Thursday, January 31, 2013

Off to the library

First, the important stuff... the giveaway winner. Using a random number generator which picked "1", the first commentor on the post wins the book, so that means Kim Crawford is our winner. Kim, I have your address, so I'll send it out the next time I head to the post office. But, don't look for it before next week... our temperatures are supposed to go into the single digits and the post office is a walking errand for me.

Now, on to the topic at hand. There was a question on the facebook page about how we decided to allow our 9 year olds on up to go to the library unaccompanied. I thought the discussion might be of general interest, so I'll also share my answer here as well.

I've written before about our wonderful branch library which was just a half block from our house. Oh, how we loved that library. We were in there often and the librarians knew each child by name, and when a child ran out of books to read (a common occurrence), then that child could just walk over and pick out some more. There was an intersection to cross, but it wasn't busy. It was pretty wonderful... until it closed.

So it's been two or three years since we had a library within walking distance. Library trips became monthly huge affairs. (Affairs which we'll probably keep doing for a while. That way the three littles and H. can have a library trip, too.) But the main branch just wasn't close enough to send non-high school age children to on their own.

Then at our last big library trip earlier this month, one of the librarians mentioned that the south branch was reopening. Oh the joy! It isn't quite as convenient as the previous one, it is two blocks instead of a half a block and there is a major intersection to cross, but it is still pretty close. Since the library policy is that children over 9 may use the library without an adult, we decided that at that age our 9 year olds could use this as their first 'alone' destination. (Well, those 9 year olds on up who have sufficient English skills. H. is not ready yet.) It is close, there is a light at the intersection, and the librarians still know us and all our children. Children of this age are really starting to want to do things on their own, and sometimes it's difficult to find appropriate opportunities for them. We let them go to a nearby park together to play and to the nearby grocery store to pick things up for me, but this adds another place they can go. It gives them skills for navigating the world on their own, but it is still a pretty safe endeavor.

Last Saturday, I took the children who would be undertaking this adventure to the library. I showed them the route I wanted them to take, we got library cards for those who still needed them (and made sure the cards were attached to my email address), and introduced them to the librarian. I also mentioned to the librarian that they would be coming alone and to be sure to call me if there were any problems at all. The library is closed on Sunday and Monday, which means that yesterday was the first chance to make use of this new freedom. Everyone has made the trip at least once and some have made it twice in the past two days. They check out a couple of books, read them, then want to return them to get another couple of books. What's not to like? It is also the first time the TM has been really excited about the library and checking out books.

The biggest complaint at the moment is that the new branch doesn't have enough books. I pointed out that books follow circulation. If they keep using it as they have been, the circulation numbers will go up and that in turn will bring more books to the branch. Plus, I intend to have all my reserves sent down here as well and just send a child to pick them up for me. That alone should skew the circulation numbers nicely in our favor.

Can you tell I'm just really excited to have a library close by again?

It breaks my heart to share this. A mother who recently traveled to Harvey's orphanage has said that the decision is that Harvey is too fragile to ever be able to make the trip to the US. At this point, all we can do is pray for his comfort until God takes him home. Pray that while he is still here on earth that he experience peace and love and comfort.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mental real estate

I was planning for the past couple of days to write a post expounding upon my inherent laziness. I hadn't been getting much done and figured there had to be a reason for it and laziness won. Now, I do have lazy tendencies. (And don't try to convince me otherwise or else it will feel like the gifted teacher in grade school who would try to tell me I was too hard on myself when I said I hadn't done a very good job on something. I knew I hadn't tried my hardest and had done a slap dash effort and really wondered that the teacher couldn't see it for what it was worth.) If I have a choice to sit and do something or get up and do something, sitting will nearly always win. And if I can get someone else to do it for me, well....

OK, so back to my original musings about why I wasn't getting things done. Really, other than the bare minimum, not a lot of extras were getting done around here. But then this morning, as I was drinking my first cup of coffee and listening to the chaos that has been happening for the past week, the reason for my lack of motivation suddenly became clear to me. We've been dealing with a whole lot of crazy from a certain boy around here this week and after managing that type of stuff, I just don't have the energy to manage anything else. (This is a familiar thing, it just takes me a few days to clue into what is happening.) There's just no more mental real estate inside my head to give to anyone or anything else.

It's actually a relief to be able to name it; much better than thinking of myself as a slug. And the funny thing is that once I've identified the problem, it is almost as if the problem goes away. This is probably because knowing what is happening allows me to take measures to cope a little better. (It might also be time to sit-in on one of TM's therapy sessions to discuss how things are going, but really becomes me sitting on the couch and crying. I feel so much better afterwards.) It also allows me to give myself permission to take it easy while the difficult stage is upon us. Feeling as though one is allowed to rest is a whole lot better than resting and feeling really guilty about it.

I share this with you because maybe some of you are dealing with a similar situation. That is, something is taking up all of your mental real estate so that you don't have anything left and are beating yourself up about it. The trick is to figure out what it is that is sprawling across the inside of your head. I know that this is often the trickiest part... figuring out what exactly is going on. Naming it can be such a relief because it both frees you from guilt and allows you to work on it.

This is actually exactly what I will be doing with TM, as well. So much of his acting out is the result of emotions roiling around inside of him that he can't name and can't manage. I have found that if I can name what he is feeling it is far easier for him to deal with. And less scary. Of course, the trick it to figure out the cause of the roiling emotions which is easier said than done. Say a prayer for wisdom for me if you think of it.

And now, I have some pictures to share with you... because I know you all really like pictures of the little girls. A. did their hair this morning. I will admit that many days their hair is fairly unkempt. This is because even when I do fix their hair, they rip out the pony tail holders within the hour. It seems like a fruitless task most days. I do enjoy it when their hair is fixed, though.

Here is G., who is in the "can't-smile-on-purpose-phase". And surprisingly, she is the one in the costume this time. Plus gloves. I don't know why she's wearing gloves, but she is. (If you enlarge the picture - by clicking on it- you can see where the stitches were above her right eyebrow.)

And here is L., not in a costume.


Don't forget little 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. 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. A mother who recently saw him described him as tiny and still learning to walk. (At 9!)

He looks like a sweetheart with his curly hair. Pray, pray, pray that his family finds him. You can see his information on Reece's Rainbow.

And one last thing. I've had some people ask about the pattern for the Nativity dolls. The pattern is out of print, but you can still find them on eBay and Etsy with some looking. The name of the pattern is CreaNativity. If you search that term you should have some success.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

You can't have it all

That's true, you know, whether you choose to accept it or not. And for the most part, we don't like the fact. We don't like the idea that we can't do every single thing we think we want to. We don't like the fact we often have to choose between two good things. We don't like the fact that having made one choice, it affects what choices we are able to make in the future. Since we can't have it all, we try to do little bits of a lot of things instead of focusing on doing just a few things well.

And it is something we pass on to our children, too. I can't count the number of times I have been working with some children's activity where the children involved only show up to some of the events because they have multiple events for multiple activities scheduled on the same day. Why is it so difficult to tell the child they must pick one or the other, but they can't do both because they cannot be in two places at once? Why can we not model this for our children and show them responsible decision making?

What put this bee in my bonnet? Well, my brother works for Water for People. It is an NGO that builds infrastructure to bring clean water to developing countries. As a result, he gets to do some pretty adventurous traveling. I happened to see a notice that the organization shared about looking for a blogger to travel with the CEO and blog about what they see. I think this would be a completely amazing thing to get to do, but I didn't submit my name as a candidate. Besides the fact I'm related to a member of the organization, there is another reason I made that decision. Even if I was chosen, I just couldn't go. Not at this time in my life. There are too many people who need me to be here for them.

Depending on how this is read, it could sound as though I feel trapped by my children... tied down... wishing I had a real life, one that involved adventurous travel. But I don't feel that way at all. Disappointment and regret are not necessarily that same thing. I may be a little disappointed that I can't be considered for an all-expenses paid trip that I would get to write about, but I don't regret the reasons behind it. In fact, I would choose them again every time. I like to travel and I like to write, but I love my children. And it's not as though I haven't been able to travel and write with my children before.

And I do have a real life. I don't know where the idea that a real life happens outside of ones home began, but it is ridiculous. In fact, I can't think of a place where real life happens more than at home. That is where we do our real living. It is the lessons we learn at home which determine our success in the wider world. And I get to be the one to teach those lessons. It is not an unimportant job. It is certainly far more important than any office-type jobs I've ever had.

Plus, I can always hold out the hope that someone will decide they want to read about the adventures of travelling to unusual places (or even usual ones) with many children. If just going to the grocery with everyone in tow is an adventure, just think what travelling the world would be like...
Oh, and don't forget to enter the book giveaway. Since the current tally of comments stands at 4, your odds are very, very good at this moment that you'll win. A. read the book and said is was good and recommends it to you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hey, look, I made a camel!

Now, that fact I made a camel might not necessarily be blog-worthy news, but it is if you consider how long this particular camel has been cut out and waiting to be put together. Want to guess? Well, if your number is a single digit, you're wrong. I cut this camel out at the same time I made our other nativity dolls, but just never got around to putting him together. I even packed-up and moved the cut-out camel when we left the charming, tiny house to live in the big, ugly house. I would imagine that this little guy has been waiting to be put together for approximately 15 years. Talk about satisfaction at finally finishing a project!  Here he is:

I'm sure the wise men next Christmas will be thrilled with their new mode of transportation. One child, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, did wonder out loud if we would know where the camel was when Christmas rolled around again.

In other news, Gretel had the last of the stitches removed today, thus ending our 4+ week stint of visiting the vet at least once a week. I don't even have to say who I am anymore, we walk in and the whole staff says, "Gretel!" as if she is Norm from Cheers or something. The good news is that it is nearly all healed. I spared you a picture of the wound at its worst (you're welcome), but here is is without the stitches.

And even better, she no longer has to wear a t-shirt to protect it, since she can't do anything to hurt it anymore. We have a dog again!

Something else I wanted to share with you was this page on phonics work that H. did today... with very little help from me. (I spent far more time helping TM, who was particularly scattered, on his math. If you've ever witnessed TM at his most scattered, you will appreciate the amount of help I was not offering to H.) This is the type of page that H. had great difficulty with last week, to the point where I wondered if we just needed to put it aside and wait a bit. But something seems to have clicked and she was able to figure it out... even reading the sight word, 'the'. Pretty exciting, no?

And finally, I realize that there have been precious few pictures on the blog recently. Here is one of L. which I took over the weekend to help make up for it. Of course, L. is in a costume. (When isn't she in a costume?) This is her dragon costume which she received for Christmas.

I don't know how many of you keep up with the blog The Blessing of Verity, but if you don't, I wanted to point out and link to a post which mentions the three children I have been advocating for. Please go and read it to find updates about how these three are doing. The initials H., B., and C. stand for the three children whose pictures I have subjected you to once a week for months. My heart breaks over Harvey's condition, but there is still time for Brandi and Chad. If you visit, you can also scroll down and see pictures of Susanna's new son whom she was visiting on her first trip.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Radical hospitality (plus a book giveaway)

J. and I spent our morning today at a Safe Families training. I and a friend had helped to organize this training with the hope that people in our church and community would agree to be a Safe Family. While we can't actually be a Safe Family (it's a matter of number children in the home... DCFS regulations and all... it's all part of being 'outside acceptable parameters'), having now taken the regular training, we can take the further training and become a coach for active Safe Families. Plus, we can also open our home to any teenage mothers who are over 18 and need a place to go. It will be a new adventure.

But there was something in the training which I wanted to share with you. In the section dealing with Biblical hospitality (one of my favorite areas to read and think about, by the way), there were some interesting quotes. Here they are:

  • "The Christian writer Tertullian (AD 200) wrote, 'It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving-kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.'"
  • "When the early church was fully alive in engaging culture and significantly impacting the 'least of these,' the practice of offering care to strangers (hospitality) became a distinguishing characteristic."
  • "The practice of Christian hospitality was most vibrant during the first five centuries of the church. It provided credibility (word and deed) and distinguished the church from its surrounding environment."
  • "Hospitality was one of the foundational ministries of the early church, vehicle for the spread of the Gospel. Christians were to regard hospitality to strangers as a fundamental expression of the Gospel."
  • "Do not forget to entertain strangers [hospitality], for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2"
I find it interesting that is was the early church's extreme hospitality that set it apart from the surrounding culture. Extreme meaning that the early Christian's hospitality extended to those deemed as the least. Hospitality was highly regarded in the ancient world. I found this quote on an online parallel Bible site, "The Romans regarded any violation of the rites of hospitality as impiety. Cicero says: 'It seems to me eminently becoming that the homes of distinguished men should be open to distinguished guests, and that it is an honor to the Republic that foreigners should not lack this kind of liberality in our city" (De Off. ii.18).'" So it wasn't just the hospitality aspect which set the Christians apart, but their hospitality to the helpless to use Tertullian's term. That's what was different.

Extreme or radical hospitality. It doesn't have to be something we read about and vaguely wish could happen again. It should be something that never stopped. This is our chance to be like King Josiah in 2 Kings 23, where the law is rediscovered after having been lost and King Josiah restores the keeping of the law. We can restore the practice of radical hospitality that was common in the early church. If our homes are really God's homes, then we can be generous with them; we can open them to people in need and show them God's love. This is what people are hungry for. And then when people ask why you would do such a thing, it provides the perfect opportunity to explain that we are the recipients of Jesus' great love and are merely sharing that love with others. It's not that we are able to do such things ourselves, but that Jesus' love works through us.

A friend of mine posted on her facebook page not long ago, sharing how her church was ministering to her and her family during a particularly difficult period. There were acts of service and acts of love shown to them over and over. One of the comments written on her status was, "Boy, I wish I attended your church." How sad. How utterly sad that my friend's church seems like such an anomaly when for Christians this should not strike any believer as unusual, but business as usual. 

Do not accept this. But part of not accepting this is to do something about it yourself. Open your home. Open your home to a child who needs a safe place to stay. Open your home to an orphan who needs a family. Open your home to a single person who is lonely. Open your home to someone recovering from an illness. Open your home. It doesn't matter what kind of home you live in or how your home is decorated or how spotless it is. What really matters is the love and care and compassion to be found within its walls. Let's all work, each and everyone one us, to practice such extreme hospitality that it is the first thing that people think of when they hear the name Christian. 
Now, having made it this far, I'll reward you with a book giveaway! In our bags at the training was the book, Castaway Kid: one man's search for hope and home by R. B. Mitchell, published by Focus on the Family. It tells the story of man who spent his life in an American orphanage. We have an extra copy and here's how you can win it. Leave a comment telling about an experience of hospitality. I'll leave it open through January 30th and I'll announce the winner on the 31st.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The trouble with being an autodidact

If you aren't familiar with the term, it means, "self learner". It's one of my favorite words, and I think it describes me pretty well. If I want to learn something, I teach myself, or find someone who can help me learn what I want to know. There are times that I briefly (very briefly) ponder the idea of going back to school to get a PhD in something I'm interested in, but I realize that it really isn't the degree I'm interested in, but the book lists.

I know that there are some things that can be gained by taking a class that can't necessarily be gained by doing ones own reading... the input of the instructor, discussion with other students (assuming they have done the reading and are interested). I'm pretty sure that exams didn't help my learning in grad. school, so I'm not going to add those to the list, and I tend to write copiously on my own, so I don't need someone to assign me papers. The other thing that a degree can give you is credentials, a way of telling the world that you did a specific stint in school and therefore must know something. Since I, in my reactionary way, tend not to announce the degrees I do have, I probably wouldn't announce another one either. So, I'll just stick to my reading lists and to subjecting my readers to whatever fancy I happen to be fixated on at the moment.

So where does the trouble part come in? I was chatting with M. this morning and realized that I probably owe her (and my other children) an apology for turning them into autodidacts, too. Being an autodidact does ruin some thing for you. For instance when you sign up for an elective (not necessarily a class one would think of as an elective, but an elective none the less) because it is a subject you've been interested in for a while, and are disappointed in the class because you were hoping for something more. (I can't tell you the number of times this has happened to me, and now my daughter gets to experience it as well.) I don't mean this to sound like bragging, because it's not. It's just when I (or my children) get a yen to learn about something we do it whole heartedly. If we sign up for a class, it means we are hoping for even more in-depth knowledge to supplement what we've already learned. It's often disappointing, thus my conversation with my daughter.

Being an autodidact also means that rarely will you have people who can really discuss the things you are learning with. For one, everyone's interests are so different, they are learning about other things. (At least if you live in my house.) Sure we tell each other things that we're learning, but that's not really discussing something in depth. Second, if you also happen to read voraciously, few people are willing to keep up with you. And last, sometimes others just don't get it and don't see self learning as real or as counting.

For instance, several years ago J. and I authored a mid-grade non-fiction book about the Midwest  (It is not a fine example of research or writing and we went round and round with the publisher about vocabulary level.) There was a little kerfuffle about the author's bios in the back. J. would list his degrees and credentials and I wanted mine to say, "E. is an autodidact and homeschools her children." My goodness, you would have thought I had claimed to be an ax murderer given the level of shock. After multiple emails (I can be very, very stubborn.... not that that is a good thing, but there it is), we finally settled on, "J. and E. live near Chicago, IL". Maybe I'll have to write another book someday just to be able to use my chosen bio.

So my children, I apologize for the future difficulties you will have because I have turned you into autodidacts as well. And that is what we all are or are becoming around here. Without even trying, I can list each person's current area of interest and what we have quite a few books about. J.? Well, since he's in school he really can't indulge his inner-autodidact, but he does a whole lot of reading on leadership issues. Me? Right now I'm taking a break from brain theory and learning about the church calendar and the liturgical year. M? Also in school, but she thinks she has found a chance to learn how to weld, which is what she is currently really interested in. B? Forensic botany. I didn't even know there was such a thing. It's good that J. works for a university and can get expensive text books through inter-library loan. A? Photography. P? Horses and cats. TM? Origami and tops and making crafts for profit. D? When not reading huge amounts of fiction, he is very interested in the Bible. The others have yet to find areas that they are really interested in learning about. We'll see what things they discover.

Pray for Brandi today.

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, January 24, 2013

Gone too much

It's Thursday and this is my first day in over two weeks where I haven't had to go somewhere. (I though perhaps I would get to stay home last Thursday, but I made a trip to the ER instead.) And my house is looking the worse for it. It's not that I'm gone all day, for the most part just an hour or maybe two each day, but it adds up.

I have discovered something about myself. When I'm home, I have a rhythm to my day. I can move from activity to activity without rushing and generally manage to accomplish the things I had planned. (Maybe I should have written 'thing', because really if there is more than one item on my to-do list, I won't be getting it done.) But when I'm out, I lose my rhythm. If I know I'm going to be leaving in 15 or 20 minutes, I am hesitant to begin something that I know will take longer, so bigger projects aren't started. Then when I get home, I find I need a re-entry time to collect my thoughts and reorganize my thinking for being home. I don't just move from being out and being home very easily.

For instance, I have been out for a couple of hours and get home at 4pm, I'm never quite able to just jump in at 4:05 and start where I left off. Usually, there are various minor crises involving children that I must attend to, or a child or children really need to tell me something that they have been saving up since I left, or I need to put things back to rights after having been gone and the masses have been entertaining themselves. Plus, since I am a natural introvert, if I have been interacting with people, I just really need to rest. I love talking with people, but it takes its toll and I find it very tiring.

Now this month has been particularly busy. There have been more unexpected doctor (and vet!) appointments than usual. Plus, I just haven't been keeping tabs on household items very well, and several times have had to run out for vital things which have run out. It all adds up, just like the laundry piling up in my basement. When I finish this, I will go throw a load in and straighten up the kitchen. Only then will I feel able to really work on something. Next week doesn't look much better, but I have high hopes for February.

While each person is unique, I'm sure I'm not the only one to function or feel this way. It's taken a long time for me to realize my own personal quirks and to stop feeling bad about them. Our society tells us so often that unless we are always occupied, then we are lazy or not pulling our own weight, but I don't believe it. Anymore, at least. And the occupied part of it always involves being out of the house... going to classes, working, driving your children to sports, going, going, going.

When I am away from my home too much, there is a cost, and that cost is the organization and peacefulness of my home. If I'm not there, I can't keep up with the things which need to be done. I feel as though I'm always playing catch-up and not only does my house not appear peaceful, it also does not feel peaceful because I have moved into frantic, always-behind-mode. It can become a vicious cycle. If your home does not provide you the peace and comfort you need to recharge and do what needs to be done, you will avoid it... often by being gone even more.

There's a solution, though. Trim back your schedule, it might mean saying no to things you know you or your children might enjoy. (I say no to quite a few things and will probably have to say no to some more in the near future.) If your home is really in chaos, it might take a real sustained and concerted effort to bring it back, but it can be done. Focus on one room at a time. For me, if my kitchen and laundry room seem neat and organized, I always feel as though I can handle things. And allow yourself to rest. Just because we think we should be doing something all the time, doesn't mean we should or that it is good for us. Resting is important, too.

So now that I'm rested (it's what I do during quiet time), I feel as though I can tackle my house after a morning of school. Maybe by the time I'm done today, people will even have clean underwear for the morning.

Today is Harvey's day. Please pray for this little one who so desperately needs the love of a family.

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, January 23, 2013

Swallows and Amazons

I haven't written about any books recently, so I thought I would mention the book we are reading to the grade schoolers at bedtime. Have you ever read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome? This is our (J.'s and my) second or third time through it, and I like it just as much each time. It is the first of a series which chronicles the adventures of a set of siblings in the Lake District in England. In the first book, the family moves into a house on a lake where the children discover a sailboat and receive permission to sail the boat to a small island in the lake and camp there for the summer. Without adults. The oldest is ~14 years old and the youngest is ~7.

Each time I read it there are two things which strike me. The first is how imaginative and well-read all of the children in the story are. Their play is based on the literature that they have read and they take great joy in playing out the stories they've read. There were no screens for them to prefer and they knew how to play. Even the 14 year old boy in the story entered into the play with the same enthusiasm as his younger siblings.

The second thing which strikes me is the freedom these children are given. Can you imagine it today? Four children? A sailboat? On an island unsupervised for days on end? Clearly something has significantly changed in our thinking about raising children. You could make the argument that the world is a less safe place than it was in the 30's, but I'm not entirely sure that's really true. Thanks to the media we are just far more aware of the horrible things which happen across our country and around our world. Plus, I really don't think that water was less easy to drown in 80 years ago.

I can only think that the priorities of parents have changed over the past 100 years. In the past, I think it was far more important to the adults of society that the children around them become adults. In order to do this, children need to practice. They need practice having ideas, trying them out, making mistakes, failing, and trying again. It is how one develops competency. And sometimes that involves possible danger. The value of having the freedom to play and to develop self-direction seems to have outweighed the dangers.

Today, it seems that safety has become the number one priority of adults. "Keeping the children safe" has been used to sell a myriad products, theories, and laws. Parents are so concerned over safety that children no longer have the freedom to explore on their own and learn the skills which that exploration brings. And it doesn't seem to stop at physical safety. Emotional safety seems to be as high a priority and parents are generally unwilling to let their child suffer any negative emotions. Allowing a child to miss a meal because they forgot it or fail a class because they didn't do the work isn't even an option. Without real adventure and imagination, is it any wonder that these children turn to the virtual world to experience what they don't know they crave?

I will admit that I struggle with this as well. I don't want anything to happen to my children, but I also remember how much I enjoyed riding for hours by myself. Sometimes things didn't go as planned, but that was part of the fun and I learned I could figure things out if I needed to. I find it a fine line between giving them the freedom I know the want and need and being a responsible parent.

That's why I find reading older literature so interesting. It opens another way of parenting that was at one time common, but now seems to be lost. And it makes me wonder if we are raising an entirely different species sometimes. One quick look through something like, The American Boys' Handy Book, shows major projects which it was expected that boys could build. It seems a shame.

But, if you haven't read Swallows and Amazons, I highly recommend it. At the very least your vocabulary of sailing terms will grow by leaps and bounds.

Don't forget little 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. 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.

He looks like a sweetheart with his curly hair. Pray, pray, pray that his family finds him. You can see his information on Reece's Rainbow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

People I admire

I have some pretty amazing friends. Though when I say amazing, I need to qualify it, because I know how it feels to be called amazing when you know you're really not and you are just doing what God has led you to do. It's not that the people God calls are amazing, but that God is amazing and enables His people to be like Him.

But still, it's a pretty big calling that they are following. Both of these families have adopted children whose life expectancies are shorter than usual. One family, the Greens, have adopted many children, and their youngest, a baby who was discharged out of the hospital and straight into hospice care, is in the process of moving to Heaven. (I wrote about their first baby they said good-bye to in Celebrating a very short life.) Don't make the mistake of assuming that this is easy for them, or easier for them than it would be for any one of us, I don't believe that for a moment. But they are so convinced that every single child deserves the love of a family that they are willing to sacrifice their comfort and feelings in order for a child to experience that.

My other friends we had the pleasure of meeting when we were travelling to pick-up H. They were a part of our travel group and they brought home two little ones, one of whom has a severe heart condition which may not be totally repairable. They knew going in that they may not have the chance to see him live to adulthood. I have so loved reading her accounts of loving this little boy regardless of what the future brings. She is intent on soaking up every bit of life and joy she can from being his mother. This little boy will be having surgery in February to see if they can help his heart function better. I suggest you take a look at their blog: Seriously Blessed.

Doing such a thing may seem unimaginable. But don't discount God's ability to empower. If He can enable these families to do this, what could He enable you to do if you opened yourself up to His calling?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blessings upon blessings

As you may have intuited from Saturday's post, the weekend was not without its drama. I have been consciously working on focusing on what is good rather than visiting over and over the yuckier stuff that happens and my fears and worries associated with it. Because really, if I believe God is in control, and that He is good and has my best interests at heart, then He's got the yucky stuff taken care of. My worrying about it doesn't help, and the worry and obsessing really do steal my joy from all the really good things in my life. I miss out on recognizing all of my blessings, and that is a lot of missing out because my life is full of them. What is one blip when compared to these things? 

K. decided to get into a crafting mode and created these superheros. The orange-guy I'm told is The Thing and the green guy is The Incredible Hulk. I think they are pretty amazing. 

Gretel is doing better. She was back at the vet's this morning to have the drains removed and all the vets agreed she looks as though she is healing nicely. Since we seem to have a standing Monday morning appointment, we'll be back next week to have the stitches removed. Here she is sporting her newest in t-shirt wear. So as not to completely empty K.'s drawer of t-shirts, we're moving down to some smaller sizes we still had in the basement. Consequently, it is a bit tight and the ruff of her neck sticks out oddly around it. I'm not going to miss the clothes-wearing dog.

And God really does provide. At church yesterday, a good friend pressed a check into my hand. It covers her medical treatment. Thank you.

On Saturday afternoon, J. took TM to get his hair cut. TM had decided it was just too long and wanted something new. The result? Approximately 8 inches was chopped off and he can now spike it with gel if he feels like it. (I really love it.)

For a good portion of the weekend, this is what we have seen in our kitchen... our older children all playing Apples to Apples together for long stretches of time. It makes me so happy to see this type of interaction. And they're funny to listen to as well.

And the hallmark of any good weekend is the time for me to do some sewing. (If I've been able to sew, it also means that life is calm enough to allow me to do so.) P. was in desperate need of some new skirts, so I was able to finish one for her. It's difficult to tell in the picture, but it is a nice, navy blue twill. (Fabric, I must add which was given to me by a friend when she was cleaning out her stash.) I was worried that it would be too heavy, but it's good fabric and works well in this pattern. It seemed a little plain to me, so I was able to talk her into some cute dragonfly buttons up by the top of the zipper and some embroidery at the bottom.

Here are some close ups of the embroidery.  The dragonflies...

and the Kanji symbol (this means happiness)...

and both elements together.

I love playing with my embroidery unit for my sewing machine. It is a really great toy. (Toy because it is completely unnecessary and expensive, but fun to have and use.) I'm still so thankful that my parents bought it and the sewing machine for me. (Really, Mom, every time I use it, I want to call you and thank you again.) Plus it allows me to do some fun things for my children. My next embroidery project will be to put panda bears on something (haven't decided what) for G. I suppose that means I really need to find a Superman embroidery for L...

I truly have blessings upon blessings.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Picking up the pieces

My knees hurt as I kneel on the floor picking crayons, markers, and other craft supplies out of the garbage. Above me, sitting on his bed, is my son who is sobbing great, big, heart-wrenching sobs. Picking up and repairing the broken objects is nothing new, but the emotion that accompanies the destruction this time is different, and almost more painful to witness. The deep, deep hurt is still there, but it is moving from blinding anger to gut turning grief. Other than silently be with him, and help restore his possessions and his room, there is nothing I can do. Nothing that is, except pray that God touches the broken places within him and fills my boy with healing, peace, and joy.

And I realize that my kneeling by the trash can is a vivid picture of what raising this child is like. My knees ache from falling on them in prayer, despair so often. And when the break downs happen, I carefully pick-up the pieces, hoping to retrieve the whole pieces and leave the broken things. Someday I hope and pray there will be no more brokenness left.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Living an inter-generational life

I touched on this briefly in an earlier post, but we live in a very age segregated world these days. I think it is one of the worst things to come out of modern schooling, and one that very few people discuss and comment on. We are conditioned from an early age to only interact with people our own age and stage of life. We herd children together in grades and give them very little chance to meet and befriend children of other ages. (Yes, I know I'm speaking in generalizations and that there are exceptions.) I've heard more than once complaints from mothers who arrange a play date for a child and have those children refuse to play with a younger brother or sister. "We're third graders. We can't play with little first graders." Or some comment along those lines is often overheard.

It is one of the things that I have really appreciated about homeschooling. I have loved watching my children have friends of all ages. The idea that they can only be friends with people their own age doesn't occur to them and more than once they have expressed exasperation with the age segregation mindset of their public schooled friends.

But this happens in our society more than just the minute gradations in grade level. There is also very little interaction between the larger generations. For the most part retired people interact with other retired people, empty-nesters interact with empty-nesters, and it goes on... thirty-somethings, newly marrieds, young singles. We even have terms for each of the groups. Boy have we all missed a lot of wonderful friendships and wisdom by doing this to ourselves.

Our society certainly doesn't make it easy for the generations to interact, either. The days of civic and volunteer organizations which allowed for a natural mixing; extended families living with or near each other; smaller churches where everyone knew each other don't exist so much anymore. At least not in urban areas where the majority of us live. Instead we have retirement communities, people too busy to volunteer or just socialize  together, and extremely large churches where you only get to know a fraction of the people... and often just those at your stage of life.

If we are too reach across to other generations, we need to be intentional about it, and the impetus belongs on everyone's shoulders. We miss out on so much if we only associate with people our own age. We lose the wisdom that the older generations has and we miss sharing the wisdom that we have gained. And we just miss out on meeting some really great people. And when you add children into the equation, the loss is even greater. Older people love children in ways that the generation who is currently parenting can't. They have an appreciation and an unconditional love that comes from a perspective gained over the years. And the older generation misses out on the energy and joy that children bring to life. We were all meant to live life together, not separated into little groups.

Why is this rattling around in my head right now? Because this afternoon I will be taking my children to the funeral of a really wonderful man. He was a volunteer for many, many years in our church's midweek program, helping to teach the first graders. The children love him and he loved the children. What was even better was watching those relationships happen outside of Wednesday afternoons. I love watching Jack with the children during coffee hour on Sundays. He was one of the few older church members who knew the names of many of the children and whom the children knew. He always greeted them and very often would receive a hug in return. It was a joy to watch and how it should be. I wish there were more relationships like that.

So my message to you is to get out of your comfort zone and make it a point to get to know someone of a different generation. If you are retired and don't know the names of more than a few children in your church, take it as a sign that you need to do something about that. If you have young children and they don't know any of the older generation, that's wrong and you need to do some introducing. If you have grown children and don't know any young mothers, make a date to bring some tea and have a chat. If you have young children and no mentors who have raised their children, start on a hunt to find some older women to fill that role.

Your life and the lives of the people you meet will be greater for the effort.

Pray for Brandi today.

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, January 17, 2013

The 'shoulds' of life

Well, I'm writing this post a bit later than I expected to today. Instead of the nice calm day, and the first day in a week where I didn't have to go anywhere, I got to take a child to the ER which is always fun. Today's patient was G. At a little after 11 am this morning, she was playing with L. and stood up under my desk chair. That would be the same chair that has round metal underneath the arms and G. managed to hit the edge of the metal with her forehead right above the eyebrow. Of course it bled profusely and after looking at it I realized that she would be getting stitches. It was fairly long, on the face, and the clincher was the sides of the wound were pulling apart... my personal benchmark for whether or not to pick up the car keys.

All went well and G. was a fantastic patient. She lay very still for four stitches so they didn't have to use the papoose board (for which I was grateful) and afterward she happily ate a Popsicle. I'm sure the treat had a lot to do with it, but when we were leaving G. happily announces, "That was fun!" Um, yeah. But really, in the great scheme of ER visits, it was fairly easy. No tears and two hours door-to-door.

So, now our family total is 5 ER visits (6 if you include the emergency visit to the doctor for x-rays for L.'s crushed finger) and ~42 stitches. (I'm not sure on the exact stitch count because I can't remember how many K. had when he cut his eyebrow open. Why is it always the eyebrow?) I suppose it could be worse.

What I was going to blog about today was the topic of 'No more perfect homes' because that is the topic of the Hearts of Home link-up. But, really, it turns out that the ER visit fits in well with what I was going to write about. I had it in my head how my day should have gone, and all that I was going to accomplish. I could get upset and frustrated that all those things which I was going to work on will be put aside for later, or I can be glad G. is alright and work with what I have left of the day. We get these ideas in our heads about how things 'should' be, don't we? We should have a clean house, we should be all caught up with everything, we should be making fancy dinners, we should be teaching our children Latin and Greek, we should always look put together, we should never raise our voices, we should, we should, we should, we should.

I don't know about you, but all those 'should's' are exhausting and binding and discouraging. Because, really, who does everything perfectly? And when we don't do things perfectly, we then go ahead and spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to make it appear to others that we do. It is so difficult for us to admit that we aren't perfect. And the blog world is guilty of this ten fold. It is so easy when blogging about one's life to conveniently leave out the imperfections. I'll take a picture, but I'll be sure to push the pile of laundry out of the picture before doing so. I won't mention the morning where I woke up impatient and my head (and voice) exploded at my children for insignificant things. I'll do everything I can to make myself look good.

And we do this in real life too. How many times has someone approached you at church and asked how you're doing, to which you perkily reply, "Oh, just fine." Yeah, fine. But the reality is you're worrying yourself sick over money, you yelled at a child for losing her shoe yet again when you were trying to get out the door, and you spent the worship service annoyed because they sang that song you can't stand again. Wouldn't it be more honest to say, "Thanks for asking. I've had better days, would you mind praying for me?"

But to get back to the topic, because we aren't perfect, our homes and our families will not be either. And I've got a secret to tell you. No ones home and family is perfect. No ones. So, if you walk into your friend, Susie's house (a name chosen because I"m pretty sure I know no one currently whose name is Susie), and it always seems pristine and neat, you can bet you're not seeing the whole story. Looks are deceiving and while the house may be spotless, there will be something in her life that is not. I guarantee it. You may never know what that area is, but it is there. Conversely, Susie may walk into your house and think you are the best mom in the world because you don't mind having the children's forts up in the living room for days at a time and she cannot imagine ever being able to do that. And she really hates herself for it.

My suggestion? Do your best with what you have and extend a whole lot of grace to yourself and to others. It's easier said than done, I know. But wouldn't it be better to go ahead and invite people into your home even if it isn't immaculate? Do you really notice the dust and clutter and mis-matched upholstery in someone else's home? My guess is that you don't. You are probably too busy appreciating the cup of tea that has just been handed you to notice those things. Relationships win out every time.

My other piece of advice? If there is something really bothering you about your house, do something about it. Do you hate the clutter and is the clutter making you unhappy? This you can fix. Not instantly, but you can. But first you need to decide that you really want it fixed so much you're willing to get rid of stuff. Are the curtains (or lack of curtains) just causing your teeth to grind every time you think about it? Well, change them. Yes, I know store-bought curtains are prohibitively expensive, but there are other options. Frequent thrift stores and look for new ones there or to find fabric that can be made into new curtains. Don't sew? Find a friend who does and offer to trade skills. You hate the size of your kitchen? Well, you may not be able to fix it, but you can fix your attitude. This is a chance to practice the glad game. There are plenty of things to be glad for a small kitchen... you don't have to walk as far, it keeps you from buying all those kitchen items that really aren't needed, it forces you to keep things clean, and the clincher, many people do not even have a kitchen and would be thrilled with yours. Plus, the size of your kitchen does not determine the quality of your food or the amount of food you can make. (Trust me on this. I fed many, many people, many, many meals from a very small kitchen. It really can be done.) But do not let something like this limit your joy in hospitality.

So, stop worrying about how others view you. What really matters is how God views you. And since He already knows everything about you, there is no need to act as though you are something you aren't. And once you begin to be your true self, it will be an encouragement for others. Letting others see how you really are can be scary, but ultimately freeing. A freedom that allows you to stop focusing on yourself so much and begin to focus on others.

Today is Harvey's day. Please pray for this little one who so desperately needs the love of a family.

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, January 16, 2013

Loving and fixing

This older child adoption-thing can be full of the unexpected. We have been working on helping H. develop some muscles. Any muscles, really, at this point we're not picky. Her lack of muscle tone took me completely by surprise when we met her. To just look at her, you wouldn't guess the weakness, but as we live with her and watch her do (or not do) things, we have become more and more aware of the extent of the lack of muscles in her body.

Much of what we do involves just living life. To go anywhere, you have to be able to get in and out of the van. You build muscles every time this happens. If your job is to put the clean dishes away, sometimes you need to stand on a chair. Getting on and off the chair builds muscles. If you want to play with your brothers and sisters, you need to keep up with them. Active play builds muscles. And so does opening your medicine bottle and putting on your clothes and carrying up your laundry and helping to carry groceries and vacuuming a rug, and all the myriad of activities that most people do in the course of a day or a week.

But just last night I discovered yet something else that took me by surprise. Evidently, if you just sit during the day, and no one pushes you to do much else, what little muscle you had does weird things. We had already been working on stretching H.'s Achilles' tendons because they are shortened and the tightness doesn't allow her to lift her foot when tipping back on her heel by more than a half an inch or so. Every evening I help her stretch those muscles and we are slooooowly seeing gradual improvement.

Because I'm holding her feet sometimes to do this, I've been noticing that something just doesn't seem right. They seem so much stiffer than anyone else's feet. It's as if she has wooden blocks attached to the end of her legs. If I tried to gently massage them, she complained that it hurt. I had a sudden idea and asked her to move her toes up and down. You know, when you bend your toes where they meet your foot and it feels really good especially if you've just taken off uncomfortable shoes? Well, she couldn't. Her big toe moved a bit, but the other toes looked as though they had no joint between them and the foot. They do bend, I checked. She just can't bend them herself.

So I had other people show her how they could bend their feet. And then I bent her toes for her showing what I wanted her to do and how it would feel. (Not really good, at first, judging by her reaction.) I asked her to try to wiggle her feet and toes a lot throughout the day. She really wants to please, and while I was reading our nightly chapter book, she sat and diligently tried to wiggle her toes. My gut told me that there wasn't anything physically wrong with her feet, but that like her tendons, it was a matter of disuse. Judging by the slightly increased movement from just that little bit of exercise, I think I'm right.

This all explains a lot. She has a very shuffling gate and it makes doing anything more than walking (even walking quickly) difficult. At first I chalked it up to an endurance issue. I'm sure that had something to do with it, but I think I know what is at the root. I did an experiment and tried walking as though I couldn't raise my feet off the floor by pivoting on my heel and I couldn't bend my toes. Surprise, surprise, I started walking in the exact same way that H. does. If we can keep working on loosening up those muscles, it will give her so much freedom to move and run and play. It also explains why she hasn't enjoyed (at all!) riding the bicycle with training wheels we have for her. Pedaling involves stretching her feet and legs in all the ways that are difficult right now.

Now I have to admit that I feel like the worst mother in the world while we're doing these exercises. She doesn't enjoy it, and complains a bit. For a girl who NEVER complains about anything, even a little complaint is a big deal. I try to explain why we are doing it, but I'm sure I just come across sounding like a Charlie Brown adult because there are just too many words. But I try. And I'm also a little bit torn. I don't want my daughter to feel as though she doesn't measure up and that she needs to be fixed in order to make her acceptable. But the truth is, there are so many things that we can do, either with the help of doctors or just by ourselves, that in the long run will improve the quality of her life. Sure, we could leave everything as it is right now, but would the 20 year old H. really thank us for that? Am I the only one who struggles with this? On some level it does feel as though we're saying, "OK, we brought you here, now let's fix everything that's wrong." The trouble is, it's true, but it's not true. I find it a very sharp edge to walk.

Since we are still helping H. reach her full potential, it is obvious where we have landed in this little conundrum. I have to remind myself that there is a big different between, "I love you, but let's fix you." and "I love you, and let's get you the help you need."
Talk about a child who needs parents to love him and help him reach his potential... don't forget little 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. 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.

He looks like a sweetheart with his curly hair. Pray, pray, pray that his family finds him. You can see his information on Reece's Rainbow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I frequent several places online where homeschoolers discuss homeschooling... have their questions answered, to share experiences, and perhaps let off a little frustration. In one of these forums, often new or relatively new homeschoolers tend to frequently post questions. I am always amazed at what these new homeschoolers think is an appropriate amount of work for a 6 or 7 year old child.

Now I've homeschooled my fair share of 6 and 7 year olds over the past 15 years, so I'm sure you will not be shocked when I say I have some to some fairly strong opinions about this. First, 6 and 7 year olds are still pretty little people... they tire easily, their brains are not yet wired for academics, and need to have a lot of large muscle movement. It is not a recipe that lends itself to a lot of sitting and writing and reading. In fact, I believe that trying to fit these little people into that mold is what contributes to the new homeschooler's frustrations.

I know the push in public schools is for more and longer days of academics, but just because this is what the schools are doing, doesn't mean that it makes any sense. It also doesn't mean that homeschoolers need to even try to bother copying it. Now get ready, because I'm going to horrify some people here. Until my children reach junior high or so, they only spend between 20 and 30 minutes a day doing straight book work, and if they are in an early elementary grade, I'm guessing it's 10 minutes or less. It just doesn't take that long to do some math work and some phonics work. This is what I did with M. when we first began and it is what I continue to do. To try to force more than that out of my children would just lead to frustration and anger... for everyone. And given the fact that all of my older children can do math and read quite well (and often), I don't think I have harmed them in the least.

In fact, in the long run, it has probably been beneficial. Since we don't spend overly long on book work, it frees us up to learn in other ways. We read stories, we create things, we listen to music, we watch documentaries, we go places, we play games, and my children have time to spend doing what they are interested in. Learning happens in all of these activities. Learning is so much more than filling out a worksheet or moving on to the next lesson in a book.

Many new homeschoolers are afraid that they are going to miss teaching their children something. And you know what? That's probably true. But it is also true that any educational system is going to miss teaching children something. No one system is perfect and no one system is going to teach a child every single thing that child needs to learn. I have read in many places, that it is much more beneficial to a person to learn about one or two things deeply and really understand them, than it is to learn a very superficial amount of a great many things. There is something about really knowing and understanding something that prepares a person to repeat that effort learning about something different. And how are children going to know what interests them deeply, so that they are going to want to learn as much as they can, if they do not have the time to explore a great many things?

While workbooks and textbooks can be useful, they can also too easily become a crutch and turn into busywork; doing the next page or the next lesson solely because it is there. And there is often so many exercises or problems to do that it takes forever to complete one! And why? If a child can do the work, then why is doing more of the same going to help? And if a child cannot do the work, then there is a misunderstanding somewhere that needs to be addressed. Doing more of the same will not address it.

Really what I want to say to new homeschoolers is, "Relax!" You know what your child knows and doesn't know. You know this because you live with that child and watch them work and figure things out. You don't need tests or worksheets or grades to tell you this. Start with what your child knows and go from there. And remember, learning happens all the time in many different ways. And that learning 'counts' even if it didn't come from a worksheet.
I've linked to the Homeschool Village's homeschool link-up. Go here to see lots of other homeschooling posts.

Monday, January 14, 2013


That's what this post is going to be today because that is how I am feeling. The day started off well enough, but then something happened and I lost control and now I feel as though I'm trying to keep up with too many different things all at once.

First I'll start with what I was going to share with you on Saturday night. Except I didn't because I was too tired. One of my friends from childhood (since first grade if my memory is functioning) was in town for a conference and had yesterday free. When she asked if there was anything from Arizona that she could bring me, I requested really good Mexican food. Well, she couldn't bring it, but she volunteered to make it. Even better! We had a great time catching up and cooking and eating and spending time together. 

It was also pretty funny, because to watch my children watch her, you would think that no one ever cooked in my kitchen. Maybe it was the novelty of someone other than their mother cooking, but the six youngest hovered around the edges for the entire time. Here is a glimpse at what it looked like... those are sopapillas that are being made.

We (well, I did a little chopping, mostly it was my friend) also made albondiga soup (Mexican meatball soup) and it was incredibly yummy. I will be making it again. Probably often. The children would really like the sopapillas weekly, but that won't happen. I have to work up a real craving for something to make frying in hot oil a reality.

Next comes the dog, who occupies a lot of my mental real estate these days. She can't stand the cone, so for the past week she has been wearing t-shirts. See...

But sadly, both for her and for my checkbook, the skin isn't healing as nicely as we had hoped. Some of the tear has healed, but there is a significant portion where the tissue had died and turned black. It is not a pretty sight and she has been back to the vet's office twice in the past five days. And tomorrow she gets to go back again because she will be having more surgery. She needs to have the dead tissue removed and then the doctor will try to reattach the skin. We have at least two more weeks of a t-shirt wearing dog. Poor thing. And because she is a puppy. A lab puppy. She just wants to play and run and jump and chase her tennis ball and sit on your lap, and lick you. But she's not supposed to play and run and jump and chase. She is a giant bundle of pent-up puppy energy. Poor us.

And finally, I keep meaning to write about the fact the we have entered back into Ordinary Time in the church calendar. I've been doing research (I love doing research) and am working on some ideas about this, so I'm putting off writing about it for a while. That should be coming soon.
I need to add a little self-promotion to keep my paying-job-editors happy. If you missed my article on The Power of Play, go ahead and take a look. I'd really appreciate it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just one of those days

Not every day goes swimmingly around here, and I certainly am not the model of calmness and rational parenting. In order to try to be honest about what life looks like, both the good and the bad, I wanted to share my day yesterday.

It started off well enough. Everyone got dressed and ate without drama. I had already planned that I would work on taking down the Christmas decorations and I would send the children upstairs to tackle the third floor which can explode like nobody's business. So that's what we did. I only had to make one trip upstairs to remind everyone that if they spend their time being concerned about who is not doing their fair share, the room will never get picked up.

Oh, and there was also another vet visit for the dog. We noticed that Gretel's stitches and the skin around them were not looking good (you can thank me for not sharing a picture), so J. called first thing in the morning to get her an appointment and graciously offered to take her in for me. The good news is that it could still heal despite the hole that had developed, the bad news is that if it doesn't start to heal, they will have to do more surgery. In the meantime, I should apply warm water compresses on it two to three times a day. Great.

Lunchtime rolls around. People get food, the dog, wearing her t-shirt which is blood stained because the wound keeps bleeding a little bit, wanders around, and life seems fairly normal. Quiet time starts. The little girls, who insist on putting their pajamas, go to bed, and everything is quiet. I should have finished with Christmas, but there is something therapeutic about writing each day and so I did that instead. Quiet time ends. And so does any trace of quiet around the house for the rest of the day.

I don't know what switch flipped in the entire child population long about three o'clock, but something did. Life just seemed to get very loud and very crazy. I knew that dinner needed a long time to cook and took a little while to prepare, so I needed to start that. It was at that point I realized that once again I had successfully ignored the kitchen and it was a disaster. But instead of cleaning it up, I needed to help focus the children who were at extreme loose ends. So I got a large piece of paper out to make a new Bible verse to hang on the wall. This engaged some of them for the time it took to get dinner made, but it seemed a louder activity than it normally is.

After dinner was in the oven, I decided to try to finish putting Christmas decorations in boxes. Which I did manage, but only by sheer stubbornness. It was as if someone had slipped the entire dog and child population speed while I wasn't looking. It was that crazy. People were running around and screaming. People were bickering. The dog would go through bursts of insanity where she would race at top speed around the kitchen and then hurl herself at an unsuspecting child. I would go put out whatever figurative fire was happening and then go back to my chosen task. At one point I go into the kitchen to discover that K. and the little girls had brought what looked like the entire contents of  G.'s and L.'s room to the kitchen and left if all over the floor for the dog to chew. I see her chewing something, ask the children who are standing right next to her what she's chewing, and receive a shrug in return. I discover that it is one of the new ice cream cones from L.'s Christmas gift. I then, perhaps not so nicely insist that all the toys get taken upstairs.

I stubbornly go back to the boxes when another child arrives to tell my in a horror-stricken voice that Gretel's stitches look worse than ever and that he thinks more stitches have pulled out. It is now 6 pm and J. will be coming home. Is it bad that since I new I wasn't taking her to the vet right that instant that I decided to wait until J. came home to deal with it? (I'm actually glad I did because he was able to say that they looked exactly the same as that morning. The reporting child just hadn't seen them yet.) In midst of all of this, H. is peeling carrots for me. She likes to peel carrots and is good at it, but for some reason yesterday she was moving in slow motion and had only done five carrots in 20 minutes. So at the time I was expecting to slice the carrots to cook, she still had over a pound of carrots to peel. And my head exploded just a little more.

To tell all this just doesn't sound very bad, but that is because you don't have the continual racing and yelling in the background which was accompanying the whole thing. Or the increasing disaster of mess that was building up because I was obsessively focusing on my chosen task. Mayhem is a word that comes to mind. There were no clean glasses for dinner, so some had to be washed before they could be filled with milk. And then one of them broke. I was never so glad to have J. come home and was sorely tempted to run out.

It was certainly not the atmosphere that I try to encourage when he arrives home. I try to have things somewhat under control and attitudes fairly calm, because who wants to walk into a war zone everyday after work? But I'm afraid that is exactly what happened yesterday. I am blessed with a patient and understanding husband and even though the crazy continued somewhat after dinner, he offered to take care of the hoards so that I could go meet some homeschooling mothers who had arranged to go out last night. I wasn't even originally planning on going, but I just needed a break.

I know that crazy days happen, but I've been trying to decide what in particular triggered that one. I'm afraid I know the answer. Over the past month or two, I have been allowing the children to watch an hour's worth of videos right before dinner. They beg and I have to admit the peace is not unwelcome. We had fallen into bad habits and this nightly video ritual had become an expectation rather than a treat. I find anything involving screens has a sort of steam rolling effect. The more you watch, the more you want to watch, and that was what was beginning to happen. I knew I needed to rein it in a bit and so I had decided that we were going cold turkey yesterday. I even explained to everyone why I was saying no. I've done this before so I should have been expecting the resulting insanity, but it caught me by surprise. It will even out in a few days. People will stop begging, they will find new ways to fill that slot of time, and life will return to normal again. The process just isn't a lot of fun.
Pray for Brandi today.

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, January 10, 2013

Twins, virtual and actual

I'm putting all the Christmas stuff away today and it is not a job I enjoy. In fact, I've managed to put it off for nearly a week past when it usually all comes down. I also keep finding things to do in the middle of it so I can avoid it even more. So, why not write a blog post on a tricky subject while I'm deep in avoidance mode.

There are few subjects which meet with such strong opinion in the adoption world as that as virtual twinning. Now, my non-adoption-world readers are probably saying, "Huh? What in the world is that?" So, some definitions first. 'Virtual Twinning' is the name (or one of the names) used when a family adopts a child into their family who is the same or less than nine months different from a child already in the home. Thus, they are twins, but not in the biological sense of the word, just the chronological. By that definition, when we adopted TM, we created virtual twins with him and D., who is 8 months younger. When we adopted H., we created virtual triplets because she is only 2 weeks older than TM. And for us, when you throw in the actual, biological twins, we have a lot of children running around who are all about the same age. What you also need to know is that among social workers and adoption agencies, virtual twinning is frowned upon. Some have a blanket policy against it and some only do it in special cases.

And as I think about it all, I have come to some conclusions. (Imagine that.) I think that more and more I dislike the term virtual twins. Unless two children have been raised together since infancy (and even then I'm not sure... I really think it might go back to sharing a womb), I really don't think we help anyone by using the term 'twin' because they just aren't. I have watched G. and L. for the past 3 1/2 years, and while they are very different girls, there is something that they share, some intangible sense of closeness, that I just don't see in any of my other children.

We need to come up with another descriptor because I think it is the term 'twin' which gets social workers and agencies all in a tizzy. Twin implies a meshing on some level, which could mean a loss of individuality, but the truth of it is, we are not twinning anyone. We cannot artificially create that bond of closeness regardless of when birthdays fall. We are creating brothers and sisters, but we do that regularly in adoption and no one seems to mind that at all. Yes, two children may be close in age, but chronological age hardly begins to tell the whole story.

My two ten year olds and one 9 1/2 year old are very different. They have different strengths, different experiences, different hurts, different delays, different tastes, different ways of dealing with stress... they are different, different, different. Just because their chronological age says they should be lumped together, what poor parents J. and I would be if that is all we looked at.. They are individual children and we treat them as such, just as we do all of our children.

It is as if the infection of age segregation has infiltrated adoption placement as well as schools and churches. That is the idea that your chronological age is the determining factor in what you should be able to do, who you should socialize with, and how you are to be viewed. No wonder people are so hung up about their age. And because so much emphasis is placed upon your age, it is seen as one of your defining characteristics to the point that some people see it as unhealthy if a child has to share "age 10" with anyone else in their family. It is really the only reason I can come up with for the vehemence against the practice.

But, really I can come up with another. And that is the idea that parents only have so much to give and the ability to allow children to be individuals even if they share an age is beyond them. It is at heart an argument against having more than a few children in the home. It is as if parental love is a limited commodity and one must be careful with how thin it is spread. Now, other resources may be stretched... money, size of house, mode of transportation,etc., but this is true in general; it is not specific to virtual twinning. If parents are capable of parenting another child, it really shouldn't matter whether the child is virtually twinned or not.

I need to add one caveat. Parents need to make informed, compassionate decisions in adopting. How will this child fit in with the family? What if the adjustment is difficult and the child doesn't seamlessly mesh with the family? How are you going to help each child feel like an individual? Are you planning on disrupting birth order and are your children OK with that? Have you educated yourself on those particular issues? How can you keep each child safe? But once again, these are really larger adoption issues and not specifically virtual twinning issues.

This doesn't mean that I think parents should adopt children willy-nilly. These are lives we are dealing with here, both of the child to be adopted and the children already in the home. A child who is a good fit for one family may not be a good fit for another. Adoption is not something to be entered into lightly and it is a decisions which affects the entire lives of multiple people. I also think that the specter of twinning is a bigger problem in theory than it is in reality.
Today is Harvey's day. Pleas pray for this little one who so desperately needs the love of a family.

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, January 09, 2013

Learning there is comfort

I'm reminded once again that parenting a child adopted at an older age is much more a process of unlearning and then relearning how to function in the world. Because of living in less than ideal circumstances, these children have learned very well how to survive in them, but this survival mode does not lend itself well to living in a healthy family atmosphere. What our biological children have learned to do without even thinking about it, our adopted children must be actively taught.

Take this morning for instance. H. and I were practicing her reading. (Boy, those different vowel sounds can be tricky!) I happened to glance at H.'s hand where I saw a rather large place on the inside of one finger that was obviously healing from some type of cut. I immediately asked her what happened and she, in a rather ashamed sort of way, told me that she had hurt it on a pencil sharpener. I can only imagine that in trying to sharpen a pencil with one of those small hand pencil sharpeners that she accidentally sharpened some of her skin as well. It must have really, really hurt. I knew just from looking at her that she was bracing herself for getting into trouble, as if it was wrong to have been hurt. She started to have that vacant, "I'll just disappear while the unpleasant stuff is happening" glaze to her eyes. It took a lot of hugging and kissing of owies and hair stroking to bring her back and also to convince her that she wasn't in trouble. I tried to tell her that when she is hurt she needs to come to me so I can take care of her, but I'm never sure if what I'm saying is actually what is being understood when I'm just talking about concepts. I do know that for the next several words she was sounding out that she clutched my hand in hers.

And it's hard. It's hard because in moments such as these, I battle an extreme range of emotions. I am so relieved that my child will never again have to hide or ignore an injury because either she is afraid of getting into trouble or because she feels as though there is no one to pay attention to her. I am grateful that I can parent this child who so desperately needed a mother and a father. And once again I'm angry at the circumstances that caused her to feel so alone in the first place.

How often do we do this even as adults? Hide an injury or a hurt because we are so unsure that there will be compassion on the other end? I may be a very imperfect parent. I may not always react to things as I should, though I do try my best. But I want to remind you again that there is a parent who will always react with compassion to our hurts. God is the perfect parent and loves us so much more than anyone else could. Bring your problems and your hurts to Him and He will receive you with open arms.
I am thrilled to share that one of my blog posts, Not so rare, has been linked on the We are Grafted In blog. There's lots of great writing on that site and I'm humbled to be included.
Talk about a child who need parents to give him hugs and kiss boo-boos, don't forget little 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.

He looks like a sweetheart with his curly hair. Pray, pray, pray that his family finds him. You can see his information on Reece's Rainbow.

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