Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Argh.

Just don't ask about my day. On the plus side, I got my hair cut, took a daughter for a physical, and dropped coolers off at a friend's so they can bring home our side of beef after Thanksgiving. But now it's 5pm and that's all I've done. Not picked up the medicine I need from the store (the parking lot was too full), not written the article that was due last week, not written a real blog post, not folded the piles of laundry, not packed, not ready to leave. (We have a house-sitter for the dog, otherwise I wouldn't be sharing this information.) It could be a very late night.

That's all. Just wanted to share. Life will be better once we have the van and trailer packed and we head out tomorrow. Along with everyone else in the country.

No, I'm not having a wonderful day, why do you ask? But you know what? Things not going easily today really don't matter and fall into perspective when you read your friend's blog post about her son's heart surgery. This is one of the families we traveled with when we adopted H., and they were adopting Ben, the son who had surgery today. They weren't even sure it was repairable, but he is now out of surgery and so far things look good. Hallelujah! I'll be folding and packing with a smile on my face this evening.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

I'm going to be spending my morning baking dozens and dozens of rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, so you get a little bit of this and a little bit of that before the frenzy begins. 

Yesterday was one of those terribly nice days where everyone is fairly regulated and we received visits from many people we love. M. and B. stopped by after church so we got to see both of them. M. spent the day, but B. had to head back to school because he had to see a show for a class. We were also joined by P21 who stayed to help make pecan pies. 

So, we (me, M., P21, and HG) are all baking (or standing around the kitchen watching others bake) when P21 spies a pomegranate sitting on my counter. She says, "Hey! Can I seed this for you? I can do it in under 2 minutes." We all express gratitude that she would seed the pomegranate (we all love pomegranates, but do NOT enjoy seeding them) and amazement that she thinks she can do it so quickly. Well, some quick work with a knife, bowl, and wooden spoon and the pomegranate seeds are sitting happily in the bowl. It was quick, easy, and looked terribly therapeutic as it involves whacking the pomegranate repeatedly with the wooden spoon. There will be many more pomegranates in our future now that we have figured out the seeding issue. 

You are all dying to see this in action, aren't you? I did the Google search for you (you're welcome) and here it is: Deseed a pomegranate in 10 seconds using a wooden spoon on Lifehacker.

The other thing I got to do yesterday was to do a little sewing. Here is the dress I finished for HGbaby to wear for Thanksgiving and Christmas:


It's a little big, but she should get a lot of months of wear out of it. Plus, I was able to make it completely from my stash... even the zipper. I love that.

There was velveteen piping (it matches the collar) that I made...


and I used my super-cool sewing machine to add a row of little hearts around the bottom. (I don't think I've thanked my parents this month for the super-cool sewing machine, so THANK YOU. Best. Toy. Ever.)


Now., off to bake...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sometimes parenting is hard

Yesterday was our planned monthly library trip. It is always a bit of a scramble to get everyone ready, find all the books, check them off the list so that we are sure we have them all, put them into bags and then get everyone and all the bags into the car. I sometimes wonder if taking my children to the library is worth it. (I evidently do, since I continue to take them... it's just that getting ready part I don't enjoy.) The scramble isn't helped when some small person is having a contrary day.

L. was not making the morning easier. Pretty much everything that was asked of her caused her to whine and scream. It was quite unpleasant. It reached a point where I had to tell her that a child who was behaving as she was did not get to go the library and gave her another chance to pull herself together. I'm sorry to say, she didn't take the chance offered.

Now, probably the best parenting advice you will ever receive is to follow through on everything you say. Do not make idle threats you cannot or will not carry out because your children will cease to listen to you. Having made the threat, I knew I had to follow through... I will add that I knew exactly what I was doing when I informed her of the possible consequence to her action.

When the noise didn't stop, I asked A. to stay home with L. (I already knew that A. did not have her heart set on going to the library and that she would actually probably prefer to stay home. She has more schoolwork she needs to get through in a day than the others do.) Not surprisingly, when L. realized that plans were being made for her to stay home, the noise and uncooperativeness stopped immediately. This was my key to knowing I was making the right choice. Had she been so far gone that even immediate action did not change her behavior I would have acted differently, but in this case she brought the halo out, shined it up, and informed me that she would be willing to cooperate. At this point, I had to do a very hard thing and inform her that she still couldn't go. Had she been willing to change her behavior when asked, she could have gone, but she waited a little to long. And then the crying is despair began and it was heart breaking. I really wanted to be able to change my mind, but I knew I couldn't. L. has been developing the habit of waiting just a little too long to change her attitude or behavior and that were I to give in now, it would just reinforce that habit. But, oh, how I hated having to do it.

[Let me interject here, how we must parent each child as they need us to parent them. I mentioned before that if L. didn't do the typical healthy child-thing and pull herself together in a last ditch attempt to get to go, I would have acted differently. At that point I would have known that there was something else up and a different reason for her behavior. For our children affected by trauma this is often the case. While most typically developing children are able to rein in the bad behavior when faced with an imminent threat, those affected by trauma cannot. They are too far gone in their panicked, fearful thinking to be able to consciously control their behavior. To a child who already believes in his innermost being that he is not worthy or safe or loved, to be told he cannot come along only confirms his deepest fears. It is not helpful or constructive and can do real harm. If the punishment does not ultimately help to change poor behavior to more positive behavior, there is absolutely no point to it except to fill a need in the parent. We parents must be very careful in our discipline.]

Connection with our children is of the utmost importance. I knew L. would be very sorry for what happened before we left and would be sad she hadn't been able to choose new books. I purposefully set about choosing some books that I knew she would like a lot (one of them being a huge book about Superman) so that I could give them to her when we got home along with a hug. On the home front, A. said that L. cried a bit more but ultimately decided that it was going to be a lot of work to keep it up the whole time we were gone. A. offered to play a game with her which L. ultimately joined in on. They had a nice time together and things were calm. When we walked in the door, L. greeted me with, "I'm sorry, Mommy." We reconnected and life went on pretty happily for the rest of the day.

But it was a lesson learned. Along towards bedtime, L. was beginning to go down the path of uncooperativeness once again. All it took was for me to remind her of how yucky the morning had been and she changed her ways. This may have to be a lesson she has to relearn over the course of time, but I hope it's not too often. I hate to have to do it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't just sit there

There is another point I wanted to make in yesterday's post, but thought it better to save it for another day. (I tend to go on and on and probably leave most of you behind long before word number 1500.) So this is more of what I wanted to say to the women on the radio, though it is also a good reminder for the rest of us as well.

There are some things that stick with you from childhood. Possibly one of the most beneficial things I remember from my own is listening to my mother and grandmother remind me to not just sit there and wait for people to come to you. Do you want to make friends? Be the first one to go and introduce yourself. Do you want to do something? Then be the one to organize it and invite someone. In short, be the one to make things happen if you want them to happen. It was a powerful message.

This could explain why my second reaction to hearing that these women had no where to go for Thanksgiving was to wonder why they didn't gather up several others and fix a Thanksgiving dinner themselves. It would solve several problems. They would have somewhere and someone to celebrate with and very likely, they would be providing a place for someone else who may not have one.

In talking this over with a friend who is more intimately aware of the emotions which accompany finding yourself alone at a holiday, I realized that this is sometimes easier to say rather than do. The pain caused by the situation that left a person alone in the first place can sometimes be so overpowering that it is literally impossible for that person to be able to reach out and do the scary thing of invite someone over. This is why those of us in better circumstance need to be aware of the people around us and help them through that pain.

But it is also why developing the habit of being the one to make the first move is a good thing. When we are in desperate circumstances, we fall back on our usual ways of behaving. If we are used to inviting people, introducing ourselves, making the first move... not just sitting around and waiting for the world come to us, then that is more likely the behavior we will fall back on. Plus, it would just make the world a friendlier place.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you wish someone would come and talk to you or invite you to join in, be courageous and make the first move. I find it helpful to assume that what I am feeling is not so different from those around me. If I am afraid of doing something then I can be pretty sure that others are, too. If I am feeling lonely in the church's social time, then probably the majority of others are, too. If I am thinking that surely everyone else in the room knows each other and I am the only who feels left out, then I can be pretty sure that there are others in the room feel the same way. We are really not that much different from one another.

Chances are, if you take the risk and introduce yourself or invite someone to do something or volunteer to help with something, the reaction of the other person or persons will be positive. They might be initially surprised, because as a rule, we don't do this, but that doesn't mean they won't like it. So think how you would like to be treated in any situation and be the first to treat someone else that way.

Don't just sit there as my grandmother would say.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

He sets the lonely in families

The prompt for this month's link-up at Hearts at Home is, "No more perfect holidays". I'm sure that most people blogging on the topic will speak to perfectionism and how it hinders true enjoyment of the season. This is important to think about and something I've written about my myself, but as I was listening to the radio while running errands yesterday, I heard something that made me want to take a slightly different tack.

The conversation I heard between a caller and the radio host was terribly sad. The caller was a divorced mother whose children were spending Thanksgiving with their father. Since she had no other family to celebrate with, she was going to be alone. The host then shares that she was in the exactly same situation. She had decided to make the best of it by going to serve Thanksgiving to women in a homeless shelter. The emotion in her voice made it clear, that while she was doing something to redeem her situation, being alone, without family or friends to share the holiday with, was not her first choice.

It made me wonder why multiple families in these women's churches were not knocking down their doors to invite them. I came up with a few reasons why this may be so. The first would be that no one else knows they will be alone. When another person appears to have it all together or if that person has children, people just assume that they have somewhere to spend the holidays. No one tells us otherwise and we just don't think to ask. We need to be more aware of the situations of the people around us. We need to ask to be sure they have somewhere to go. This is especially true of those are more likely to be alone... the singles in our lives, older couples whose children may not be able to come home, and yes, the divorced mothers whose children may be at the other parent's.

The second is that we are too self-conscious about our home, our food, our way of living to feel comfortable inviting others into our lives. We are too worried about what others may think of us to be hospitable. I'm pretty sure that if either of the women were invited by friends to share Thanksgiving with them, they would be so thrilled to not be alone that judging the decor of the home or the fanciness of the food would never occur to them. We often let worry about ourselves get in the way of showing love to others.

The third reason is really how this post fits into the prompt. We may feel OK about our ability to invite others into our homes and we may do so often. We may have the means to provide a lavish dinner for our family. We may even have room for an extra seat at our table. We may be able to invite a lonely person to join us but we don't because of our version of perfect. 'Perfect' is our family group all together... with no outsiders. The excuses pile up... it wouldn't feel right, we wouldn't be able to be ourselves, I only get to see my older children a few times a year and I don't want anything to take away from that, we are so close-knit that an outsider would be uncomfortable.

And they are excuses.

We can still enjoy our families and our children. We can still observe our own unique traditions. We can still have a wonderful time together even with extra people around the table. In fact, the holiday may even more meaningful and memorable because of the extra person. I think we start to fall into faulty thinking that love is a limited quantity; we have to be careful to not use up the amount allotted to us. If we invite extra people into our homes, we believe without realizing it that it will somehow take away from the other people in our lives. But love is not a limited commodity. It is one of those miraculous things that grows and expands as it is used. Love is never used up.

We have to ask ourselves if we are making an idol of family togetherness. You all know by now that I am all for family. Families are important. We must carefully nurture and protect and work on making our families the best they can be. Families are what give us a foundation from which to go out into the world. They give us strength and stability and love. But that is the starting point. Families are not meant to just stop there. By creating a strong family, you have then positioned yourselves to reach out to and love those who do not have families of their own... the lonely, the hurt, the broken-hearted. If we are not doing these things then we have missed the mark. We create strong families in order to be a vehicle for God's love in the world.

So this Thanksgiving is your chance to show God's love. I challenge you to have at least one guest at your Thanksgiving table. Ask around. Be sure everyone in your church or neighborhood has somewhere to go. There's really no excuse for a single mom to call in to a radio show and grieve that she will be alone. I realize this is more difficult if you are travelling, yet if you know someone will be alone, you could help to find a family for that person to join. Or you could just take them along with you. Sometimes problems are only problems because we let them be that way.

And remember... there's always room for one more.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crochet as benign neglect

As a piano teacher of many years, I am intimately acquainted with a phenomenon which happens when you teach children, particularly when you are working one on one with a child. This phenomenon would be the desire of the child to look for an answer to what they are trying to figure out by looking at your face and reading whether they are right or wrong by what they see there. Can't find a note? Look at the teacher's face as you poke around the keyboard until a glimmer of relief is seen and move ahead. I cannot tell you the number of times I have reminded a student that I don't have the notes written on my face and that it will be easier to find the note if they are looking at the music. I have become very adept at not giving away the rightness or wrongness of what they are doing through my facial expressions.

At least I thought I was adept, and I think for the most part I am, but even with all of my practice I still wasn't good enough at not giving away the answer with my face when working with a child who feels her very existence depends on getting the answer right. This hypervigilance took me by surprise because I had not seen evidence of it before. I wasn't expecting it when it came to schoolwork. As I thought about it, though, it made sense. Much of what and how she had been taught before was not done in a way that was accessible to how she learns and that created stress which meant that her rate of disassociation was extremely high. Both of those things combined created, I believe, her uncanny ability to read the correct answer in the teacher's face. When you're only 'present' a little of the time, much of what is going on in a classroom is baffling. If you are then asked a question, it is anybody's guess what the answer might be, so the best place to look for the answer is in the teacher's face.

How did I discover this? Well, one morning, while we were working on phonics, I decided to do a little multi-tasking and crochet while I sat with my new readers as they sounded out words. (This learning to read thing is a fairly tedious process.) Suddenly, a girl who was reading words fairly easily was struggling. I was still helping, but my gaze was watching the crochet hook and was therefore unreadable. To confirm my theory I went back to giving her my undivided attention and things improved. Since that day, I have crocheted everyday while I work with my children individually and it is helping, particularly in H.'s case. She is far more likely now to spend time trying to figure out a word rather than making random guesses. It is forcing her to spend her energy thinking for herself rather than on work-arounds that do not force her to apply the hard mental energy to learn.

All of this has put in mind something I read long ago, when we first began homeschooling. That is... one of the charges leveled against homeschooling was that homeschoolers were found by some to have difficulty working on their own, without an adult helping them. Now, a big part of me was ready to write that off, but I think there is always some value in listening to outside critiques, and there was another part of me which took heed of the caution. With my crochet-while-teaching experiment, I began to see what I think was going on with those children who found it difficult to work alone. Could it have been the case of the parent inadvertently giving away answers without the child doing the actual thinking to get there? If you are unaware that such a thing can happen, it is very easy for it to start. I would even venture to say that the child is fairly unaware that they aren't really figuring out the problem themselves.

So, I will continue to crochet. For me, this is the perfect activity. Unlike knitting, I can put it down and pick it up without losing my place and if I stick to simple patterns, it requires very little conscious effort so that I can focus on what the child is doing. Any type of hand work would be fine as long as the bulk of your concentration is on what the child is doing as your hands work. Mending would probably work equally as well. It's kind of the ultimate in multi-tasking.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Let's talk about the siblings

A comment was left on yesterday's post about the difficulty of sibling relationships when one child is prone to rages. I will be the first to admit that this is very, very tricky and there are no clear cut answers to the difficulties. I had mentioned in yesterday's post that I thought living with a sibling who struggled had made my older children more compassionate. And I really do believe that, but the key word here is older. I think it is much easier for an older sibling to feel compassion than it is a younger or same age sibling. The combination of size and maturity changes the dynamics significantly.

But what about the relationships between a child who struggles and younger siblings? What can parents do to mitigate the effects of living with a volatile family member? It is something that J. and I struggle with and I'm sure we are doing it very imperfectly. I will share some of the things we have done/are doing, realizing that I don't have a definitive answer and what we do may not be the best choice for another family.

First off, if this is your reality and you have not read The Explosive Child, please go out and read this book. I wish I had read it years ago. It gives real, concrete ways of helping to manage a child who is prone to raging. (It is certainly not a substitute for therapy, but it helps with day to day management.) The best thing for siblings is for the raging child to stop raging and this book can help you start down that path.

Often, though, children who have difficulty with life are difficult even if they are not raging. They can be prone to meanness and general unpleasantness in general. They are quite capable of verbally (if not physically) picking on younger siblings. How do you deal with this?

One thing that really helped with my thinking on this was a post by Lisa Qualls at One Thankful Mom about comforting the wounded. (You should read the post... click the link.) In it, she reminds us that caring for the child who has been hurt is a parent's first priority, but often we get it backward and want to deal with the offender's bad behavior first. I've have tried to put this into practice and focus on the child who is the injured party.

Keeping everyone safe is also a priority. It is not good for the disregulated child to be able to hurt someone any more than it is good for another child to be hurt. Sometimes the disregulated child just needs to stay with me and I can be the external Jiminy Cricket for that child. Yes, it's a pain because I don't get a break and it requires some superhuman patience to continue to deal with the disregulated child in a compassionate way, but it is worth it if it gives the younger siblings some breathing room. We have also taught our younger children to walk away the second they are being treated in a way they don't like. I cannot tell you the number of times I have said to one or more of them, "If someone is being mean to you, leave. Just walk away. Come to Mommy or Daddy. You do NOT have to listen." And yes, I will say this, in a calm and regulated voice, in the presence of the disregulated child.

One of our children is extremely tender-hearted and it doesn't feel right to him to walk away. It feels as though it is adding rudeness to rudeness. In this case, our therapist has suggested that he say, "I love you, but I will not fight with you" and then leave. Teaching our children non-engagement has been very helpful.

It is typical of a disregulated, struggling child to want to hijack the good times a family is sharing with an eye to making everyone as miserable as the hurt child is feeling. And they are very, very good at this. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of grace to be able to ignore the behavior of the child and focus on the rest of the family. But my other children need to experience good family times and J. and I have made it a point to try very hard to focus on the good at these times. It is OK to laugh and have fun and enjoy your other children even if there is a child in the other room grunting and saying nasty things. Sure, inside you may be seething, but you have to learn to tune out the bad and pay attention to the good in your situation. Let me just say, they only way J. and I have managed to do this (when we have... we often fail) is by God's power and grace. It's hard.

Education in calm times is also key. The child in question may have a variety of reasons for why he or she functions as they do. Trauma is huge in rewiring the brain, but there can be other reasons as well. A child does not have to be adopted to behave in explosive ways. The origin may be different, but the results are the same. It is the parent's job to explain to the healthy siblings why their brother or sister acts as they do. Invite them to pray for their sibling. Listen to their concerns and worries. Acknowledge that it's hard and doesn't always seem fair. Cry with them. But whatever you, do not forget they are there because the disregulated child is very good and garnering parental attention, even if most of it is negative. On bad days, I feel as though 99% of my energy is taken up with one child. That doesn't leave a lot left over. I need to be very careful to leave enough for my other children.

Lastly, make the most of the good times. I spend a lot of time focusing on fostering what positive interactions I can. (And that would be mine with the child as well as between siblings.) We humans are very good at creating habits; it's how our brains are wired. If we didn't create habits and have much of what we do everyday become automatic, the amount of brain power it would take just to get dressed and fed in the mornings would tax us to the point of exhaustion. (It's why living in a new place and a new language is so tiring... nothing is easy or automatic.) As a parent, I want to be very careful what habits my children are developing. Does a child speak nastily to another sibling every time they interact? In that case, I would gently (in a calm moment) point it out. Ex. "So, I've been noticing that you have been having trouble speaking kindly to X. I think it makes X feel pretty badly and it makes me think you aren't feeling to good about yourself, either. I would like to try to help you speak more kindly, do you have any ideas of how we should do this?" The child probably won't have any ideas and may only grunt, at which point I will have some ideas.

Conversely, if a pair of siblings is playing together nicely (and this is an unusual occurrence), there is very little that will cause me to interrupt them. I may not even comment on it, at least not at the time. I will also be very sure to keep an eye on it so that if it seems to start to go south I can break off the play while it is still positive. I will also notice what they were doing together that fostered this kind of relationship and try to find similar ways for them to interact. I will help them to develop the habit of getting along.

This is a tricky subject and there are no definitive answers. I wish there were. I would love for others out there who live this reality to chime in with other things that have worked in their homes that I might have missed or not know about.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Overwhelmed... with gratitude

I keep planning to write a post asking why we have it in our heads that we deserve our lives to be easy. I will still write that post, if only because I need to hear it myself sometimes. Today, though, I want to focus not on the hard stuff, but on the beautiful things in my life.

Because while there are some difficult things that we deal with, often on a daily basis, there are also the moments of wonder and beauty and hints of the redemption to come. I am firmly convinced that while I did appreciate the things which were wonderful before we ventured into the crazy life we live now, I think I appreciate them so much more because of the contrast. I am sometimes overwhelmed with gratitude and humility that I have been given this life to live.

It also does not escape my notice that so much of what is wonderful may very well have never existed without the hard things being there. I will never know for sure what decisions prompted others, but I can reasonably guess. You see, without that initial decision to add to our family by adoption I don't think it is very far fetched to imagine that half of our children would not belong to us. It goes something like this...

If we had never adopted TM, we probably would not have ever known about, much less adopted K. Then having seven children already, it changes your thoughts about family size. Would I have longed for more little girls? Would the prayer have ever been there for God to answer? No little girls?! It makes me nearly hyperventilate. Without moving in adoption circles and doing endless reading on the experiences of older adoptees and how to help them heal, I would never have come across the website where H. was mentioned. If I had never seen her picture, I know for sure she would never have been part of our family.

My older children have been shaped in significant ways by living with a brother who is not always easy or pleasant. They have learned compassion... sometimes more than I have, I am sad to admit. They have become flexible in dealing with difficult individuals. They have had their idea of humanity broadened. This is not just a proud mother bragging about her children. I have had many others mention to me that these characteristics stand out in my older children.

Our first hand experience with trauma and PTSD has broadened our world as a family, as well. As a result, we were not scared to open our home to someone who needed a place to heal, and another small family (who has become very dear to us) has had their lives affected as well.

I ponder these things as I sit at the dinner table and see all of these people whom I love sitting together. I hug my children a little more tightly when I briefly think about how miraculous it is that they are here at all. God has orchestrated and created a beautiful thing that I get to be a part of. He has done so much more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.

Sure, sometimes it is crazy or loud or messy. Sometimes it is just plain hard. I don't always appreciate it. But at other times, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness and am left somewhat speechless.

All because of one little yes.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Had so many things that he wanted to do...

"There was once a old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things that he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn't because of the state he was in."
     -from "The Old Sailor" in Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne

This is one of my favorite poems by A. A. Milne. If you aren't familiar with it, it goes on for several stanzas about how the sailor was shipwrecked and all the things he should do in order to survive, but he could never decide on a proper order and thus ended up just sitting on the beach until he was rescued. If you add in many small children and take away the beach and the palm trees, this is my life.

I often feel as though I have so many things to do, but can never decide the proper order. Or, more truthfully, I begin one thing, move to another room because I need to, forget what I was doing, see something else which needs to be done, start on that which causes me to move to another room and the whole process starts over again. The end result is that nothing ever really gets done, I just rotate household items from place to place.

This would be bad enough by itself, but I also have these little "helpers" who follow me around. They see me pick things up and move them to another room, so they want to do that to. The trouble is, they often pick up things which are where they belong and helpfully move them to someplace else. It often feels as though I am followed around and they are undoing what I have been doing right behind me. 

This is why I need to really wait until they are tucked into their beds at nap time to really get some serious picking up done. So I can't start that. I could move bags of give-away stuff to the out-of-the-way place it lives until it actually gets given away, but if I do that, some little people might discover long-forgotten treasures that I would rather not have them remember. I guess that needs to wait until nap time as well.

Or there's the craft project I need to prep for next week... but the littles would want to "help" with that as well and it would not really be so helpful. Plus, then the project wouldn't be a surprise.

How about the outgrown clothes which need to be reboxed? Well, the room in the basement in which I store them is not really little person friendly and they cry if I don't let them follow me around. Nope. Nap time.

I need to grind some corn and some flour for meals this week. Yet, now I've dithered about for so long that we are coming up to lunch and those little people are going to want to eat. Best to wait until after lunch to start that project.

I could probably come up with several more examples, but you get the idea. So what's a mother do to? Take a page from the old sailor and figuratively sit on the beach. I brought out all of our Thanksgiving books so I will now go and snuggle with all of those small types and read books with them until lunch. 

I find the reading of books to always be the appropriate course of action.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cake Boss -- the local version

A. and P. have discovered The Next Great Baker show on instant play and have become pretty consumed with it. As a result, A. has decided that she really, really wants to learn to decorate amazing cakes. Since I'm always happy to indulge my children's varied interests, when I saw the student fondant kit at the craft store yesterday, I decided to give A. a treat.

After an afternoon of watching instructional videos, she was ready to bake and cake and get decorating. We decided she should make a Lady Baltimore cake with added Meyer's Lemon extract and lemon zest to make it a little more interesting. (It worked out very well.) Last night she baked the caked and iced it in buttercream frosting as she saw in her videos. This morning she tackled the fondant.  Here are the results:




I think it's pretty darn impressive considering this is her very first attempt. (That's fondant, not icing, covering the cake, by the way.) Don't you love seeing the different paths your children lead you down?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A great big blank

is what I have when I try to think of anything to write today. I got nothin'. It could have just a little bit to do with the fact I decided to reread the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers and stayed up far too late last night finishing the one I was in the middle of. It makes one a wee bit blurry.

For example, the car J. drives failed its emissions test, so we had to take it to a shop to have it repaired. (Fun times, I tell you.) So this morning, J. drives the van to work. When the repair shop calls to say the car is done, I call J. and ask if he had a free hour and I would pick him up and he could get the car. He pauses for a moment and asks, "Pick me up in what?" It takes some time before I remember that I am carless for the day and cannot pick him up, nor do the errands I was mentally planning, either.

Since I've discovered that I cannot write when I am tired, I don't know why I'm even trying now. To add just a little content to this post, I'll give you a couple more books for your read-aloud-to-boys reading list. We finished The Black Stallion Returns recently and the boys loved it as much, if not more, than the first one. Sometimes sequels don't live up to the first book, but in this case we were all quite satisfied.

Right now we're coming to the end of Chancy and the Grand Rascal by Sid Fleischman. I knew it would be hard to follow the Black Stallion Returns, and wasn't quite sure what to read. When D. suggested we read one of the Sid Fleischman books we had checked out of the library I decided to give it a try, but wasn't sure it was going to hold the boys' attention. I was really wrong. Sid Fleischman does tall tale telling very, very well and more than once both boys were laughing so hard I had to pause in my reading to let them catch their breath. Even a couple of days later, D. will still just start chuckling to himself over some funny part. It's not a book I was familiar with, but it has been a lot of fun.

Before I go, I should add a warning about the Chancy book. The overarching story line is that Chancy and his three younger brother and sisters were separated when their parents died. As was the custom at the time (post Civil War), the children were parceled out to whomever would take them. Chancy goes on his adventure in order to find them and put the family back together again. TM has not identified with these children or their predicament in any way, but I could see a child who had been adopted have this theme cause some inner turmoil depending on where they are. I still wholeheartedly recommend the book, but it is also good to not read things that you know will be too difficult for your child. Use your best judgement.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Listening and doing

A few years back we were reading through the Narnia books with a new set of children who were ready for them. In Prince Caspian, there comes the moment when Lucy is aware that Aslan wants her to go a certain way, but after telling her brothers and sister about which way she believed they should go, they talk her into going another way. It turned out to be harder and longer than they thought. When they finally reach their destination, Lucy is confronted by Aslan and asked why she did not do what He had said. She was immediately ashamed.

And at the same time as Lucy's revelation in the book, I had one of my own. I, too, was immediately ashamed and later than evening sat down to write a letter of apology to a woman who didn't even know she deserved one. It was to a former pastor's wife. They had recently left the church and moved to another state and I know her time in my church was not going to rank as one of her favorite memories. I was writing to ask her forgiveness for not listening to what God had asked me to do. Over and over while she was part of our church I felt the nudge to get in contact with her and befriend her, but I never did. I had a list of many good excuses... I was too busy, she probably didn't want people invading her privacy, it was really difficult to find a way to contact her. Yeah, I know. It's a pretty wimpy list of excuses. She did write back and accepted my apology, but did say it would have been very nice had I actually done the thing I never did. I don't think my overtures of friendship would have ultimately changed her family's story line, but it could have made it a lot more pleasant.

Yesterday in the girls' Bible study that I lead, we were looking at the parable in Luke about the wise man who builds his house on the rock. While all the girls had heard the story so often it was overly familiar, what struck all of us was that this was a visual representation of a person who comes to Jesus, listens to Him, and does what He says. We all agreed that we are not so good at the listening and doing part.

Sometimes listening to what God calls us to do involves big, big thing. Perhaps a move, a job change, a family addition, or perhaps it is to do something quite outside our comfort zones. Sometimes it is the big things that are easier to discern and do. We know it's big. We know it's going to change our lives. We don't do it lightly and with a lot of prayer and thought. We may not know what lies ahead, but we're ready to say yes.

At other times, listening and doing involves pretty small and little things. Sometimes it might be to call someone on the phone and ask how they are doing... or bringing a meal just because... or finally dropping off some diapers to a new mom. These are the things that are so easy to ignore. It's easy to wonder if we are just making things us, and if so it doesn't really matter. It's easy to dismiss it as not important. It's easy to get so busy that we don't even hear that still, small voice asking us to do something.

In my experience, most times those small things will come and go and we will never know the eternal impact they had. The whole effort might not even turn out as we expect, but we do them because they we have been asked to. Other times, we get to see the immediate impact. I remember hearing a story (I really wish I could remember where so I can attribute it... if you know it's provenance, please put it in the comments) about a man who decided one afternoon to purposefully listen for God's voice. He feels as though he is to stop at a convenience store and buy a gallon of milk. He thinks this is odd, and because of its oddness and randomness almost ignores the feeling. He then remembers what he had set out to do and buys the milk. Then he feels he is to drive to a certain neighborhood and stop at a certain house (apartment? can't remember) and knock on the door and hand the resident the milk. This he thinks is truly odd and now potentially embarrassing. Still, he remembers his plan for the day and decides that a little embarrassment is a small price to pay for his 'experiment'. He knocks on the door and it is opened by a man who stands a little agog at being handed a gallon of milk and being told that God had told the man delivering it to give it to him. Instead of being laughed at, he is told that the man and his wife were out of work and had run out of milk for their children (I'm a little fuzzy on the exact details, but you get the gist) and had prayed that they needed help. I'm pretty sure the man delivering the milk was just as blessed as the family receiving it.

Now, one last tidbit that I learned as I was preparing for yesterday's Bible study. The author of the commentary I was looking at was suggesting that true listening involves several different parts and that it requires effort. Part of learning to listen in church is to:

"Pray -- for the preacher and for yourself. Come prepared to listen, understanding that listening is work. The will to concentrate is fundamental. We cannot listen to God's Word the way we watch TV -- kicked back with a bag of chips in hand or pleasant daydreams occupying our minds. Keep your Bible open to the sermon text and turn to other passages that are cited. Take notes. One of the curious by-products of the Great Awakening in America was a sudden interest in shorthand. It was not unusual to see men and women, quill pens in hand, carrying portable inkwells as they hurried to a preaching service on the village green. The same thing happened in Scotland under similar circumstances. Revived hearts lead to scribbling hand." (from Luke, volume 1, That You May Know the Word by R. Kent Hughes)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Junior high

We homeschoolers spend a lot of time and energy talking and thinking about worrying about high school, but we don't spend much time talking about the middle school years, which are possibly even more tricky to navigate. First, let me say that I really kind of like the junior high age. I was a junior high youth group leader (voluntarily) and loved it. Children that age are still enthusiastic like the children they are, yet are beginning to develop upper level thinking skills and are starting to ask big questions. You can see a whole new world opening up to them.

That said, it can also be an exceptionally difficult age, for both parent and child. Let's face it... 11, 12, and 13 year olds are really giant toddlers. Emotionally and developmentally they are all doing the same work. They are learning to be more independent beings and cognitive skills are making huge jumps. They see everything they want to do and want to be able to do it all. Right now. Or yesterday, whichever comes first. With the junior high set, you also get an explosive cocktail of raging hormones as well, which often leave the child not understanding themselves, much less their parents.

(Remind me again why the Powers That Be think lumping hundreds of these unbalanced beings into one building and trying to teach them something is a good idea?)

I'm sure every parent who has survived these years with one or more children has their own version of having a child sobbing and saying something along the lines of, "I don't know why I'm crying!" Or has experienced the feeling of being on an emotional roller coaster where the child is happy and pleasant one second and the next has stomped out of the room in a fit of anger. Sometimes the best thing you can say about the age is that things usually even out by the end of age 15.

All of this developmental work is tiring. It uses internal resources like nobody's business and leaves little room for much else. Such as school work. If you wouldn't expect a tired or hungry toddler to be able to accomplish much, there is little difference with the tired, hungry, or emotionally fatigued middle schooler. Raising and teaching this age requires a heaping dose of wisdom and compassion.

My own personal philosophy for this age is to step back a bit. I do encourage them to start to take over their own work, to begin to learn at a deeper level, to stretch themselves. But I also keep an eye on how other things are going as well. Do they need me to take a step back? Do they need some time to just get used to their growing minds and bodies? Do they just need some sleep?

We also do more work on character qualities... kindness even in the midst of emotional upheaval, taking on more personal responsibility around the house and for their own person, learning to exercise patience with those around them. These things are just as important as academics, sometimes even more so.

Enjoy these years, they are the last little vestiges of childhood before young adulthood fully takes over. Allow your child these moments when they need them and support them in the times they are straining for adulthood. It's a tricky time for everyone.
_____________
I have a new article up at Heart of the Matter about socialization.. for parents.

Monday, November 11, 2013

It fits! It fits!

I've been facing a steep learning curve over the years trying to make myself clothing that actually fits. I'm great with children's clothes, but sewing for myself has been an abyssal disaster. Too big, too small, too big and too small, too unattractive. It's as though two completely different people have been using the sewing machine... the competent one who can match fabric and patterns together to make something nice and the clueless one who churns out item after item that lands in the trash. I had just about given up ever sewing something for myself that I would actually wear and admit to making.

Then two things happened that made me try one more time. An older friend at church gave me some old skirts that she no longer needed and I saw some really cute skirts in the LL Bean catalogue and I really, really wanted. The skirts were plaid and I was suddenly consumed with the need for plaid skirts. At least one of the skirts that was handed down to me was a very nice plaid, just in a style I knew I would never wear, but there was enough fabric to use to remake a new skirt. So I held my breath and decided to try one more time.

I knew that I have had no success using printed patterns, so decided to pull out a book I've had on my shelf for a while and try drafting one myself. It truly couldn't turn out any worse than my previous attempts. So I opened up the book, How to Make Sewing Patterns by Donald McCunn, and very carefully followed the directions step by step. Every single one of them. (It is very difficult to fit a muslin on your own body and I was heartily wishing for a dressmaker's dummy.) I ended up with a muslin that seemed as though it would work, held my breath and cut the fabric. Then I let the cut pattern sit for a few days, hardly daring to venture further.

Yesterday I decided to give it a try and put the skirt together. I was glad that I had lots of practice following skirt construction directions from sewing for my girls because when you draft your own pattern, there are no instructions for putting it together included. And when I finished it and put it on... IT FIT! And it fit well. Probably much better than if I had bought the skirt off the rack. I was so excited I walked around the house wearing the new skirt trolling the population for compliments. (D. will make a great husband. Right on cue he said, "I like it. It looks very nice.") Even better I had everything in my stash to make it and didn't need to buy anything. Free skirt.

Here it is.


I found a fun navy paisley fabric for the facing for the waist.


Here it is on. I'm not destined to be a clothes model. "Do something else with your hands," J. kept saying.
"Like what?" I kept replying.
"I don't know, but you are standing so stiffly it looks odd."
"I feel odd... I hate having my picture taken."


Now to pull all of the winter plaid fabric out of stash and make a whole bunch more.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

You're so amazing - My National Adoption Month post

(I know for a fact that I've written on this exact same topic before, but there's always new readers and old posts are so hard to find.)

This is one of those comments that adoptive mothers (especially of more than one child) hear fairly regularly. I know it is meant as a compliment and I take it as one, but it's really not true. In fact, I would venture to say that most adoptive mothers who are raising children from hard places feel less amazing than at any other time in their lives. We live with ourselves and we know the truth.

You see, I'm not amazing. Really I'm not. I am just as human as any one else and just because I have many children at home, some of them a little tricky to manage, does not make me less sinful. If it does anything, it heightens my awareness of just how often I fail in a day. I lose my patience and yell at my children. I react when I shouldn't. I behave selfishly. I can be lazy... very lazy. I can be jealous and resentful, such as walking by a restaurant and wishing it were simply a matter of hiring a sitter so that J. and I could go out once in a while. I sometimes feel quite sorry for myself. I harbor fantasies of living in a small, tidy house with just me and J. where nothing gets broken or lost. I'm just like anybody else.

I try to explain this to people. I try to explain that I am just like them, but people tend to not believe me because I'm still doing what, to them, seems like an unimaginable task. And here is where I want to be very clear. So clear that if you take nothing else away from this post, you remember this.

I am not amazing, but God is.

When people tell me I am amazing, I feel uncomfortable for two reasons. The first is I know it is not true. (I do live with myself, after all. Really, not amazing.) The second is this person has completely missed the real amazingness... that God reaches down to help me do what seems to be impossible. Frankly, sometimes I am amazed at what we've gone through and survived. Some days I wonder how I am going to get through to the end and am amazed when I do. That's not because I did anything remarkable; often I had a hand in the making of the rotten day. We all survived because God was there with us in the midst of the yuckiness.

Pretty much my sole contribution to how life is playing out is that I said yes to God. It's when we say yes that we open a door to letting God come in and stir things up. Stirring things up is how God gets our attention; how He gets us to stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on Him; how He slowly changes us into His likeness. It is a sometimes painful and unpleasant process and we shouldn't be surprised at that. After all, Jesus does use terms such as pruning and refining to describe what needs to take place.

I am convinced that God calls many more people to adopt than actually say yes. I can't say I blame them. It can be hard and painful. It can turn your life upside down. It can make you long for easier days and wonder if you did the right thing. It is very, very costly on many levels. Yet when your life is comfortable and easy, you don't need God to do amazing things for you. When you feel under control, you don't need God to take control. When you think you are fine just the way you are, you don't ask for Jesus to transform you into something better.

And you want to know what the most amazing thing is? I personally know the cost of adoption. The difficulty of loving a child who is wounded and angry and sometimes terribly unlovable. I know how imperfectly I show this love. Yet this is what God has done for me. He has taken me, wounded, imperfect, unlovable, and not amazing and loved me anyway with a love that knows no bounds. He sees what I can become through all of the ugliness and selfishness and helps me to become that person. And He does it perfectly. That is amazing.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Coordinating jumpers

It's been a good long while since I showed a bunch of little girl pictures. These are from last Sunday. The H-S family mom really wanted some pictures of them in these jumpers since her own girls wore them when they were all little. I love it when twinny-coordinating outfits just come out of the drawers. The jumpers were hand-me-downs, the shirts I made... just because, and the tights were already in the drawer. What I find most amusing about this series of pictures is watching L. (in teal) slowly warming up to the idea of having her picture taken.





Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Folly

Can you believe that there is still part of the Big Ugly House that I haven't shared with you? Some parts are just too ugly for words, and most of those I skipped. But, a motivated 15 year old daughter is a wondrous thing and when she is an organizing whirlwind, well, just stand back. 

Let me introduce you to what we fondly refer to as 'The Folly'. (You know, folly as in eccentric British lord building misbegotten ancient ruins on his estate. We read a lot of British literature around here.) And folly fits. This was part of an addition to the house, probably in the 1920's when a small garage was attached on the side. There is pretty much nothing redeeming about the design of this addition. The folly is the room above the garage and it connect to the main house through a doorway in the living room. (We're nearly 100% sure that to add the garage they took down a wrap-around porch from the house.) Other than its ugliness, the other problem with this room is that it is not insulated. The floor of the room is cement, it is over an unheated garage, and it has three sides exposed with only one interior wall. It is freezing cold in the winter and over-like in the summer. This explains why over the past 12 years, it stopped being J.'s imagined study and instead become the place to throw whatever we didn't know what to do with. It had gotten to the point where we kind of wished lightning would strike just that room and do away with everything in it for us.

Enter the energetic 15 year old who has been longing for her own room. Less than a week ago, she latched onto the idea of moving into the folly. J. and I both said that it would have to be cleaned out first, thinking that was a task of such magnitude that we could put off making an actual parenting decision for a while. We should know our daughter better. Sensing weakness in parental resolve, she tackled the folly. Over the course of two days she sorted, organized, and cleaned the room. It was an amazing transformation and I really think she could make good money hiring herself out to do this in other people's homes. Yesterday, she enlisted her brothers and sisters to move all her possessions into the folly and she slept there last night. (P. and H. took little time in spreading out in their now emptier room upstairs.) She claims she wasn't too cold, but the worst of winter hasn't hit yet, so we'll see. It will be the equivalent of sleeping on a sleeping porch and I think I'm going show her how to use a hot water bottle tonight. 

So, do you want a tour? Here's the door into the folly from the living room. You can see by the piles of stuff outside A.'s new room that there is still a little sorting to do with everything she removed.


Entering the door and heading up the short flight of stairs. Yes, it's ugly... the picture doesn't really do it justice.


Notice the reflective siding on the ceiling of the stairway. This is what covered the entire ceiling of my old kitchen. Babies loved to sit in their high chairs and stare at themselves in the ceiling.


Past the stairs and looking down the hallway into the room.


The side of the room where A. put the stuff she didn't know what to do with. I know it looks like a jumble, but trust me, this is amazingly organized in comparison.


It comes complete with it's own (ugly) fireplace. It hasn't been cleaned in ages and I'm not sure of its structural condition. She won't be making use of it.


Her bed in the corner near the one, wimpy radiator. Notice the beautiful plaid curtains which came with the house and how well they match (NOT) the paint on the fireplace. You can't see it, but the paint scheme continues on the molding around the ceiling.


This is the former half bath that we took out ages ago. It is so cold that the pipes would constantly freeze and it wasn't worth it. Now it is housing the boxes of genealogy stuff that came from J.'s mom's house.


We'll see how long the excitement of having her own space overrides the inclement weather she will have to endure. It is nice to have it more sorted out.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Phase two

We just got back from the plastic surgeon's. (H's appointment this time. This fall I have been there every month... at least... just with different children.) He is really pleased with how everything is healing and assured me that even the little areas I was concerned about are doing just fine. We even get to stop the scar massage except by her mouth. H. will be thrilled.

As a result, the surgeon is on to thinking about the next step which is to remove the nevi on her forehead. This is slightly more complicated than it sounds because it is a two-step process. The first is to insert an expander under the good skin on the other side of her forehead, gradually expand it by filling the expander with fluid once a week through a port which will be under her hairline. Then, three months later have surgery to remove the expanders, cut out the nevi, shave some bone down, and stretch the new skin over it all. She will need two expanders, one for her forehead and one one the side of her head so that he can remove some dicey skin under her hair at the hairline and crown of the left side. I'm sure it will make a dramatic difference, but the process sounds less than fun.

We now need to sit down with our calendars and the doctor's scheduler to find a three month block that works for all of us. He is thinking sooner rather than later since she has healed so well from her surgery last April. I have no hesitation about this surgery, though. The rough, dark skin on her forehead has always bothered her and even more so now that her cheek is a bit more regular. Even at just a couple of days post-op last April, she pointed to her forehead and wanted to know when that was getting fixed.

Never a dull moment around here, huh?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Not paying bills

Well, I have been paying bills this afternoon, but the whole thing has been so painful that I have to intersperse the unpleasant parts with reading interesting articles I found on the internet. Some were so interesting, I thought I would share them with you. You'll also discern how much I was avoiding the bills by the number of links I'm giving you and by the fact that one of them involves football. This shows real desperation to avoid unpleasantness on my part.

Let's just say up front that some of them not all of my readers may agree with, but you have to agree that they are thought provoking. (And high blood pressure provoking if you make the mistake of reading the comments on some... take my advice and just leave the comments alone. 'K?)

So, without further ado.. my reading list for bill avoidance:

On child-bearing and number of children: Fecundphobia: the growing fear of children and fertile women
And if you didn't read it in the above article, the link to the interview of the football player and the shocking fact his wife is expecting their 7th child: Who's Crying Now?

On adoption fund raising: Fundraising Adoption Fees: fair or foul?

Some brouhaha on Common Core (Which, if you couldn't have guessed, I am strongly opposed to. It's never a good idea to have a combination of corporation and government thinking they have control over our children.): Common Core, Social Media, and a Teacher's Displeasure with Parents

On brain science and reading: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age:The Science of Paper versus Screens

A very cute doll tutorial than could very well be put to use here in the coming months: Act 3A: Fairytale Doll

And finally, a blog I read because it's sometimes like picking a scab. Attic 24 is the blog that encouraged me to try to crochet again, but she lives in England and I'm not sure I can take anymore of the photos she posts on her walks. I like to try to convince myself that people really don't live where there is this type of scenery. (Hey, I'm in IL, folks... we are pretty scenery deprived, Lake Michigan aside.): Attic 24

You all enjoy reading these. I still have a couple of checks to write.


Monday, November 04, 2013

That person

I'm going to say it all again, though I'm pretty sure that I've said this all before. I'm also going to take a chance and be that annoying person at whom mothers of young children have been sounding off at in the blogosphere in the recent past. (Hmmm... try to diagram that sentence.) But I think I'm in a unique position to do this.

More than once I've come across little tirades about older women coming up to mothers of young children in a store and (usually when the child is having some difficulties) reminding the younger mothers to appreciate every single moment because it all goes so fast. While meant in the best possible way, it seems as though these comments only serve to annoy the young mother rather than help to change her perspective. 

Since I live in both worlds. I have a few things to say about this. And you know what? My sympathies lie with the older women. On one hand, I have a 20 year old daughter who will be graduating from college in two more semesters and is starting to talk about apartments and such after graduation. On the other, I have four year old twin girls who are sweet and adorable and loud and opinionated. They rank right up there with some of my more trying toddlers and preschoolers to raise. I love them to death, but they can be quite a handful. I know what it's like to be the frustrated and tired parent of small children. 

What these older women are trying to give to the younger ones is perspective, and perhaps try to spare them the regrets that they have themselves. Because even if the younger mothers don't want to hear it or are tired of hearing it or even think that they believe it, the years really do go by far too quickly. It doesn't seem that long ago that M. was a little two year old and I wonder how I lost track of so much time that she is now 20. I look at photos of my college age children as toddlers and there is an ache there. I miss my children as little children. There are some moments that this ache is so strong that I would happily take one of the tantruming, screaming moments that so drove me wild just to be able to hold that little person one more time. 

We want to share with younger mothers that they will feel this way, too. We want to tell them to appreciate this incredibly brief moment where they can hold a child on their lap and kiss their soft cheek. To relish it. To see it for the very brief and miraculous gift that it is. To have no regrets in looking back on their time with their young children.

This is one of the best things about late-in-life babies and why grandparents have such love for their grandchildren. Because it's like getting a second chance. You've raised children and the speed which it went took you by surprise. It felt as though the sleepless nights, the tantrums over clothes, the messes, the diapers, the myriads of inconveniences which go along with raising small children would never end, but it did, before you were quite ready for it. And then these new babies came along. Yes the sleepless nights were trying, but you knew, really knew this time, that they would end. Those middle-of-the-night nursings became like secret stolen moments between you and the baby. The tantrums were still not pleasant, but are less likely to be taken as a personal insult to your authority and more likely to be seen for what they are... signs of a tired or frustrated child in need of love. (And yes, sometimes that love looks like being tucked into bed.) This longer perspective colors everything about parenthood and gives you new appreciation of it all.

The trouble is, to really communicate this takes so much more time than a quick comment in a grocery store. But the feelings are so strong and so powerful that they cry out to be communicated. This is what those women are saying... relish this time, even if it seems hard; love your children; relish the process; be thankful for the opportunity. Because we know without a doubt that tomorrow (or at least that is what it will feel like), your child will be grown and you will have moments of wishing you could go back and hug that screaming toddler crying for candy in the middle of the store.

So the next time you receive an unwanted comment, take it for what it is... a reminder that we cannot know what lies ahead of us and that regrets are difficult things to live with. Say thank you and give your child a smile or a hug, even if you don't feel like it. Chances are, you will be glad you did.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Pictures from a busy day

Yesterday, not only did we celebrate TM's birthday, we also had a field trip in the morning to the Schaumburg Regional Airport. I set-up the field trip on a whim in the summer and had no idea what to expect... but how often these days does one get to actually tour an airport? 

It turns out the reason we could tour it was that the airport is extremely small. The head of operations spent nearly an hour with us telling us about how airplanes, airports, and helicopters work and then we went and stood near the runway and looked at the planes tethered there. I'm pretty sure the mothers found it more interesting than the children. A. decided that taking flying lessons would be cool... and she pointed out that it would cost less than riding lessons. (She didn't really factor in the hour+ commute to get to the airport.)

As the P Family mother and I looked at the little, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny private planes, we realized that they were quite a bit smaller than the vans we drive... we just don't have wings. Here is everyone, well, almost everyone at the end of our tour.


Here is L., who was not feeling particularly cooperative yesterday (and who very nearly ended up spending significant time in the van with me). She didn't want her picture taken and stayed on the airplane seats in the lobby.


After the airport, we needed some lunch. It being well past picnic weather, we decided that since we were so close to IKEA that we should stop and have lunch there. Because everyone travelling with 19 children in tow decides to walk through IKEA with them, right? Once we were inside and started our trek to the cafeteria, we (the mothers) looked at each other and decided that this had to be the loopiest idea we had ever had. I mean, who voluntarily takes 19 children into IKEA? I'm happy to report that we made it in, fed everyone, and made it out without breakage. Whew! We only had one comment at lunch with an older woman asking us if we were some type of school group. When we replied no, we were just three families out and about, she was thrilled and shared how she and her husband used to take their five grandchildren everywhere and how much fun they had. I love positive interactions.

Then it was home to recuperate and get ready for TM's birthday dinner. We had the roasted vegetable soup that he loves and ice cream sundaes for dessert. He had a very specific design for the sundaes... here was his approved final product:


Waiting for candles...


Blowing out candles...


He turned 11, see the two 1's next to each other?


Happy boy...


Opening presents...


Thank you Grammy and Grandpa!


I finally did find an old carbon receipt machine...


HG surprised him with an iPod. I missed the shot where he is kissing it.


A good (and calm!) birthday.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Costumes 2013

There's been lots happening around here. We'll start with this year's costumes and save the rest for another day.

First is L. as a cowboy.


And when you're L. and you're in a costume, you must pose. These were both 'cowboy poses'.

G. was a panda... and Pandy had to be in the picture as well, though he stayed home from candy gathering. It was far too wet.



K. (yes, it really is him under there) was The Hulk.



D. was a magician... he even had a magic trick he did at various houses. He discovered that a successfully done magic trick earned him an extra piece of candy.



H. was a butterfly. TM helped make the wings and she really loved them. That's her hair braided and with wire through it make the antennae.



HGbaby was butterfly and looked very cute, but left it on only long enough to have a picture taken and HG3 was Spiderman and had a grand time hanging out with The Hulk and gathering candy. Sorry I can't share pictures.

The only other person to dress up was A. Here she is as Alice in Wonderland with P15 who was dressed as the Queen of Hearts. It's hard to see, but Alice is carrying a rabbit with a pocket watch. These two spent most of the evening passing out candy to visitors.


Very wet pumpkins which had to stay under the porch roof.



It was funny to me that the number of pumpkins (and we still didn't do a separate pumpkin for every child in the house) caused a lot of comment among parents coming to the door with their children. The only other interesting comments was when J. was leaving with the children who were gathering candy and the people coming up the walk wanted to know why our house had so many children around it. I didn't catch the response when Alice and the Queen of Hearts answered that they lived here. I think it was dead silence... that possibility evidently hadn't entered their heads.

A fun night all together, if a bit wet.
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