Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Keep busy with these

This may be my last post until after the weekend. Blogging isn't quite making it to the top of the need to do list. You want to hear why? Well, tomorrow we are going to have a Seder dinner for Maundy Thursday. That involves quite a bit of work and it's one of the reasons I have been out shopping for half the day. Good Friday brings our church's Good Friday Family service in the morning. Saturday we will decorate eggs. Then, of course, we have Easter on Sunday with its own needed preparations. (And dresses... with none of them done yet.) And this year, K's birthday falls on Easter, so we will be celebrating on Monday. He wants a dinosaur cake. I'm quite glad that he has no specific idea of what a dinosaur cake is, so I can make it up on Monday and not think about it right now. It all seems a bit much and I'm glad a scheduled a second week of spring break so that I could enjoy a week off as well.

If you are interested in reading more of any of these things, I have some previous blog posts you can look at:

Seder Dinner

Good Friday for Children

And if you are interested in the Good Friday service, click the link for more details.

The other thing I want to mention is on a completely different topic. I'm not sure how many of you keep up with the Duggars (I don't watch the show, but when I see something come up about them I read it), but it seems they recently made a trip to China and as part of the trip visited an orphanage. They were so moved by what they saw there that they have announced that they are considering adoption. There was an online article about it that I came across... and made the mistake of reading some of the comments. I do know better and only read a few of the hundreds that were left because they turned my stomach with their vileness. So vile I couldn't even bring myself to repeat them to my mother when we were talking this morning.

And I am baffled. Absolutely baffled as to why this family garners such hate from people. All for raising and loving more than the normal number of children and doing so competently. What about it touches such a nerve in people? And what difference does it make to them? I don't get it. I am slightly less baffled by the rampant ignorance about orphans and adoption. But the ignorance is great and the worst of it is that it seems the people who are most ignorant don't even know they're ignorant.

Underlying it all is a very telling base assumption that children are not valuable. If the Duggars were wealthy in any other way, I don't think people would think twice about it. It might be quirky to have, say, 19 cars or boats or even houses, but I don't think it would upset the public as being wealthy in children does. And if children who have a family have little value, the comments show that children without a family have even less. It boils down to the fact our society as a whole sees children very differently than God sees them.

Since I'm not feeling at the top of my form today, instead of continuing on with my little rant about this, I'm going to direct you to two other blog posts that do a far better job. Why replicate something already well done. So, read these links and I'll see you back here after the weekend. Have a blessed Easter.

The Duggars, Large Families, and Adoption

Think You Understand? What agency are you with?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why adopting an older child is a lot like living in a Monty Python sketch

J. pointed out that sometimes trying to communicate with H. is like living in our very own Monty Python movie... especially the scene above. It is frighteningly close to an actual conversation he had with her last night.

The morning routine for the past couple of months is that no one may get out of bed until J. turns the hallway light on in the morning. This is mainly for the littles and H. The second any of them hear someone up and about they come scampering out of their rooms wanting to be up and about. And since J. often wakes up early to try to get some studying done, having a heard of small, loud children running around insisting on breakfast is not terribly helpful.

He was saying good night and was about to shut the door when he said, "You can get up when I turn the lights on in the morning, H."

H: Right. When you turn the lights out.
J: No, when I turn them on.
H: Yes, when you turn the lights out.
J: No, on. See your lights are off. (Flips switch) Now they're on. (Flips switch) Now they're off. When I turn the lights on, like this. (Flips switch)
H.: Oooh. Yes. Lights off. I get up when you turn the lights off.
J: On. Goodnight.

Or something very close to that. We just need to teach her to use a British accent.

Monday, March 25, 2013


No, it's not Talk Like a Pirate Day. It's also not a day that gets a real post. You want to know why? I've been sewing like a fiend only to discover that the skirt is too short. Must go to Plan B which is going to take more time. Decide to finish my dress, but discover I'm out of hem tape. Then needed to drive for an hour and a half only to come home to finish dinner, eat, and then put everyone to bed.

If I were rolling in money, at this point I would shop online, pay exorbitant shipping fees, and be done.


Saturday, March 23, 2013


At more than a few points this winter, it felt as though family life was kind of hanging by a thread. Either life felt too busy to get done what I wanted to accomplish or various children were in various states of crisis or there were just too many grey and cloudy days (OK, this was probably just my problem) or some combination of the above. And when those times happened, it was difficult to feel good about my parenting and/or homemaking because I was so busy thinking about all that wasn't happening.

While it's fine to have high standards for yourself and for your home, these cease to be a help and start to become a hindrance if they begin to cause so much guilt and self-loathing that it causes even less to be done. I know for me, it can start a wicked spiral if I lose all motivation to do anything because there is already so much I haven't done. It sort of feels as though there is so much to do, what's the point of doing anything. Of course this is just my overwhelmed self talking. Usually all it takes to get me back into the groove is a sunny day or a good night's sleep or a period of general calmness and I feel capable of putting things back in order. (And I can't even begin to tell you how relaxed I am currently feeling with three sunny, calm days and decent nights' sleep under my belt!)

Realistically, though, I think I need a better plan for the more difficult moments of life than to just grit my teeth and get through it. I've been reading The Explosive Child this past week and have been finding it extremely helpful and enlightening. (I know I will be writing a much longer post about just the book when I'm finished with it.) One of the concepts in helping children who are very easily frustrated and very inflexible is to reduce the number of things that cause this reaction as you work on the bare minimum of things that really need to happen. There are just some things which, while generally important, are not worth dealing with a raging child over. They can be temporarily dropped.

I think we could all benefit from implementing this idea into our lives. It feels a lot more proactive to know in advance which are the non-negotiables that need to be done regardless and what is just not as important to basic survival. And when life feels out of control, basic survival is where you feel you are at. This way, you know which things you just won't attempt, and by having thought it out ahead of time, you can avoid the guilt that might otherwise come with that decision. You have also thought about which things are your non-negotiables. Knowing this ahead of time, you can spend your small resources on these and not mistakenly spend them on something less important. I think this is important to know in advance because when life feels a little chaotic, critical and rational thinking is often the first thing to do.

As I think about this, my very basic list of non-negotiables for hard seasons is very short. Pretty much it contains: everyone gets fed and has dinner together, everyone has clean underwear, and everyone gets a bedtime story (if they want it). Since this is what life boils down to anyway in those times, I might as well admit it and not worry about the other stuff. The house can always be picked-up later, the non-essential clothes can always be washed at another time, meetings can be missed, and math pages caught-up on.

My essentials really speak to our basic needs. We need to eat, though the food doesn't need to be fancy (and having a decently filled pantry can be very helpful with this), it just has to be there. We need basic hygiene, though outer clothes can go quite a while before they are genuinely dirty. And we need connection and something to fill our souls, thus a meal together and stories together.

So I encourage you to think about your family's non-negotiables. Every family will have times of stress. Your family's stress may look different from mine, but the net effect is the same. Stress makes it difficult to do normal, everyday things and it makes it difficult to think clearly. Knowing ahead what's really important could be the key to weathering the tough times well.

We basically have pretty cushy lives here in the West and are not conditioned to make emergency plans. I have come to believe that having a plan for how to deal with family crises is just as important and knowing how you will all escape a burning building. We don't like to think about bad things happening, but just because we plan for them doesn't mean that they will happen, it does mean that if they do we will have done what we can to make it easier to manage.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Miscellaneous Friday

Fridays are history co-op days. The younger group met and were talking about Greek architecture and general architectural principles. For their hands-on project, they made marshmallow and toothpick sculptures (buildings? creations?). They enjoyed it, though they possibly enjoyed eating the marshmallows more. I discovered that TM had taken some pictures, so I thought I would share them with you. (I was safely knitting in another room at the time.)


P10 and M.Y. H-S

P5 and K. (They really are best buddies)

My children are now playing outside because it's spring. They don't seem to be bothered by the fact my thermometer says it's 34 degrees outside. I'm inside trying to pretend it's not 34 degrees outside. This is made a little easier by the fact my mother surprised me by over-nighting orange blossoms to me and they arrived this morning. I love the smell of orange blossoms. I've been carrying them around with me ever since they came.

Now a little house/blog keeping. First up, if you are in the area, be sure to come and see A. in Thin Ice Theater's production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution. It's tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 and on Sunday at 3. 2008 Dempster

A. as the judge

Next, I am preparing what I'm going to say when I do a session at the Illinois Home Educator's Conference in June on meal planning. I'm doing some very scientific research on what people find most difficult about getting dinner on the table each night. Please, if you haven't already commented on my fb post, please share your ideas in the comments. I'd appreciate it.

Finally, there's Brandi. You haven't forgotten about her, have you? I didn't get a chance to post about her last week because of the chaos, but she's still waiting for a family.

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, March 21, 2013

Getting fit

Today is the Hearts at Home link-up and today's assigned topic is no more perfect bodies and I'm not sure what to write. And that's certainly not because I have a perfect body, let's just get that out of the way right now. Along with just about every woman in America, if asked, I could list more than a couple of things I dislike about my body and also assure you that it would be better if I could take off 5 or 10 pounds. But in reality, I don't spend a whole lot of time fixating on it. There are a couple of things I purposefully do to keep the obsession at bay. I don't own a scale. It's not because I can't afford one, it's because I will not let one in my house. I learned in college that it is far too easy to step on the scale first thing in the morning and let that number dictate what my day was going to be like. It was like living with a dictator. I decided it was far better to judge if I had had too many desserts by how my clothes were fitting. I also do not subscribe or look at nearly all of the glossy women's magazines that are out there. As I've written before, what you surround yourself with becomes your reality and I don't want that reality. I think it is far better to concentrate on eating a healthy diet and making sure you get some movement (and yes, I count multiple trips up and down stairs with bulging laundry baskets to be movement) in your day than it is to make how you look and what you eat and how much you exercise the main focus of your day.

Our bodies are all different, and everyone is going to look different even if every one of those people are healthy. The trouble is, we hold up one specific body type as ideal, and not everyone is going to be able to sculpt their body through diet and exercise to look like that. In the past, women wore various types of undergarment foundations to sculpt themselves into whatever the ideal was... corsets, girdles, hoops... you name it and it was changing a woman's shape. Today, we think of such things ridiculous at best and barbaric at worst, but in some ways it was a bit more fair to assume that a shape could only be obtained through outside help. Now we assume that a woman can achieve the perfect shape through will power and exercise. If you don't have the right shape than it signals some sort of inner fault on a deep level. I often wonder which is more ridiculous and barbaric.

Which brings me to the TV show, Say Yes to the Dress. I have become bizarrely fascinated by this show. Many times it is like watching a train wreck... you want to turn away from what is inevitably going to happen, but you can't. And the whole emphasis on the notion that a bride needs to find the perfect dress (and pay a ridiculous sum of money for it) or else her life (or at least her wedding) will be ruined is so wrong headed that I can't even begin to go into why here. But yet, on particularly stressful days, I find myself sipping tea and staring at it. One of the reasons why is that I really like dresses. I like to see how they are made, I like to see the different styles, I like to see how dresses look differently on each person, and I like to see how a good fitting dress can make anyone beautiful. I truly believe that much of the reason that many of these brides fall so in love with the dresses they try on is not just because the dresses are (usually) beautiful, but that for the first time in their life they are wearing a dress that actually fits and is flattering. Walk down any street in the country and you will see clothing that, while it is stylish and in fashion, doesn't actually fit the person wearing it and is certainly not flattering. It's as if the entire country gave up using mirrors for Lent and never started again.

While this could easily turn into an rant that unless you have perfectly fitting clothes, you don't look good, that's really not where I mean to go. Very few of us have the ability to sew well enough for ourselves that we can get an excellent fit. (Though this is on my short list of things I want to learn.) And even fewer can afford to have clothes made for us. But I think there are some things we could keep in mind when purchasing clothes that would go a long way toward making us feel better about how we look.

First, not every style is going to look good on every body. It can be challenging when the current style is not flattering because often it is the only thing you can find. I see this as one of the big pluses for consignment, second hand, and thrift clothing stores. They are not as slavish to the current fads as the retail stores are. If it doesn't look good on you, don't buy it. Second, buy the correct size. Very little is standard and a size that fits in one brand or store might not fit in another. This really doesn't say anything about you, but about random sizing practices. No one is going to know that in one style you wear an 8 (though you may be tempted to wear it inside out on 'accident') in one brand and a 12 in another. It's all the same really. Nothing has changed about you except for the little number on the tag. A piece of clothing in a larger size which fits better is going to make you look better than a smaller size that you can squeeze into. If it wouldn't create chaos, I would advocate for removing sizes all together. Lastly, do some investigation into what styles flatter your body type best. There are books and websites on it and you can also just try on lots of different clothing. For myself, I don't find pants all that flattering on my body, so I tend to wear mostly skirts and dresses. I believe I look better in them and so consequently feel better about myself. Be critical (in a good way) about what works for you.

We should be thankful for our bodies, but not make them our idols. God made us each a different way because it was His pleasure to do so. Wishing we were different from what we are is, in a way, telling God He made a mistake. Make the best of what you have and play a little of Pollyanna's Glad Game if you need to.
I have a couple of new articles up at different places. The first is Homeschooled through High School:  Taking the Fear out of Creating a Transcript at Something 2 Offer

And the second is Watching Homeschooling Change at Heart of the Matter

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mouse stories

A friend of mine mentioned having trouble with mice every so often which led me to think about the many funny mice stories that I've collected over the years. Since everyone likes a good vermin story, especially one that takes place in someone else's house, I'm going to lighten the mood around here and share some of mine. Plus, writing about dead mice of the past seems nicer than writing about the recently dead and near dead gerbils of the present. (Why do we keep small rodents in tanks, I often wonder.)

All of my good mouse stories happened when we lived in the too small, but charming house. I don't know why it attracted mice like it did, but I can tell you I far prefer mice to raccoons. Just sayin'. At one point I know the problem was the pinata I stored in which was chocolate that I didn't know about. And mice really like chocolate. They like it so much that they can build an entire civilization in ones attic space and only when you go in for luggage you never use do you find them. Or more correctly, you come home from a meeting to discover your husband trying to do battle with the mouse civilization with a vacuum hose in one hand and a rubber mallet in the other.

But there were other mice infestations which had no known cause. I did become pretty adept at storing our food supplies to keep the mice out of it all. And I often wonder what they did to M.'s developing psyche, though that is very much a chicken and egg question. You see, all of my other really good mouse stories involve my young first born who couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 during them all.

The first involves discovering a dead mouse underneath the refrigerator. Being the brave woman that I am, I immediately called J. at work to tell him of my discovery and ask what I should do. (My first plan being to cover it with something so that I couldn't see it and order take-out for dinner because I wasn't planning on going back into the kitchen.) But J. suggested that I ask M. if she would like to take care of the mouse. Her budding scientific nature had already shown itself at this point and mice, dead or otherwise, didn't phase her. So I carefully asked if she wanted to be the one to dispose of the mouse and she happily agreed. Thinking out loud, she decided she needed something to cover her hands, so put on the grilling mitts, picked up the broom of dustpan, swept up the mouse, carried it out back and dumped it in the garbage. One mother rescued from one mouse by one small girl.

Another time, J. had set some traps in the pantry to try to stem the mouse tide. It was in the middle of the day, when M. and I hear the trap snap. I was worried that she would be sad for the mouse and tried to distract her, but she insisted on looking and found the mouse. She was so interested in the mouse that she wanted to keep it. A doctor friend offered to bring home some formalin to preserve the mouse in and so that's what we did. (I have completely blocked out what we did with the mouse in between the trap and the formalin. I'm sure it involved my freezer and I'm even more sure I had nothing to do with it.) When we moved the silly preserved mouse came with us and it still lives in our basement. I offered it to M. to take to school with her, but for some reason she didn't want it. Go figure.

Much of that year was spent trying to kill mice at every turn, which is why my last story is so ironic. One spring day, out in our backyard, J. and M. discover a little mouse nest with three baby mice. They have fur, but their eyes aren't open yet. They weren't sure where the mother went, but were pretty sure she was dead. (I would like to think our big, black dog, Simone, got her, but since I had seen a mouse WALK right across the floor in front of her nose, I'm not so sure it was her.) M. fell immediately in love with the baby mice, so J. couldn't really *ahem* take care of them as he initially wanted to, so we brought them inside. And lined a nice shoe box with soft fabric for them and placed them under a heat light. I then proceeded to try to feed them with an eye dropper while wearing gardening gloves. Every two hours. Through the entire night. Let me tell you, it is much more difficult than it sounds to get a baby mouse to drink from an eye dropper. It is actually virtually impossible. And this was pre-Google, so I couldn't do what I would do today and look up, "How to feed baby mice".

You know what's coming next, right? Slowly, every so slowly, those baby mice died one by one. Once again, I was far more devastated than M. You don't get up every two hours to feed something and then take its death lightly. To this day, the smell of sour milk makes me think of mice because more milk went on the gardening gloves than in the mice and by the end they (the gloves) didn't smell so nice. At least M. didn't want to preserve them as well.

So, what are your good vermin stories?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3 years, 9 months

This is the age the little girls turned a few days ago. You may wonder why I choose to mark this particular anniversary. On the face of it, it seems a bit random. Well, it's because this is the age that TM was when we adopted him. Consequently, I have been thinking a lot about this age and how I perceived him as opposed to how I perceive the little girls.

And my first thought is that they, G. and L., are so little. So little, yet so aware of everything. But even with this awareness, there is still so much they don't understand and the line between make-believe and reality is still so blurry. Three year olds definitely live within their own universe.

The trouble with this line of thinking is that in the end it just isn't fruitful. I can second guess myself until the cows come home and it won't make a lick of difference. No matter how much I wonder if I fully appreciated just how little TM was for such a momentous event to occur, I can't make it any different than it was. I can't go back and prepare myself differently than what I did. Short of experiencing it, on some level there is just no way to prepare yourself for the experience of parenting a newly adopted child who hates you.

It is natural to want to go back and parent this child differently, to be more patient, more understanding. I have learned a great deal about myself and about therapeutic parenting in the ensuing 7 years. If I were to be in the same situation now, it would be very different. But I am a very different person and the path it took to get here was long and hard. And my feelings of deep love that I have for this child have developed and grown over these seven years as well. I know him and love him in a way that was not possible in those very early days.

I may not have that exact little boy to parent and love again, but our God is a God of second chances. Every day I have the opportunity to love this child as he needed to be loved back then. In long talks with the therapist, she sees the difficult behavior as a positive thing. (I cannot tell you how much I hold on to these words. It would be worth the hour and fifteen minute drive just to hear that one thing.) In childhood trauma, part of the child gets stuck at the age the trauma happened. The reason we have a 10 year old who often acts like a three year old, is that the three year old who got 'stuck' is coming out more and more. The therapist says this is showing us that TM trusts us enough to let this part of him out. That he feels we can handle it. And every time this three year old makes an appearance (a fairly regular occurrence these days), I am given my wish to be able to go back and do things better. And every time I am able to give him the support and love he needs when he is at this age, the more healing can take place.

I won't kid you, it is still hard. I am still an imperfect mother. But I have hope again. Hope that by getting a chance to reparent this scared little three year old still trapped within my son we can help him develop and grow and become the healthy young man that God wants him to be.

It is the ultimate do-over.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Playing with fabric

(You're excused from reading this post if you hear the words 'fabric' and 'sewing' and your mind completely shuts off. Kind of like mine does when I hear words having to do with math or other number-related professions.)

One of my ways of dealing with stress (other than extreme sleeping and watching mindless television shows thanks to Netflix) is to make things. This past weekend I have been doing a lot of sewing. Or doing the stuff I need to do to get ready to sew, such as washing and ironing fabric, tracing patterns, cutting things out, etc. The first thing I did was to nearly complete a dress for myself. I tried to take a picture, but it turned out too dreadful even by my questionable photographic standards. (No place to hang it, poor light, no dress form, etc.) When it's done maybe I'll take a picture of myself wearing it and show that to you. It's a wrap dress and I still need to add on a small v-shaped piece of fabric because it is so low cut as to be unwearable at the moment. So that is project number one.

Next, I have decided to make Easter dresses for the three youngest girls and a skirt for P. Yes, crazy, I know, but also therapeutic. It feels good to have accomplished something. Plus, with my taste in children's clothes, I can't afford to buy them and even with the price of fabric, it's cheaper to make them. 

I'm using the 1958 Girl's Party Dress pattern from Sense and Sensibility. (If you don't want to go look at the link, they are short, kimono-sleeved bodices with gathered skirts and a waist sash. I'm also going to be edging the necks and arms with piping. I chose it because it's cute, it comes in the sizes I needed, and there are no separate sleeves so that they should go together fairly quickly. Here are the fabric combinations.

This is for H. the yellow is the main dress and the blue is for the sash and piping.

G. will be in the pink and L. in the purple. Solid dresses with the floral as sashes and piping.

I will also be making a new skirt for P. (She is not so crazy about dresses at the moment and much prefers skirts.) I'll use the same pattern as the last skirt I made, except in this fabric.

Isn't it pretty. It's not linen, but looks a lot like it and doesn't wrinkle nearly as easily.

Here's a detail of the embroidery on it.

The other thing I accomplished other than get all the fabric washed and ironed was to make a couple of muslin bodices so I could be sure of sizing before I cut into the real fabric. I'm glad I did because the arms of the little girls' bodices need to be widened quite a bit. I was also able to find a use for this, ahem, lovely fabric that's been hanging around in my stash. It actually looks far better in the picture than it does in real life. In person it sort of makes your eyeballs bleed. It has now served a useful purpose and I don't have to see it sitting on the shelf any longer.

As ambitious as all this may sound, you may decide that I'm certifiable if I tell you that I'm also contemplating making a new tie for D, having struck out trying to find an inexpensive one for his size. (K. and TM will be wearing sweater vests.) The older three all have store-bought clothes which will work just fine. Having slowed or stopped growing does have its advantages.

In other, more mundane news, we are doing fine here. In some ways, nothing has really changed, except that I can tell that the boy is really NOT looking forward to visiting the therapist for this week's visit. He's what you might call a little touchy, which means that I have a nearly constant knot in my stomach. After years of conditioning, I can hear trauma-related behavior and feel it first in my stomach before it even registers in my head. (Remind me to tell you about the doctor's office and someone else's child someday.) I've been doing a lot of deep breathing. It helps to remind me that we haven't all fallen off the cliff yet, even though we're facing that direction.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When life blows up

Deep breath. Where to start...

Well, the short story is that Wednesday was a really, really horrible day. Really. It began with H. at breakfast complaining of a headache which very quickly degenerated to a short, but intense bout of stomach flu. It was incredibly sad to watch the poor, miserable thing sitting in the chair holding the bowl in her lap with tears silently streaming down her face. She really doesn't like to be sick, not that any of us do, but it fills her with far more misery than anyone else I've ever known. Stroking her head, giving her hugs, telling her we love her and that she'll get better somehow just doesn't seem to be enough.

On top of that a certain boy I know continued to be pretty disregulated. He'd been this way for several days and I find it very draining and it does have the effect of setting the whole household a bit on edge. Sadly, this disregulation descended into a full-blown rage. A rage that caused me to have my older children phone J. and have him come home. (I very rarely call him home... it needs to be very serious.)

And now comes the hard part. How much do I share? How much needs to remain private? How do I share our story so that it can support others in the same situation? How much just doesn't need to be shared? I know that when people are overly cryptic that it often has the opposite effect of what has been intended. People's imaginations race and scenarios which are far worse than the actual event are imagined, and I'm not sure that's helpful. But you know, healing from trauma is messy and hard and people being unwilling to talk about the process just adds to its difficulty and mystery and shame. Things that remain hidden have a way of festering and becoming so much bigger. And isn't that what trauma does to people? Passed events and beliefs and ideas fester and rot and infect to such a degree that they infect the whole person and it is only by bringing them into the light and holding them up against Truth that healing can happen. So I will try to walk the fine line between being circumspect and being honest.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

The morning ended by me yelling to my older children to call 911 because we had reached a point where I wasn't sure I could keep my boy safe. The police and ambulance showed up at our door and suddenly our home was awash in people in uniform. By the time they arrived, the shock of me having yelled the request had jolted the boy's brain into a higher functioning mode and he was calm. And I was calm right up until the point where the female police office walks over and asks what is going on and what help I need.

At this point, anyone walking into the situation would have thought for sure that the emergency workers were there for me. I completely lost it and started sobbing and shaking. I'm pretty sure I was barely coherent and the emergency workers would not allow me to drive to the hospital on my own. Everyone was incredibly kind and J. made it home before the ambulance pulled away. (I was riding in the front and J. followed in the car.) After our stint at the hospital where the boy was checked out medically and J. and I met with the crisis social worker, we went home.

Yesterday morning, I was still emotionally feeling the after effects of the previous day's events. By the afternoon I was feeling significantly better and much more functional. J. is a rock and I can't imagine a more supportive husband or father.

I couldn't see it in the middle of everything or even yesterday, but I have begun to see some of the things I can be incredibly thankful for. First, it is M. and B.'s spring break and everyone was home on Wednesday. My children are very good in a crisis and at no point was I concerned about the younger people. M., B., and A. did a fantastic job of calming and soothing and keeping the house running. Next, just that J. was able to make it home. Often he is not in his office or is in a meeting and letting his phone go to voice mail. I am so thankful that he was reachable. Also, the social worker we met with at the hospital was a good fit. I don't know about you, but there was a not-so-small part of me that was very worried over what the ramifications would be. What was this going to mean as far as involvement of other agencies? It turns out this social worker had extensive experience working with children in residential treatment. He's seen it all and certainly worse than we experienced. He understood; he got where we were coming from; we were all speaking the same language. And finally we have a wonderful support system. We have friends who were willing to drop everything and help if needed (thought we didn't need it at this time). I also have a wonderful group of women whom I'm friends with electronically who are amazing prayer warriors as well as many of them being adoptive parents of hard children themselves. They were able to offer prayer and hope.

Hope. It was definitely what I was missing for about 24 hours. But I heard from several women who have been down this road and were able to give me some hope. Their children went through similar (or worse) phases and they could tell me that now, those children are better. Much, much better. This is really what I needed to hear. It also seems as though when you're talking about healing from trauma, it feels as though it has to get worse before it gets better. So much is dredged up through therapy. It's yucky and hard to deal with and this is especially true for children who don't deal well to begin with. But unless it's dealt with, it can't heal.

I wish I knew how much worse things could get in order to reach healing. At least it wouldn't feel quite so hopeless in the midst of it all. And I think that's why I feel compelled to share our story. It's not pretty and I worry that others will treat my son differently, but I also know that nearly no one talks about this. I really understand why, but it makes it all so much harder to go through.

One last thing. It is so amazing to me what a brain in shock will focus on. Wednesday I had put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt and just pulled my hair back in a ponytail because I didn't have to go anywhere and I was going to take advantage of that and do some cleaning. Now, if you've ever met me in real life, I guarantee that you have never seen me outside my house in sweatpants. Never. All I could think about on the way to the hospital was not about my son, but about the fact that I looked like the most sluggish stay-at-home mom ever and now I had to tell everyone and their dog that we homeschool and had many children and looked like the walking stereotype that I try never to be. I guess it was far easier to fixate on that then to focus on why I was riding in the ambulance to begin with.

And as one final post-script, when you hear a siren, please pull over. Even in our short ride to the hospital I was appalled at the number of cars who just didn't pay attention to the siren.  But I guess that was easier to focus on as well.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Public service announcement

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us yesterday. We are all fine, but there is just too much for me to process at the moment so don't feel as though I can write about it.

In lieu of writing, I want to let all Illinois residents know about a bill about to go before the Adoption Reform Committee at 3pm (CDT). HB 1297 has been proposed and its main feature is that it seeks to remove the DCFS approval process from home studies written for international adoption. Having our home study approved by DCFS before being able to send it to the federal government for visa approval has been the absolute worst step of each adoption. (OK, maybe not K.'s... his whole adoption was long and tedious). I'm sure you all remember the saga of the four month approval process of our home study for H.'s adoption.  Anyway, this would be a very good thing.

There are five members of this committee. Please, if you are in IL, call these people and let them know that DCFS approval for these home studies is not needed. You can go to the IL General Assembly site which lists the committee members or you can just call them using this list: Sara Feigenholtz: 217/782-8062; Naomi Jakobsson: 217/558-1009; Keith Sommer: 217/782-0221; Barbara Wheeler: 217/782-1664; Ann Williams: 217/782-2458.

You have at least one more hour. Please call!
Edited with more updated news... HB 1297 will probably not be heard today as two representatives are working on combining two bills into one that would do more with adoption reform in IL. I don't have details about it yet, but will let you know when I do. In the mean time, if you haven't yet called the representatives on the list, you still have time. Call and email! Reports from various offices are saying they are starting to create rather lengthy lists of people in favor of reform. This is your chance to let IL government know that IL needs to do better with caring for its children and its families.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One year ago

One year ago today, we were in China and "officially" meeting our new daughter, H., for the first time. It's been quite a year.

Some things I was prepared for, some things I wasn't. There are always so many unknowns in adoption, there is no way to prepared for it all. I knew H. would be delayed, I wasn't prepared for quite how delayed. I knew it would take me a while to attach to her, but each time I am surprised by the length of time this process takes. I knew she would have health issues, but had no idea what they would be exactly. And that pretty much sums it up. You know some things, but aren't even sure if what you know is really what is going on. Adoption is a huge leap of faith. Every time.

But this morning I was struck with just how far this girl has come in the past year. A year ago H. was happy to have a mommy and a daddy and a a sister. (She wasn't really sure she was happy to have a brother and the idea of an even bigger brother in the US, where ever that was, filled her with anxiety.) While she was happy to have those things, she had absolutely no idea what it meant. For a looooong time, unknown to us, she didn't realize that this new group of people was permanent, that she was now a part of a family forever. She is still working this out, but is thinking about it at a much deeper level and it is with a sense of satisfaction that she talks about it now.

A year ago, H. was a very hungry girl. Hungry for food and hungry for love and there was no end to her hunger. We just couldn't give her enough of either of those commodities. I knew we were turning a corner the day that she was willing to say she didn't care for a certain food, or the day she left some food on her plate. Somewhere deep inside she is becoming comfortable with the idea that there might just be enough of something for her. The love part, well, we may never be able to fill that well, it is so deep and empty, but we have a God who can and she is getting to know Him as well.

A year ago, she had many questions about the world around her and not many answers. Her vocabulary and her language development indicated a child who had only been talked at and directed to do things. It did not cover the ideas and facts she wanted to know. I will never forget the day when we were at a doctor's appointment with a translator and she was finally able to ask someone why there were clouds in the sky. She is curious and wants to know things. She is finally getting enough English language that we can begin to answer these questions for her.

A year ago, H. was illiterate. She loved stories, but could not read them for herself and had very few read to her. Today, she is reading more and more words and beginning to understand that each word has a meaning. I can see a new world opening up before her. And numbers are also beginning to have meaning rather than being something you write by rote. Those squiggles on the paper stand for something. I can see her brain storing information in more orderly ways. Numbers that she came to us knowing (at least in their specific order in the line-up 1-9), are still difficult for her to retrieve by themselves. But 10  and 0 were new numbers for her that we just recently arrived at in her math book. They are easily retrieved and understood. I am thrilled to see higher brain functioning evidencing itself.

A year ago, H. desperately wanted long hair, but had to put up with her short hair and also begin the task of learning enough self-care to take care of it. Today, I no longer have to help her in the shower or brush her hair for her every morning, she can do it herself. And she is very proud of the fact.

So many gains. So much road yet to travel. The next year will also be eventful as we begin the surgeries that H. is so excited for. At least she is excited for the first one... we'll see what happens after the first.

We recently received yet another picture from when H. first came into care. I thought a bit before putting it up here, because on some level it is a bit shocking. But there are so many children out there who don't look 'normal'. But what they look like really doesn't have a whole lot to do with who they are. H. is a prime example of this. In two or three (I'm still not really clear) surgeries she has gone from this:

To this:

Happy family day, H.! We are so glad you are part of our family.

Monday, March 11, 2013

And I'm the mother of a 20 year old

 Today is M.'s 20th birthday. Twenty! How did that happen? Her spring break also started yesterday, so we celebrated last night. We had bun cha for dinner (our very favorite Vietnamese dish, though it somehow seems wrong to eat it when you're not hot and sweaty). And then we sang and M. blew out her candles. She chose pie, so we were back to the hold-the-candle-thing. She didn't want to be 16 again, so A. held four candles. I don't know why four except that it seemed a good number.

And then because A. and M. are like that, there was a brief moment when A. wouldn't get close enough for M. to blow out the candles and M. started to chase her down.

P20 came to help celebrate.

It was cherry pie because that was the fruit which was on top when I went down to the freezer. (Interestingly, H. decided that she REALLY  didn't like cherries. P. happily volunteered to eat hers for her.) See what the pies say? M. is 20.

And then there were presents.

I have to say, when your child lives in an apartment, it is much easier to buy gifts because there is always something they need. Like a little mini food processor. We all commented on its tiny-ness. Tiny and kitchen equipment don't often go hand in hand around here. (That's M.'s friend, J., in the background. I'll have to come up with some other way to name him because two 'J.'s' is too confusing.)

A design book and a Vietnamese cookbook were also wrapped up.

So Happy Birthday to my lovely and intelligent daughter. I love to see what you will bring into my life next and couldn't be prouder of you. I love you very much!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Games for the whole family

Well, we are having a better day today. After my post yesterday, things went downhill again and I never did get to the grocery store, so I had to go today. (At least I didn't have to pick-up the Legos again... a blessing I don't take for granted.) I took TM and D. with me with the promise of lunch in return for going to four grocery stores. We ended with the Vietnamese market so stopped and had some pho at the diner next door. I've been going to the Vietnamese market a lot with TM these days because it is part of our 'all thing Vietnamese desensitization plan'. He loves it all, but it is a trigger, and his therapist thinks that more will help with that. So off we go at least once a week.

But because everything has all been a bit heavy this week and because one of the week's high points was playing games together, that is what I want to focus on. I have found that if the homeschooling is starting to drag a bit that taking a break and playing some games together is a good way to perk everyone back up. This would include the parent, by the way. My children play games together a lot, but there is something about playing with mom and/or dad that makes it even better. It is time shared together and because you are not really focusing on the other person, but are engaged with them, it leads to some good conversations at the same time. It's kind of like the riding in the car phenomenon of parent-child communication. (You know, when the child is riding with you and you can't look at them because you are driving and it makes conversations seem a little less intense and thus frees the child to discuss things they otherwise might not. Hmmm... wouldn't want to have to diagram that sentence.)

Back to games. We have some favorites that you may or may not know about. Because I'm always on the lookout for good games, I'll share our favorites in case you haven't heard of them.

For the younger set.

I find games for this age group to be trying. They can't read, often can't follow two-step directions, and can't sit still for very long, but still want to play a game. And there are only so many times one can play Candyland. (I think I passed my personal quota several children ago.) Other games for this age group are often equally dull for the adult playing. But there are two games that we have discovered that I actually don't mind playing all that much. They are both Haba games and I have no idea if you can still get them, but it is worth investigating.

The first is Cheeky Badger (or Frechdachs as it says on the box). I really love this game. I involves cute little tin suitcases that the child fills up with clothes and hopes the badger doesn't empty. Play moves by rolling a die with colors or a badger on it. And since there is no game board, no one can 'accidentally' bump the markers off of it by wiggling too much and knocking into it.

The second is Chubby Cheeks. It is a little more involved that Cheeky Badger and has more and smaller parts (not a plus in my book), but the play is simple and a colored dice still indicates the move. And I think the little bags of grain that you collect are cute.

I keep meaning to invest in more Haba games, but for some reason am not thinking about it when gift-giving occasions come around. Maybe this will be my reminder for when I'm getting ready for a couple little girls' birthdays in June.

Once a child can read and follow instructions, a whole new world of games opens up. Of course there are always the standbys of Monopoly and Scrabble and Battleship and Life and the like. They get played with here, but I am not terribly likely to join in. (It really does make me appreciated the day long Monopoly marathons my father would play with me when I was a child.) But there are a whole bunch of other games that I do find fun.

The first is Settlers of Catan. This is a family favorite and my guess is that nearly everyone has heard of it by now. Essentially, you try to build settlements by earning or trading for commodities that you need to do so. It involves a little luck, and little skill, and some great trading skills. M. tells me that the expansions packs for it are just as fun, though we have yet to try one.

Forbidden Island is a game I bought D. on a whim one Christmas that has become popular around here. It is actually a cooperative game, but there is still an element of competition because it is everyone against the island. You must find the hidden treasure before the island sinks and each player is given unique skills to make the job possible.

Ticket to Ride is the game we bought for everyone this past Christmas. It had received good reviews online and I decided to try it. It is as good as the reviews say it is. It is fairly simple to learn, but it does take a bit of planning in order to win. The best thing about it? My children can beat me at it. I know that sounds funny, but I am a little quirky that I don't do well at letting my children win a game. That's probably why it's best I stick with 'luck' games when they are small. But this one, I wasn't pulling any punches with the boys when we played it the first time and one of them completely skunked me. I think I won the next round, but I was impressed with a game that didn't depend on sheer luck that was made so that a 10 year old boy had a chance of beating his (highly competitive) mother. And it has a playing time of about 30 minutes. Just about perfect in my book.

One last game I wanted to mention is actually an educational game. It is called World Wise Geography Card Game and there is a separate game for each continent. We have the European version. I picked it up on a whim at a homeschooling convention one year, because, well, that's what I do at homeschool conventions. I really should stop because my children can smell out an educational game from a mile away, humor me once by playing it and then conveniently disappear the minute it comes out again. But this one has proven a little more popular. Each country or body of water on that continent has a card. On one side is a picture from that country and its name and on the other side is a map showing which countries or bodies of water touch it. When a card is played the next person then either plays a card from his hand that touches the card previously laid down or draws a card. The person can also try to bluff if they don't have a card that works, though there is a penalty for getting caught. I bought the European version thinking it would be slightly easier than some of the other, larger continents. Ha! It just shows how poor my geography is. Usually we play with the map (which is included) open on the table because we find it helpful. Maybe some day we will be confident enough to try it on our own, but we haven't reached that point yet.

We have so many games in our collection that it would be the world's longest post if I were to include every single on of our favorites, but this is a start. What are your favorite family games?

Friday, March 08, 2013

The courage to get up in the morning

I had posted on a group of adoptive mothers last night that it had been a rotten evening and that I was at the point (again) of feeling as if we would never make progress with our son and that I had lost hope of experiencing a better existence with this child. Being in the place of feeling no hope is a miserable place to be. One of the other mothers wrote that 'these are the moments that we ask God to give us courage to get up in the morning... and He does." I love the phrase 'the courage to get up in the morning' because that is really what it is sometimes. A courageous act. And it can be tiring. This morning things are better, but I won't lie, I long for the day that I don't feel the need to hold my breath until I can discern what kind of attitude will confront me.

A friend recommended the book, Wounded Children Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families. As unbelievable as it may seem, this was a book on trauma and adoption that I had missed. I liked it, though I find it a bit unbelievable that a book written in 2009 doesn't mention homeschooling even once in the chapter on how to navigate school with a child coming from trauma. But aside from that, what I liked most were the descriptions of what life is like for families who bring these children into their homes. In my opinion, there is not nearly enough education about what to expect and it ends up catching too many parents off guard. I would say that all children who are adopted have experienced some sort of trauma just because of the magnitude of the loss of biological parents, and there is no way to predict if that child's behavior will be adversely affected. If the child's behavior is adversely affected, you can be sure the adoptive family will be adversely affected as well. Parents need to know this up front.

Too many people are unprepared for the possibility. "Many adoptive parents find themselves in an unfamiliar place. They perhaps have had parenting experience, but only parenting nontraumatized children. They have not cared for children who lack extreme impulse control and who have problems with boundaries, oppositional behavior, difficulty expressing emotions, and so on. They are at a time and place in their lives they have never been. It has stopped feeling good, and they do not like what they are becoming." (pp. 77-78) I found this true for us. We knew how to parent an emotionally healthy child, but were completely unprepared for a traumatized one.

And it is a challenging road. "...adoptive parents identified challenging effects they have experienced as they parent traumatized children. Frustration, which was the major effect named by many adoptive parents, comes because of three major deficits: (1) lack of validation as being the parent of their child, (2) lack of understanding about the difficulties they are living with, and (3) lack of support." (p. 82)

I would add to that list, frustration with knowing whether what you're doing is helping or not or is it ever going to get better or actually knowing anything. While more and more is being discovered about how the brain works and how to help people who have experienced trauma, it is still pretty much unknown territory. It's not easy.

I also think some of this frustration we inadvertently bring on ourselves a bit, mainly because there is a whole lot of shame that goes on as well. We are hesitant to share what life is really like sometimes because we fear people's reactions... that they'll think us poor parents, that they will think less of our child, that we will be shunned in some way, that it will be our fault another child without parents will stay in that condition because we scared someone away with our truth. But unless we are willing to share, even a little, there is no way that another person who has not lived it can even hope to understand. Or even understand that there is something understand.

This description really hit home with me. "One adoptive mother stated, "It is like living with a walking time bomb. I don't know who might be getting up in the morning. Will quiet, calm Jackie be getting up, or will it be angry, aggressive Jackie? Even if quiet Jackie gets up, I still feel like I am walking on eggshells all because I don't know just how long her good mood will last. As a result of this uncertainty, I don't know sometimes how to plan my day. Should I meet other adoptive mom friends in the park for a play day? Or will it collapse into what happened last time? What about going to the mall? I think that sounds like a good idea, until I remembered what happened last time we all tried to go together. It just wasn't worth the effort." (p. 83)

While I understand that many parents feel lack of support (even if they try to describe to friends what their reality is, they are brushed off as being a downer or making it up), I have to say that while this week has been not great, I have felt so supported by my friends. I even had one friend show up this morning with dinner for tonight completely unannounced. I get kind of weepy just typing that. I've had friends insist that they take me out to dinner as a treat. I've had fellow church members come up to me and say they couldn't sleep and had spent the night praying for my family. It is humbling... and wonderful.
This is probably the worst post in the world to remind you about Brandi...

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, March 07, 2013

Life with three year olds... a G. and L. update

Remember those days where every day you would be treated to new pictures of the little girls? Yeah, me too. Once babies reach the little girl stage, they don't seem to change so much and the daily pictures don't seem as vital. I can go an entire week or two without touching the camera. But even if I did take pictures daily, they would very likely look very similar to these. The costumes may change, but the essence is the same. 

These are from yesterday afternoon. This is G. in her giraffe costume. But it's a double costume because that is a Superman costume underneath. It's good to be prepared, you know. I think there was even a cape underneath there.

She was not the only one playing with trains, her two partners in crime were with her. Dressed appropriately, of course. Now I need to go piece by piece in describing L.'s outfit. You see, every night, I lay out clothes for both girls. While they are not matching outfits (I'm pretty low on twinny-stuff currently), they are at least coordinated for each individual outfit. And every morning the girls put on the clothes laid out and come down and eat breakfast. Then, every morning one, if not two, girls go back upstairs and change into other clothes. Sometimes it is into a costume, sometimes it is into seasonally inappropriate clothes, and something it is into a combination of the two. Every day. Some days I lay out the same outfit each night for days at a time. (I would have never let the oldest three get away with this. But I had more energy and less distractions and could focus on less important things.)

So, L.'s outfit in this picture includes: 1 superman costume (the blue underneath), 1 blue cape with gold lining (her Christmas present that I made her... you can see it peeking out below the shorts),1 yellow tank top from the seasonally inappropriate collection, 1 pair of pink socks, 1 pair of red cowboy boots, and 1 Captain Jack Sparrow pirate headband. It's a look. K. completes the trio with his version of a pirate costume, complete with underwear elastic showing. That's probably more a commentary on my inability to find pants that are long enough but also narrow enough than it is on his sartorial sensibilities, though.

They're goofy, these three. And loud and busy and active and fun and cute and crazy-making all at the same time. 

And they crack us up with what they say. Both are very verbal. L.'s language is really taking off and the clarity is improving so that other people even have a chance to understand her these days. L. continues to be all about superheroes and Mickey Mouse. We're also pretty sure that she lives in a completely different reality than the rest of us because of her very strong imagination. An example. K. was wearing a Superman shirt one evening when I asked him to take something to the third floor to be put away. He is not crazy about doing this when the lights are off and told me it was too scary. L. looks at him, looks at what he is wearing, and informs him, "But you have your super hero shirt on so nothing can hurt you." L., who was also wearing some sort of super hero costume takes the item and takes it upstairs for me. Because she was a super hero at that point. 

G. continues to be extremely verbal, and everyone can understand everything she says. Sometimes G. will interpret for L. if we are particularly baffled by what L. has said. G. also has some little verbal catch phrases that she will employ. 'Awesome' is currently G.'s favorite word. Many, many things are awesome, except when they're sad. Many movies, according to G. are sad. I will ask her how she liked something and she will reply, "It was so, so sad." Often I have to ask why because when I think of the movie there didn't seem to be all that sad. She tends to hone in on any little thing and announce it sad. I'll call it empathy for right now.

They are also well aware that they are twins; that there are two of them and that is different from many other people. And they are fascinated with twin-ness in others. Twins in books are particularly popular and the will both announce at the same time, "That's just like us! Like me and G. (if it is L.) and L. (if it is G.)" It doesn't matter how many times they have heard a story, if the story has twins, we must stop and exclaim over the twin-ness every time. I find this particularly interesting since we have never referred to them as 'the twins'. We call them collectively 'the little girls', but this is more along the same lines as other collective phrases we use, "the big kids", "the middles", "the boys", and so on.

They continually amuse me and run me ragged all at the same time. And I continue to be so thankful that they even exist. They are blessings plain and simple. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Crying uncle... or commitment creep

This post is done in the spirit of full disclosure. I do have people who comment on how well I manage to keep it all together, and while I do for the most part, there are seasons where it is more difficult than others. This is one of those seasons, and because I don't want to be one of those people who are always smiling when in public and then break down at home, I thought I would share my current breakdown with all of you.

It's really nothing to be concerned about, but all comes of trying to do too much. It happens to the best of us. Plus, I know how to fix it. I just need to have fewer outside commitments. On the face of it, I don't have that many things I do outside my home and it should seem pretty doable. But I didn't take into account the season of life that I'm currently in. That season would be one where I have four to five emotionally, developmentally, or actual three-year-olds. A season which involves far more doctor's appointments than I usually have. A season where some children need more constant supervision than I usually need to do. A season where I just can't expect to be able to do much critical thinking past dinner time. I described it to a friend as a very intense parenting season.

One of the reasons it feels so intense is the healing that we see happening in TM. We are seeing some really good stuff... the growing ability to talk about emotions, the willingness to think about hard stuff, some really in-control behavior. But the flip side is that in order to get to that good stuff, we are also wading our way through some really yucky stuff. Stuff that needs to be worked through, but it's hard, and intense, and exhausting, and unpredictable. So add to that a child who is still figuring out what it means to be a part of a  family and is still learning to speak English and twins that are just a lot of work to keep track off on their own, well, I'm tired.

So I need to step back from a few things. For instance, I just can't teach in our history co-op. I literally don't have the time to prepare. I will probably cut down on the couple of meetings a month that I go to as well... not feeling as though I need to go to every single one. I need more margin.

I'll still keep blogging. That's therapeutic for me. I really need an outlet for all the stuff that floats around my head and writing is a good way to do that. Plus, it keeps my family up to date on everything we've been up to. But I'm just not sure how much else is going to happen.

When I start having fantasies about having something happen that puts me in a hospital, I know there is too much on my plate. And when I feel overwhelmed, I am not the parent my children need me to be. So I'm taking my own advice and changing my schedule so that I have a better chance of being that good parent.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Happy 15th Birthday, A.!

Today is my darling girl's 15th birthday, and true to form the weather is atrocious. We are having another snow storm and activities are being cancelled right and left. Someday we'll have to get back to Arizona so she can have nice weather on her birthday, the beginning of March just doesn't work for good weather here in the Midwest.

A. is such a great person... happy, bubbly, competent, compassionate, and just a lot of fun. I tell you, if you need your house or life organized, she's your go-to girl. She keeps me organized. (And really, if M. and A. decided to open up shop and start their own organizing business, they'd be unstoppable. Mmmm... maybe they should do that.)

We celebrated A.'s birthday on Sunday because M. could get away from school to join the celebration. Here are some pictures. You'll notice there are no pictures of present opening. That's because there were no presents to open. Before you feel too sorry for her, she had already received her gift from her grandparents in the form of riding boot and riding lessons and she and I are going to do some clothes shopping together in the near future.

Now, this is my great slacker-mom moment. You'll notice that the candles say '16', but A. is only turning 15. that's because I wasn't thinking about candles and this is what we were able to dig out of the cupboard. For a while P. was holding them so it said '61'. No doubt this picture will confuse me (and whoever is looking at it) because we will think it was really A.'s 16th birthday. I apologize to all future family historians.

And we had to hold the candles because A. wanted root beer floats for her birthday dessert and it is rather difficult to stick a candle in a root beer float.

A. also wanted her good friend join us (H. of the H-S family) in case you were wondering who the young lady was you didn't recognize.



Happy Birthday, A.! I love you very much!

Monday, March 04, 2013

What a difference a year makes

On Saturday, we all went to the annual Tet party put on by our local Families with Children from Vietnam group. Well, all of us except J. He was driving home from Indianapolis and joined us in time for the lion dancers. Before I show you pictures, you want to hear about his crazy three days, from Thursday to Saturday? Staying home with 9 children was the easy part. He had a conference in Colorado Springs that he was presenting at on Friday, but the complicating factor was that he had an in-person class for his doctoral program on Saturday. In Indianapolis. So this is how he worked it out. On Thursday, he drove to Indianapolis, put the car in long-term parking at the airport and caught a flight to Denver. In Denver he rented a car and drove down to Colorado Springs. On Friday he spent the day at the conference, after which he drove back to Denver and caught a late flight to Indianapolis and spent the night. That put him in the correct city for his classes. They ended mid-afternoon and he then drove back to Chicago, where he got to go straight to a Tet party. He was a little tired by the time Saturday ended.

And now some pictures.

Nutty K. and A.



And some of the lion dancers. Now, if you remember, last year when we saw the lion dancers, the little girls screamed and screamed and screamed. They were too scary and too loud. Even afterwards, only one little girl even wanted to venture close to the costume. This year, they love them. In fact when it was over, G. looks at me and says, "That was awesome!" They even loved them so much that they were brave enough to feed the lion some money.

H. enjoyed it, but wasn't quite sure of the lions. Here she is examining one of the costumes. I should have taken a video because then you would be able to see her reach out, giggle, pull back, and repeat.

And then there's K. K. lives for lion dancers. He loves them so much that M. even made a costume for Christmas. After the performance, the dancers give the children a chance to try their hand at it. If you look at the picture below, you will see jeans and a green t-shirt. That's K., who spent every single minute under a costume. He also provided me with one of those questionable parenting moments, where you aren't sure whether to be proud of your child or vaguely concerned/embarrassed about his behavior. I was thrilled that K. was enjoying himself and was game to jump right in and try things out. On the other hand, every time I looked, more often than not he had managed to snag the prime spot right in front in the head. I was hoping that he didn't bully his way to the front too much. He may be little, but can be very single-minded when it comes to something he likes. And the boy likes lion dancers.

I have quite a few more pictures which I'll put up on the facebook page.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

You want radical?

I've been thinking about this post for a while. Due to an article in the most recent Christianity Today combined with some comments from some young women I know, and more quality time with Legos have moved it to the top of the list for posting.

There is a part of me that really likes the group of books such as Radical which calls for Christians to stand out from the cultural norm in a noticeable and surprising way. It's a call, in essence, to put your money where your mouth is. Don't we all want to be so different, so transformed, that other people can't help to see Jesus shining through us? But the other part of me feels as though it is almost asking people to prove their commitment to Jesus. This paragraph, in the article, "Here Come the Radicals!" by Matthew Lee Anderson in the March 2013 issue, really struck me. It says,

"By contrast, there aren't many narratives of men who rise at 4 a.m. six days a week to toil away in a factory to support their families. Or of single mothers who work 10 hours a day to care for their children. Judging by the tenor of their stories, being 'radical' is mainly for those who already have the upper-middle-class status to sacrifice."

And it makes me wonder why a man stepping up to support his family isn't also considered radical. Or why a woman who stays home with her children and dealing with bodily fluids on a daily basis isn't considered radical. Or why I have heard from more than one young woman that there is no way she could be following God's will in a big way if she ends up married and living the suburbs. The suburbs! The horror!

It sometimes feels as though the only way to be radical is to serve overseas, or move to the inner city, or do something equally 'big'. While I don't discount that there are people who are called to do these things, I also don't want to fall into the trap of thinking what people do doesn't count if it doesn't fall into these parameters.

Because, you know, we aren't the ones who get to decide how someone is or isn't following God's calling and bending their will to His. And I will admit that I am very good at internally deciding whether someone measures up or not. But God is good and corrects those He loves in order to bring them closer to Him. And I have been humbled in this respect. Recently, God has impressed upon me how others are quietly serving Him, in ways I didn't know about. It is flashy or big or something that draws attention to them. But these servants are quietly doing things that share God's love with others and make no fuss about it or draw attention to themselves. Yet I am humbled by how they serve because they are serving in ways that either don't occur to me or in ways that would make me very uncomfortable.

So if you really want to be radical, it is being willing to do what God puts in front of you at any given time. For a season, that might mean that God is calling you to care for your children, to be up at night, to change a lot of diapers and do a lot of laundry. This is radical because it is what God calls you to do and you are obedient. Or being radical means that you keep sandwiches in your car so that when you come across a homeless person you can share what you have. And you don't tell anyone about it. This would be radical. Or maybe being radical is checking on and being a friend to a disabled person. Because they have needs and because you can be a friend.

I think it is obedience and a willingness to do things quietly and without proclaiming what you are doing that are the things that are truly radical. What has God put in front of you right now? That's His calling on your life right now. That's what He's asking you to do. It could be something as simple as taking a neighbor grocery shopping every week. It could be as big as starting to adopt a child who needs a family. It could be something that no one except God will see, or it could be something that draws the attention of many. The question is, are you willing to do what He asks? Being a follower of Jesus is in itself radical because He requires nothing less than everything we have. But what that 'everything' is looks like is different for every single person.

My radical may look like me picking up Legos again because that is what my son needs me to do to heal. Your radical may never involve a single Lego, but it will mean you are doing something that Jesus asks you to do, whether that is something that seems big or very, very small. We all want to do the big things, to be the impressive Christian whom God must love very much because of what we are asked to do. But we limit God when we think this way. God can use everything to His purpose and it is not up to us to decide when one thing is more important than another. We just need to support our brothers and sisters as they are obedient and to be obedient ourselves. That's all.

Be radical.

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