Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adopting a child with facial deformities

In a flurry of email inbox cleaning yesterday, I accidentally deleted an email from a reader asking about what it is like to adopt a child with a facial deformity. (If you were that reader... I'm sorry, send a new email again and I promise I won't delete it this time.) It was an interesting question and one I thought might be of interest to a broader audience, so I'm going to answer it here. That way maybe I can help a child find a home and cross off guilt over deleted email all at the same time.

It's a fact that humans are drawn to faces, particularly beautiful faces. How many times have I heard, "I saw a picture of his/her beautiful face and new he/she was my child"? That's not to say I think these people are wrong; I am attracted to a beautiful child as much as anyone, particularly if that child is sporting adorable pigtails at the same time. We are wired that way. The emotions we read in a person's face help us to communicate. When we speak to a person, we look at their face. When we think about who a person is, we picture their face in our minds. Our faces are integrally tied to who we are.

We also have some baggage to go along with all of that. There is still a very Victorian idea out there that a beautiful face is a sign of moral integrity and high birth. Have you ever read Little Lord Fauntleroy? It's written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote The Secret Garden. As much as I loved The Secret Garden, I did not love Little Lord Fauntleroy. It was all just a little bit much what with the orphan's goodness and beauty and surely that meant he could never have been base born as was thought. We may not like it, but our society is still influenced by these ideas.

All this to say, facial deformities present us with a bit of a problem. A child with a non-normal face is not the child we are immediately drawn to... at least not in a positive way. We notice the face because it is different and we wonder what it is like to live like that. We wonder if it could be fixed. We wonder what it would be like to see that face every day. And we see traits within ourselves that we really wish weren't there... the fact that we have to work to find something appealing in a face, the fact we have to work to be attracted to the person, the fact that we would rather look at a person perceived to be beautiful. So on top of not finding the face attractive we are also confronted with the fact that there is something deep inside of us that is not attractive. As a parent, you wonder, do I want to be constantly reminded of my own short-comings?

With all this going on inside our heads, not to mention that actual physical needs of such a child, is it any wonder that children with facial deformities often wait a very long time for a family?

Now this next part is a little difficult to write because I don't want to sound as though we are somehow superior to others for having taken this step. I'm quite sure that's not the case. We spent a good while wrestling with what adopting H. would be like... Would we be able to handle it? Would we be able to ever stop seeing the deformity? Would we be the negative focus of people's attention when we were out and about? Could they fix it? Could we afford for them to fix it? Was there something wrong if our main concern was having the deformity fixed? And on and on and on. We eventually made to decision to add H. to our family because we felt God calling us to do so in a particularly strong way and because of the statement she had made to a care-giver, "I want a Mommy and a Daddy who will love me and sing to me and cook me good food." It was that statement that provided a bridge (that at least I needed) to get to seeing her as a real child instead of something to be pitied.

I think the most difficult part of adopting a child with a facial deformity is making the actual decision and imagining what life will be like. This is mainly because all of those worries that we had in advance turned out to be (mostly) completely irrelevant. (The money piece... well, I take deep breaths and somehow it all works out.) What we imagined would be a very difficult thing, turned out to be rather easy. Both J. and I have commented that it only took a matter of days before we didn't register at all that her face looked any different from the rest of us. Once we started to see the real child inside the body, our brains seemed to make up for the difference by not noticing it at all. That's not to say when we look at her we think her face looks like everyone else's, it's just that the difference has ceased to be remarkable in any way.

For the most part, even when we are out and doing things, we haven't noticed the types of reactions that we had imagined. Oh sure, every so often we'll run into a negative encounter, but for the most part, it has all been neutral (in that we are not the cause of attention) or it is positive. I often wonder if being part of a large family is helpful with this because when we are all out, there are so many of us that people don't seem to know what to focus on first.

If you have ever considered adopting a child with a facial difference, please do. I will venture to say that the biggest difficulties lie in your own imagination; the reality is much easier. In the book, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, the story of a boy with significant facial deformities is told. At one point, his parents admit that they cannot imagine him any other way and in fact, don't want to. They have come to love him for who he is, differences as all. While there were some things in the book that I wasn't crazy about, I thought this was spot on. This is what happens as a parent, you come to love the child regardless. And love, when it comes, is easy.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New games

Before I write about some of the new games we have, I wanted to share a photo from A.'s little skiing adventure.

This is the run that A. was coming down when she had the unfortunate meeting with the picnic table. This is about halfway down the run, so you can see there isn't a lot of room at the bottom. Did I mention this was a double black diamond? And did I also mention that this was A.'s first time skiing? She was doing pretty well, I'm told, until she reached the bottom and swerved to avoid another person. Since there wasn't a lot of maneuvering room, she hit the picnic table instead. She is doing just fine now, though her legs are a rather interesting purple color.

Now onto some of the games that were received this year. Three of them have been huge hits and have been played fairly constantly. The first is called FITS by Ravensburger. This is a Tetris-like game that can be played by one to four players. Each person has a sloped board and a set of variously shaped tiles. There are cards which match each of the shapes. When a card is turned over, the players fit that piece on their boards, trying to cover as much as possible. Unlike Tetris, there are four different playing boards which are used during a game and each have different combinations of things that should be covered or uncovered. Also alike Tetris, there is non of that speeding up that is so frustrating. A full game takes ~15 - 20 minutes to play, depending on how long people take to think.

The next game is Asara, also by Ravensburger. If you've played Ticket to Ride and enjoyed it, you will probably also like this one. In this game, each person is trying to build the most and highest towers by buying different tower pieces. TM particularly likes this game and was even wanting to play it over and over even though he wasn't winning. (A rather momentous event around here, I might add.) I was interested to read the reviews of it on Amazon and wondered if some of the commentors were playing the same game. The biggest complaint seemed to be that it was too difficult to figure out. Oh please. If an adult takes the time to read the directions through first, it is a fairly simple game to understand. Certainly not any more complicated than the original versions of Life or Clue. Of course, if you are unwilling to take the time to read instructions, then what can I say? I do know that I spent one full afternoon a few days ago playing three straight games of this with my children. I'd call that a good game.

The last is Carcassonne. This is a game I had read many, many rave reviews of, but had never got around to purchasing. When I was deciding which family game to buy for Christmas this year, I decided it was time. I was a little curious as to whether it would live up to the hype. I am happy to say that it is a very fun game. The basic idea is that you turn tiles over and place them on the board, matching up cities and roads as you go. In the process you are also placing little people on the various items on the map to earn points. This game has been played several times over the past few days as well. Eventually, we'll get good enough that we can add the river sections to it to make it more challenging.

If you are looking for a new game for your family, any of these are great fun. As far as age... both TM and D. have enjoyed all of them without any problem and they are 11 and 10 respectively. A younger child could probably manage the rules, but each of them requires a bit of strategic thinking which may prove a bit frustrating.

As you continue to enjoy the holidays, take some time to play some games with your family. In looking back over past posts, playing games is evidently something I write a lot about. Can't get enough? You can also take a look at these posts:

Game storage revisited
Grown-up game night
Game day
Games for the whole family

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

I would have had this post up much earlier, but it's difficult to keep up a blog when your laptop is broken. When we turn it on, we don't even get the blue screen of death, we just get nothin'. It is currently in the laptop hospital where they can hopefully restore it to the marginal existence it had enjoyed before.

But never fear, I am on J.'s laptop and can still share pictures with you. The only ones I cannot show you are from A.'s little ski adventure because they are in my email account. I love technology.

Here are some photos from Christmas Eve. First off, a picture of everyone all together before we headed out to church to do the pageant. Do you see? No one is crying, nearly everyone is looking straight at the camera, and a majority are even looking happy. It's my own little Christmas miracle. (Gretel is in her crate because we finished the picture and put on coats to walk out the door. Plus, she just makes things that much crazier.)

Every year we sing Happy Birthday to You to Jesus. It is His birthday, after all. This year A. made the cake. (Would you think badly of me if I admitted that after being terribly concerned that A. was hurt, one of the next thoughts that ran through my head was, "Oh drat, now I have to make the cake.") She wasn't and I didn't. TM helped her with the decorations. If anyone local needs a fancy cake, she would really like to start a small business. Hint. Hint.

 These are just a couple of pictures of the dinner aftermath. Most people have left the tables and the tables are not looking quite so pretty as before we sat down. I forgot to take a before picture. This is the children's table...

 and the adult table.

I am very happy to report that Gretel is growing up a little bit and her manners are improving. She was a pretty good dog for the evening, but it did tire her out.

Since I'm on a roll, how about pictures from Christmas Day as well? Everyone waits upstairs on Christmas morning and then lines up to come down. Here are a couple of everyone in new Christmas jammies coming down the stairs.

Stockings come next.

The little girls had bags which matched the t-shirts I made them. Can you guess who is who based on the bag they each are holding?

Gretel had a toy as well. It was (note the correct use of the verb) was fleece chew toy. She loved it and rolled and played in the front hall with it for quite a while. It lasted the entire day which was about 6 hours longer than I was expecting.

Breakfast comes next with the lighting of the Christ candle.

After breakfast we move on to present opening. I'm pretty sure you don't want to see all 20 pictures, so here are a token few. A rare picture of me...

B. drew H.'s name for the sibling gift exchange and made her a sock monkey.

M. drew K. and made him this cool helmet out of cardboard. She had won the kit in a giveaway that Ikat Bag had and it is very cool.

We are continuing to enjoy our vacation... playing games, watching movies, visiting friends. We played all of our new games today and they are great. I will probably share them with you tomorrow... if I have a computer available.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I love Boxing Day

I always say that the day after a major holiday is my favorite. While the actual holiday is wonderful, it is also a lot of work. Plus, whether we mean to or not, they are also filled with emotional expectations which just adds to the stress. The day after, everything is done, there are no expectations, there is nothing to do but just enjoy the aftermath.

Now, writing this, I realize that you may be becoming concerned that our Christmas was difficult. That couldn't be farther from the truth. It was wonderful, and peaceful (well, as peaceful as a household of 15 can be), and we were all able to relax and just enjoy it all. It makes the day after even better because we are all entering it in a pretty stress-free state of mind. Today we will relax, enjoy each other's company, play the stack of new games that were received, enjoy dinner with friends, and some will probably play in the snow that arrived yesterday.

I have three days worth of pictures to share with you, but to not overwhelm you, I will spread them all out. Today I will share the photos from the 23rd when we decorated Christmas cookies. The older people used piping bags and the younger ones used bowls of frosting and knives to spread.

We also taped oil cloth to the table for the littles. (G. is in the pirate costume and L. is in pink)

Here is the plate of cookies decorated by the younger set. They are not getting eaten as quickly because the frosting application wasn't, ahem, quite hygienic. There was much licking of knives and such things. My children who are wont to snitch cookies are giving them a wide berth.

Here is what the oil cloth looked like after they were done. I was actually quite impressed with my children's piping skills. 

Now for contrast, I'll show you the piped cookies, which are nearly all eaten up.

Now, off to get dressed and teach H. how to use the Spirograph she received for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have you fought with this mercy you don't understand

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:1a, 14)

This is the miracle of Christmas, that God came to earth in the form of a baby who would eventually grow up to be the savior of the world. And to be savior came at a great sacrifice to himself, with Jesus taking on all of the sins of the world. Every sin, little or big, was heaped upon him and he took the punishment. While Christmas is a beautiful and wonderful and joyful time of year, for the arrival of the person who is going to save you is a joyous occasion, this baby was also born for a purpose. If you are looking at the big picture, there should always be a little bit of melancholy associated with the holiday. It is the beginning of the defeat of sin and sin is ugly. It should not surprise us that the cost of its defeat is great. If we could do what is right, we would have no need of Christmas.

We need to learn to live with the mysteries of God. He often works in ways we cannot fathom with our limited human faculties. One of the greatest mysteries is how an omnipotent, omnipresent, holy God, could love us, we sinful, ugly humans, that He was willing to take on human form in order to suffer a horrendous death. For us. So that we would not suffer under our own sin, but be freed from it. We may not understand it, but we can still allow that kind of overwhelming love to wrap around and through us. This Christmas, do not focus solely on Jesus the baby, but remember also Jesus the Savior. If you wish to be free; free from the ugliness you see inside yourself and try to mask with any number of distractions; allow Jesus to love you. He is waiting.

The song Bethlehem Town by Jars of Clay comes very close to expressing some of these ideas.

Oh, Mary, Joseph, rest your eyes 
Try not to think of the ending 
World full of empty, He will die 
But tonight He is still just a child 
The silent night drifts all away 
And the angels are dancing around you 
There's the joy of knowing He'll save the world 
Overshadowing the pain that He'll go through 

Refrain: Have you cursed at the wind 
Have you cried to the heavens 
Have you fought with this mercy you don't understand 
When the wise men kneel down 
To kiss the hand of this king they found in Bethlehem town 

 Will you hold back the years a while 
Will you dream that this man could always be a child 
And never carry all the weight 
Of the dirt and the distance and the company we keep 


 And did the stars shine much brighter that night 
You gave birth to the death that would bring us to life 
And did the mystery keep you awake 
Was the sound of His little heart too much to take 
 Oh, i don't understand 
When the wise men kneel down 
To kiss the hand of this king they found 

The Curry Family wishes the peace of Jesus to you and your families this Christmas. Have a blessed holiday.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The discipline of laughter

A friend and I have the pleasure of taking a wonderful woman out to lunch once a month so we can all visit. (I wish I could say this wonderful event was my idea, but my friend gets complete credit.) This woman is a sort of honorary grandmother to our children and we love to spend time with her. Changes in all of our schedules means that we hadn't seen her as often, so we started the monthly lunch date.

As we were chatting, she shared a story of her childhood with us and as she was doing so described her mother. The description was wonderful... she was a woman who was always laughing. It was then that she added as a little aside something I think is terribly profound. After she described her mother as a woman who was always laughing, she said, "It's a good discipline."

Think about it. How often do we think of laughing as a discipline? (Of course I'm talking about laughing as joy and not laughing at someone or something in cruelty. Do I need to clarify that? Probably. Love the internet.) I really think we should add it as one of the spiritual disciplines in our lives. If we could learn to laugh it would show that we are truly learning how to rejoice in all things. We would be practicing thankfulness. We would be focusing on the abundance in our lives instead of what we perceive we are missing.

Of course there are times in our lives when we will be weeping and mourning. There is a season for that as well, but far too often I find I go through life as though the weeping and mourning is the default setting. Or more often, I have become so focused on what I need to do, or how things are not working out according to my plans, or I just feel out of sorts. I would love to be described by my children as someone who was always laughing, but I fear I have a long way to go.

So who wants to join with me to practice the discipline of laughter? Don't we all want our homes to be filled with laughter? I know sometimes, especially if you are raising children from hard places, that laughter can seem especially absent. Perhaps this is why I love the idea of it being a discipline. I still need to laugh with my other children and be joyful for them, even if that is not what is in the front of my mind.

It is slightly ironic that I had planned several days ago to write on this topic today because I'm getting a little practice right off the bat. Please pray for A., she was in a skiing accident a couple of hours ago and there is a likelihood of her having broken both of her legs. She has been transported to a nearby (to the ski resort) hospital and J. has left to drive up to meet her. Once she has had x-rays we will know more, but in the meantime, please pray that her legs are just bruised and not broken. I wasn't overly fond of the year 2013 and it looks as though it will be going out with a bang. Edited to add: A.'s legs are NOT broken! Hallelujah!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pageant rehearsal: check

Around here, December means Christmas Pageant time. J.'s mother wrote and directed our church's Christmas pageant for years, and when she died, J. helped to take over the writer/director role. It has always been a family affair, with nepotism for roles running high. I kind of married into this little family tradition. I had never even seen the pageant the first year I spent Christmas away from Arizona and my future mother-in-law convinced me to be one of the narrators along with J.

This year, the level of family involvement is no different. J. is the writer/director again, I'm directing the children's choir (again), M. and B. are narrators, A. is running sound, P. is working a spot light, H., TM, D., and K. are in the actual pageant part and in the choir, and G., L., and HG3 are the little angels who arrive with baby Jesus and help to entertain him. Some of this is just because it's easy to tap family members who are used to being assigned roles and some of it is that there just isn't a huge crowd of people knocking down the door wanting to be in the pageant. (I don't know why... it's fun and gives you unlimited dinner conversation afterwards.) I will admit that it does make for some slightly crazy Saturdays right before Christmas. More than anything, though, it's an act of love to help put on the story of Jesus' birth for our church and surrounding community.

So, if you are looking for something to do with your family on Christmas Eve and are in the Evanston/Chicago/North Shore area, please consider yourselves invited to our pageant. We have a Holy Family complete with baby, a children's choir, some cute children acting out a Christmas story, carol singing, candle lighting, and singing kings. It begins at 4pm (though I always suggest people get there a bit early to get seats) at First Presbyterian Church, 1427 Chicago Ave., in Evanston. Attendees are invited to bring love gifts (wrapped in white paper) to be given to Good News Partners, a local ministry whose mission is to help end homelessness. It is very family-friendly and a wonderful way to tangibly demonstrate the meaning of Christmas to your children. Please come.

And I'm assuming everyone was busy playing my Christmas carol quiz at home and you are now dying to see if you were correct. Here are the answers:

1. "Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth." Hark the Herald Angels Sing

2. "And ye, beneath life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With Painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing:" It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

3. "Jesus to thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing!" O Come All Ye Faithful

4. "No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found," Joy to the World

5. "O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!" O Little Town of Bethlehem

6 "Therefore Christian men be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing." Good King Wenceslas

Since my sole commentor (MamaPPod... who is actually one of my closest friends and no I didn't give her the answers) got them all correct, I'll have to come up with a really good prize for her. Maybe fabric...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sing with your children, part 2

This is really a follow up to a post I wrote ages ago about singing with your children, though you can think of it as the Christmas version. As I reread through that previous post, I agree with it all (that's probably good, huh?), if not more so. I am struck with how we surround ourselves nearly continuously with music, via MP3 devices and such things, yet the ability to make music ourselves seems to continue to plummet.

Over the 15+ years of piano teaching and children's choir directing, I have noticed that more and more children are unaware of their cultural heritage of hymns. While being unaware of traditional hymns in general doesn't surprise me (churches need to sing them if children are going to learn them, usually), I am always surprised by the basic ignorance of Christmas carols. (Please note, that this is for children being raised in Christian families. If Christianity is not part of your beliefs, then it makes sense not to teach its songs to your children.) Usually these children are quite good at the secular songs... Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Rudolph, etc. And while these songs are fun and I sing them with my children, they don't really communicate what the season is really about.

My plea to you is to sing with your children! Sing the carols. Sing all the verses (there is real theology in those carols). Turn off the music and make some yourselves. Singing the words is the best way to lodge them deep in your children's hearts and minds. Sing together even if you don't like the way you sing. The vocal chords strengthen with practice, the more you sing, the better you sound. You will be creating wonderful family memories.

Another of our family's favorite traditions is to sing Christmas carols together. We sing on the Sunday evenings of Advent after lighting the advent candles. We sing on Christmas Eve after dinner and before bed. And we have a carol singing party with our good friends the H-S family and the P family. This is what we did last night. It was wonderful to gather around the piano together and listen to all the voices sing the carols celebrating Jesus' birth together. And last Sunday and last night were made even better because we were joined by M.'s boyfriend who plays guitar which added to the music. Even H., who has only been home a year and a half knows some carols now and has a personal favorite (Joy to the World.).

It is the parents' responsibility to pass on the things of our faith to our children, and this includes hymns. Do not let these pieces of depth and beauty be lost, to be found only in the pages of a dusty hymnal. Teach them to your children... even if it means learning them yourselves first.

And here is a Christmas carol quiz. Some of the later verses of many carols are even more beautiful and meaningful than the first. Here are some of my favorites. Can you identify which carol they go to? (I have not written out the entire verse... to add to the challenge.) I'll give the answers tomorrow.

1. "Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth."

2. "And ye, beneath life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With Painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing:"

3. "Jesus to thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing!"

4. "No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found,"

5. "O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!"

6 "Therefore Christian men be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas books

One of our family traditions is to bring out the many Christmas books we have collected over the years for the month of December. Every year we add a new one. The new book is waiting, along with new Christmas pajamas, for the children when we all arrive home from the Christmas Pageant service. Among this huge collection, I have my favorites and not so favorites. In case you are looking for a new Christmas book to share with your children, here are some of my favorites.

Wombat Divine by Mem Fox. A group of Australian animals gets together to put on a Christmas pageant. Wombat desperately wants to have a part, but is not right for any of them, until the animals realize that they still need someone to play the baby Jesus. It is a sweet and charming book.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington. This is a completely wordless book done in frames like a comic book, but don't let that put you off. It is beautiful. An old woman in dire circumstances saves money that was being stolen from a church. She is eventually rescued by the church's nativity figures. I know, it sounds a little odd, but it is so well done that it works. If I had to purge our Christmas books down to just a few, this one would make the cut.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. A young boy decides that he is going to give his father a Christmas gift by getting up and doing all the farm chores himself so that his father can enjoy watching his children on Christmas morning for the first time. Beautiful.

The Last Straw by Fredrick H. Thury and Vlasta van Kampen. An old camel is chosen to be the one to carry the wise men's gifts to the new king. He is a complaining, crotchety old camel who is never the less, filled with pride. His pride nearly does him in until he meet the baby king himself. My only complaint about this one is that it is a fairly long read for a picture book. It usually counts as two if the children have been given a book limit.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and P. J. Lynch. I'm not sure I should put this on the list or not. I really do love the story. A widow and her son ask a curmudgeonly old woodcarver to make them a new nativity scene. The boy asks to watch, and as he does slowly develops a bond with the woodcarver. I find the final scenes beautiful yet heart wrenching to the point that I become physically incapable of reading it. The last time J. and I tried to read it out loud to the children we had to tag team it, with the more collected of us taking over when the other couldn't go on. (To the great amusement of our children, I might add.) So, while it is a beautiful story, I'm not sure I should recommend a book that is physically impossible to read aloud. If you are made of sterner stuff, you should share it with your children.

The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer. We discovered this book when we were doing our unit on lighthouses. It is a very short chapter book. A lighthouse keeper tricks an older woman and her nephew into caring for lighthouse assuring them he will be back in time for them to go home for Christmas. When he doesn't arrive, the boy learns what really makes Christmas special.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. If you have never read this book, please do yourself (and your children) a favor and go get it right now. I will admit I have a soft spot for Christmas pageants and the adults who direct them. (It's a family thing... I'll probably write a post about it later.) And while I love this book, I am also heartily relieved that the Herdmans (the ne'er do well children who take over the pageant in the book) have never been in a pageant I've been involved with. The book is funny and it makes me cry at the end. The ending with the ham is probably one of the most brilliant examples of someone really 'getting' Christmas that there is. It's a chapter book, but a quick read.

This is my extremely short list. I'm sure I'll come across others as we pick up the house and I'll wonder why I didn't think of them. All add them as I have time if I find any more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

For the girls who like to be on the blog

Tuesday afternoons are when the girls' Bible study I lead meets. I have been doing this for a while, have seen the very first group all graduate and move onto college and am now meeting with their younger sisters. Can I just put the vague myth that seems to lurk out there to rest? The one that says children from large families are all fairly interchangeable? I can tell you they are not; each one is highly unique. It's one of the things which makes leading this group so interesting. I love the different personalities and perspectives and ideas that each girl has. Pretty much I just really like them all and am blessed to get to spend significant time with them each week.

Yesterday we decided to set aside our study and have a party instead. They also really love to appear on the blog, so I said I would take a picture and put it up to share with you. Usually there are 7 of them... we were missing one of them yesterday. They are beautiful girls, aren't they? Inside and out.

D. wins for best photo bomb of the year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Heading downtown

My friends, the moms of the P. family and the H-S family, thought it would be fun to take everyone downtown to see the windows and the Cristkindle market, so that's what we did yesterday morning. J. was my hero and offered to go with us which meant that he would also drive our van and find parking for it. I have taken many small children on the El before, but between the cold and the fact it would cost as much for everyone to ride the El as to pay for parking, it just didn't seem like my idea of a good time. Of course, trying to find parking for the giant van didn't sound like much fun, either, so I happily took J. up on his offer to chauffeur. 

We all met downtown and J. even found some street parking (wonder of wonders, but it was a good thing because non of the lots will take the van). We began by looking at the windows of Marshall Field's. (Yeah, I know it's Macy's now. I'm still not happy about it and steadfastly refuse to call it by it's current name. I still call the tall building the Sear's Tower, too.) The children liked looking at them, but I have to say they were pretty disappointing. M. was muttering in the background something along the lines of, "I could do a better job than that... and they had a huge budget." I think she probably could have... and done it all with recyclables. Not that I"m biased or anything.

Due to our previous success of taking dozens of children through IKEA without mishap combined with the balmy 24 degree temperature, we then decided to troop up to the 8th floor to see the giant Christmas tree in the Walnut Room. Here is our group. Each of us were missing at least a couple of people and I had an extra, so the numbers are a little off, but there were still a lot of us. I think the littlest people were getting pretty warm because they were bundled in snow suits and we wouldn't let them undress for fear of losing pieces.

From there, we trooped back downstairs via 8 floors of escalators and headed to the Christkindle Market that sprouts up from Daley Plaza. It was fun to walk around and see the different things for sale and we shared some hot pretzels. When it was time to leave, J. and I decided that it would probably be easier to have everyone just walk to the car because many tired children just standing around and waiting is not always a good thing. They were all troopers. It was a fairly long walk (maybe 7 blocks?) to get to where the car was and they all managed to make it. It helped that some older children were willing to give the littles piggyback rides and crossing the bridge across the Chicago River was diverting. Even H. kept up and didn't complain about being tired. She is so much stronger than she used to be.

So now I think we're done with fun family outings until Christmas and I can finally focus on getting to my to do list.... I hope.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tree trimming party 2013

It was a whirlwind of a weekend. We had pageant rehearsal, parties, tree-buying, and tree decorating. And the tree trimming around here is one of our major events of the season, so it made for a fun, if tiring weekend. Plus, our college-aged people were done with school and they have joined us again. Hooray! This is what B. looked like for the first hour or so of his arrival.

G. and L. and K. didn't really want to let him out of their sight, much less arms. B. did admit that they are getting a little too big for even him to carry them around like this for very long. Happy girls, happy boys.

Yesterday afternoon was our tree trimming party, complete with many treats that we don't normally indulge in.

M. holding the traditional Christmas pickle.

(A child was wielding the camera... so you have to overlook the blurriness.)

And since it is rare for my house to look all picked-up and orderly, I thought I would take advantage of it and document that fact.

The tree.

Looking toward the front living room. That blur would be K.

15 stockings

Back living room fireplace

Front hall fireplace

Front stairs

Now, one of the joys of older children is that they are just fun to have around. As well as M. and B., we were joined by one of M.'s roommates (who needs a place to land for a few days until she can get home) and M.'s boyfriend. We also had a selection of coats which were going begging and I asked the girls if any of them wanted to take one (or all). The next thing I know, B. has decided to become a catalogue model.

Not to be outdone, he was joined by the others. I spend much time laughing when my older children are around.

Now that my house is all decorated, perhaps I will be motivated to tackle my to-do list. I have been remarkably laid back about the whole thing, but that doesn't help one make a lot of progress. And I may scratch Christmas cards off my list this year because I meant to get a family picture yesterday, but we were having too much fun to stop and bother with it. Oh well.
Two other unrelated things. First, I have a new article up, Advent and Homeschooling. Take a look. Second, if any of you remember me advocating for Joseph who was at Shepherd's Field with H., please pray for him. He has been home with his family for about a year, and just a couple of days ago underwent open heart surgery. He is not doing well. They are concerned about brain damage, oxygen levels, and the heart may even be failing. Please pray for him and his family.
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