Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve

My compulsive photo uploading continues. I'm through 2009, 2010, part of 2011, all of the China pictures, and some of 2012. This is making me feel very good as some of these pictures were merely on memory cards and not saved anywhere else.

And while I wait for the photos to slowly upload, we will be making the house presentable for our New Year's Eve party this evening. J. and I once tried to go out and do the typical couples New Year's Eve-thing, but it wasn't so fun that we ever wanted to do it again. We would much rather ring in the New Year with our children and good friends, so that's what we do.

We'll have at least four other families over this evening. The adults traditionally play hearts (which can be an entertaining spectator sport as well, because some of us are a wee bit competitive), the younger children run around and play, and the older children tend to talk together and play games as well. Sometimes we have become so engrossed in our game that we need to put off the new year by a few minutes. Then after serving the appropriate sparkling beverages to the masses, we sing Auld Lang Syne. Sometimes we even try to sing it with the original Scots words which adds to the amusement.

I usually set out all the treats that have piled up during the holidays with the hopes that they will get eaten. I have made it a tradition that anything left at the end of the party gets thrown out so as to start the new year without a lot of junk in the house.

2012 has certainly had its share of highs and lows, though I suppose that's true for any year. I don't remember many other years which have been so emotionally exhausting. I will admit to heading into 2013 with a certain amount of trepidation, considering the surgeries we will have coming up.

So, enjoy celebrating the past year with your loved ones. I'll see you back here in 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Photo organization

I'm in the middle of working on the goal I set for myself that after Christmas I would get our family pictures sorted out. I don't know about you, but the thought that I have all of these pictures of my children in various places and in various states of security is always a little anxious tug in my brain. If there was a house fire, I would have to run to too many places to save the photos (after the children, of course). And then there's the whole 'what if the computer crashes' scenario. We just don't want to go there.

In some ways, the days of film pictures was just much more easier to manage. And I was pretty good at managing them. I would fairly regularly take my film in to get it developed and then was good about labeling the photos right away. Then the photos and negatives got stored in those nice photo boxes to wait for me to put them in albums. Every six months or so, I would sit down and update our photo albums so that we could enjoy them. I never did any fancy scrapbooking; I just stuck the pictures on the scrapbook page with photo corners and labeled and dated them with the goal of getting as many pictures on a page as possible.

And then we got a digital camera and everything fell apart. I just wasn't sure how to store these pictures that I couldn't touch and sort and label. There was also the question of how to best get prints so that I could continue with keeping up our photo albums as I had been. Eventually it all become too confusing and I kind of threw up my hands and sort of gave up.

I did so some organizing. I bought albums which CD's could go in which fulfilled my need to sort and label. At least I knew what to grab in case of a fire, but even organized, it is difficult to just enjoy the photos on the disks. I mean, who really just sits down and puts in a disk to look at old pictures? A while back, I bit the bullet and had a bunch of prints made and put those in a photo album, but the process still seemed tedious, so I stopped. I suppose I could also blame it on being pregnant with twins, since the albums were caught up to the middle of 2008.

But now I'm ready to really do something about these pictures and I have a plan. Step one was to figure out exactly where I was in the photo albums. I've decided to finish up the summer of 2008 and then the only actual prints I will put in are those that people give us. It will be a way to organize those photos and take away the need to figure out how to make them digital. There's enough room at the end of the album that this should be a fairly long term solution.

The other big decision I made which has made it feel like a manageable project is that I've decided that I'm going to skip getting prints and go straight to making photo books online and then have them printed. My plan is to make one a year and as I take pictures upload them to the photo site so that at the end of each year it is just a matter of creating the book. Cost-wise, I don't think it will be that much more expensive by the time you figure in cost of the blank album, photo corners, and the cost of prints. Plus, the photo books are sturdier in that the pictures cannot come out and if something were to happen to the book, I can have another printed.

But to do this, I first need to catch up. My computer has been working overtime this week as I slowly upload photos from the past four years. I've finished with 2009 and am now in the middle of 2010. I also need to make a photo book of our trip to China to match the photo books I made of our two previous trips to Vietnam. (And boy, will I feel better getting all of those China photos somewhere a little more secure.)

I will probably not have all four books printed right away, but wait for good sales and stretch it out over time so as not to shock the checkbook. I know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this. I'm curious what other people do... and how do you back up all those digital photos

Friday, December 28, 2012

Prayer and fasting

It's not terribly holiday-ish, I know, but sometimes things can't wait until they are convenient. And frankly, caring for orphans and defending the powerless are never convenient. I don't know if all of my readers are aware, but Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, just signed a bill that stops all adoptions of children from Russia to the US, regardless of where children and families were in the process. Can you imagine having visited a child whom you think of as yours, hugged that child, told that child you were coming back, and then finding out that you will not be allowed to return? That is what is happening. It is devastating for the parents and for the children. And it is particularly devastating for the children who are warehoused because of their special needs; for children who have been placed in adult mental asylums with no care and with a mortality rate which would horrify you.

But really, this is just part of a bigger picture. I have to say I agree whole-heartedly with Linny at A Place Called Simplicity. (Please go and read this right now. I'll wait here for you. Really, click on the link.) This is just another in a series of countries closing to adoption and children who really do need families not being allowed them. Here is the key, though... we cannot just sit around and moan about how unfair it all is. We are just as culpable.

We Americans have completely lost touch with the idea of repentance. Whenever something doesn't go our way, we look around and find someone else to blame. We very rarely look at ourselves to see what we have done wrong. And just like the little pink angels in our Christmas pageant, the idea of finding fault outside ourselves is completely un-Biblical. Instead, we need to see things through the lens of something not being right and examining ourselves to see what our part in it was.

You know that I and the girls in my Bible study have been working our way through Isaiah, and Isaiah is particularly informative on this subject. It's also not easy to read and even more difficult to wrap one's head around. It doesn't fit in nicely with our safe and comfortable God.

"I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no other God.
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these thing." (Isaiah 45: 5-7)

Did you catch that? There's a reason this doesn't make the top 10 sermon texts for preachers. It's hard. Not only does God create well-being, He also creates calamity. We spent a long time discussing this and trying to come to terms with it. Taken in the larger context of Isaiah, we learn that God does create calamity; usually with the sole reason of causing His people to repent of their wrong-doings (which very often involve the sin of pride) and turn back to God. I even think the entire book of Isaiah can be summed up in the phrase, 'Turn to God, humble yourself, and God will save you.'

Humbling yourself in calamity is seen throughout Scripture. Take the story of Esther as one example. When God's people heard that Haman had plotted their extinction, instead of rising up, they fell down on their knees. There was mass repentance and prayer. And God saved them.

We cannot save ourselves. Our only hope is to turn to the One who can. I ask you to join in the day of fasting and prayer that is being sponsored by the International Voice of the Orphan, pleading for the powerless everywhere and asking forgiveness for our part in the situation.

We have plenty to repent of. Here is my list that I composed just in the time I was in the shower.

  • For turning a blind eye to children in need
  • For putting our comfort and ease before the needs of others
  • For not accepting that children are gifts from our Heavenly Father and instead seeing them as inconveniences (or at least only acceptable in small numbers)
  • For allowing our need for a child to override the command to work for justice and thus allowing rampant ethical violations in adoption
  • For only wanting the cute or beautiful child
  • For seeing children with special needs as less desirable and not quite created in God's image
  • For allowing our own foster care system to harm children
  • For not adequately training and supporting adoptive parents and thus creating situations where a child is harmed or loses his or her life
  • For not working to support families in crisis and thus help to create some of the foster care crisis
  • For not speaking out for the vulnerable
  • For not really wanting our hearts changed about adoption because of the inconvenience it will bring
This is a start. 

Spending a day fasting is inconvenient. It's not something someone looks forward to. But it is sacrificial. Use the hunger to remind you to pray. To remind you to ask God to change your heart. To plead for the vulnerable in our world.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Starting to resume life as usual

But just a little bit at a time. We've had four days of non-stop parties, and everyone has managed pretty darn well.

On the 23rd, our good friends the P family and the H-S family (plus a few other people) joined us for a potluck and carol singing. We counted that that's 25 children between the three families when they are all at home. Since this doesn't happen very often, and especially not when we're all together, it feels very special when we are all together. The highlight of the evening (at least for me) was watching all 25 children singing and doing the motions for The Twelve Days of Christmas together.

Then we had Christmas Eve. The pageant went wonderfully, the children's choir sounded pretty good for five rehearsals (if I do say so myself), and G. and L. were adorable pink angels. (A friend took a picture. When she sends it to me, I'll share it.) In our pageant, Baby Jesus arrives by being delivered by an angel. This angel is often accompanied by little pink angels who then proceed to sit with the Holy Family and entertain Baby Jesus (and the rest of the congregation). No, not Biblical, but cute. After church we went back home for dinner (with some family and friends) and then more carol singing. I posted pictures yesterday of everyone in their nice clothes.

Then it was Christmas. It was a lovely day. I'll just share some pictures. Everyone had new pajamas which they were wearing (and which I made), but for sanity's sake, I decided not to go the matching route this year.

Everyone coming down the stairs Christmas morning.

G.

H.and M.

L.

TM

Christmas breakfast

G. modelling her new giraffe costume.

A. gave what was probably one of the most appreciated gifts of the morning... a real Bey Blade!

M. made K. a lion dancer costume.

The giraffe baking muffins.

H.

Then last night we were invited to friends for dinner and everyone spent every minute playing the new dance game our friends got for their Wii. Very, very amusing to watch.



Today was spent in the very non-holiday occupations of visiting doctors, having blood drawn, and doing laundry. At least for me (driving to the doctor and laundry) and H. (seeing the doctor and having blood drawn), all others are still very much in vacation mode and playing games, playing with new toys, and playing in the snow.
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Don't forget the three children still waiting for their families to find them.


This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.

How about this picture?  He looks like a sweetheart with his curly hair.


Don't forget Harvey!


This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?



This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Briefly popping in to say that we have had a wonderful Christmas. Everyone is more or less well (unless you count that fact that some of us sound as though we're coughing up a lung every now and then), the Christmas dresses were done on time, and the gifts as well. 

Just a couple of pictures to keep you going until I get back to a regular blogging routine.

G. (in her Christmas Eve dress)

L. (who wasn't sure she wanted her picture taken)

And the whole crew after returning home from church on Christmas Eve.



I hope all of you have had a blessed Christmas as well. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mothers should not be able to get sick

They just shouldn't. And certainly not right before Christmas. I thought I had it beat, but last night I took a huge nosedive for the worse and have spent the morning in bed. I'm trying to decide if I feel marginally better or not right now.

It does give me an opportunity to brag about my children a little. If I must be sick, having everyone home makes it somewhat more bearable. J. needed to go to work so that he could finish up things on his desk before the holiday which left my older people in charge. Well, I tell you, you people should be banging down my door to enlist M.'s services. Instead of letting chaos break out, she organized the masses into a cleaning crew and they cleaned the house. Unasked. And they work cheap, it only cost her a box of 99 cent candy canes.

So now the little girls are napping, the middle children are watching Schoolhouse Rock, and the three oldest have gone out to lunch with all of their friends who are home from college. I'm wondering if something other than Saltines sounds appealing.

But Christmas preparations must continue. In between napping, I finished the handwork on G. and L.'s Christmas dresses so that I can put in the zippers. Then all that is left are hems. (A quick sewing question. Part of the girls' dresses are cut on the bias and a good friend warned me that I needed to hang them for at least 24 hours before hemming to let the bias cut fabric do its thing. I can already tell it is longer than the rest. Do I just cut it off even with the rest of the dress before I hem it?)

And now back to recovery. I need to be better by tomorrow. Our last pageant rehearsal is in the morning and I have a children's choir to conduct. The show must go on and all.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plastic surgeon visit.

Yesterday was H. and K.'s visit to the cleft team. I really like the team and am glad I switched K. to the same plastic surgeon that H. is seeing. It's a lot less crazy-making for me. But I know what everyone is waiting to hear is what the plan is.

Well, it looks as though I was correct in my pronouncement that 2013 would be the year of facial surgeries. Probably more correctly would be it is the first of several years of facial surgeries, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll just stick with the coming year.

So for K. No one thinks that he will need a bone graft surgery for another couple of years. (Hooray!) He will be able to continue to make dolphin noises by pushing air through the opening that goes between his gum and his nose. He is happy because he really likes to be able to make dolphin noises. But the plastic surgeon would really like to do a nose and lip revision on K. in the fall. He had a decent repair of his lip in Vietnam, but I have been aware that as he's grown the scar and slightly flattened nose have become more obvious. The surgeon just wants it done in the next year, so we'll be able to space it out from H.'s surgery.

Yes, H.'s surgery. Well, the first thing to do is to get the neurologist's OK that H. can safely have surgery when we see him later this month. Since the seizures are still not 100% under control, it is the neurologist's decision what the time frame is for beginning surgeries. If he gives the go ahead, we are looking at starting H.'s facial repairs in the spring. Initially the repairs will be done in two parts. The first part will be this spring and the surgeon will address the cheek area. He wants to remove all excess tissue, reshape her mouth, remove the nevi on her cheek, and possible remove any bone overgrowth on her cheek in necessary.

Then after that all heals, the next surgery would address the forehead and top of skull. The surgeon figures that there will be things that need a slight readjustment in the cheek area and he will fix those at that time as well. His goal is to make her face symmetrical and seems quite confident that he will be able to do that. I have seen some of the facial repairs he has done on other children and I think his confidence is justified.

It is exciting to think about this little girl being given the gift of a face which appears "normal". But I have to say I have a little bit of me that has some mixed feelings about both children's surgeries. Surgery is a major step at any time. And J. and I have talked about how when we look at our children we don't see the imperfections, but we just see our children. What their face or mouth looks like is pretty secondary and not what we think about a lot.

In fact, I remember when we only had pictures of K. before his lip repair. I became very used to seeing him with his big smile and actually thought he was pretty cute. It was such a shock when we received the first picture after the lip repair. At first it didn't look like the little boy we had grown to love. We eventually adjusted, but it surprised me how at first I actually preferred his cleft lip.

I'm sure that's how it will be after these next surgeries. We don't need these surgeries to be done in order for us to love our children more. But we do love them and so I know that this is the right thing to. I don't relish the process, though.

We go back to the plastic surgeon in January to talk details, so I can put off dreading the whole thing for a little while longer.

And because children's surgeries are not much fun to dwell on, how about I leave you with funny pictures of G. and L.? They wanted to be butterflies this morning, so A. gave them antennea. She didn't think of adding wire until she did L.'s hair which explains why only one set is standing up.

G.

L.

_______________

My little girls are three. Does anyone else see anything wrong with the difference between them and little SIX year old Brandi?

Now, why is this darling little girl still waiting? It couldn't be because someone has given her the worst haircut in the world, could it? Use your imagination a little and visualize pigtails on her. I've noticed that little girls with pigtails done for their picture are always the ones that are scooped up first. So, picture pigtails. She would be super cute with them... not that she isn't cute now.



This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Upright

And dressed even, which is a huge step forward compared to yesterday. It's a good thing since this afternoon I need to take K. and H. to a cleft team appointment and then head straight to Christmas pageant rehearsal. H. is seeing the cleft team though she is not cleft-affected because it is the same facial reconstruction team which will be doing her surgeries and it's easier to see them all at once at a cleft team appointment. We switched K. to H.'s plastic surgeon for just this very reason, so I wasn't having to see two different plastic surgeons and could double up on appointments.

Since today is looking like a crazy day, and I'm not writing much real content here, take advantage and go and read my latest article on The Power of Play. I'd really appreciate you clicking on it since this is my paying writing gig. Thanks.

Now off to begin my marathon afternoon.
_____________
Don't forget Harvey!


This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sick

That would be me. Achy. Headache. I think I had a fever last night. We've been passing something around our house (despite children compulsively wiping down handles and surfaces) for the last week. I just hope this is the last of it and everyone can be well by Christmas. Everyone is being as good as they can, and bigger types are pitching in to help littler types make Christmas presents. I'll have many pictures to show next week.

Let's just say I'm trying not to panic at all I'm not doing which is not good for ones recovery. I may have to go the mask-the-symptoms-route and pretend that I'm well. Which is also not really good for ones recovery.

If you want something substantial to read, you can look at my most recent article at Heart of the Matter Online about Postcards to my Children.

So I'll go back to whatever it was I wasn't doing and you can remember to pray for little Chad while I do. I'm moving the three children who still need families out of the seven I've been advocating for to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.



This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.

How about this picture?  He looks like a sweetheart with his curly hair.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Jiminy Cricket

Sometimes I feel as though the children who are less, cough, dramatic, don't get as much blog attention. In fact, I know they don't get as much blog attention, and I work in the parenting sphere to make sure these non-dramatic children get their equal share of parental attention. This can be tricky because it is the louder children who are more often at the forefront of a parent's mind. And ears.

So let me sing the praises of D. today. This child is a natural peace maker. He truly cares for people and wants what's best for them. Now, this isn't a conflict avoidance, thing. He is plenty ready to stand up for his rights (or other's rights) if necessary, but he is just as willing, and quick, to forgive.

God truly knew what he was doing when he made D. and TM brothers. They enjoy each other's company (except when they don't... typical brothers), and compliment each other well. I am hard pressed to say whether D.'s precocious compassion came before TM or if it was born out of being TM's brother. In some ways, God has provided TM with his own personal Jiminy Cricket in the form of his brother while he develops his own internal self-control.

Now before I get concerned emails about ruining D.'s life or sacrificing his well-being in favor of his brother's or this is why people shouldn't virtually twin children (I'm sure I could come up with many more 'concerns' if I thought about it), please stop typing. J. and I are well aware of the potential pitfalls in this relationship, and we work diligently to be sure that we try to avoid most of them. Heck, we try to avoid all the bad parenting, with more or less success. Don't we all.

Really, I just want to say what a neat child my son is. His care, compassion, and concern for others often leaves J. and I in awe. He says that he wants to be either a missionary or a minister or both. It will be interesting to watch him mature.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The bad and the good

There was an episode of the television show M*A*S*H* that I remember watching as a child which keeps coming back to me. In the episode, scenes would change between the experiences of the army hospital in a war zone and images of what people were doing back in the United States while all of this was going on. One scene, where people were dressed in fancy clothes, dancing at a big party particularly sticks with me. As I child I remember being disappointed that it wasn't one of the funny episodes, but I don't remember much of the funny episodes and do remember this one.

I know why it keeps popping into my mind right now. I'm sure we all have been feeling more than a little off since the news of the tragedy broke yesterday morning. I keep going to that 'what if' place and try to imagine what the families must be experiencing, but then pull back and purposefully think about something else when the stomach churning reaches too great a level. On some level it just doesn't feel right to enjoy anything at the moment because I know there are people out there experiencing grief unimaginable. Even my normal gorging on Christmas music has been curtailed somewhat as I play our one Advent CD with verses from Isaiah set to music, over and over and over. This is what speaks to my soul right now because Isaiah expresses so wonderfully the longing for the world to be made right.

And yet the other thing I have been thinking about is that this reinforces that fact that we just don't know what our future holds. We have no idea how long we have with any of our loved ones. There are no guarantees. I have been much more purposeful about appreciating my family. Because you just don't know. I even came very close in the grocery store yesterday to reminding a mother who was feeling a little out of patience with her child of that very fact. (By the time I got to the next aisle where they were, they had already moved on. I'm not sure that is a good thing or not.)

So even though my heart was heavy, I made a special vow that because we just don't know what the future holds that I would go ahead and enjoy the comedy that B. was in last night. And I did. It was a very funny show and everyone in the cast did a magnificent job. Especially my son. Boy, am I proud of him. Everything about his performance was wonderful, and I don't think it's just because I am a biased parent. He was just that good.

He was so good that I really with everyone could see the show, because I want to show off my boy. And you'd really enjoy it. It's good to have a good laugh, especially when it seems there is nothing left in the world to laugh about. Please, if you are in the area, do yourself a favor and go and see it. There's one show tonight and another tomorrow afternoon. You'll be glad you did.

I'm not sure how much I will be able to write in the next week. A lot depends on how the Christmas gift making goes. I don't think I have reason to panic, but I do need to be very careful about my time. So if you don't see regular posts from me, things are still fine here, I'm just spending quantity time with my sewing machine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hey, pictures!

I know you all must be tired of the saga of me, Blogger, and pictures, so I won't go on and on about it any longer, but enjoy the pictures while they're here.  (And since some people have mentioned they really like the larger albums on the fb page, I will probably continue to do that as well.) And in honor of the reappearance of photographs, I'm putting up the dress rehearsal photos from Thin Ice Theater's latest show which opens tonight, The Importance of Being Ernest. B. in on of the male leads and I am really looking forward to seeing it. The play is very funny and I'm sure this group of actors will do a great job. 

So enjoy the photos and admire the costumes which I happen to know took the amazing costume ladies (my friend, the mother of the P. family among them) literally hours and hours of their lives... at Christmas time, no less. And, if you live in the area, come to the show! You won't regret it. Look at the Thin Ice website for more details, or contact me. (If you want to see pictures that do not include my son, you can also go to the Thin Ice facebook page and see the whole album.)

OK, bragging done.







___________________
Now, why is this darling little girl still waiting? It couldn't be because someone has given her the worst haircut in the world, could it? Use your imagination a little and visualize pigtails on her. I've noticed that little girls with pigtails done for their picture are always the ones that are scooped up first. So, picture pigtails. She would be super cute with them... not that she isn't cute now.



This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gingerbread houses

Today we made gingerbread houses. I have made the policy that we can do one 'big' baking project per Christmas season, some years is it decorating cookies and other years it's gingerbread houses. Trying to do every single fun holiday option in one year is just too crazy-making.

I was going to bake the gingerbread myself, but I saw some really inexpensive kits at Aldi and after I quickly did the math realized that buying the kits was actually going to be the cheaper option. Plus it would save me the afternoon of baking and cutting out gingerbread. I also decided to get each child their own kit. I just couldn't imagine how some of the population would be able to share a house without a whole lot of fuss and bother. Not only was a house for each of them my gift to them, but it was also my gift for myself to ensure peace and tranquility.

It paid off. We had a lovely morning with only one bout of tears (from L. when I took the candy away from her... she was well on her way to eating all of it before her house was even ready for her to decorate). I love activities where everyone is calm, enjoying what they are doing, and enjoying each other's company. Plus, there was Christmas music playing. Christmas music makes everything better.

Another plus was that Gretel is spending the next 24 hours as the vet getting spayed. You would have thought I had planned to do the houses on the day when Gretel was out of the house. I didn't, but it was certainly helpful. It gives me some time to make sure all of the candy is cleaned up from the floor and we didn't have to worry about her wanting to 'help'. We pick her up tomorrow... still waiting for the call from the vet that everything went well. G. was particularly upset when I came home without the dog. She didn't quite understand that Gretel would come back tomorrow and thought the dog had left for good.

Now my family has a long tradition of gingerbread houses. I think it is even safe to say that if my mother makes another gingerbread house it will be too soon. There was one (or maybe two) years that she made large and very elaborate gingerbread houses as a fund raiser. They were beautiful, expensive, and incredibly time-intensive. She became an amazing artist in the medium of icing.

So between what I picked up from her, and my own experience this morning, I have some tips for you to make the whole gingerbread house experience go as smoothly as possible.

1.  Use hot glue to put the actual house together. (I wish I could claim credit for this brilliant idea, but it is not original to me.) It goes together faster, dries quicker, is more solidly held together, and you don't waste expensive frosting on construction. And really, who is going to want to eat the old, stale gingerbread anyway?

2. Take my advice and put all the houses together before everyone sits down to decorate. I didn't, and though everyone waited pretty patiently, it would have made the whole morning feel just a touch calmer if I had done this.

3. Likewise, go ahead and make up lots of icing ahead of time. Royal icing works best... just google a recipe. There was enough icing in the kit to get everyone going, but it was a popular commodity.

4. Invest in icing decorating tips and disposable bags. It just doesn't work very well to snip the corner off the packaged bag of icing as instructed in the directions. These (decorating tips) are handy things to have anyway.

5. Buy extra candy. When you're decorating a gingerbread house, you just can't have too much candy to choose from and eat. Which brings me to...

6. Relax and let them eat some of the candy. Or in the case of some little girls I know, a lot of candy. It's part of the fun, and it's only once a year. G. was even more fond of the icing. If a piece of candy fell off her house, she would pick it up and lick it.

7. Have fun. I know this seems like an odd thing to have to say, but I'm saying it to myself as much as anyone. I tend not to like messy things, and so I have to consciously make an effort to decide that the mess will be OK, I will be able to clean it up, and just enjoy my children's joy. I'm getting better at this, I'm happy to report.

I will put a lot of pictures from our morning on the facebook page. I know some of you can't access the fb page, and I'm sorry. A friend gave me what could be an easy fix to my Blogger/photo problem. I just need J. home for a bit to help me work on it.
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First a bit of really good news. It looks as though both Kramer and Garnet have families who are working to adopt them! There pictures have been moved to the 'My family found me' section of Reece's Rainbow. I am so happy for them. I will admit to a twinge over Kramer... there was a small part of me that kind of hoped we could bring him home. I have eternal optimist tendencies because I also knew that that just wasn't in the cards for us right now, both for financial and other reasons.

But, there are still three children waiting and waiting. Little Harvey is one of them.



This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Too busy to care?

You know the day isn't going well when at 9:15 am you call your husband asking if you can quit. It's as though God took me at my word when I mentioned that I wished I was better at recovering from the yucky parts of the day and being able to redeem them and move on instead of getting stuck in them. I've been getting a lot of practice. Today the proverbial straw was the little girl standing on the stairs announcing to me that she was peeing. This after dealing with a lot more bodily fluids than one likes to deal with before the second cup of coffee. (Poor D. has the stomach flu.) Bless B. who, without being asked, took over cleaning the little girl up while I was crying at my poor husband who could do nothing other than sympathize.

The day did start to look up after I finally managed to get dressed. We got some schoolwork done and I was able to get B. to his tech week rehearsal in time. Everyone is now more or less having quiet time and I spent a few minutes checking up on email and such, and eating my own lunch, etc.

I'm on an email list that is composed of other women who have large families and homeschool. I have been on this list for many years and feel as though I know many of these women well even though I have never met any of them. We share ideas, support one another, and pray for one another. We come from a wide variety of places and incomes and denominations and probably would never have had contact with one another except for this list.

And the diversity of this list is what brings me to mentioning it to you. Because even though this group of women are very different and all come from different churches, they have been sharing experiences that are very similar to one another's. That experience is how often, when their families needed help the most, their church family was absent. Nothing to me comes close to exposing the shallowness of current American Christianity. If we can't care for those we worship with, what good are we and what good is our worship? I have also found it to be a very convicting conversation and I know that at various times I have been guilty of not stopping to help another who may need it.

But it has also got me to thinking about it from a couple of different angles. The first is that in order to offer help, one has to know that help is needed. How well do we know the other members of our churches? If we only ever pause to say hello to people, but don't really get to know them, there is no way that one can know if that person even needs help. So step one is just to make the effort to really know those we go to church with.

Second, if we all believes in Jesus, then we need to just let go of the pride or whatever it is that stops us from being who we really are with each other. If life is really difficult at the moment, why don't we just say that? No one is perfect and to imply otherwise is a form of lying. Not with one's mouth, but a tacit form of lying where it's what you don't say that conveys the untruth. Let's just get over ourselves, people.

Now all this presupposes that even if we know that someone needs help, that we will actually do something about it. I propose that one of the worst effects of our society's addiction to busyness is that we no longer have time to help one another. Heck, we don't even have time to take care of the basics for our own families, much less someone else's. Without margin, without enough free time to be flexible, everyone suffers. The people who need help do not get it and feel unloved and forgotten; the people who are too busy feel guilty and miss out on the wonderful blessings that come with coming alongside and helping others; and our children do not have sacrificial living, where we go out of our way to love and serve other people modeled for them.

And just as the too-busy people can barely take care of their own families and don't have time for other believers, if believers cannot help one another how on earth can we hope to reach out and help the world? Because just as caring for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ should be an automatic response within the church, we should also be always looking for ways to love and serve our communities and the people in them.

Busyness serves no one well. Loving people and caring for them takes time. The best way we can show Jesus to the world is to radically change the way we live our lives. By refusing to fill our schedules to over-flowing, we will have time to spend with others. By placing relationships above activities we can reorder our lives to demonstrate what is really important. I believe that time is our society's most valuable commodity, and by choosing to spend our time one people, regardless of what those people can do for us in return, we can revitalize our churches and by extension our communities.
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And what shows the evidence of sacrificing time for another human being than helping one of these children reach their full potential and allow them to experience the love of a family? Please pray that God will raise up five (FIVE... all it would take is just five families out of the entire United States) families to wrap their arms around these children and love them.



This is Kramer. I can't think of a time a child has touched my heart like this little boy has. (OK, maybe I can, it was H.'s picture.) He is 8 years old and has CP. Because of the CP, he has languished in a crib without appropriate food, love, or therapy. How can anyone look at this little boy and think he is worthless? Not worth the effort and love to allow him to flourish and reach his potential? He needs a family. He needs a mother and father who will love him. Please...



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A short update on K.

I realize I haven't updated on K. is doing in a while, and I mention it now because he has made such huge progress in the last few months. You know how I have always said that if we adjust his age down two years, to make up the two years in the orphanage, that he is entirely appropriate? Well, I'm beginning to think that he had made up a year and that we only need to adjust down one year these days.

And why do I think this? Well, a variety of reasons. First he has just had a huge growth spurt, the likes of which I never thought we'd see. Toward the end of summer, I realized that his dresser was overflowing with clothes, most of which he couldn't wear because they were either worn out from three years' continual use or they were actually a little short. I went through and pulled out everything that didn't fit and was able to take out all the 3T and 4T clothes and leave just the 5's. (It shows how perpetually tiny K. has been that at age 6 he still had 3T's in his dresser and would put them on.) I was thrilled with moving up to a size 5. There were moments when I wondered when he would actually fit in something that big. But when we were packing for Thanksgiving, another amazing thing happened. I had asked A. to look through his clothes and find something decent to pack. She discovered that the 5's were already too short again and went down and brought up the size 6 box and tried them on him. They fit! I cannot tell you how happy I am that he is now wearing a size 6 in clothing. My dreams of him being taller than 5 feet when grown are perhaps not so outlandish as I thought.

And not only has he grown, he has made other progress as well. Over the summer, when we were showing the Leap Frog videos to H. (over and over and over), K. would often sit and watch them with her. It did the trick and he now knows all of his letters and the sound they each make. Perhaps you do not see this as quite as miraculous as I do, because it is quite common for a 6 year old to know this. But what you don't know is that this 6 year old had remarkable difficulties remember things for a very long time. He can also count now... something he couldn't do before. And remember his age AND hold up the correct number of fingers to go with that number.

When he turned 6, he was very much like a new four year old in what he could and couldn't do, and perhaps even still a three year old in some areas. Now, he has made such progress that he really just seems like a kindergartner. I have him doing kindergarten level work and he is doing well. Plus he is in the kindergarten Sunday school class at church and fits in completely with the other children. (Would you think less of me if you knew I threatened him with a quick move back to the Pre-K class if I found out he was behaving poorly? I did... and I know his teachers and they know my expectations.) Sitting still and listening are still developing skills, but really, that's true for 99% of all kindergartners.

It has helped that his best buddy in the whole world, P5, is just a year younger than he is and K. wants to do the same things that P5 is doing. It was K. who was pushing the whole move-up-to-kindergarten-thing, not me. (The longer I homeschool, the less likely it is that I will push a child into academics when they are little.) But K. really, really wanted to be in kindergarten just like P5. I see just being aware of that is a huge developmental advance because 6 months earlier, he had no idea about such things.

Of course, this means that my arguments for putting off his bone graft surgery are quickly evaporating as well. I figured that if bone grafts were usually done around the age of 5, that we should hold off until he was at least 7 because of that two year delay. As he grows more and catches up more, that also means that my reasons for delaying have little basis. I kind of dread the bone graft surgery and can barely wrap my mind around keeping him still for the length of time it will need to heal. We see the cleft team next week, so I'm sure this will be one of the items discussed. I'll keep you updated. (It's the same team that H. sees and she will be seen by them at the same time. I have a bad, bad feeling that 2013 may be remembered as 'the year of facial surgery'.)

But I can put off thinking about all that for another week and right now focus on how well K. is doing. Just four years after we first held him and realized that his delays were so much bigger than we expected and truly wondered if he would ever talk or communicate, we now have a healthy, happy, imaginative, and communicative little boy. Once again, I am so grateful that God was in charge, because had we fully known about all his delays, there is always that chance we would have thought them too great for us. And think what we would have missed!
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I've got to change what I write so you won't stop reading it. This little girl's file is at Reece's Rainbow again. Can you imagine being her? A child who is fully aware of what is going on and being trapped in a crib for 10 years? The CP affects all four limbs, but who knows what progress she could make with the right treatment. How many people have looked at her diagnosis and decided it was too great for them? What joy and blessing are they missing out on because they have counted their abilities (and the abilities of God who gives them to us) as too small?




This is Garnet. She is 10. Ten years old and lying in a crib. It's all she's ever known. How can we let this happen? How can we leave her there knowing now that she is there? Despite what she has lived through, she still looks as though she has life in her eyes. Imagine what she would look like with the love of a family

Monday, December 10, 2012

Family tree trimming party 2012... or the gift of older child adoption

I know I have written a lot about the challenges in older child adoption, but to give a really balanced view, I also need to share the joys. And if I had to describe H. in very few words, joyful would be right there at the top. It is amazing to me that a child who has been through so much in her short life and endured so many potentially life shattering changes, can continue to smile and take such joy in life.

And let me tell you, this girl LOVES Christmas. She loves everything single thing about it. Just seeing lights in people's yards sends her into raptures. Just seeing the decorations everywhere was enough for her, but it just keeps getting better. First, she discovered that Christmas is actually a giant birthday party. (And we know that H. loves birthdays.) She didn't believe us at first, but I think she pretty much understands now that Christmas is Baby Jesus' birthday.

(And the biased mother in me can't help sharing how G. told me it all works. Gigi announces to me in the car the other day, "Christmas is Baby Jesus' birthday. And He gets presents. But we open the presents for Him because He is just a little tiny baby. And He gets toys!! He will get a pandy bear.")

But back to my story... Then H. realized we were buying a Christmas tree to put in our house and that we were going to put lights on it and were going to decorate it. She is thrilled. The whole thing makes her smile. And seeing her smile and be so excited makes me smile. What a gift to be able to share this with her.

So you can imagine that she really loved our tree trimming party yesterday. We had treats. We ordered pizza. M. came home with one of her roommates for the afternoon. And we listened to Christmas music, decorated the tree, enjoyed each others company, decided that blueberry covered goat cheese is really, really good, and just generally had fun. We even managed to get a picture taken of all of us for our Christmas card. And for those therapeutic parents out there... no melt downs, or even near misses. It was just a really pleasant afternoon.

After dinner we lit our Advent candles and sang around the piano. No mishaps this week, we're getting back into practice. Well, the singers are getting back into practice, my piano playing is a completely different story. We're having some friends over later this month to sing carols and I really need to spend some time actually practicing. Let's just say it's a good thing my family doesn't mind laughing at my playing as it currently stands.

I'll put pictures on the Ordinary Time facebook page. I am not thrilled with this solution, and have found instructions about how to switch from Blogger to Word Press without loosing any Google standings or links. (Because the internet world is all about what Google thinks of you, you know.) But while I'm sure the person writing the instructions felt he was being clear, it makes about as much sense to me as reading Vietnamese. I recognize a word here or there, but not nearly enough to make any sense of it. My tech support person (AKA M.) has promised to look at it when she gets home and see if it makes any sense to her. We'll see.
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Edited to add:  LOOK, LOOK, LOOK! Chad is back on Reece's Rainbow! Here's the link.

Can't someone bring this little boy home and let him share in the joy of Christmas with a family, too?


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Rushing around or just think quality time

My claim to fame for the day is I took G., L., and H. grocery shopping today and lived to tell about it. Not only that, but it was a pleasant trip. Actually far more pleasant than my usual shopping trips where my goal is to get in and out as fast as possible. And it really wasn't that much slower to have the girls in tow.

Part of the success of the shopping trip was that I decided ahead of time, since I needed to take all three, that I would make the best of it and just not worry about how long it was taking. (And I needed to take all three because J. has a paper to write today and everyone else was gone. B. was in M.'s directing final at school and the others had gone downtown to Moody where P20's theater group was having an acting workshop. There was no way J. would get any writing done if I left him with the three youngest girls.) So off we went. There was only a minor scene before leaving when I told L. that she had to take the Superman costume off. I've relaxed quite a bit in my parenting career, but not completely. I did let her wear the cowboy boots.

These three girls are particularly nice to take places because they are generally happy and interested in everything around them. They think the grocery store if fun, and seen through their eyes, maybe it is. Isn't this one of the great gifts of children? That they remind us to look at the things around us with new eyes. That is if we can get out of our 'do things as fast as possible' mode long enough to do so.

Since Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year, it makes more sense to me to make resolutions now, for Advent. And this is mine... to slow down and actually enjoy my children. Their presence, their laughter, their joy, their delight. And there is a lot of delight at this time of year. If you are feeling a bit tired or humdrum about the approaching birth of the Messiah, this could be your antidote. Become like a little child and see the world and the celebrations through their eyes.

It is so easy to get caught up in needless busyness, to fall into the trap of feeling as though everything needs to be done as fast as possible. And why? Why do we rush around? (And I'm as guilty of rushing around as anyone.) I suspect that we are trying to just do too much. Trying to squeeze three months' worth of tasks and projects and events into one.

You know, it's OK to not to do things; it's OK not to do everything. And not just during the Advent season, but during the entire year. It's OK not to sign your child up for every class and activity and sport available. Really. You're won't ruin them. In fact, giving them more margin in their (and consequently your) life is a very healthy thing. It's OK not to fill every minute of your day with busyness. It's OK just to sit and enjoy a quiet moment or two or three.

Rushing serves no good purpose. It saps our joy in what we are currently doing because we are worrying so much about getting to the next activity. And by filling our schedules so full, we are often unable to take advantage of things that we would enjoy doing... if only we had time. And rushing is a particularly poor way to build relationships. People and relationships are particularly time consuming. If we aren't willing to slow down, we risk missing out on what makes our lives have meaning: loving other people.

So, join me in slowing down and remember that people (and especially our children) come first. Before everything else. Those things can wait. That job can wait. That class can wait. Your children cannot.
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I know it's Saturday, but wanted to share a bit of good news. Kramer and Garnet have been relisted on Reece's Rainbow!  People can again donate towards their adoption expenses and make it that much more likely that these dear children will find a family.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Rampant screen addiction

I truly believe that our country as a whole suffers from this disease. I am hyper-aware of it at this moment because we just returned from a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium and I'm pretty sure that we saw more screens than fish.

Yes, you read that right, we were at the Shedd Aquarium and I had more than five children with me. How can this be you ask, because you have read more than one tirade from me about the Shedd Aquarium's punitive large family policy. In fact, you feel as though I write about it all the time. Did I finally cave in and pay the fine fee for my extra children?

Ha! You don't know me very well then. No, my good friend, who is the mother of the H-S family I write about, had a brilliant idea... she scheduled a field trip for us. Evidently it's fine for very large groups of children to visit the Shedd for free, but it's not OK for large families to visit without paying buckets of money. Alright, we'll play along. This way a place to stash our lunches was provided. And it was free, did I mention that?

First we had to get there. We needed to be downtown by 9 am, so I figured that leaving close to 8 am was called for because of traffic. We also needed to get lunches made and packed before we left so we had something to eat. This would not be a problem if one wakes up on time. Waking up on time would be, oh, not 7:40 am. I didn't really think it was possible for us to get people dressed (myself included), given breakfast, pack lunches, oh, and have a seizure, by 8:15, but we did it.

Traffic wasn't great, but we were moving. Slowly. Very slowly for a while, which turned out to be a good thing, because L. threw up and A. unbuckled to aid her. (I have driven faster in parking lots, so I don't think she was in any real danger.) L. had been under the weather for the past couple of days, but I thought she was better. Instead, I took the plague child with me to the aquarium. (She does seem better now as she has managed to keep her lunch down. Hooray!)

But we got there on time which is what really matters. Right?

Some of the things in the aquarium are as I remember them and everyone enjoyed those. We got to see baby sharks that had yet to hatch out of their eggs, leafy sea dragons and sea horses (I LOVE leafy sea dragons!), a baby beluga, jelly fish (including baby jelly fish), and saw the sea lion have a training session. God's creations are so cool, diverse, unusual, beautiful, odd, that it's hard to get enough of them. There is very little they need to make them interesting to children (and adults).

Evidently, though, there has been a change in the management philosophy, because just showing us the wonders of the underwater world isn't enough. It seems to make these wonders really interesting to school children, more must be added. And that more would be in the form of screens. Screens which show the very same animal that is in the tank right next to them. Over and over and over, throughout the museum. It was crazy.

And it didn't stop with the exhibits. We got to see the 'show' while we were there as well. On the way to the aquarium, A. and I were joking that at least we knew this aquarium visit wasn't going to be nearly as odd as the one in Zhengzhou, especially the shows. Boy, did I have to eat my words. In the past, the Shedd's position on animal shows was that they didn't 'do' shows. They instead showed you how the animals were trained and why the trainers would ask for each behavior. The dolphins still did jumps and flips, but it had a different feel than say a show focused more on entertaining the human audiences.

My how things have changed! The whole show was what Charlotte Mason would have called 'twaddle', with the actual animals taking up a very, very small portion of it. Instead we had giant screens rolled down over the floor to ceiling windows which look out over Lake Michigan (it's really very beautiful, the building) and images of other coastal scenes were shown, or projected images of what was going on right in front of us (the sight lines were good, everyone could see), or loooong self-referential video montages about how wonderful the Shedd is. Oh, and Santa (or that Christmas Man as K. announced) riding around in a boat and a traveling trio who would appear randomly in different places, one time donning rubber boots and singing out on the rocks that the trainers usually stand on. A. commented that she though she actually liked the show in Zhengzhou better. Trust me, it wasn't a compliment. And it wasn't just me being hard-to-please, I heard other people muttering around me as well. Mutters along the lines of, "How much did we pay for that?" But it was really the heavy reliance on screens instead of just letting us watch the dolphins and belugas which was most disappointing.

The screen problem was apparent even among individuals. Some children and adults had tablets at the show and instead of just watching it, watched it from their tablet. I'm assuming they were filming it (does one film on a tablet?), but I can't imagine wanting to watch it again. Why not just enjoy it and put the screen down? And more than once I was trying to show one of the little girls or H. something in a tank only to discover they couldn't see anything because one (and even two) phones were being held right in front of the tank so someone(s) could take a picture. I came perilously close to starting to tell people, "Thanks, I've seen a phone before. Can I see the fish?"

Have we ceased to be a people who can find life not on a screen interesting? It's almost as though people cannot even process information that is coming to them if it's not on a screen; as though the screen acts as a translation device to that the person can understand it.

I cannot think of a greater gift you can give your children than to teach them function without a screen. I know the argument is that we need to give them a competitive edge so that they can succeed in our technologically heavy world. Baloney! Have you watched a child figure out new technology? They don't need any help, they've got it covered. Plus, by the time they're adults, the technology we are using now will have gone the way of the horse and buggy. Better is to develop their brains so that they don't need technology to think, imagine, learn, play, find wonderment about their world, and entertain themselves WITHOUT screens. I can't help but feel children who need screens to do these things are the ones who are crippled and without a competitive edge because they need an outside source to use their brains.

It's another hopeless battle on my part, I know. Screens are everywhere, even at the checkout line in the grocery store or at the gasoline pump. Are we afraid to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts? Do people even have thoughts anymore? I will continue to wage war against them as much as I can. My family does use items with screens, but we try to be careful about their use. It's one reason we keep the computer turned off on Sundays and don't have video games. It is to remind us that they are tools and not vital parts of our lives.

But do use your screen to look up leafy sea dragons, if you don't have a live one to look at. They are very, very cool.
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Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Camel crafts

One of the things we are learning about this year are deserts. (Note, that's one 's', not two, though I'm sure everyone would find a study on desserts very... yummy.) We have spent the late fall in the Sahara and are just about ready to move on, but we have a few things left to do. One is to watch the Michael Palin travelogue about his crossing the Sahara and the other we took care of today, which was doing a substantial art project. Art makes everything more interesting, don't you think?

I have also discovered the absolutely best use of Pinterest, which is to find grade school appropriate art projects that I would never think up on my own. Evidently art teachers across the country have embraced Pinterest with a fervor and as a result there are some really amazing projects to be found there. My newest technique is to type in whatever we are studying and add 'art project' after it and lo and behold, multiple choices will often appear. This is what I did for our desert study and I came across these adorable camel portraits. (Click the link so you can visualize what I describing.)

The plus of these were that they were cool looking, did not require overly messy supplies, and looked as though they could be completed in a morning. These are my usual requirements for an art project actually being done in my house rather than just me pondering it. It did require pastels, though, a supply which (surprisingly) was not on hand. That was one of my many errands from the first half of the week. And even better, I was able to find student pastels which were priced so well that I was able to get each child their own box for the price of what I was expecting to find one set for. This meant that along with trying to direct the project I didn't also have to deal with complaints about who was hogging what color or who was breaking them or who didn't get to finish using a color or someone won't let me see the box, etc. etc.

And it was successful. Everyone from P. on down ended up with a finished project which more or less followed the basic instructions. There was coloring and cutting and drawing and gluing (which was slowed down for a little bit when we discovered our glue supply was woefully low and had to send B. out on an emergency glue run). And they look good... even the three year olds'. We were even able to get everything cleaned up for lunch.

The finished projects are now hung on my picture wire in the kitchen where we will enjoy them for a while. I'll post pictures of the whole thing on the fb page.
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Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.




This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Advent

I just started and deleted a terribly uninteresting post about feeling crunched for time. And while I am feeling that way a bit, to think in those terms isn't where I want to spend my time. Because the truth of the matter is, I have enough time. I may not always choose to fill that time wisely, but there is enough. This Advent I want to really spend my time focusing on what is important. There are many things that seem to be important at that moment, but really, if they don't get done, it's not the end of the world.

I know I wrote about my ability to procrastinate, and I'm wondering if that is really the word for it. Maybe it is more a matter of choosing my priorities correctly. The laundry, for one brief and wonderful moment, was all caught up. And now it's not. In fact, I haven't done laundry for three days and the speed with which it piles up is extraordinary. I know I will have a chance to get to it tomorrow and then I will make a valiant attempt at controlling it. (At least I will make sure that the little girls have clean clothes again.) But I have been paying more attention to what I'm doing with my time, and I am finding I choose to spend the bulk of my time with people. Mornings are spent with my children and learning together. Usually I can get to the basement and throw in a load, but there are some mornings when my children require my attention to the point that I just never make it downstairs. After lunch is a good time to get caught up on housework, but the past few days have been taken up with other things... running errands to pick-up needed things (pull-ups, dog food, and such), taking children to appointments or running people places, or leading a Bible study. Somewhere in there meals were made, the house was cleaned for a party last night, and I was even able to meet some good friends whom I rarely see for coffee.

But laundry? No.

I've written before that frustration comes from unmet expectations. In order to get rid of the frustration, ones expectations need to change. And at this point in my life, there are some things that are just unrealistic. Or they are realistic only if I let other things that I think are more important fall to the wayside. This isn't procrastination, but choosing the better over the good.

And what does all this have to do with Advent? The Advent season is a time of preparation. Preparation for the coming of the Lord. It is a time of waiting as well. It is so easy to get caught up in our preparations for the celebration of the day that we easily lose track of what all the preparation is for. So this season, I'm going to try to keep that in mind. Yes there is a lot to do, but I am thankful I have the means to prepare these surprises for my family and very thankful that I have the family to prepare surprises for. And if some of it doesn't get done? Well, I can choose whether or not that is going to ruin things for me, or just focus on the real purpose and the things of real importance.
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Wednesday is Kramer's day. I think about this little boy All. The. Time. Please, won't someone choose him?


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Kramer. I can't think of a time a child has touched my heart like this little boy has. (OK, maybe I can, it was H.'s picture.) He is 8 years old and has CP. Because of the CP, he has languished in a crib without appropriate food, love, or therapy. How can anyone look at this little boy and think he is worthless? Not worth the effort and love to allow him to flourish and reach his potential? He needs a family. He needs a mother and father who will love him. Please...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Learning and Play

For the more educationally traditional among you, this post may cause you to break out in hives. Just be forewarned.

It was bill paying day. I probably don't need to say anything other than that. But I wanted to share what kept the younger people busy for quite a good portion of the day. The current obsession du jour around here is tops. What they (and when I say 'they', what I really mean are the middle boys), would really like are Beyblades. (Yeah, I didn't know what they were either.) It turns out they are fancy battling tops. Which, I'm told are really, really cool.

But I'm not running out and purchasing said cool item, and since my Christmas shopping has been done for a while, they won't be appearing then either. And I have informed my boys of this. I have been impressed, though. Instead of whining and moping around that this very cool item will not be appearing in our home any time soon, they have come up with an acceptable substitute.

Enter Legos to the rescue. For much of the past day or two, nearly everyone 12 and under have been busy constructing Lego tops. The different types and sizes and the various abilities to spin have impressive. The Legos have also been put to use building various arenas to have these tops battle each other. And judging by  the fact that my calculator was missing earlier today, an elaborate scoring system has been designed as well.

Having just written an article of the power of play for a magazine (it will be out later this month, I'll let you know when), I have been more than happy to let them entertain themselves in this way. I really don't think it's a bad thing to have unschooling periods of time. Shall I translate this extensive top game into education-ese?

Well, these children have been experimenting in the true sense of the word. They have created hypotheses about what combinations of shapes and attributes will spin the best and longest and have used visual-spacial skills to create their prototypes. Based on results, the tops have become increasingly elaborate and better able to spin. I'm sure there are basics physics principles being intuited on a deep level.

We also have real life math skills going on. Which scoring system will work best to show the results of the battles? Scores must be kept and added together. Revisions in the scoring system must be made as they fine tune how it works. And I took my calculator back, so basic arithmetic is also being practiced.

And let's not forget social interaction and imagination, the often overlooked skills which are learned during play. I have listened to the give and take and play is created and stories imagined. There have been relatively few moments of not getting along. They have reached that moment of play where the world around them dissolves and they are totally absorbed in what they are doing.

This is good, healthy, developmentally appropriate stuff. There's no way I'm interrupting it to open a text book. What they learn from textbooks can happen anytime. The window of time when a child can lose themselves in play for extended periods of time is fleeting. And in my opinion, far more valuable.
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Tuesday is Garnet's day. Please do not forget this little one who is the same age as TM and H.

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten. There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Garnet. She is 10. Ten years old and lying in a crib. It's all she's ever known. How can we let this happen? How can we leave her there knowing now that she is there? Despite what she has lived through, she still looks as though she has life in her eyes. Imagine what she would look like with the love of a family.
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