, ahem, intestinal distress in her crate and she was covered in, ahem, that distress. J. took the puppy outside and then plopped her in the tub, I cleaned out the crate and then held the wet, shivering puppy wrapped in a towel in my lap for a while until she warmed up.

It also doesn't help that the initial getting into bed was a bit later than usual because we were at friends having dinner. A really lovely catered dinner which the friends won at an auction and decided to invite our whole family to enjoy the dinner with them. (Thank you!!) And then after you get home, and get small people settled in bed, and the puppy settled in her crate, and things put away, it turns out to be late.

So, I'm in that vaguely tired, don't really feel like doing much anything mood, but yet know there are things I need to do. Things such as getting larger, warmer clothes out for various children. In the end all I really did was start several projects, made a big mess, and then left it. Of course the whole thing makes me even more tired. At least I think I found dresses appropriate for the weather for G. and L. tomorrow. Not so for D. who needs pants. That seemed easy because I had a box of size 12 pants in the basement. We pulled them out only to discover that someone had filled it with size 16 pants and 1 pair of size 12 shorts. I don't know why. D. will just have to wear too-short pants for another Sunday.

I don't know about you, but Saturdays never seem to work out quite as I planned. I think I see a nearly whole unscheduled day and in my mind what I can do in that amount of time is 10 times more than what can actually happen. I would probably do far better to focus on just getting the house sorted out so that Sunday can be relaxing, rather than think about all the major projects I can start and (not) finish.

Here's to hoping the puppy... and everyone else... sleeps through the night tonight.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Start as you mean to go on

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."  James 1:5 (ESV)

It hasn't been an easy several months here with TM as we switch our parenting practices, work with a therapist, and help him heal. As we walk down this road, I am more and more filled with regret over the first years with TM. And though I had the best of intentions, and felt I was educated and knew what I was doing, I was actually clueless. God continues to use this child to reform and make me into the person He wants me to be. It can be a painful process.

The title of this post and the Bible verse I quoted at the top very much sum up the most recent part of this journey. If you read adoptive parenting literature, you will run across this truism, 'Start as you mean to go on', in many different places. Basically, it is saying that this is your child, and you shouldn't treat him or her differently because of the adoption and that you have the right, and need, to parent this child. And I can't think of a single phrase or idea that has done more damage to my child, via me, than this phrase. I lacked wisdom, and because I thought I knew it all, I was wrong.

My pride in my parenting ability got in my way of God's wisdom and leading. If I have learned one thing from leading a girls' Bible study through the book of Isaiah, it's that God hates pride and He will use all means possible to strip pride from His people. And I had pride in spades. When we brought TM home, I already had five children.They were well behaved, intelligent, secure, happy, and well-liked children. Surely I had this parenting-thing all figured out. And because I had it all figured out, I embraced the idea of start as you mean to go on.

I missed a key idea, though. I had not fully understood how the first three years of my children's life impacted their ability to function and accept correction and instruction. They all spent the first few years of their lives being totally and completely adored, no matter what they did. They were secure in how much they were loved by their mother and father and had complete trust in us.

Instead of going back to the beginning with my new son and building a strong foundation of trust and love, I jumped right into how I parented my other nearly four-year-olds. I was asking a child to obey me when he had no reason to want to. And the more I insisted, the more he learned that I could not be trusted to truly understand and love him. Instead of starting out adored by his new parent, we began our relationship as one of confrontation. We were not on the same team.

What we are doing now is going back to the beginning and working on building a real relationship. And I'm happy to report that it is working. One of the reasons the past few months have been so difficult is that our therapist believes that TM is finally allowing himself to emotional regress to a three-year-old age. He is allowing me to do things for him that a three-year-old would naturally allow a parent to do. He has been asking me to help care for him. But it also means that he is doing other three-year-old work... that of discovering where boundaries are and discovering that a parent loves the child even when those boundaries are pushed. I see this in the little girls all the time, and it even crossed my mind that TM was acting just like them at times, but it took the therapist pointing it out to really make the whole thing click. We are essentially raising a three-year-old in a nearly 10-year-old's body. We are working on building trust and security. It is hard work... for all of us.

And from walking through this experience, I have learned a lot about myself as well. I don't have it all figured out. Not even close. Instead of plowing ahead and doing what I think is right nearly all the time, I am stopping more and more to ask for God's wisdom. And you know what? If I am quiet for a moment and wait instead of barging ahead, I will hear that still, small voice and find direction. It is often not what I would have done intuitively, but in the end it turns out to have been just the right thing. God is faithful and follows through on His promises.

My advice for people at the beginning of their adoptive parenting journey?  Do not make my mistake and skip the oh-so-important building trust phase. This doesn't mean you don't address misbehavior, but focus on the why of the behavior instead. And, especially as I've done this another couple of times, I find it helpful to picture what I would do with a one-year-old... which is nearly always redirect, give a snack, give a nap, and give a hug depending on what is needed. A newly adopted child is much closer to an emotional one year old than their chronological age.

Also, do not make my mistake of turning your relationship with your child into a confrontational one. There are no winners or losers. You either both win or you both lose... you need to be on the same side. The child isn't behaving in a certain way to annoy you, or make you angry, or to manipulate you on purpose. He or she is behaving that way because they don't know what else to do to deal with all of the emotions they have going on inside of them. The child is looking for a person to make them feel safe and loved and the new parent has to earn that trust. Trust me, I know.

I have asked my son for forgiveness for my early mistakes and I have asked God's as well. Hallelujah that we have a God who keeps no record of mistakes. His blessings are new every morning.

[This is an old post, but for the purposes of the prompt this week, I can't think of anything better to write. Linked to Love Your Failures at Hearts at Home.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cottage pudding, or that post about neglected desserts (note the two s's)

It's blog hop day for Hearts at Home and the topic is to share a fall recipe and the story behind it.

This is easy. I love recipes with stories. They are part of each family's history and a way of connecting generations together. If you haven't started to collect your family's recipes, do it now! And if you have the recipes, but don't have the stories associated with them written down, the next time you make one, just write something about it in the margins.

The recipe I'm going to share is one of my favorite desserts from childhood. For a good part of that childhood, we would have Sunday dinner after church at my grandmother's house. She lived within a few blocks of the church and I can remember her slipping at the beginning of the last hymn to take the roast (in my memory it was always a roast) out of the oven and get things ready. My family would then gather ourselves and then join her at her home for dinner. The table was always set with the good china, there was always a relish tray with pickles and olives, and there was always dessert. Cottage pudding was often the dessert... I could have eaten it every week.

It's not really a pudding, but a cake (which works better stale) that is cut and served in bowls and a hot sugary/lemony/buttery sauce is then passed and each person pours some of the syrup over the cake. The cake then becomes pretty soft and gooey, thus the pudding title. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one of those foods (along with okra?) which is an acquired taste, but one that I love because I grew up with it. One of the first times J. had dinner with my family at my grandmother's house she served this. I was thrilled because it was the only place I ever had it, J., not so much. He is a polite man and ate it, but we'll just say it won't be on his list of favorite foods.

I have been wanting to make it for my children (and for me), but it turns out I didn't have the recipe. Thankfully my mother did and she shared it with me and so I'm sharing it with you. I am sharing it untested because I haven't had a chance to make it yet, but I'll update this post with any hints once I do. And probably the reactions of my children will be an entire post of itself.

Cottage Pudding

Sift together 1-3/4 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt

Add 1/4 cup shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 3/4 cup milk, 1 tsp. vanilla

Beat until smooth; pour into a greased 9 inch square pan.

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 min. Serve with vanilla or lemon sauce.

Lemon Sauce (Be sure to make a lot... I can remember drowning my cake with it)

Mix in a sauce pan 1 cup sugar and 2 TBSP cornstarch. gradually stir in 2 cups of water.

 Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup butter and 2 tsp vanilla or lemon flavoring. Serve warm with the cake.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By Jove, it worked!

Much of the morning was taken up with "character training". We eventually did some school-type stuff, but I find the character aspect to be much more of an immediate need than opening a book. The book can wait, but some things character-wise you really need to catch in the moment. I will add it is not my favorite way to spend a morning.

But we finally were able to work on our electricity unit and today the project of making a telegraph was scheduled. Scheduled somewhat hesitatingly, though. You see, my children really know what a real experiment looks like in that sometimes they don't work. And then we get to go back and see where we went wrong or if we went wrong and the directions were bad or something else entirely. Let's just say we don't have a 100% success rate.

I took a deep breath and we began. The idea was that you connect a battery, a buzzer and the tapping mechanism (in this case brass fasteners and a paper clip) together in a circuit. When the paper clip is pressed and connects with the brass fastener, the buzzer sounds and you can use Morse code to send messages. I could tell everyone was holding their breath when I first tried it and by their exclamations I could tell they didn't have high hopes for the whole project either. 

Everyone got a chance to try tapping out words and it was deemed a success. I could tell TM really wished that we could somehow make a larger one that was a permanent installation in the house. It would be interesting to have a Morse code key and lever on our doorbell to replace the broken one. In theory. I don't really think I want to hear constant Morse code throughout my day, so we'll stick with the broken doorbell.

Here is the paper clip/telegraph lever:

The little girls were interested in what was going on. Really, they had no idea what was going on except that people were getting turns making noise, so they were all for it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One of those days

Nothing bad has happened, just oddness. And we continue to work to get into our homeschooling schedule.

This year I was smart and actually scheduled in library visits. I don't know why I never thought to do this before. The books are always due one month from when we checked them out and I know we're going to go. This way, I don't have to rearrange the schedule at the last moment when I realize the books are going to be due tomorrow.

And it really does take the whole morning. The first hour is spent just locating all the books and making sure we have them all. Then we have to spend some time looking for the last one or two books which have gone missing. And then they need to be loaded into bags. It takes a while. Today, we had made it to the point where the wagons were loaded up and everyone was heading outside when the phone rings.

It was my mom (Hi Mom!), and I always like to talk to her, so I sent the children on ahead, figuring that with many small children and two wagons, they wouldn't be moving very fast and I could catch-up. What I didn't count on was the bird flying into my kitchen. B. was home, having opted to spend the time working in the peace and quiet, for which I was very glad. After several attempts, no doubt helped by the fact the bird kept flying into windows and getting a little slower each time, B. was able to catch it in a towel and then carry it in a box outside. I helped by holding the box for when he needed it. It was an important job. Really.

The bird appeared unharmed, though a bit dazed, and eventually flew away. B. took some pictures before he did:

He was a pretty little thing. Anyone know what kind he is?

To finish my story, I did catch-up with the children before they reached the library, and we did make it home in time for a late-ish lunch. Here's my one tip from the morning. If you bring snacks with you for the walk home, might I suggest that nuts which need to be shelled, such as pistachios, are probably not a terrific choice? It was difficult for people to walk, eat, and remove shells all at the same time. This is doubly true if you are pulling heavy wagons full of children and books because it is impossible to shell nuts with one hand and pull a wagon.

Perhaps it is just a result of currently living with a new puppy, but one of the picture books we checked out is quickly going to become one of my favorites. It is Widget and the Puppy by Lyn Rossiter McFarland. It is cute and makes me laugh... in a sort of I-feel-your-pain way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Life with puppy

Some people have commented to me that I have perhaps gone insane agreeing to the puppy and all. One friend even pointed out that it was just a week before that I had told her that I really didn't want a puppy. Another called to find out what had happened so that she could avoid whatever it was and didn't end up with a puppy herself.

I will admit there have been a few moments this week where I have doubted my sanity as well. Those moments would usually come when the puppy starts barking to go out at 5:45 am or when both little girls are screaming because they are terrified of the cute little puppy's needle sharp teeth. At that point neither girls or puppy are quite so cute. I will say it adds a certain level of chaos around here that we don't normally experience.

Training the puppy also turns into a lot of training the children as well. Gretel is thrilled with her new litter, um people. I'm pretty sure that she thinks that these are the best, most fun puppies she has ever gotten to play with. They behave in unexpected ways, they jump up and down, they wave around, and they make a lot of noise. She just doesn't understand why she can't play with them as she would play with other puppies. And no matter how much we practice standing still like a tree, I have yet to convince the small people that jumping up and down and screaming is not the way to get her to stop trying to chew on them. Ah, fun times.

But Gretel is a cute, cute puppy. Plus, she has managed in less than a week what good intentions for several years have not:  get me out of bed at an earlier time. There is nothing like the motivation of trying to avoid pee on the floor (or in the crate) to get one out of bed... and she's louder than an alarm clock as well. And once I'm out of bed, I'm very unlikely to get back in, so I continue on in my early morning fog until the first cup of coffee has fully entered my system.

And the other thing I love (and probably a big reason we now have a puppy) is that there is nothing like a fuzzy puppy to hold and love. And they are pretty straight forward creatures... love them and feed them and they are your best friend. And sometimes, especially when raising far more complicated children, a happy, lappy, licky dog who thinks you are pretty terrific is just what you need.

Gretel, the puppy

L. (on left) and G., trying to stay away from the puppy.

Yes, you do see the pen in the background. We are really getting our money's worth out of it.

And now the girls are just being silly, someone must have picked the puppy up.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Things to click on and look at

I've taught piano (though not to my own children), took a puppy to puppy class, and been to a funeral. It has felt like an emotional roller coaster type of day. I'm not up for writing much, so I'll give you some links and let others write for me.

First off, because I see stats for this blog, I can see which topics get put into search engines and consequently visit my blog. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people out there who want to make wolf and pig masks. Who knew? I bet I see variations of those search terms several times a week. So, for those people who really need to know how to make wolf and pig masks, M. has made a tutorial for you. But you have to head to her Tumblr account (Flying Tadpole Creations) to see them. Here is part one and here is part two. If you click on the photos, it will take you to the written instructions. Even if you don't want to make a mask, you should still head over there because she has put up pictures of a lot of her artwork.

Next, I want you to take a look at No Greater Joy Mom's blog. Well, actually I want you to look at a specific post. You may remember when I shared about little Katie who was adopted from an orphanage in Pleven, Bulgaria. At the age of 11, she was only about 12 pounds. She was neglected and abused all because she was born with an extra chromosome. Katie is growing and thriving in her new family (you can read about her and her family at The Blessing of Verity), but there were other children like her in the orphanage. Children who were warehoused and forgotten. As more people learn about the plight of these children, more and more families are stepping forward to adopting them, but there are still more children who wait to be rescued out of their nightmare. Adeye has listed some of them on her post, For the Sake of Saving  One. Please go look at these children. Even if you can't be the one to bring one of them home, you can still pray and advocate for them.

Last, there is something that nearly everyone can do and all it takes is spending a little money every month. Go take a look at Compassion International's sponsor a child listing. (Or you can click the link in my sidebar.) These are children who are living in poverty, but with your help can receive an education and stay in their family and community of origin. They are real children in real need and it is so easy to help. Plus you get something in return... you can have a relationship with one of these children. You can write them letters, send stickers, and enable the Compassion staff to help purchase birthday and Christmas gifts and you will get letters back. If the child is really young, sometimes you will get a drawing from them, like we did from one of our sponsor children when he was little. This is something that takes very little time, money, and effort, but is also something that can have a big impact.

Go look at all these faces, both the ones in dire, horrible conditions who need a family and those in impoverished ones who would like to stay with their families. Pray for them and help as much as you are able.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quiet time

Ahhhh.... Do you hear that? If you hear anything other than the sounds your house and surroundings usually make than you are hearing more than I am. No one is currently talking to me. No one. Everyone is all tucked away in their quiet time spaces doing quiet things. Ahhhh..... (Okay, the puppy is whimpering a bit)

I had a friend ask me to write more about this, so here is my first week's report. We started quiet time on Tuesday, the same day we started school, but this is the first day that I've been home to enjoy it. The week has been so crazy that I've had errands or meetings every day. Now I get to have quiet time, too.

So far it has gone well. Amazingly, I was able to start with the full hour and a half that I had planned. I wasn't sure how things would go, so I had prepared myself for 45 minutes at first and then working up to the full time. I chalk our initial success up to a couple of reasons. The first is my creation of quiet time bags (I ended up skipping boxes because I didn't have any the right size, and went with canvas bags because the breed in dark corners and I always have too many.) I filled these for the four grade school children. I figured the older ones could happily entertain themselves (plus, they often still have work to do) and the little girls are actually napping. I concede that the creation of these bags is pure bribery. But for 1 1/2 hours of quiet everyday I think I came off cheaply. I went to the dollar store and filled them with little things that can be done on a lap... coloring books, crayons/colored pencils, stickers, blank paper, kaleidoscope, small plastic toys/animals... you get the idea.

At the start of quiet time I have everyone go to their spots and I bring them their bags. (H. also gets the fun activity of doing her eye patching at this time as well.) They play quietly until I come and tell them quiet time is over and collect the bags. There have been a couple of instances of people coming out and asking if it is over yet, but they have returned to their spots without fuss when told to. There have also been some wheedling for getting access to the bags outside of quiet time, but this has been a no as well. The bags would lose their cachet if they could be played with all the time. Upon opening the bags, one boy declared it was better than Christmas. I figure I can get a while out of the current contents and then every so often I might stick in a new surprise to keep it fresh.

The other reason for our initial success, I think, is because we all really do need a break and some quiet in our day... no matter the age. It's just that a child is less likely to realize that. And other than it makes me a calmer happier mother to have this breathing space, this is the biggest reason I decided to re-institute the quiet time practice. We (our society) is not really good about quiet, calm, peace, and restfulness. It's as if we have collectively forgotten that these things are good and valuable and how to go about creating them. I want  my children to have a sense of how to be quiet with themselves and to know that this practice is important. It will also help in my quest to make our home a place where its members can find rest.

At the end of quiet time, we have all been going around the block on a short walk to help with the transition between being alone and being with others again. Walking is a great way to use both sides of your brain and to help those sides communicate. Anytime you can achieve this is aids in higher thinking processes. That would be opposed to the purely emotional reacting that some of us in our family resort to and what we try to avoid. Plus exercise in general is a good mood stabilizer.

So, these early afternoon hours this week have been good. The mornings have progressively, though slowly, improved and I imagine after another week we'll hit our stride. The time of day I need to think about is the free time which happens between quiet time and dinner. This past week, the late afternoons have turned fairly ugly and I would like to work on ways to avoid the general ugliness, preferably without resorting to drugging to putting in a DVD, though given the ages of children and their developmental/emotional states at the moment, maybe I just need to lower that bar a little and give myself some grace. I'm not entirely convinced yet, so I'll keep working on it.

And now I'm off so I can avoid having all of my quiet time eaten up by sitting at the computer. The day is far too nice to let that happen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

H. has been home six months

Yesterday we had H.'s 6 month post-placement visit. It has been both an incredibly fast and in other ways an incredibly long six months. Some of the factors adding to its length are not even due to H., but to how her arrival has triggered other family members. In many ways, she has been the easy piece of the puzzle.

Because I don't like to sugarcoat things, I want to be honest about the experience of adopting an older child. I believe a family cannot make a truly informed decision to adopt unless they have the whole story. Some of that story is wonderful, some is just interesting, and some is truly difficult.

We'll start with the less-than-happy-stuff first and get that over with. Attachment is a funny thing, and I've come to the conclusion that while the focus on a child's attaching to the new parents is important, more time (much more time) should be spent on the importance of parents attaching to children. I truly think this is the bigger issue. If you are in love with your child, it is much easier for the child to fall in love with you. (This is barring trauma, of course. That's a whole different ball game. But even then, a parent who likes their child will be better able to deal with the difficulties which come with the trauma.) As I have said before, this is the area I struggle the most with. On the plus side, I knew enough about myself and had experience with previous adoptions to know it was coming and wasn't surprised by it. This time.

And it has been slowly getting better. There are moments where I think, "Hey, this girl of mine is pretty darn neat." in the sort of sappy way I think about the rest of my children. But it has just been six months, and there are still things that she does which literally drive me up a tree. Nothing that she is doing on purpose or is necessarily bad, just things that strike me like nails on a chalkboard more often than not. A friend and I were talking and we have decided on an exercise which could possibly be the single best way to experience older child adoption firsthand. Here it is:  Think of a friend of one of your children. Think of the most annoying friend they have. The one that you avoid asking over to your house at all costs because every single thing this child does annoys you or irritates you. Now pretend someone has just told you that this child will be living with you always and you have to pretend to like it.

Yep, I have come a long way in my attachment to H. I still have a long way to go, but I am making progress and have stopped feeling the need to hide in the bathroom. Well, hide in the bathroom for that reason... there have been other challenging children in the house as well. It helps that I know I will eventually think of H. no differently than I do my other children. I did not know this the first two times around and guilt doesn't help.

In the interesting category (which for some people could fall into the difficult section), we are still dealing with some orphanage behaviors. I'm not surprised... 6 months would be a really short amount of time to see those go away. There's still some indiscriminate affection going on. Yes, I know she is a naturally affectionate girl and I don't have trouble with that or want to deny that part of her personality, but when you actually witness indiscriminate affection you realize it is to a different degree. There are just no boundaries. We are working on building boundaries.

The bigger orphanage behavior is one that I didn't expect. We are essentially helping H. to completely rethink who she is. For too many years she was treated, due to her appearance, as if she were mentally retarded. There. I said it out loud. It's ugly, but it's true. And when that is how you are treated, that is how you learn to behave, the biggest part being that you don't even really try to do things because you assume you can't. I didn't expect to have to teach my 9 year old some basic self-care and other types of skills. Oh, I expected to have to show her how Americans do things, but that is a little different than teaching outright. The list of self-care skills we have worked on or are continuing to work on is pretty long and I'm not going to go into details, but it caught me by surprise. And not only do we need to teach the skill, we first need to unteach the inability to do it, if that makes sense.

The Lord has blessed her with a bit of a competitive streak which is serving her well. Once we convince her she can do something, she is all over trying to get it figured out. And she really doesn't like her brothers being able to do things she can't. She is willing to try things and then tenaciously practice them to work on mastering them. She is even willing to let me move her body (and consequently her  muscles) in new and uncomfortable ways so that she can do more things. I know she spent a good portion of time hunched a bit forward with her head down because this is how her muscles are most comfortable. To move outside that comfort zone, she needed help to put her body in other, more open positions. Once she felt her muscles move like that, though, she practices and practices, taking great pleasure in showing me how well she's doing. And she's building more muscle, is getting stronger, more flexible, and has greater endurance. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

Like her physical muscles, her mental muscles are also being stretched. And like with the other muscles, we see a building and stretching as she learns new and different ways of using her brain... of having real things expected of her. In six months, she has gone from illiterate in any language to beginning to sound out words in English. As we were working through the AlphaPhonics book this morning, I noticed that she is getting the idea of blending the letter sounds together to make a word... definitely one of the trickier aspects of learning to read in my opinion.

She is slowly becoming a real part of the family. I have added her into the line-up for daily and weekly jobs, which, at the moment, she is still thrilled to do. I have a feeling that will be a benchmark... the day she starts moaning like most everyone else. (I work their little fingers to the bone, I tell you.) A new normal is starting to emerge, one that most definitely includes her. It is not something that can be rushed, but is something that is a journey. Sometimes we want to rush to the destination, though, instead of enjoying the path along the way. And there is a lot to enjoy as we get to know this little girl who is so thrilled to be a part of a family and have her own Mommy and Daddy.

One more funny/interesting thing... something that never fails to surprise her is the amount of Mommies and Daddies in the world. She is hyper-aware of the fact that most everywhere we go, children are with their own parents. H. is always pointing out that there are so many Mommies and Daddies. In her former world, parents were a very limited commodity; something that not every child received. You can almost hear her thinking if there are this many Mommies and Daddies in the world, why don't all of her friends back in China have a set? It's a valid question.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meet Gretel

Here is the newest family member, who also has the distinction of getting her full name posted on the blog. (I guess I'm not as concerned about my dog's privacy as I am my children's.) She is a sweet, sweet puppy who is very nearly housebroken. It helps that I have a lot of helpers who really enjoy taking her outside. 

So, as promised, more puppy pictures than you really need... and a video.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First day of school

And all I really have to say about it is that we all survived. Some of us barely. I've had better first days. On the plus side, we did pretty much get through everything I had hoped, it was more the tone that I was disappointed with. Let's just say it wasn't calm.

Part of  the lack of calm is that we are seeing some real positive healing in TM, but it is a process and one that definitely feels as though it is the three steps forward, two steps back variety. As he becomes more in touch with how he is actually feeling, he is also more aware of when he is anxious. And for some reason, starting school this year, even though it is nearly exactly the same as what we have done in years past, is making him very anxious. I am very hopeful that once we get back into the routine, it will help further his healing. As just a quick example of the healing we've seen,(those of you who are practicing therapeutic parenting will appreciate this), he actually voluntarily and spontaneously told me he was sorry about something yesterday. I nearly burst into tears. 

Of course, G. and L. continue to be little whirlwind wild cards themselves. They got to start their Rod and Staff three year old workbooks today and LOVED them. They feel like big girls when they have a book to work in. It also made me glad that I laminated the pages so they can do them over and over and over again. 

H. is also going to need some time to get back into the groove of school. It was just enough different from what we'd been doing this summer that she was having trouble figuring out what was expected of her. This means she often feels the need to shout my name loudly and ask what we're doing (usually the moment I'm working with someone else). It goes something like this:

H.: Mommy! What doing?
Me: We are doing _____________. (Fill in the blank with what the current activity is.)
H. What?!

Shouting "What?!" has become her new default method of trying to figure things out. It is along the same lines of an Ugly American just talking more loudly to a person who doesn't speak English. It's as if volume is the problem and not basic understanding. Evidently God still thinks that patience is an emerging skill for me and needs to be practiced.

That's why we're getting a puppy.

Yes, you read that right. A puppy. A 9 week old blond lab puppy. The children have been after us for years now to get another dog and J. and I caved because of the cute puppy at our block party on Sunday which was being fostered by a family down the street. No, putting the cribs in the alley had NOTHING to do with it. Of course not. Why do you ask?

I suppose the excitement about the puppy arriving this evening could also have contributed to the general household wonkiness. I don't know why, though.

We bring her (the puppy) home at 6pm tonight. 

Yes, they'll be pictures... probably more than you can stand... tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy 12th Birthday, P.!

I haven't been around much because the computer came down with a virus and was very ill for a while. After four days in intensive care, it is back up and running as normal. I have to admit to really liking the break and was a bit sad to have to slog through all the email which had piled up.

Let's see, what did you miss while I was gone? Well, B. disposed of some dead, rotting possums which he found underneath the back stairs off the porch. He took pictures, but I'm not going to share them.  You're welcome. K. swallowed a mancala marker and choked on it and then swallowed it. Thankfully he's fine and all systems are working normally. The little girls have stopped falling out of bed. (Thank you pool noodles.) We spend hours and hours at the Field Museum. I came to the conclusion that about 1 1/2 hours is about the perfect time to spend on any museum trip because any longer and the recovery time at home isn't worth it. And we had our block party yesterday.

But we can't stop and linger over any of those, we need to move on because today is P.'s 12th birthday. This child has grown so much over the past year... both literally and figuratively. Height-wise, I think she is at least 5 inches taller. It has been very difficult to keep her in pants that are long enough. She is also quickly heading out of girl territory and into young lady territory instead. Recently I've noticed that she has become increasingly helpful around the house and I'm really appreciating having another pair of useful hands around.

P. is also my animal lover. And with her calm and quiet demeanor, animals of all sorts love her. P. is also really excellent in a crisis as we have had occasion to notice more than once in the past year. I can always count on her to remain calm and to be able to think clearly. Not all of my children possess this ability, so I am particularly thankful for her clear head.

So, Happy Birthday P.!! I love you very, very much and am excited to watch you grow into the beautiful and interesting young woman you are becoming.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Pool noodles and big girl beds

The little girls have had two nights in their big girl beds. They love their beds and happily stay in them. This is good because my biggest reason for not moving them sooner was that I wasn't sure they would stay in bed and I had visions of little girls wandering about the house in the middle of the night. It wasn't a restful thought.

But while they are voluntarily staying in bed while they are awake, they are having trouble staying in bed while they are asleep. It seems each girl needs to fall out of bed once each night. The first night we tried them without any rails or anything, mainly because we didn't have them. It wasn't too bad, but I was afraid they would get hurt if they kept falling out. Then one of my readers gave me the hint to try pool noodles under the mattress pads to act as a small bumper on either side. I thought this was genius, so made a mental note to try to find pool noodles. In September. This is what led to the funny exchange with A. yesterday in Aldi.

A:  You should get some pool noodles for the girls' beds to stop them from falling out.
Me:  Yes, I saw that, but I have no idea where to start looking for them in September.
A:  They have them here. That's why I mentioned it.
Me:  They do? Where? I don't see any. (While looking around me trying to see pool noodles.)
A:  Um, they're right there. (Pointing to a large box of them less than five feet from where I was standing.)
Me:  Oh. Well, I'll get some.

Clearly, I shouldn't be allowed out by myself.

So, last night, we installed the pool noodles. The trouble is, only one bed currently has a mattress pad because I didn't have a second one. The pool noodle-thing doesn't work so well under just the sheet because it isn't quite strong enough to hold it in place. We tried to solve this by safety pinning it in place and put them in bed.

I don't think we safety pinned the noodles in quite the right way since G. fell out of bed because the noodle had gotten pushed to the side of the mattress. I readjusted the pins after comforting G. and it seemed to stay the rest of the night and was fine.

L. was another story. Her noodles stayed in place. (That's a funny sounding sentence, isn't it?) But, she is a very floppy fish when she sleeps and she fell out of bed because she had flopped herself right over the top of the noodle. I'm not quite sure what the fix is for that. I'm hoping that they will each get the hang of sleeping in a bed and it won't be an issue, but we may be investing in bed rails after all.
I'll write more about this tomorrow, but for right now, Compassion International is having a special month for bloggers where the grand prize is a trip to visit (and blog about) a country that Compassion works in and visit their programs. Oh, how much I would love to get to do this someday. The blogger who sends the most traffic to Compassion's child sponsorship site and then has the most readers sign up to sponsor a child is the one who gets the trip. Realistically, I'm not in the running for the prize, but I would love all of you to take a look at the children who needs sponsors so that they can stay in their family of origin. Click the link up above or on the side bar and take a look. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Happy not-back-to-school day

Even though all the public schools around us started today, we did not. Both because I'm not ready and because I never start on the day the public schools do. Because I can. What we always do on the public school back-to-school day is to take advantage of really empty museums. This afternoon we headed to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. (Which has a really good family membership, by the way.) We joined our good friends the P family and the H-S family, so I suppose we looked like a large school group even if it didn't feel that way to us.  It was a good afternoon

My crew, waiting for our friends. It was really bright right here, which accounts for the funny expressions.

First we went to the small travelling exhibit on bicycles.

D. waiting to ride the big bike.

TM trying to get on a bike much too big for him.

K. in a cargo trailer

L. in the cargo trailer (G. wouldn't get in because the bike which was 'pulling' it was broken. It was a display and so the bikes were disabled. G. wasn't buying it.)

The highlight of the museum (in my opinion) is the butterfly exhibit.

Small birds and butterflies were all over.

L., G., P13, and K. looking at the koi.

P8, TM, and P9

Isn't this a cool butterfly? It looks just like a leaf.

This one was enormous.
The little girls were far more interested in the fish and spent a long time looking in the pool.



A. forgot her fancy camera (we'll have to go back again with it) and borrowed mine for a while. The next four pictures are by her.

I love this one!


We ended up the day at the water tables. The best reason to come when this museum is really empty.

Tomorrow we're staying home. Being out and about so much means that not much laundry or anything else happens around the house. Plus, I think we're going to start our new job plan.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Big girl beds

No more cribs around here... we have moved G. and L. into big girl beds. I have even bagged up all the crib sheets and bumper pads. You should be impressed that I didn't even sniffle, though I have purposefully not thought about it very hard, either.

G. and L. are very excited and are currently napping in them. I don't have bed rails, so we'll see if they fall out. I really don't want a repeat of that sleepless night in Iowa last year. But I know you really just want to see pictures, so I'll stop blathering and show them to you.

Here's G.'s bed. I realize looking at this picture that the wall above her bed is looking pretty bare. I should think about what to put there.

And of course G.'s bed needs to have her panda collection.

I caught these two pictures right in between smiles.

And here's L.'s bed. She wanted to get everything 'just so' before posing for a picture. You'll also notice that she is Tigger today. Very rarely is the child just L.

Here are the two beds looking in from their doorway. G.'s is to the left...

and L.'s is on the right in between the doors to their closet and the Jack-and-Jill closet which connects to the boys' room.

We were almost done with the beds when I realized that they would need blankets and pillows. This is quite a difference from when M. moved into a big girl bed. I had specially purchased all of her bedding weeks in advance of the big day. For numbers #9 and #10, it was more along the lines of, "Should we move the girls into big beds today? Alright, today is as good as any." It turns out I had enough blankets to assign two to the new beds, but I had to scavenge the pillows out of the decorative shams on my own bed to come up with pillows for them. I guess at some point I should invest in a couple more pillows. They're useful to have when we have more than the usual number of overnight guests. The quilts I had leftover from when A. and P. shared this room, so I knew I had that covered. 

I'll let you know how the first night in the big girl beds went tomorrow.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Working on schedules

I continue my quest to organize our school year. I'm waiting for some more books, so detailed school planning is put on hold. Instead I spent some time working on other schedules... household jobs, how the day will flow from activity to activity, the daily life-stuff. I find if I can get a handle on the household systems, then adding in schoolwork is much easier.

Last year I tried something new with a rotating schedule. There were five jobs, five children and each day the jobs would rotate. This was a success because the unpopular jobs only came around every five days. This year I changed it to add another child (H.), so I needed to add another job. Now we will have a six day schedule which means that the days will remain consistent and should be a bit easier to keep track of.

The bigger Saturday cleaning jobs have been switched around between children so that they get a change, plus I've added G. and L. into the line up. The little girls will be sweeping the back stairs, with P.'s help. (Helping the little girls do their job has become one of hers.) The sweeping job is one of the great 'first jobs' because it's not vital to the house seeming clean and it's pretty easy to do. I think they will be excited about having an assignment... and K. will be even happier not to have it any longer. It's been his assigned job for three years now and he can finally do it unassisted.

Our weekday schedule is looking pretty much the same, with a couple of exceptions. Because some of my children need food and sensory input on a fairly regular schedule, I have decided to add those things in both so that they are not forgotten and with the hopes that by scheduling them the battles that can sometimes arise will abate. There is something about a schedule written down on a piece of paper that makes it more authoritative. You can't argue with a piece of paper, after all. So, mid-morning we will have a brief protein snack and some physical activity. I'm going to plan out the type of snacks and the type of activity (keeping it varied) so that everyone knows what's happening and it removes it a step from me telling people what to do.

The other big change is to re-institute a household quiet time after lunch. This is one of those really smart things I used to do all the time, but over the course of years and adding children, it fell by the wayside. And I really need it by the time 1 o'clock rolls around. (I think my children need it, too, they just don't know it.) It will create a bit a quiet margin in our lives that has been missing this summer. I know that this is going to be a fairly steep learning curve, though. My plan is to eventually have 1 1/2 hours of quiet time a day. I know that for most of my children, entertaining themselves quietly for that long won't be possible at first and we're going to have to work up to it. I think we'll start at 45 minutes and work up.

I am also going to go back to having quiet time boxes. I used this idea when M. was young and she had quiet time for years past the napping stage using one. It is just a box where I have put a bunch of quiet activities that only come out for that hour or hour and a half. When quiet time is done, the boxes go away. I am enlisting TM and D. in stocking the boxes with the hopes that by the time we begin they will be on board with the whole concept.

When instituting a new plan, it helps to leave nothing to chance. So, I'm also assigning people places for quiet time. I am really appreciating my big house for this because I think I have a way to keep each person in a separate room. For those sharing, I have the youngest person in the room on their beds, then the older ones are spread out between other bedrooms (M.'s, the guest room, and mine) and the living room. This way, I don't have to hear arguing about who gets which spot and it will help the whole thing become a habit.

The last new part of our daily schedule is the transition between quiet time and the rest of the afternoon. This summer I discovered that asking children to go around the block in between activities has really helped with transitions, especially if one of those activities involved a screen. I'm going to use this tactic to transition from quiet time and send everyone around the block. I figure this will work in all but the worst weather since most of them don't mind being out in rain or snow.

I still have a bit of specific planning to do, but this feels like a huge hurdle to have behind me. And for those of you who wonder when we are starting school work, I'm thinking September 11. I could possibly be ready by then. Next week I plan on taking advantage of the really empty museums. The first week public schools are in session is the absolute best time to go because they are all so empty. It's wonderful to have an entire museum to yourself.!
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