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Showing posts from June, 2013

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There are quite a few things that cause people to stop in their tracks and stare at our house as they're walking down the street. (Really, they do. I've watched them.) It could just be the size and ugliness and disrepair of the outside of the house. Or it could be the ridiculous number of toys that often litter our front yard. (We currently have three big wheels and one Plasma car that are in use.) Or sometimes it is the number of children playing in the yard... there is a little person for each ride on toy and they are used a lot. But I've also seen people stop and comment (or ask to take picture) on the tree we have growing in our front yard. It used to be a regular looking tree that had a slight horizontal tilt to it. In general it's growth could have been considered vertical. Not so much anymore. It is a completely horizontal-growing tree. See what I mean...


In the past year it has been sinking lower and lower as the tree grows and the weight on the end increases.…

And 76 pounds of strawberries later...

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All 14 of us (we were only missing J.) drove up to go strawberry picking yesterday afternoon. We had great weather and the strawberries were huge and very sweet. The fields were still pretty wet so by the time we were done everyone's feet were pretty soggy. Some people were very good at picking and others were very good at eating and some managed to do both. Since we had so many people picking we ended up with a lot of strawberries. 12 of those baskets full that you see people carrying. Guess what I'm doing for the next few days? I will be spending quality time in my kitchen processing strawberries... jam, freezing, and I'm going to try dehydrating some as well. I flip-flop back and forth between thinking, 'We have too many strawberries!" and "We don't have enough strawberries!" 
G. and L. are looking particularly twinny in these pictures and I actually had to stop and think which girl was which when I looked at them. G. started out in braids, but t…

Resorting to a book report

I have so many things that I'd like to share, but for various reasons, can't. For instance, tonight the play version of Jurassic Park, for which M. spend countless hours making dinosaurs, opens and then I can finally share pictures of the puppets. We will also be going strawberry picking soon and then I can share pictures of  that. And I need to take some pictures of H. to show the improvement in her face after two months of healing, but I haven't done that yet.

Things with hosting are going well and the 3 year old is great pals with the little girls and K, but I have decided that that is a topic about which I cannot blog. It's not for lack of interesting ideas to share, but who wants to move into someone's home and suddenly find themselves the subject of public blog fodder. Nope. Can't go there. I did pick up a book at the library yesterday called, Teach Yourself Spanish in 24 Hours. If only it were that easy, right? At least I have a step up in that Spanish i…

Asking hard questions

Really? No one? I feel a bit as though I'm standing in front of a classroom saying, "Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?" (And thus successfully dating myself at the same time.) I've been thinking about the question I posted yesterday for a while and here is what I've come up with.

Sometimes figuring out what is at the root of negative behavior in our children (and ourselves) is like playing detective. It's the whole 'cock-a-doodle-thing'. The presenting issue is very usually not the real problem. It also involves asking some hard questions that may be uncomfortable to answer. In a scenario with a sibling chronically not getting along with another, here are some questions I would examine. (And, even though in this story, the problem involves three boys, there is usually one ring-leader which the others are following. I would focus my attention on the instigator, because if his behavior can be changed, the others will most likely follow along.)

The first hard que…

Reader question

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a reader asking if I had any advice about how to navigate an issue connected with older child adoption which had come up. I am extremely short on time this morning, so I am going to do things backwards than I had planned. I'll post a summary of the question and you all can chime in with your wisdom, and then tomorrow, when I have a bit more time, I'll share some thoughts and ideas.
Basically, the situation is...
There is a group of older children and a group of younger children with the new child age-wise being in the older half. But, due to various issues with adjusting and ability, he doesn't always act as the older children expect. The younger group is more accommodating to him and so that's where he 'hangs out'. The older children are not quite as accepting and their interactions are not so positive. This mother would love to hear ideas about how to encourage her older children to be more accepting... understa…

Happy (belated) 10th birthday, D.!

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We celebrated D.'s birthday last night. He chose steak salad for dinner and strawberry pie for dessert. Because my birthday candle collection is becoming truly pathetic, P. was holding a '1' candle and another candle to sort of represent 10. (Remember, we have to hold candles around here because everyone picks pie and it is very difficult to put candles in pie.)

The other candle happened to be a relighting one, so they played with that for a while.


And then it was time for presents. My birthday wrapping supplies are perhaps even more pathetic than my birthday candle supplies. TM helped wrap, but eventually decided to just put everything into a gift bag because we had no tape and only Christmas wrapping paper.


But the outside doesn't matter so much when you're really excited about the new Lego set you are getting. (Thanks to generous grandparents.)


And there were other gifts, too. A game, a collection of new audio stories, and the promise of an Asterix book, which …

My life is a farce

The campers all arrived last night in varying states of health. Evidently a stomach flu was making its way around the camp and D. succumbed just before getting in the car to come home (at least J. had a heads' up and was able to lay in appropriate supplies... which were needed) and B. spent more time than he wanted in the bathroom last night. It seems to be a 24 hour thing, though, because D. is up and back to his old perky self again. J. and TM had a good time together, though a very soggy one. No rock climbing for them first because of the rain and then because the rocks were too wet. (And I feel really badly for J. because he feels about rock climbing the way I feel about horses.) There is a pile of luggage containing laundry I'm sure I don't really want to touch in the front hall which needs to be tackled this morning. But everyone is home and that makes me happy.

I caught a little bit of a radio show yesterday morning as I was getting dressed and the question was aske…

A little June craziness

As some of you know, we here in the Big Ugly House like to smoosh all of our celebrations into just a couple of months. It's more efficient. June is the big winner with 6 birthdays and 1 anniversary. And we are right in the middle of a three-day extravaganza. Yesterday was D.'s 10th birthday (I'll do a birthday post for him next week after we celebrate... he's been at church camp this week). Today is J.'s birthday, but we'll celebrate that later as well. More on why in a moment. And tomorrow is our 22nd anniversary and I don't know if we will do anything to celebrate it or not. Sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle.

Today is the pick-up day for all the people at church camp and someone needs to be there at 6 pm to bring them all home. It is a slightly awkward time, and so J. hatched a great plan. He has been working on doing things with TM to continue to build their relationship and TM really loves to camp. So, J. decided to take him on a quick one night ca…

Muscles I had forgotten I had

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I am just a little bit sore today. All over. And why is this? Well, A. is away being a counselor at church camp, and yesterday was her and P.'s riding lesson. So I did what every horse-obsessed 47-year-old woman who hasn't been on a horse in over 20 years would do, I took her lesson. And there were a couple of moments I thought I was going to die from fatigue and I loved every minute of it.

For those of you who have never really ridden. It uses just about every muscle in your body. Not only are my legs sore, but my back and upper arms and shoulders are also sore. It is particularly good for core muscles and I'm a little sore around the abdomen as well. It is quite a work-out and I realize that at heart I am a slug, mainly because I HATE exercising for exercising's sake. And this is how I know how much I love horses and riding. It hurts to move, but I would get back on a horse today if I could.

Getting back up on a horse after 20 years is not quite the same thing as get…

The non-emergency emergency room visit due to the not-so-safety glass mishap

Well, I have to say all of this mechanical malfunctioning around here is growing a bit tiresome. It would almost be laughable... if it were happening to someone else.

The next installment in the saga of When Machines Hate You...

The day had been going fine. People were playing happily, I had made it to the grocery store, and next on my list was to put everyone in the van and return the Harris loan box to the museum, stopping by the Vietnamese market on the way. (Now what happens next may have been God's way of saving me from my own stupidity of thinking I could run these two errands with 9 children in tow with four of them under 5 years of age including one infant.) Before we could head out, we needed to install two more car seats, bring the total of car seats to five, with every bench having a five-point harness seat in it. Since M. was home and she is good at this type of thing, she moved and installed them all for me while I did things like make sure everyone was dressed and ha…

Mixing it up

Well, last night wasn't too bad. The baby went to sleep at 11, woke up at 2 am (conveniently timed with one of the little girls needing to be covered up), went back to sleep until 5 am, and slept through my alarm going off. (That would be the baby sleeping through it, not me.) I'll probably make it through the day.

On Sunday we all drove up to church camp and dropped off D., our sole camper this week. B. and A. are counselors this year, but they had gone up the day before. I have discovered that even one person being gone changes the family dynamics a bit, and three being gone changes them a whole lot. It is always interesting to see the new combinations of interaction that happen which are often very different from when everyone is home.

So the people at home this week are M., P., TM, H., K., G., and L., plus the two temporary little ones. Not much has changed for H. and the three littles. They often all play together and that has continued, adding in the little three year ol…

Teaching reading

The children arrive this morning with their mother gradually joining us over the next days and weeks. Since I'm pretty sure I'm not getting much sleep the next two nights as the baby makes the transition to new caregivers, I thought I would write a post with some content because who knows when you will see that again?

Last night I finished reading the book, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, by Donalyn Miller. I really loved this book even though the intended audience were traditional school teachers, mainly because I share the author's love of books and reading and sharing that joy with children. And I loved her reading about her journey of how she shares that joy with the children who pass through her classroom. What I found particularly striking is that in reading her descriptions of how she 'teaches' reading is that where she has landed is what many of us homeschoolers do with books and reading and our children. I will elaborate, but…

Happy 4th birthday G. and L. and Happy 18th Birthday, B.!

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Today is our triple birthday of B., G., and L. We celebrated last night because B. and A. leave today to be counselors at church camp. Here are some of the many pictures taken.
 We did presents first since the peach pie was still really hot. Here are the three birthday people.
L. (on left) and G. on their new slumber bags.
Now for these next pictures, had I known what was going to happen, I would have had someone take video as well. You all know that L. loves Superman, right? Well, with the new movie coming out, there are a lot of Superman items in the stores, so I thought L. would enjoy having a small Superman doll. Boy was a I right. In the next three pictures, you must also imagine a child so overcome with excitement that she has lost all power of speech. All she could do was to make one long continuous sound something along the lines of, "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee....." This went on until she has the actual figure in her hand.

Seeing Superman (and the noise beginning)

Life is never dull around here

Everything is still a little bit up in the air and probably won't be finalized until the weekend, but if I wait until Monday to tell you what is going on, it will be not as helpful to ask for the items I will need to borrow. That's all very cryptic and mysterious isn't it?

I have blogged about Safe Families before. Our good friends, the H-S family have been hosting two little ones for the past month. For various reasons, they will be unable to continue to care for them starting next week, so everyone has been working on figuring out what is best for the children and their mother. Well, between Safe Families, the H-S family, Su Casa (the shelter the mother is living in... from my brief contact with them a truly phenomenal place), and the mother, it looks as though we are the best choice. And the way that works (because you all know our family size is a huge issue for many people) is that it is also looking as though the mother will be moving in, possibly in stages, as well.…

Parenting a little differently

One of the comments left on yesterday's post asked a question that I felt really needed to be answered in a post. It's an important question and one that I have certainly asked myself. The gist of the question is, "Does parenting a child in the way I described yesterday, cause them to learn it is OK to misbehave?" That is, if I ignore some of the behaviors I see in TM, does that somehow communicate to him that it is OK to act that way? And once again, had you asked me 7 years ago, my answer would be very different from what it is now. It is all part of that humbling experience.

I think the authors of the book, The Explosive Child, explain it best. Pretty much, a child does the best that he can. Due to the way his brain has been wired, being flexible, changing plans, making transitions are things that are VERY difficult for that child to do. His brain is literally unable to cope and that is when we see behaviors we would rather not. We would not expect a child who is …

Positive interactions

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A while back, when it became clear exactly how far south things had gone with my traumatized boy, I made a conscious decision. My goal for my interactions with him was to have as many positive ones as possible. Because of the way trauma affects children, it was very simple for him to take any situation and make it negative. People suffering from trauma want to make others feel as yucky as they do. It doesn't help them feel any better, but misery does love company. And unless you, as a parent, are consciously working against it, it is so easy to join in the negativity.

Obviously this is not good, because no one wants to live with constant negativity, but there is another reason as well. Brain science has shown that the things we do repeatedly make paths in our brains. The more we do something, the bigger and stronger the path. (Obviously this is not a technical description of the process.) This is why habits are so difficult to break; the brain must be rewired to make it happen. Th…

Dratted alarm clock

But not for the reason that you think, I bet. No, it's because it only randomly works, and today was not one of the mornings it chose to function. Without an alarm, I just do not wake up. And I can't just make my whole morning shift just a little later because I am in the middle of my week of driving to the eye doctor. Two children down, four to go, plus various other appointment. Even the dog.

I have a question for all of you though. Feel free to comment and then others will have something interesting to read because they aren't finding it here this morning. Have any of you read or heard about the book (or the author) Beyond Smarter: Mediated Learning and the Brain's Capacity for Change by Reuven Feuerstain, Rafael Feuerstein, and Louis Falk. It sounds fascinating, something that could be very helpful to my population of children, and a brain book that I've never read.

And my library (and all the surrounding libraries) don't have it. And I hate to buy books if…

The requisite post-convention post, plus a little letter to curriculum publishers

My speaking gig went well... I think. People came. I communicated information. The audience laughed at my jokes. (A bit. I think everyone was pretty tired having spent the day listening to people talk at them.) And then I was free to enjoy the rest of the convention without worry that people would think I was the most boring thing since they last watched paint drying.

For me, the best part of going to the state homeschooling convention is having a break and spending time with friends. Oh, and doing a little shopping at the vendor hall. It was a fruitful endeavor because not only did I pick-up the books various people needed for the fall, I also created a plan for what we would study together. It looks as though we'll focus on Ancient Rome and marine science. When I ran it by the intended audience, they all thought it sounded interesting, too.

All of this leads me to the real point of this post. After having looked at a lot of curricula over the years and used it myself and talked …

More large family joy

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But first I have to share a picture with you.


This is a picture of the combined 25 children of our family, the H-S family, and the P. family. (If you are actually counting children, you will see that there are only 24 actual bodies, but P21 on the right hand end is holding an iPad on which, via facetime, is the oldest H-S daughter who lives on the west coast.) They are all in age order, [click on the link... really... it has a similar past photo from 4 years ago] so the age range is 30 down to 3. (Well make that 3 and 11/12ths because those little girls have birthdays coming very, very soon.) Now that so many of these ever-growing-older children are off to college, being able to have them all together happens very infrequently these days. We had to take advantage of it. They like to humor us, so they all agreed to stand in a line for many pictures. Sorry it's so small, but you have to stand really far back to get this many people in one photograph. (Remember you can click on the p…

The joys of a large family

Since yesterday's post was not-so-optimistic, I thought I should balance the scale by writing about what are some of the joys of raising a large family. In my opinion, these outweigh any negatives... even negatives involving appliances.


There is always someone to play with. With enough people around there is usually someone who is willing to play the desired game. There are enough people to play hide-and-seek or sardines or games requiring more than two players. There are enough people to act out Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There are enough people to both turn and jump a jump rope.Intense parental energy is spread over a wider audience. My older children in particular see this as a huge benefit. One child rarely gets complete and focused parental energy for an extended period of time. It gives a child a little room to be themselves and try things for themselves. The few times we have eaten dinner with just one child, the child tends to get a deer-in-the-headlights look about th…

Appliances and the large family

I have thought of another thing that could be considered a negative for having a large family. The very much shortened life span of appliances. I have decided that there is planned obsolescence built-in to appliances and that after so many uses, they just break regardless of how old they are. And if you have many children the appliances get used a lot more than in a smaller family.

I don't think we are particularly hard on our appliances. We try to treat them with respect and not abuse them, but we do use them a lot. But even with respect, they are dropping like flies. Plus they must have all gotten together at some time late at night and made some type of suicide pact with each other because it is looking as though they are all going to go belly up at the same time.

The details? Two days ago the washer stopped working. It won't spin. Of course the only way to find this out is to go down to the basement to move the laundry to the dryer only to discover very wet clothes inside …