Monday, September 30, 2013

A wee bit obsessed with Burda 9614

Remember the t-shirts I made G. and L. with Superman and a panda embroidered on them? Well, I was so pleased with how they turned out that I decided to make another version of it with long sleeves. (The little girls are growing through their clothes and are in dire need of things that actually fit.) So I dug out my embarrassingly large stash of knit fabric and made this. (There are actually two of them, but L. took hers somewhere and I haven't found it yer.) 

Cute, huh? I love the fabric. But then they needed pants, so I tried making some leggings to match. I see a lot of leggings in their future because I was able to make two pairs, from tracing the pattern to the final hem in one afternoon.

And I'm a little proud of them. They look as good as the leggings I recently bought for the girls at the store, but with the fabric I already had, they were cheaper.

Well, then I was on a roll and I had yet more knit fabric, so I decided to try a different version. This one has a hood and contrasting long sleeves. The pink version is G.'s and she loves it. I have a red striped one cut out for L., I just need to find some time to make it.

G. particularly loves the hood.

Lastly, because everyone needs a Monday morning laugh, look at this most excellent photo bombing that L. managed. A. was taking a picture of G. and when she looked at it afterwards discovered a crazed L. in the background.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Adventurous eaters

Several weeks ago, TM and I were in a local Vietnamese market and while browsing, saw packages of cooked, frozen clams for very little money. TM (who loves seafood in all forms) was instantly smitten by the little shells. As they weren't very expensive, I bought a pound and took them home where they sat in the freezer. Usually something like this would then be forgotten for months on end, except that a boy I know, when he is captured by an idea, is a wee bit preoccupied by it. In self-defense, I had to come up with a way to fix them. Thanks to my favorite Vietnamese cookbook, The Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham, I found what I thought was a solution. It was a recipe for mussels in a lemongrass broth, but it said you could use clams as well.

The other thing that has been going on around here is a cooking bug that has infected several children. I have had numerous requests that each of them be allowed to cook dinner. (Shame, isn't it? You probably couldn't clock in seconds how fast I agreed to that.) So last night A. and TM took over the cooking duties. They did a great job and the clams worked out just fine. Nearly everyone loved them. A couple of children dutifully tried the clam on their plate and decided that it, perhaps, wasn't their favorite. We all decided that I need to buy clams again, and then perhaps get the slightly bigger bag.

This is one way to create adventurous eaters... to prepare new and different things and then try them. Not everyone may like them (but they are certainly NOT allowed to complain, just like any dinner), but the trying is to be praised. We also play up the whole fun and adventurous aspects of the whole endeavor. And there are always the times when a parent doesn't like the new food, but the children do. It's happened. It's also a great time to model trying and not liking a new food. Unless you are pushing your own taste buds, it's a little unfair to only make your children do it.

Of course, now TM has saved nearly every clam shell and wants to keep them. They have been sitting in a strainer all night and I think he will have a lot of scrubbing to do to clean them. I'm not even sure what to do with them after that so they won't smell. Any ideas?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Aunt Frances

Yesterday I managed to sneak up to my bedroom and do a little sewing. (I have several things I've made which I want to share... just have to take pictures.) While I was doing so I had the radio on and was listening to Chris Fabry's program. There was a discussion about an email he received discussing how best to love and support a child who has had a disappointment or crisis. The biggest hang-up the responding listeners had was with the use of the word 'wallow' in the email. As in, we shouldn't let our children wallow in their problems. It was seen as terribly uncaring and unloving.

I disagree. Sometimes allowing our children to wallow in their disappointments and problems is the opposite of loving. Here is an excerpt from the letter I wrote to Chris Fabry this morning. I only have the time or energy to do so much critical thinking in a day, thus the double-dipping. (Lorraine was the writer of the email under discussion.)

I thought Lorraine's comments were well thought out and I didn't actually have difficulty with her use of the word 'wallowing', though it seems I am in the minority. In listening to the discussion, I couldn't help thinking of the children's story, Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It is an older book, first published in 1917, but is one of those books which should be required reading by every family. There is a character in it, Aunt Frances, who I think illustrates exactly what Lorraine was trying to communicate. Aunt Frances has had charge of her little niece, Elizabeth, since Elizabeth was a baby and loves her dearly and tries her very hardest to raise the child to the best of her abilities. Yet, in doing so, she creates a little girl who is fearful and shy and prone to dwelling on her own feelings to an unhealthy level. Aunt Frances manages to have done this because she is oh, so concerned with each and every hardship and disappointment and fear that the little girl experiences. Every molehill is made into a mountain and every mountain is made into Mt. Everest. She does it all with the best of intentions and soley by entering into Elizabeth's travails and wanting to understand her and have her feel understood. It is brilliantly written.

Well, I fear that we have become a nation of Aunt Franceses. At no point in Lorraine's letter did I feel she was dismissive of her children's or other's difficulties, she merely wanted the adults who surround them to put those difficulties into context. This does not mean we do not sympathize with whatever crisis du jour happens to land on our child's plate, it does mean that we keep our sympathy to an appropriate level. Often I find, when my children come to me with worry or disappointment or devastation, they want me to sympathize, but they are also trying to determine exactly how bad things really are. If I over-react or over-sympathize, I merely confirm in their minds that yes, indeed, things really are horrible, and panic and despair are truly called for. This is often the opposite of the feeling I had hoped to produce. Instead, if I acknowledge their feelings (Boy, that stinks that you didn't get the role you wanted. It feels pretty rotten when you feel overlooked. Why don't you take a day or two before deciding to quit the show altogether.), and give them some time put things in perspective, they manage the small trials of life rather smoothly. (Even if to them, the small trials seem rather huge.) But, if I join them in their wallowing (yes, I will use that word), I merely confirm that this is really rotten, so rotten that even my mom can't get over it. Things must be really bad. Time to panic. 

We can sympathize and love our children, offer them support, and then the best thing we can do is point out to them that the world hasn't stopped spinning and that life goes on regardless of what has happened. We may not like it, we may not have chosen it, but we trust in a God who is good and eventually we will look back and see the blessings in the hardships.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Impromptu field trip

There are some mornings when you wake up and the sun is shining and the weather is pleasant. There are also some mornings when before 9 am has even arrived multiple children have either disregulated or melted down. These are the mornings when you know you just need to cancel school and go to the zoo. A change of scene, being outdoors, using lots of energy is just what is needed. This is exactly what we did this morning.

We had a lovely time. The zoo wasn't too crowded, the weather wonderful, the children re-regulated. Ahhh... We only missed seeing the brand-new baby rhino because he was napping that the keepers couldn't get him to wake up and come outside. It was even empty enough that I was willing to take the crew to the children's zoo to climb on the huge play structure. (Which always strikes me as a claustrophobic nightmare when too crowded.) After two and a half hours, we headed home in time for a late lunch. It was a good day. Far better than it would have been had I tried to do book work this morning.

Which leads me to mention another blessing that a difficult adoption brings that I didn't think to mention in yesterday's post. That would be the ability to live in and appreciate the moment. You see, life does not always go swimmingly around here. Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's really hard. But there are also those moments when life feels calm and possibly normal. You learn to soak those up and use them to breath and gather your strength.

I didn't always do this. I was too busy worrying about what the next crisis will bring. I discovered that this is really not healthy and the next crisis did come whether I worried about it or not. In the meantime, I missed out on the good times by clouding them with my worries. I'm not perfect at this, but I am much better. I know the rough times will come, but they will come regardless of how much I worry. Now, I would much rather just enjoy the pleasant times and be thankful for them. You would think that this crazy life of mine would cause me to worry more, but I think it has caused me to worry less. (I still worry, but I know it is not to the same extent that I used to when everything was easy.) I know I have lost control of pretty much everything and have had to hand it over to God. It's hard to worry about things when you have put God into control. It's a funny thing that I am more peaceful because my life is harder.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Can I write this?

A friend on facebook caught the error that I titled yesterday's post about apple picking with the year '2014'. That pretty much sums up how I feel about 2013; I'm ready to see its backside. It's been a year of some pretty tough stuff. I won't lie, nearly all of it has all been trauma/adoption related. It hasn't been easy. There have been some times when I wonder if we had made a mistake. There have been times when I wonder if I can still advocate for families to pursue adoption knowing what I know. There have been times when I want to just get a giant redo and pretend this whole crazy adventure never happened. It has been that hard. The hardest thing I've ever done.

This morning when I saw that No Greater Joy Mom was having a link-up about the blessings of adoption, I wondered if I was at a point where I could say that adoption is a blessing. Sometimes in the midst of struggles it is difficult to see clearly what is really happening. Hind site brings a certain clarity that one often doesn't have in the midst of difficulties. And as I sat and thought about it, I do believe that I can write that adoption is a blessing.

But in order to say this, I think we really need to define what blessing is. Far too often, I think we see the idea of blessing as being something nice and pleasant. We tend to see blessings as being what we knew we wanted and what makes our life easier and more pleasant. Blessings, defined in this benign way never require something from us except to sit back and enjoy them. Far too often we see being blessed as being sort of like having a Christmas morning where you received everything on your list all the time. I will admit to having this facile idea of blessing for a long time. It always made the beatitudes in Matthew 5 a little difficult to wrap my head around. For those of you who may not know this passage, 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5: 3-12, ESV)

It really doesn't look as though being blessed is all rainbows and happy trees all the time, does it? What it does look like is that life is hard, but better things await those who follow God. Doing what is right can be hard. 

So, where am I going with all this rambling? Well this is all to say that I really do believe that adoption is a blessing. It is a blessing to be part of God's redemption of the world. It is a blessing to offer His love to a hurting person in a sacrificial way. It is a blessing to know with every ounce of your being that you are doing Kingdom work every single day. It is a blessing to know that no matter how deep your despair that you always find God there waiting to catch you. It is a blessing to know that sin is real and it is ugly and it has far reaching ramifications, because the more you know about its ugliness, the more you want to run from it.

Adoption experience, like any parenting experience, runs on a spectrum. One experience is no more valid than another. Some have experiences where the child adapts wonderfully and is not affected by past experiences. We have had that experience with K. While he does have some physical effects from his time in the orphanage and because of clefting, but in the great scheme of things its pretty negligible. Some have more middle ground experiences. There are some issues with functioning due to past experiences, but while they can be troublesome sometimes, they are not something that consumes the family. Our experience with H. would fall in this area on the spectrum. Her physical needs are greater than K.'s and require more doctors and specialists and surgeries. She also has some post-trauma behaviors that we are still working through. Her passivity and tendency to check-out (disassociate) at the drop of a hat do impede her daily functioning and are something we are constantly having to work on. This is more frustrating than anything and doesn't really affect the family as a whole in a major way. And then you have the other end of the spectrum where past trauma affects every single aspect of a child's life... everything he does, says, thinks. It impedes his daily functioning and relationships. It affects us as his parents. It affects the family as a whole. Someone who has not experienced the chaos one traumatized child can bring to a family cannot imagine what it is like to live with it on a daily basis. When you are not in a crisis, you are wondering when the next crisis will come and what it will look like. I not-so-jokingly say that I have become as hyper-vigilant as my son. 

Everyone wants to hear about the happy end of the spectrum, but not so many people want to hear about the other end. We who speak about it often receive several common responses. The first is to dismiss it. Surely life can't be as rocky as we make out. Because this type of life hasn't been experienced, it is difficult to imagine. But I would venture to say the opposite is true. Whatever someone is willing to share publicly is the sanitized version. You can be sure what it is really like is far worse. The second is to blame the parent. If the parent did a better job at, well, just about anything, the child would be healthier and easier to live with. Because these children often do a very good job of seeming emotional healthy in public (though this is not always the case), it is difficult to imagine the sweet, engaging child as a raging and out-of-control one. The third is to silence us. We are not helping children who need families by stating the truth. We will scare people away. No one wants to hear it and besides it's just a small group of children anyway. Let's just not talk about it. All this does is sweep a real issue under the carpet and instead of preparing parents they are blind-sided by it all when it does come their way. These are the adoptions which are disrupted or worse. How does this serve the child? Combined all together, these responses cause people to keep silent and make those who do experience this feel isolated and alone. Speaking the truth can never hurt.

Right now I bet you're wondering how I can still say adoption is a blessing (and I'm pretty sure that this is not the type of post that was being looked for). I love my son and am privileged to be his mother. I have grown and seen God in ways I could never have had I taken an easier road. Adoption is a blessing. It is a blessing to the child who has a family. Being in a family is the child's only hope of finding health and healing. It is a blessing to see God working. It is a blessing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Apple picking 2013

Saturday morning we all piled in the van and drove to Michigan to pick apples, meeting our friends the P family and the H-S family at the orchard. We had beautiful weather, though it did turn a little chilly later in the day. Because it takes approximately 10 minutes for 14 people to pick 3 bushels of apples, we had planned to drive to a park and picnic afterwards to make the drive a little more worthwhile. It was a good day.

Some pictures:


P8 and D.



G. (Admire the outfit... she chose it herself. I think the polka dot knee socks are the crowning touch. My younger self would have never let her leave the house in it.)

J. and G.

TM, clearly saying, "Why are you taking my picture, we're just picking these apples."

A. H-S, P14, A., and P.

Some of our college girls were able to join us... M. and AL H-S

L. and B. spent a lot of time together. Since L. had new sneakers, she wanted to run and B. was happy to join her. (She announced that her new sneakers make her faster than Superman. Now you know.)

Cute, cute, cute

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival - a day late

It was a crazy day which began with no internet and too much pee, thus, no blog post. Here is what I was planning on sharing this morning.

Last Friday night we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with our good friends the P Family and the H-S Family. Technically, it was Thursday, but Friday fit better with everyone's schedules, so that's what we did. The rain held off, though we didn't get to see the moon.

A. helping to light lanterns

Some of the littles

Some of the middles

More middles

A. and P14

Best buddies (that would be K. and P5 on the right)

Randomness (that's D.)

Moon Cakes! Our assortment had pineapple (my favorite), bean paste, and salted egg. (The salted egg was not the most popular,except with A.)

H. H-S, P17, and B.

I also have a new article up on politics and homeschooling.

Friday, September 20, 2013

K. post-op update

K. had his first post-op appointment this morning. The repair looks really good, particularly now that the surgical tape and crusty blood stuff has been cleaned off. Even though it is still healing, I think it looks better than it did pre-revision. He always had a very slight raise to his upper lip where the small scar pulled it up a bit. It wasn't very noticeable, but it was there. Now, his upper lip has no pull at all. I think by the time it fully heals and we do the scar massage, no one will know it was ever repaired. His nose looks a lot more even as well. Everyone is very happy with it and K. is quite relieved to have the surgi-tape off.

I was glancing at the post-visit report that was handed to me after the visit and they always include a "problem list" (I think they could come with a better name), and while I know everything on the list, to see it all written out was a little jolting. (This is a health system-thing, not something unique to the plastic surgeon.) There are more than a few items of K.'s list and if I were to just see the description of some of them, my active, blossoming, adorable boy would not be what I pictured. For a brief moment I wanted to go back in and ask the receptionist to put qualifiers on each of the items. Irrational, I know, but seeing the list made me feel as though I needed to defend my son.

Yes, he has all these various delays when compared with a US born, raised in a stable family child, but that was not his experience. I wanted someone to acknowledge all of his successes. When you start out life very malnourished and come home the size of a 9 month old at age 2, the fact that you are growing on an actual curve and that curve is finally able to be plotted on (as opposed to below) the US growth chart, that is cause for celebration. When you make no sounds at two years of age, not even babbling, much less have any spoken language, the fact that you can use complex sentences and express yourself in words is pretty wonderful. When you were labelled failure-to-thrive and it seemed for many years that you might not be able to learn as children born into better circumstances do, the fact that you are doing simple math, reading words, and writing full sentences by sounding out what you hear is nothing short of miraculous.

I know that the intent of medical information is to provide just that... medical information. I just wish sometimes that it was also able to convey the humanity of the person the diagnoses are attached to.

K. is really doing so well these days. He has gone through a huge developmental jump intellectually. As well as the reading and writing, he is churning out complex and interesting pictures by the dozens. Here is one of him less complicated ones. It is of a lighthouse with the rocky shore and the boat coming towards it in the ocean. I guess he really was listening when we did lighthouses last year.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Simplicity parenting

I've been noticing a trend (probably it isn't recent, but I'm slow to catch up), particularly among homeschoolers, to promote simplicity in the home. Now, in general, I'm really not opposed to this. We all live with too much stuff, too much clutter, too many activities, too much noise... just too much. It's not a bad thing to want to remove the distractions to what is really important.

We actually live a pretty simple life ourselves. We don't sign our children up for endless activities; they have a lot of free time during the day. We don't have the newest in electronic gadgets. We do have enforced times of quiet in our home. I still have too much stuff, though. But even given all of this, my life doesn't feel simple. Some days it feels anything but.

I don't know about you, but when I think of simple, I think of peace and quiet and calm. I think of long uninterrupted times of being able to pursue interests. I think of quiet cups of tea with a good book. I see children listening quietly around a fireplace while a parent reads out loud. (See a trend? Quiet, tea, books.) Will it surprise you to know that this is pretty much what my life does not look like? Oh, there will be moments of quiet or everyone listening to a book or a stretch where I can read or sew, but not always.

We have a very complex existence and, admittedly, it is purely voluntary. But we are able to live this complex existence because we try to keep everything else as simple as possible. I think my difficulty with the whole concept is that I wonder what the end goal often is. Is it to make one's life beautiful and calm and peaceful? Or is it to give you enough margin so that you can be Jesus to others?

Reaching out to others, the least of these, doesn't always lend itself to simplicity. Sometimes it involves a host of complex issues that are not easily resolved. Sometimes it adds things to the schedule that one would rather not add. If there are children involved, it adds noise. It makes life messy and sometimes uncomfortable and is about as far from the idyllic scenes of my imagination as I can get.

If we are too busy to offer hospitality, to help others, to give radical love then we we need to simplify. And we simplify not to create more peace for ourselves, but to extend God's peace to others.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And one windmill down

If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know that I am engaging in a little one-woman crusade against family policies which aren't. The Shedd Aquarium has been the main target of my annoyance for quite some time based on the fact that they considered a family to be two adults and no more than four children (each additional child was charged an additional fine fee.)

Well, a good friend called to tell me this morning that she opened up the membership mailing which came to her in the mail to see if they had changed their policy... and they had! A family membership to the Shedd Aquarium now includes two adults and ALL children under the age of 18. Can you believe it? I hardly can, but am thrilled at the change. It's just good business in my opinion.

(And I am in no way so delusional to think that my constant rantings had anything to do with it. I don't have a big enough readership and they never really acknowledged my letters... ever. But that's OK. I'm happy with whatever means caused them to reconsider their policy.)

So, having gotten a ridiculously late start to the morning, I shall now go and see what I can salvage of the rest of it.

If you need more to read, I have a new article up about cooking together as a family.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Update on the work boxes

We've been at our new school schedule for two weeks. Well, sort of two weeks because we took the end of last week off due to K.'s surgery. In general things are going well, though my tip for the day is do not plan an involved craft for a Monday, and particularly not a Monday after a four day break. It's just not pretty. Crafts work much better it seems once everyone gets back in the school routine for the week. I think this is why Fridays work so much better. Boy, it was ugly yesterday.

But that's not really what I sat down to write about. Work boxes (or at least our version of them) is really the topic of the day. I had mentioned in my excruciatingly detailed post about our school plans that I was trying something new with TM this year and that was going to be the work box system. Since ever that seemed possibly too overwhelming for the boy, I modified it quite a bit. He has a hanging file box where there are four hanging files. Each day I fill the four file folders with school work; the first three he does on his own while I'm working with the littles and the fourth he does with me. I truly had no idea how it would work.

I am happy (oh, you don't know how happy) to report that so far it seems to be working. He has made it through each of the folders everyday and little to no disregulation. Hallelujah! Here are a couple of reasons why I think this is a good fit for right now. First, it appears to be a manageable size. He can handle four things, especially if at least one of those four things seems 'fun'. Second, it puts him in charge. Even though I am the one who filled the folders, I am not directly telling him what to do at that moment. It seems we are short-circuiting a constant problem of never wanting to do comply with Mom. Third, there are some fun things in those folders, though they do have academic benefit. I have some mazes, some coloring pages, a loupe to look through and then draw what is seen, and other things of this sort. It's different each day and never in the same order. The predictable unpredictableness seems to be working. And last, I'm not expecting him to do any real academic-y thing by himself. We rotate through Grammar, Reading, and Math and I sit with him the whole time, doing much of it orally so as to avoid the handwriting battle. (I decided that writing out the answer, even after he has given the correct answer was my issue, not really his. In his mind he had already answered and didn't see the point in answering again.) All of this makes for a boy who sort of, kind of is looking forward to schoolwork in the mornings.

I don't think I could manage even this modified system for more than one child, though. The preparation is pretty intensive and I'm constantly looking at my pre-thought out list and filling the folders at the last moment. Realistically, it would make most sense to do it the night before, but I'm pretty much brain dead by the time the last cheek has been kissed that the last cover straightened and I need to get ready for bed myself. I've given up trying to do anything at night, even fun stuff, so school stuff certainly doesn't make the list. It's a season, right? Some days it feels like a really long season...

Monday, September 16, 2013

A little Sunday afternoon outing

P. and I had a little mother-daughter excursion this weekend and here is where we went:

What?! You don't go on mother-daughter outings with your 13 year old to the (not-so-local) tattoo and piercing business? OK, here's the story. Thirteen is the age we have decided that our daughters may get their ears pierced if they so desire. P. wasn't so sure she cared about getting her ear lobes pierced, but really wanted to get her cartilage pierced like her big sister M. Of course my knee jerk reaction was, "No way!" After J. and I talked about it, we decided that there seemed to be very little difference between two holes on the bottom of the ear and one hole up toward the top, so we agreed.

On consulting with M., she pointed out that if P. was going to have her cartilage pierced, that we should really go to someplace where they knew what they were doing. "Did we really want some clueless teenage girl at the mall, armed with whatever pokey stick they had given her, putting a hole in P.'s ear?" she asked. M. had a point.

It's always nice to do these things with friends, and we had arranged to have P. and her cousin go together. I have to say it was also nice to have my sister-in-law with me on this little visit to the tattoo parlor. So M. gave us the name of a very clean and reputable one and off we went. On Saturday.

Yes, yesterday was actually our second attempt at this little venture. Saturday was the original plan, but while I was crawling through traffic (it was going to be at least another half an hour to get to our destination), the phone rings and it's my sister-in-law asking if I, by any chance, had P.'s birth certificate or passport with me. Um, no. Which was too bad, because they wouldn't do any piercing without one of those documents. (The irony here is that in the recent past I have signed papers for major facial surgeries on children who don't even look like me and never once did I have to prove who the child was nor my relation to them. I guess the difference is that not many teens are trying to buck the system and have major facial reconstruction on the sly.) Since I was stuck in traffic and neither of us had the proper documentation, we decided that we should reschedule for the next day.

Now, on Saturday, there was plenty of parking, the sky was sunny, and the waiting room was empty. On Sunday? Not so much. Lots of rain, very little parking, and an hour plus wait to get a hole put through a body part. Sigh. But we persevered and the deed was done. P. acted like it was no big deal to have a needle put through your ear and she likes the results. Can you see it? There about halfway up the side?

The cousins together. (Her cousin went the more traditional route and had her lobes pierced.)

I will say, everyone was very nice and the place was extremely clean. And I have never seen a sharps container in the store in the mall, nor the teenagers who are in charge use universal precautions. So probably, this is the safest (and certainly provides better people watching) choice. Plus, it makes a great story.

I am the cool mom.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some links and comments

Do you know how difficult it can be to come up with something to write about each day... especially if I want to avoid writing about how many loads of laundry I have (or haven't) done? My life just isn't that interesting much of the time. Or it is too interesting yet none of it is available for public airing, and I can't write about it. Which leaves me with sharing links to other stuff.

First, I'm sure many of you saw some variation of the Reuters article on underground adoption 'rehoming'. I hadn't commented on it, but while the results are horrendous, what the writers missed was the reason why the practice started in the first place. That would be, in my humble opinion, a combination of woefully unprepared parents, extremely hurt and traumatized children, and very little, if any support available post-adoption. We are all capable of horrible actions if pushed far enough. I thought this joint response from the Attachment and Trauma Network, Attach-China International, and INCIID was excellent and accurate.

Next, I loved this blog post about what homeschooling parents are really like. I have come across the sentiment that there must be something different about me that enables me to do what I do, more than once. And on some level there is... letting the Holy Spirit work through you does make you different. But that's not me, that's God. If we are just talking about my own sinful, lazy self, then I am no different than anybody else. What I found most interesting was a little discussion in the comments. A woman accused the blog writer of being guilty of alienating the public school crowd and of being overly divisive. As someone who chose to send her children to public school, she felt badly because if any schmo can homeschool, then it makes her seem shallow and selfish for doing so. While she says that she has very good reasons for doing so, it seems she doesn't actually believe them, if merely reading about the ordinariness of homeschoolers induces guilt. Once again, I'm fine with people choosing public school for their children, but I have found that the parents most comfortable with their own educational choices for their children are also the ones who are the most comfortable with mine. It seems I raise too many uncomfortable questions in the minds of those who have never given the issue any thought.

Finally something completely fun and frivolous that B. shared with me. Have you ever heard of hidden paintings on the edges of books? It is so cool... you really need to look at the link to appreciate it. It makes me want to go look carefully at all of our older books.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hilarity in pre-op

K. did just fine yesterday and we are all back home and in recovery mode. Not long after I wrote yesterday's post, the hospital called and asked in we could come in early. So we quickly scrambled to get ready and out the door and managed to get up to the hospital fairly close to when they wanted.

We got all checked in and settled in one of the prep rooms. K. looked at the books and various nurses came in and asked the questions they needed to ask. The staff was great. K. had brought two stuffed animals and a blanket and by the time we were taken to pre-op, K.'s friends were sporting ID bands to match his, the dog also had a surgical mask and hat, and the cow had a band-aid affixed to his ear where he had a small tear.

And then we waited and waited and waited. It turns out the surgeon's previous patient ended up taking much longer than he anticipated and K. didn't actually go into surgery until 3pm. But that does not mean we were not without a little entertainment during that time. At about 2:30 or so, the nurses came in and rushed around and K. was given his dose of Versed to relax him. Now, when H. had Versed, it just made her tired and a little groggy... not so with K.

Now K. is a funny guy to begin with, but K. doped up with Versed? You just can't imagine. Right after he took the medicine they wheeled up into the pre-op room and drew the curtain. We noticed that he was getting a little silly when the nurse asked him who he had brought with him and K. looks at J. and says, "My Daddy!" and then looks at me, pauses for a second, and says, "My sister!" The silliness escalated until about five minutes before they took him back, J. asks K. if he wants to sing a song, thinking he would pick something calming since K. was supposed to be relaxing. K. says no, then nearly immediately bursts into a very loud and very long and very stream of consciousness song about... well... I'm not really sure. Had I known it was going to be so hilarious, though, I would have started to take dictation immediately. As it was, I can only remember a little bit of it, so it really doesn't do it justice. The song began along the lines of:

My name is peanut butter
My name is peanut butter
My name is peanut butter

It then moved on through any number of random and unexpected things to end something like this:

The fireman 
In charge of the fireman
In charge of the fireman
Go see the judge

At which point, almost immediately his eyes rolled back in his head and his head falls back on the pillow and he is out.

For about five seconds.

He then comes to again and starts with more random and silly talk. This time around though, the Versed is really starting to kick-in, so he does drop back asleep for seconds at a time periodically. (Having had Versed, I know how difficult it is to remain fully conscious. And because it does a job on ones memory, it can cause you to ask every two minutes if the babies are alright and can you see them, even though you swear you only asked once... but I digress.) It was very like watching your young son become rip roaring drunk. All he needed was a bottle in a brown paper bag. By the time he was wheeled in for surgery, I was laughing so hard I was in tears. The nurses on the other side of the curtain were pretty amused as well, judging by the amount of laughing we heard.

The surgery went very well. It only took an hour and the surgeon was pleased. He also recovered very quickly and, true to form, his first words in recovery were, "I'm hungry." So we went to a room, he ate a variety of things, watched a movie, and we went home. Thank goodness we have good friends who don't mind having 9 children invade them until 9:30 at night.

So, all is well with K., though we have had to remind him multiple times that he CANNOT run. It will be a long three weeks.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


K.'s surgery isn't scheduled until 2:30 this afternoon which means that we don't need to be at the hospital until 1. This also means that I have a household of wiggy children with no definite plan who are just waiting, waiting, waiting until they can either a) go and play with friends or b) go to the hospital while not getting any food to eat. Fun times.

His surgery is only supposed to take about an hour and I will post an update when we have news. If we all survive that long. At this point in the morning, the surgery seems like the easy part, frankly. Thanks for praying.

Also, if you could say a prayer for HG. I can't share what she needs, but God knows.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And some birthday pictures

It was pointed out that it was slightly ironic that in a blog post moaning about the lack of pictures from P.'s first few days that I didn't post any pictures of her at 13. Well, the child is difficult to get a photo of. Like many of my children, she is going through a camera-aversion phase (if something that lasts many years can be a phase). I did get some last night when we celebrated her birthday.

M. and B. were able to join us which made the party more fun (and loud). Here are some pictures.

You know our continuing difficulty with people not choosing cake for dessert and having no place for candles (plus, often, just a lack of candles). Well, M. solved that for me by find three candles that added up to 13.

Just about to blow her candles. 

This is G. Attractive, huh? B. had the camera and asked her to make a funny face.

A nice picture of D.

This is P. doing a great job of looking excited for the sake of her sister after opening this present. To really understand, you have to hear the back story of my day yesterday. L. became consumed with giving gifts to P. Yes, I know, the sentiment is very sweet and not one to be discouraged. But in reality, here is what it looked like. L. can be a little bit single minded and she fixated on gifts for P. This meant she went through her room looking for anything that she was willing to give up and then wanted to wrap them RIGHT NOW!. This was after lunch and right before naptime which ended up with L. in near hysterics over her need to wrap a gift. I finally got her calmed down with the promise of working on the gift wrapping after nap time. I gave P. a heads up that she really needed to appreciate all the emotional energy that went into her sister's gifts (there were many).

This is L. watching P. open up the gifts. You can see she is thrilled with the whole process.

TM, H. and A.

The other terribly funny moment of the evening came when P. opened up one of the many, many cards that K. had made for her. K. is discovering that he can write words by sounding them out. It is very exciting to watch and it is what he is spending large amounts of time doing. So he made cards for P. and decorated them with some of his new words. P. opens this one and starts laughing out loud. Because who doesn't want to see the word, "FAT" printed in huge letters on the inside when one opens a birthday card?

H., wearing B.'s glasses.

Pray for K. tomorrow as he heads into surgery. I won't know the exact time until they call tonight and I will update as I can. The doctor will be doing a lip and nose revision and only expects it to take an hour. Once again, I will be a happier person when we're on the other side of it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy 13th Birthday, P.!

Today P. turns 13. It has been wonderful watching this child grow and mature over the past year. Always one of my more quiet children, P. is gaining self-confidence and a real sense of self. It's lovely to watch. P. is also my extreme horse lover. Along with the weekly riding lessons from her grandmother, she is plowing through the horse curriculum I found for her and loving it. I so enjoy watching a child energetically pursue an interest.

I realize that I don't think I've ever shared the story of P.'s birth here. It's actually a parental cautionary tale with a happy ending. Everything about my pregnancy with her was fine and we weren't expecting any complications... I even went into labor on my due date, something that the previous three had failed to do (they were each 2+ weeks late). So we were weren't prepared for P. to be rushed off to NICU after she was born with only a brief moment to hold and kiss her. There was meconium present when she was born, but that wasn't the problem. She was also born with a very large raised swollen place on her face between her eye and her nose which was large enough to push the one eye up and out of alignment. So when a doctor sees that, knows there's meconium, believes the baby is having trouble keeping an open airway, it is enough to land the 8 pound 4 ounce baby in special care. Oh, but not before looking at J. and asking if we had a history of facial deformities. Nice, huh?

By the morning, there was a different doctor doing rounds in NICU and I was allowed to go and nurse her. He had done some research and decided that she had a drainage duct between her eye and nose which had not opened and had filled with fluid. He also determined that she was breathing just fine on her own and we could all go home. I was given the name of a pediatric opthamologist to look at her eye and home we went.

A couple of days later, my sister-in-law and I took baby P. to the doctor where she announced that this was something that was not going to fix itself and it would have to be very soon, especially if it showed signs of being infected. I was so grateful to have my sister-in-law with me to comfort when I broke down in the elevator over the though of my new baby having surgery. (Up to this point, parenting had been pretty uneventful and this was far, far out of my parenting experience.) Wouldn't you know it, not 12 hours after that appointment, the swelling on P.'s face turned bright red indicating infection and she was scheduled for surgery with full anesthetic.

I was a wreck that entire first week of her life. I never put her down, I was stressed beyond belief (that coupled with post-partum hormones did not make for a pretty sight), and I took no pictures. That's right, there are no pictures of P.'s first week of life. I was too irrational. It makes no sense, I know.

Obviously, P. came through the surgery just fine and nearly immediately her eye started to move and even out with the rest of her face. After about a week post-surgery, you would never have known something was wrong. And at that point, I started to mourn the loss of that first week. What if something had gone wrong? What would I have had? Nothing but panicked memories. Even today, I can still feel that remorse welling up inside. The moral of my tale? Do not lose possible good memories to worry. It doesn't help. If the worst had happened, I would have lost even more because of my unhealthy level of worry. As it was, I really did miss a week of my child's life.

But thankfully, that's all I missed. I have had the great pleasure of watching this child grow into a beautiful young woman. Happy Birthday, P. I love you so very, very much.

Monday, September 09, 2013

But no chicks with bricks


Fox in box.

Shocks the socks off people who walk in the front door.
Who expects to see a fox without socks in a box?

This is our newest item that we checked out from the Harris Loan Center. He has startled more than a few people as they walk in the door and see him staring at them. G. likes him because he doesn't move. I need to remember to take the van when I go for Harris Loan items; he barely fit in the car (I had the small one) when we brought him home. It was a good thing we didn't decide to bring something bigger. 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

New job schedules

Really, what I am going to write is the lack of a new job schedule. We are still marginally operating on the one I made last fall, but it doesn't really work because I have new people in the house and am missing others that are usually here. The jobs really need to be reassigned and I am putting it off.

Why? Well, first of all, it is just not my favorite thing in the world to do. Second, I have this over-abundance of little people plus a few bigger people who function at a young level. None of that is conducive to actually being able to get the house clean. At least not without a lot of supervision. And since I still haven't figured out how to clone myself, I can only help one small person at a time.

So I am avoiding the whole problem by not doing it, which is not a great solution for the skill development of my smaller people or for the state of my house. But it does solve the problem of listening to the whining when people are assigned a job they do not care for.

I guess that I will really need to be the grown-up and tackle this problem this week.

I'm not going to try today, though. A dear friend died this morning after being ill, so it wasn't unexpected, but it still makes me sad. While we will miss her, I console myself with the thought that she and my mother-in-law (who were terrific friends) are now happily spending time together in Heaven comparing notes on grandchildren.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Volo Bog

I'm back to blogging today because I can breath again. Sometimes parenting, particularly parenting children who have suffered trauma, sends you down roads that you never wanted to travel. It has certainly not been one of the better weeks of my life. Thanks to those who were praying for us. 

Even in the midst of yuckiness, God takes care of us. One of those ways was to give us an absolutely beautiful day with good friends at Volo Bog. It is the only open water quaking bog in Illinois. The weather was gorgeous; sunny, but not too hot. Just lovely.

Here are some of the children on the floating platform that overlooks the open water section of the bog. That would be D. in front.

Here are some other views of the bog.


Here you can see the boardwalk as it continues back into the tamarack forest.

Almost the whole group of children.

Some little people... okay, L... didn't want to be in the group picture.

Little girls together.

This was a great view of what makes a bog a bog. The plants on growing on a a floating mat of sphagnum moss. You can see the plants, then the mat, with the roots growing into the water underneath.

We also learned, that technically it's a fen because there is some inflow and outflow to the water, where in a bog there isn't. I kind of like knowing the difference between a bog and a fen, don't you? Or maybe that's just me and I grew up reading too much British fiction.

We picnicked, the children painted and played, the mothers visited, and then we made the long drive home. It was a much needed break from life.
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