Saturday, November 29, 2014

What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers... or who doesn't like more pie?

The obvious thing to do with Thanksgiving leftovers is to make turkey sandwiches with cranberry-orange relish. Some people in my house truly believe with every ounce of their being that turkey sandwiches with cranberry-orange relish are the whole reason we fix Thanksgiving dinner in the first place. In fact, there have been some years when we have been away for Thanksgiving without sufficient leftovers that we have come home, cooked some turkey and whipped up some relish to satisfy the cravings.

What? You do not make cranberry-orange relish?! Well, you need to, because how else will you make the delicious sandwiches mentioned above? It's easy, here's how J.'s aunt taught me to make it. Take a bag of fresh cranberries, wash them, and pick out any bad ones. Then take a navel orange and chop it coarsely. Now put all of this into your food processor, add sugar to taste (I usually put in ~1/2 cup) and let it get chopped until everything is chopped fine.

But if you have had turkey and cranberry-orange relish sandwiches for lunch and all your bread is gone and people think they still need dinner, you need another plan. This one involves the second biggest reason my people enjoy Thanksgiving dinner... pie. When faced with a cupboard that was pretty bare except for dinner leftovers, I decided to put it all together and make pot pie. Here's what I did...

First,  take all the rest of the turkey off the bones. (Then save the bones for soup later in the week.) Next, get out your creamed onions and leftover gravy. (Doesn't everyone make creamed onions? You need to find Aunt Nellie's onions and go from there.) Put these in a large pot on the stove and heat. Add in the turkey and whatever else you have available. We added some frozen vegetables from the freezer. Heat it all up. It's the easiest pot pie filling you will ever make.

Now you need pie crust. I made enough for three pies last night and it was about perfect. Put the filling in your prepared pie crust, cover with the second crust, cut some slits on the top, and put it in the oven. I baked them for 40 minutes at 425 and they turned out great.

Now we had dinner and used up nearly all of the leftovers. Adding the leftover green salad completed the meal and knocked off another leftover. For dessert? You guessed it... pie. (Nothing pleases my family more than an entire meal made completely out of pie.) There were still some pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies left for dessert.

So what's left? Some stuffing and potatoes and a little dessert pie. I imagine that lunch will take care of those things. Not bad, huh? Two days after Thanksgiving and we have used up the leftovers.

Yummy, yummy, yummy

Friday, November 28, 2014

Well, drat.

The right port in H.'s head continues to be a problem.

Last Wednesday, I felt it and could feel the rim of the port (it looks like a little circular disk if you see one not in someone's body) and so decided that I would go ahead and try to do the expansion. I got everything ready and had H. sit down. Now, as much as I don't like doing this, I'm pretty good at it and have never had a problem getting the needle in the port at the first attempt. On Wednesday, I tried five different needle sticks and couldn't find it. H. and I were both close to or in tears by the time I decided I just wasn't going to find it.

This morning was the first time I could call the office and when I talked to the nurse, she mentioned that she thought perhaps the port was flipped due to all the fluid that had been around it. The nurse had time to see us, so we got ourselves ready and headed back up to the office. I knew the nurse was going to try to turn the port manually if it was flipped, so we gave H. some Tylenol with Codeine and slathered the site with Emla cream. It didn't sound like it would be a fun event.

When we got up there, the nurse tried to access the port and she couldn't do it either. (Which, I admit made me feel better.) She decided that yes, indeed, the port was flipped. She tried to turn it manually which looked like me holding H. in a big hug to keep her calm and putting my head along hers to counteract the pressure that the nurse was using trying to turn the darn thing, all the while H. was whimpering. H. was a trooper.

Sadly, the nurse wasn't able to turn the port. The surgeon is very good at turning ports, so we are scheduled to go back up early Wednesday morning to see if he can do it. I don't even want to consider the alternative if he can't. I think we are going to give a mild sedative, the type that oral surgeons prescribe before tooth extractions, to help take the edge off. We really need to get the done and it is not going to feel good.

So now we will go back to our regularly scheduled holiday and try not to think about Wednesday.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

For home and love and all things true,

(There's been lots of game playing.)

We give our thanks, O God, to you.

(And silver polishing)

For food that's sent to us each day,

(20 for dinner... the tables are ready)

(Plates and serving dishes waiting for food)

Accept this grace that we now say.

(And a little Minecraft)

(Don't worry... it's still festive. They're in front of the fire.)

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fun with Gomez... or what happens when Mom is busy

I've been working hard to get ready for Thanksgiving which leaves some smaller types with a little time on their hands. Since Mommy is preparing for the holiday, they thought they would, too. When filling the mini-muffin cup liners (which we had leftover from a project) with white glue to make "pies" to decorate the table lost its luster, they moved on to Gomez, our resident skeleton.

Notice the holiday decorations so he is already for Thanksgiving.

I bet you wish you had metal rings hanging from your rib cage.

Stickers, pipe cleaners and even a little decoration on the end of his tail bone.

He's decorated from top to toe.

Now, be forewarned the next picture is a little startling. M. had left some fake squishy eyeballs in my desk. (No, I don't know why. These things just seem to happen.) Well, the littles and not-so-littles decided that Gomez needed eyes. So they gave him some. Let me tell you, it is a little distracting to have your children inserting eyeballs into a skeleton's eye sockets and accidentally having them fall through his rib cage every now and then while you are trying to talk on the telephone.

Life is never dull.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Another visit to the plastic surgeon

We just returned from the plastic surgeon's office. (Yes, I do go there a lot, if that is what you were thinking.) The nurse was able to expand the expander that is under her scalp, but the port which attaches to the expander under her forehead is still being funky. It was swollen again and the nurse drew off ~8ml of liquid. Hopefully this will be the last time. If it looks better tomorrow, I will do the expanding and then we'll be set for a once a week schedule for the next several weeks. We're also going to keep her on the antibiotics for a while longer. H. is a great patient and thought she doesn't like the process is as good as gold during the procedure.

Now I can move along to the next item on my to-do list... making 6 dozen rolls. I'm pretty sure that I could forget nearly any other part of the Thanksgiving menu and life would continue, but if I forgot the rolls, the holiday would be declared void and we'd have to do it all again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

And the countdown begins

It's cleaning day here in order to get ready for the holiday. Tomorrow is going to be baking day. Let me tell you, everyone is very excited. Excited in that 'this is going to end in tears' kind of excitement. So I think I'll be a bit busy. Since I won't have time to write novel-length blog posts for your enjoyment, here are some links to other interesting things which have come across.

20 Signs of Unresolved Trauma (I know, not a lot of fun, but I found it interesting.)

Why Church is a Burden for Special Needs Parents (Blessings on the Sunday School teacher who appears in this story.)

How to Deal with Anxiety, Tragedy, or Heartache - 4 Steps from Research (Or why I won't be quitting the blog anytime soon.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homeschooling woes... a set of haiku

This is for P., who is feeling a little behind.

The Tale of Genji
Over one thousand pages
Medieval Japan

Not often is read
A novel rarely opened
And then only half

My girl loves Japan
The desire to learn is strong
A class created

Lesson plans are made
Books and study guides arrive
There is excitement

The book grows longer
The prose is difficult and dry
Too many haiku

Time is growing short
The excitement grows short, too
But not the novel

I am proud of her
It is good to try to reach
Grow and stretch your mind

She is diligent
The schedule is left behind
But she keeps going

Friday, November 21, 2014

Do not lose heart

I haven't shared about what my girls' Bible study that I lead has been talking about recently. As always, I am quite sure that I get far more out of it than the girls do, but you never know. We've been slowly working our way through Luke. This is year two and we're just about to get to the triumphal entry, so we're getting there.

What I have been spending a lot of time pondering is the parable of the persistent widow. (Luke 18: 1- 8) If you are not familiar with it, here's the brief version. A widow persistently hounds a local judge insistently asking for justice. He was an unjust man who cared neither for people or God. The widow is so persistent that the judge eventually gives her what she asks for just to get some peace. Jesus then asks, if the unjust man can eventually do what is right, how much more so will God?

I will admit to misinterpreting this story for a long time. I saw it as a need for badgering and persistence. If I didn't diligently hound God, then I didn't want what I as praying for about enough and didn't deserve to receive it. The responsibility for the outcome fell onto my shoulders. And let me tell you, with this interpretation, this responsibility is a heavy, heavy weight.

As I was preparing for studying this passage with the girls, I realized that I had been wrong. Jesus does not tell us this story to show that we must be persistent because that is what is required, but tells us to show us something profound about God. The parable is there to show us how much God is NOT like the unjust judge. The judge did what was right only grudgingly and for selfish reasons. The widow only received justice because the judge wanted her off his back. He did not delight in giving justice nor was he quick to do so. There was ultimately a good outcome for the widow but it was not due to any good motives of the judge.

This, Jesus says, is so different from God, our Father. God, instead, delights to give justice to his children and He does so speedily. This is the tricky part, isn't it? Sometimes we don't perceive God as acting speedily, do we? We want the problem solved, the injustice righted, the wrong undone right now, not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not next year. We sometimes lose sight that God works without hurry yet at exactly the right time. We think we can see all parts of the problem, yet we see such a small portion of it that our view of any issue is compromised. How many times have I prayed about something thinking I knew best how it should work out only to have God say, "No." Then, looking back with the wisdom of the hindsight of several years, I realize how much better God's way turned out to be. If I had gotten what I thought I wanted, it would have very often been a train wreck.

Jesus knew that this would be problematic, which is why I believe he added the preface to the parable found in verse 1, "And He told them the parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." I have been thinking about the difference in how I pray if I know upfront that God delights to do what is right and quickly and my only responsibility is to pray and not lose heart. It is the not desperate poundings of someone who is unsure of the outcome. Instead it is the calm and patient assurance that God wants what is best for me even more than I do and that He will bring it to pass. It is prayer from a place of peace rather than fear. And the responsibility is no longer on my shoulders.

This strikes me all the more forcefully as I see my family entering a time when God is bringing several prayers to fruition. It is awe inspiring to watch and be a part of, especially because some of these prayers have been on my lips for a long time. I can't help but think this is going to be an amazing story that we are getting to play a part in and cannot wait for the time when I am free to share it with you.

Remember, pray always and do not lose heart.
I have another article up. It is a book review of my friend, Mary Ostyn's book, Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting. Read the review and read the book. It is really very well done.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's that time of year again... but I won't mention the "C" word

I know what I'm spending my weekend doing and that would be spending significant time figuring out the details of Christmas, oops I mean the "C" holiday. I need to take stock of what I have already stashed away, make lists of what I still need, and take a look at the calendar and figure out what we're doing when. As much as I don't want to do this, I know that I will feel better to take all the swirling thoughts out of my head and put them down on paper. My goal is always to have a grip on what will happen in December before Thanksgiving. This means I have nearly all the gift shopping done, or if it is not done, at least I know what exactly I still need to do. This not only frees me up to make the things which need to be made, but also, and more importantly, allows me to enjoy the holiday with my family.

I've written about all my advance planning before. You can find the posts at Advance Planning - Get a Cup of Tea, This is the Long Version and Advance Planning - The Short Version.

But looking at my friend Mary's post yesterday at Owl Haven, made me realize something. (She is still a virtual friend, but I would love to meet her in person some day.) Yesterday she wrote about Christmas books that her family has enjoyed over the years. While we do our Christmas book tradition in a slightly different way, we have a lot of Christmas books and I've never written about them. I'm not sure how I let such a oversight happen.

Our tradition is to bring out all of our Christmas books out at the beginning of Advent. We have a lot. Picture books, chapter books, anthologies, crafts... We have so many, I make it a point to return the library books and just have our Christmas books out in December. I need the shelf space, plus it would become completely unmanageable to have that many books around. On Christmas Eve there is always a new Christmas book waiting for everyone when we return from church.

So with thanks to Mary for a blog post topic (and apologies for completely and totally stealing it... go read her post as well, it will make me feel better), here are some of our very favorite Christmas books. (And a brief reminder that these are sponsored Amazon links which, if you purchase through them, give a little bit back to this blog. I think I'm required to mention that every so often.) They are in no particular order.

The first is Wombat Divine by Mem Fox. Our family is heavily involved in our church's Christmas pageant every year, so we have a particular affinity for such things. Wombat wants to be in the Christmas play, but can't find a part that works for him. It is sweet and charming and features Australian animals which is always fun.

Next, since I'm thinking about Christmas pageants comes The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I'm sure many of you know about this book, but in case you have missed it, it is a short chapter book about what at first, seems to be the world's worst Christmas pageant populated by the world's worst children. You can laugh because you are not the director. I read this out loud nearly every year and every year finds me in tears at the end. Not only does it tell the Christmas story, but also shows what the overwhelming love of Jesus can do.

The next book to pop into my head is A Small Miracle by Peter Collington. This is a wordless book that is told in a rather comic book format. Normally this is the type of book that would not appeal to me at all. But it works and once again, it has a tendency to dissolve me to tears by the end. The plot is that an old woman runs out of money to buy food and her last attempt at earning money by playing her accordion on the street is fruitless. She is forced to pawn her beloved instrument in order to eat. As she walks by a church, a thief who has stolen the offering and upset the creche comes running out and grabs her money. She walks into the church and sets things right, then heads home collapsing on the way. Sounds fun so far, huh? But now comes the good part. Christmas is full of miracles and this story is no different. I don't want to spoil it, but the old woman survives in a rather unexpected way. Highly recommended.

(The picture link doesn't work well and just sent you to the Amazon home page, so I'm taking it out and linking the title above.)

On Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck is another beautiful book that everyone loves. It tells the story of a boy who is overcome with how much he loves his father and wants to do something special for him at Christmas. He doesn't have a lot of money and decides that he will get up extra early and do all the farm chores by himself as a surprise. We watch and the boy plans and executes his plan and the excitement and joy he has in offering this gift. It is a sweet and quiet story about familial love and the joy of gift giving.

This last one is just for fun and I won't even pretend it is a really good book, but it is G. and L.'s current favorite, and if truth be told, I bought it because when I was their age, it was my favorite Christmas book as well. It's The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus. I bet you can guess the plot. It's Christmas cookie baking day and to everyone's dismay, all the Christmas cookie sprinkles have been stolen. One brave little boy goes in search of the Snitch, which isn't hard because he leaves a vast trail of sprinkles behind him. (I actually think this trail of sprinkles is what causes every five year old on the planet to fall in the love the book.) But don't worry, all is well at the end and the cookies end up appropriately decorated. The verse is bad and has ear worm tendencies, but your littles will love it. 

In my continuing effort to keep my readers unbalanced and never sure what to expect, I am now going to jump to something completely different. I have mentioned that I have a new (paid!) writing gig as a staff writer at My first article is now up and I'd appreciate it if you were to click through to read it and share it if you like it. My bank account thanks you. Should My Child Forget They are Adopted? The Adoption Ethics of Forgetting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can you stand more about doctors and health?

I'm not sure I can... I'm pretty done with the whole thing. Yesterday saw me driving H. back up to the plastic surgeon's office. I didn't like how she was looking and she was feeling horrible. If it was another child, one who had not just had surgery and had large foreign objects implanted in her head, I would have just tucked her in and let her sleep. But she had had surgery and foreign objects in her head and really, truly, the last thing I want to have happen is to have any of that get infected and land us in the hospital. Or worse, have to have the infected expanders removed. Ugh! I can't even imagine.

The good news? No infection! I was so relieved. There was a lot of fluid that had collected around one of the ports (fairly common) and that was what was making the port particularly squishy and painful. The nurses drained the area (5ml of fluid.... imagine having that much fluid collected at your temple) and it should start to feel better soon. The fluid showed no sign of any infection, either. We have another antibiotic that she'll be on for another 10 days just to be safe and let her rest for the rest of the week. Next week we'll start the expansion process. I feel so thankful that I padded the time between surgeries by a week. I don't know why, I just did. This means that we are not behind schedule and do not risk having to postpone the next surgery.

H. was wiped out by our little outing yesterday and slept the rest of the afternoon. She woke up long enough to eat dinner (which she was able to keep down) and slept the whole night waking up an hour after everyone else. She seems much perkier this morning, but I'm still going to keep her quiet.

I'm done with everyone being sick. I declare everyone will be all well tomorrow and we can get on with life. That's how it works, right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A book report

Every so often we check out a book from the library that I just love. I always mean to share these books with you, and sometimes I even remember. Today is one of those remembering days. It only took us checking out the book a second time from the library. And the book? Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems.

Now I will be the first to admit that I run hot and cold on Mo Willems' books. I adore Knuffle Bunny (the first one, not so fond of the sequels) and Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She was Extinct, but I really don't like the books about the pigeon. (Collective gasp... I know I'm the only one.) I do love the Goldilocks book. It makes me laugh out loud and who doesn't want to read a book that makes them laugh?

It is the rare book that both parents and children can find equally amusing. I find that if the book elicits chuckles from the adults, the humor is completely missed by the children. (The humor is often far too snide for my taste as well.) And there are many books that children find hilarious that adults suffer through because their children love them. I believe that this Goldilocks book manages to appeal to everyone.

In short, the plot is just what you would think from the title. There are three dinosaurs and there is Goldilocks. There are bowls and chairs and beds. And there is a nice plot twist to alleviate the been-there-done-that aspect that traditional fairy tales can sometimes have. But the best part, other than the chocolate pudding, in my opinion is the moral at the end, which is... if you are in the wrong story, leave.

This fits so nicely in with some of my discoveries about story telling and fairy tales I wrote about a year ago. (How Pictures Work and Story Telling [Here are the links to the books mentioned in them in case you are interested: How Pictures Work; The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter]) Essentially, story telling (and fairy tales) allow children to experiment with scary scenarios in a safe way. The beauty of this experimenting is that stories can be changed and altered. This altering of told stories also gives us practice for altering our real life stories. Of course, some aspects of our lives can't be changed; we're stuck with them whether we want to be or not. But there are other things that can be changed... our attitudes, our actions, our internal story telling.

I realize that's a lot to lay on a simple picture book, but sometimes we forgot the power that stories have. And when they're really funny as well, what's not to like?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Plague House (with apologies to T. S. Elliot)

We are the plague house
We are the coughing house
Sick together
Lungs filled with goo. Alas!
Our hoarse voices, when
We croak together
Are husky and painful
As a rasp on metal
Or sandpaper over skin
In our sick home

Everyone here is sick with one sort of distress or another. Sore throats. Coughs. Constricted chests. Laryngitis. And yes, even vomit. Do not come and visit. Save yourselves. The worst of it? H. has come down with her own version of it and that explains the low grade fever I was concerned about over the weekend. I've talked to the nurse and we're just going to keep an eye on her for right now. It also means we won't be doing the first expansion tomorrow. I had forgotten that they don't expand when a child is even remotely under the weather. Poor H. She is truly miserable. 

I'll now go back and try to read aloud with my croaky throat. I suggest when you finish reading this that you wipe down any surfaces with disinfectant. Just to be safe.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A good example of why I shouldn't write at night

I could write an article that's due tomorrow or I could procrastinate, write a blog post, have a cookie, do some crochet instead. Guess which one I'm picking. It's not complete procrastination since the holiday sweatshop that my life becomes in December has begun a little early. Once again, I have vague misgivings of whether I have over-estimated my time. Since it's only November 15, I will not allow myself to begin panicking... yet.

One thing I did not procrastinate about (though I was cutting it close) was sorting through the winter wear. I can't think of anyone who likes this particular job, but it needs to be done. Even after living in this cold climate for the past 30 years, it is hard to shake off my desert roots. What?! It's going to get cold? Again? When M. was born, I wasn't even quite sure what all she needed to keep her warm. I know now what is needed, of course. I also know that you can save every pair of snow pants you've ever bought and you still will be missing the size a child currently is. I know that mittens and gloves are like socks in that one of the pair is always disappearing. Besides this, I've also learned that snow boots shrink while in storage so that every pair of them is too small for the feet they must fit on. And, last but not least, Mom will never has as much or as warm snow gear as her children do.

Things weren't too bad once I got it all sorted out. I need a few things, but on the whole it wasn't bad. This is good because as I write this it is currently snowing outside and seems to be sticking. My children are thrilled. If you've dozed off, you can wake up now. I may need to make a new category: boring posts with no point. I shouldn't write at night. Which is why I'm not writing that article...

Friday, November 14, 2014

A moment to breathe

I've been on the go for longer than I want to think about today. I've been grocery shopping, waited for the repairman, and went to the Big Box store among other things. But as vital as having toilet paper in the house again is, I know that's not what you really want to read about. What you really want to know is how H. is doing.

Well, among all those other things, H. and I also made it up to the plastic surgeon's office to get the drains removed. Hooray! This always feels like such a big step. After we are sure the that holes where the drains were have completely stopped draining, H. will be allowed to take a shower and wash her hair. On top of that, H. is also feeling a lot better. Yesterday was a difficult day pain-wise and it took while to get it under control. I take it very seriously when H. tells me when she doesn't feel well, because letting me know she is uncomfortable is still something that we are working on. If she says it hurts, it must really hurt. Today, though, she is perky and animated and back to her normal goofy self. It's really nice to see.

H. has the weekend to finish recuperating and then on Tuesday, we go back to the surgeon's to have the first expansion. I'll also load up on supplies so I can do the next bunch at home. Let the fun begin. (Insert sarcastic emoticon.) The good thing about this surgery is that the doctor did more than just insert the expanders... he also cut out a couple of nevi that ran around her cheek and jawline. Those places are looking so good. It all looks significantly better even with the stitches. I'm excited for when she heals enough that I can show you a picture.

My moment to breath is now over and must continue on my marathon that this day has turned into. It continues into tomorrow, so I would be very surprised if any sort of blog post happens tomorrow. Sunday should be calm. I'm looking forward to Sunday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Practicing hospitality

I'm sure you don't need me to remind you that the holidays are quickly approaching. We all get busier and busier planning for various family events and dinners. It is easy to forget that no everyone has a place to go or people to celebrate with. Last year, when I wrote the post, He Sets the Lonely in Families, it had a huge response. (My stats made me very happy for those few days.) If you haven't read it, go and click on it now and read it. It will save me from repeating myself.

We are now three weeks away from Thanksgiving. One of the most useful comments on that post was from the commentor who made the point, that while asking others to join a family for the holidays is great, to do it sooner rather than later is even better. Instead of the build-up of that person wondering what they are going to do... is anyone going to invite them... of making plans to make the holiday less dreadful, ask that person NOW! Then they know and can enjoy the anticipation of having a place to go.

Trust me when I say there is always room for one more. You can always borrow a chair. You can always squeeze a bit. You can always peel two more potatoes. Remember hospitality is about how you make the person feel. You can make someone welcome in your home no matter how big or small it is. You can make someone welcome in your home no matter how it is decorated (or not decorated). It is about attitude and not environment.

So look around. Who can you invite to your table? Are there older adults you know (even tangentially) whose children might not be around? Are there single parents who may not have their children for this holiday? Are there singles who may not have family near? A college student who can't make it home? A couple whose children may not be able to make it home? Don't assume someone you know has somewhere to go. If you don't know, ask, "So, what are your plans for Thanksgiving?" If they don't have plans, invite them!

So pick up your phone and get to inviting. It's what I'm going to be doing today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The End in Mind

(Ugh. Late post today due to internet difficulties.)

I have been a contributing writer for the online homeschooling magazine, Heart of the Matter, for quite some time. This month the magazine has gone through a change and is now called The End in Mind. Each of the writers has been asked to write a post about what this phrase means to them.

Having the end in mind when we are homeschooling or raising our children or doing whatever it is that is important to us is not a bad thing. It gives us goals and guidance and encouragement as we travel on our journeys. Yet I worry a bit that it can also skew what is really important.

We all like positive outcomes. We like good results. We like to see the fruits of our labors. This isn't bad and it certainly is human. The trouble is, if we base the worth of what we did solely on results, we are bound to be disappointed. This is particularly true when we are dealing with people. I know this sounds a bit heretical to Western ears, but bear with me.

There is a lot written out there about how to parent or homeschool (the lines get a little fuzzy) "correctly." Everyone wants what is best for their children and it is easy to fall prey to anyone who is going to let you in on the secret to happy, healthy, successful, and God-fearing children. We know the world can be a scary place and it becomes infinitely scarier the second that new little person is given over to the parents' care. We want to know how to both protect and strengthen our children so they can survive and thrive in this now much scarier world.

The trouble is, there is no secret formula. As you grow older and your friends grow older and all the collective children that you know grow older you begin to realize something. Those children, now adults, are their own persons and that is possibly the scariest thing of all. I've talked with quite a few women who, in my opinion, did everything 'right', yet at the moment they have children who, for one reason or another, they do not feel they were successful with. It is a hugely painful thing for them to discuss. Both because they love their children and because there is the implied public perception that on some level, it must be the parents' fault.

So, yes, by all means parent with the end in mind, but let's be clear about what the end is and what our purpose actually is. The end could be very, very far away. In all honesty, for some parents, they may not live to see the real fruits of their labors. And where does that leave parents? Well, I think we're back to the basics of what our purpose is. Our true purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. This is true of our parenting as well. We parent our children to the best of our ability because that is what God asks us to do. We don't do it because of the results we get. We don't do it because successful children will make us look good. We do it because we love God and trust Him with our children.
You can read my newest article, Let's Talk About Grades, on the newly redesigned website as well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hello Frozen... or this is your brain after surgery

At our last library visit, the children picked a picture book using the words of the "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" song. (If you don't know it or have forgotten the tune, here's the link to Allan Sherman singing it. You need to know the tune to get the rest of the post.) Now the song is amusing, but it is a terrible ear worm and it has been running around in my head for days.

Then, in the recovery room yesterday, H. wanted to watch Frozen (of course). It was my first time to see it and I took an unreasonable dislike to the film. Plus it contains the #1 ear worm of all time, "Let it Go". (OK, maybe the "Everything is Awesome" song from The Lego Movie is worse, but it's short.)

This means that I have two competing ear worms running in my head. So that combined with decompression from surgery and too much coffee, leads to this. Sung, of course, to the Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah tune.

Princess Elsa, Princess Anna
Build a snowman, do you wanna?
Life was great there,
'Till the daugtah,
Got in trouble with a little frozen wattah.

Hey there Muddah! Hey there Faddah!
Did you think that, you should aughtah,
Behind a door, lock your daughtah,
So her little sister sought and sought and sought her.

But this is Disney, so I bettah,
Say their parents, will be deadah,
By the end of, the introduction,
Mom and Dad will not be worth a mention.

Dysfunction on ev'ry hand,
No, that's a glove, I do not understand,
How it works. Is she like Rogue? 
Or is it just that gloves are still in vogue?

No foreshadowin',
Is there an evil twin?
There's no clue that Hans a mess,
and that he's filled with evil-ness.

Now take Christophe, I don't like when,
He does the talkin',
For his friend, Sven.
'Bout that Olaf,
Let's not share here,
If snowmen speak then why cannot the reindeer?

Then they all lived, happ'ly aftah,
And the moral? I will tell ya.
If you want to, feel all bettah,
Just get thawed from bein' frozen in the watah!

I will tell ya, it is cle-ah,
All my thoughts are, in this metah.
I don't know why, my brain is so slow,
I just know that I have go to let it go.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Just a quick post for those of you not connected to me on facebook.

H. did very well with the surgery today. The surgeon placed two expanders, one in her forehead and one under her scalp, the same places as last time. He also removed the two nevi which ran from her eye down her cheek and jaw. Everything went well. After several hours of recovery she was awake enough to watch Frozen and have a pop-sickle and some juice. By 4pm, the nurses were making noises that she was doing well enough that we could go home, so we did.

The stitches in her cheek should start to dissolve within the week and the drains will probably come out in 7 to 10 days. The expanders will be in 12 weeks just like last time. So far, H. is not in any pain.

Thanks everyone for your prayers during the day, they are much appreciated.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The next post will be after surgery

The best thing about having surgery on a Monday is that you get the hospital call as to what time to be there on Friday instead of the night before. It gives a person a little more time to plan. So, the details are: H.'s surgery is scheduled to begin at 8:45 which means we need to arrive at 7:15. Not too bad until you factor in the hospital is about 45 minutes away and we have to drop children at our (very good) friends' house first. I expect we will need to be leaving with everyone at 6:10 or so. Have I mentioned that we are not morning people?

I will be bringing my computer so I can update when we have news. I'm also bringing an outlandish collection of yarn and crochet hooks and knitting needles. I'm a fidgeter, so knitting and crocheting is pretty much the perfect activity for hospital waiting rooms. Plus, I have several Christmas projects I need to get going on.

H. is doing pretty well with the whole thing, considering. Last night she was marching around the bathroom announcing with each step, "I don't like surgery! I don't want surgery! I won't have anymore surgery!" This is the first time she has really been able to express such negative emotion verbally, so that's good. It's not so fun to have to say no when she asks if this is her last one.

Your prayers are appreciated. I'll update when I can.

Oh, and one more thing. The little girl, Tina, who has the same syndrome as H.? She now has a $25,000 grant to go towards her adoption. This is such a significant sum, it could very well cover nearly her whole adoption. Was the cost of adopting the only thing holding you back? This grant makes that worry irrelevant.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Life is Beautiful

So the attitude reset is just about complete.

Clean(er) house. Check.
Bills paid. Check.
Desk cleaned off. Check.
Calendar updated. Check.
Morning run. Check.

The only think left to do was to create art with my children...
(We traced leaves onto watercolor paper, added color, and then added details with fine-tipped pens.)

K. (Can you tell he still has a tendency to turn all his watercolors black?)






E. (Everyone was pretty self-sufficient, so I had a chance to paint, too.)


while listening to this on endless repeat.

It's a good to remember to see the beauty all around you; to appreciate the blessings that you already have. It's good to remember not to let worry rob you of what you already have.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

And some days...

you just need to cancel school and clean your house.

So we did.

I guess now, though, I cannot put the bills off any longer.

Fun times, I tell you. But at least the third floor is clean and surprise, surprise, suddenly everyone wants to play up there again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Well, that was fun


We just got home from H.'s pre-op appointment with the plastic surgeon. On Monday she will have her 4th surgery here (7th total) to have more tissue expanders put in. I had put off telling her about until today, figuring ignorance is bliss and why should she need to worry about sooner than she needed to.

As we were riding in the car to the appointment we were talking about why we needed to go the doctor's office. As she thought about having surgery again, it was such a strong emotion that it caused her to have a seizure. (This is not the first time I've seen this connection and it can happen with strong good emotions as well as negative ones.) It was just too much for her. It's a very good thing that TM is my constant travelling companion because it was really, really helpful to have an extra pair of capable hands at that moment. He jumps up from his seat and moves next to H. so he can hold her upright so she doesn't hurt herself. He was great and calm and very kind. I was really very proud of him. Eventually she comes 'round again and we need to have the whole conversation several more times before I'm sure she has actually processed what we've been talking about.

Even in that doctor's office, where she is usually very perky and cheerful, everyone noticed the much more disassociated child. The nurses (whom H. loves) would ask a question and get a rather blank and confused look in return. It makes you feel pretty rotten as a mother to make your child go through something that is so visibly disturbing and worrying to them. Sure, if we had talked about the surgery yesterday, she probably would have been a little more present, but that would have been one more night where she would get to lie in bed and worry about it. Pretty much, there is no good time to tell your child they have to have a surgery they really don't want.

The other reason it was good I had TM with me was that I am evidently suffering from 'surgery brain' and don't really realize that I am. As I'm driving and have made sure that H. understands what is happening, TM asks, "Hey, weren't we supposed to get on the highway there?" Sure enough, I was just driving and not thinking about where I was going and had to turn around. (We probably would have ended up at the stable which would have been even more confusing to H.) We ultimately made it and then sat in the waiting room for a while I explained TM's math to him and H. snuggled up against me.

I know how much I am not looking forward to this and I am not the one who actually goes through it. This is the 8th surgery one of my children has to undergo and I'm always surprised by how much brain space the even takes up, even when you are not actually thinking about it. It turns out, part of your brain is actually thinking about it, you just don't realize it. It makes me forgetful (I forgot to take a child to a birthday party last week) and cranky (I have not been the nicest mom the past couple of days) and doing hard things seems almost beyond my capability (yes, I still need to pay the bills). Getting to the actual surgery date is almost a relief because you have arrived at the date that you just couldn't see past. Afterwards, there are things to do... drains to change, a child to comfort, the promise of healing (well, if you're not injecting saline into your child's head). You can move on.

So here we are playing the waiting game once again. It means you are overly concerned with everyone's health because you don't want the child scheduled to have surgery get sick. Who wants to prolong the agony by having to postpone? It means it is a struggle to do even everyday things. It means hoping you don't forget to do too many important things while you wait. It means it is not good that there is Halloween candy in the house.

Surgery is scheduled for Monday the 10th. The doctor will be inserting two more tissue expanders under H.'s scalp in the same places as before. He wants to finish excising the sebaceous skin that is left on her forehead and scalp. He will also be excising the two long nevi along her cheek that are in parallel lines that run from her eye down towards her chin. She will not be feeling good for quite a few days afterwards. I know the end result will be good and that is why we are doing this. But, really? My main feeling about the whole thing right now is BLEH.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

TM's birthday pictures

Blowing out candles (He chose ice cream sundaes, so once again, candles had to be held.)

B. holding the candles... if you add the numbers, they equal 12

TM reading the card that K. wrote all by himself

TM opening the very small package from G. of a 1 RMB coin she had found kicking around the house.

"Thank you Grammy and Grandpa.... I love all my robot kits!"

Monday, November 03, 2014


Now, I know you have all read about the nurse fighting the quarantine order in Maine. It is a serious topic and the debate and tension between individual freedom and corporate responsibility is not one to take lightly. There is always a tension between what is good for the individual and what is good for society as a whole. I do not take these ideas lightly.

That said, am I the only person who hears '21-day quarantine' and thinks, "Who the heck doesn't go for that?"

Think about it. Twenty-one days where you cannot leave your home. That's twenty-one days of not having to drive to classes and doctor's appointments. Twenty-one days of not having to go to the grocery store. Twenty-one days of not having to run errands. Twenty-one days of not having to go to meetings. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Think of what I could do! My mental list of projects that I never get to is long. There are sewing projects, knitting and crochet projects, organizing projects, redecorating projects... the list is almost never ending. I'm also pretty sure I am well-stocked enough that I could make a huge dent in many of these without ever needing to leave my house to go get needed supplies.

And the reading... Even if I had no warning and couldn't stock up on books, I think I would still be OK. There are more than a few books on our shelves that I still need to read. For instance the multi-book historical fiction series by Dorothy Dunnett, The Lymond Chronicles. I've already read her House of Niccolo series and love it. The trouble is, I haven't been quite ready to devote the months it will take to one series. A twenty-one day quarantine would make a good start.

Food could be an issue, though I'm assuming that it could be delivered. If not, I'm pretty sure I have enough in my pantry and freezer to get through 21 days. It might not be terribly interesting at the end, but I wouldn't starve. I also wouldn't be putting on fancy dinner parties.

Truly, what's not to like about the whole quarantine-thing? Sign me up. I guess the next best thing to wish for is a blizzard causing us all to be housebound for a while.

(Here is the disclaimer that I know I need to write so that we can avoid any misunderstandings and unpleasantness. I am joking. OK, not joking about how much I would enjoy this, but joking that on some level Ebola, people dying, potential and actual epidemics, and curtailment of freedom is not serious. I know it is. You know it, too. But it does help to be able to laugh at things every now and again. Even [especially?] if they are not funny.)

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Costumes 2014

Chicago was wet and cold and very, very windy last night, but J. managed to take people out so they could collect their candy. At least they all didn't come home dripping wet like they did last year. Just cold. Snow will do that.

K. (as fireman) and G. (as panda... of course)

K. (notice the soot)

G. (This costume was such a pain to make last year, I was glad she was getting a second year out of it.)

L. (as Iron Man) - M. made the costume out of milk jugs and cardboard (her preferred mediums). In the middle of summer L. announced this is who she would be and told her sister she was going to make it, which M. did.

HG4 (as the Hulk)

H. (as a ladybug)

The backside, since that is the interesting part. (L. was a little bit smitten with this, but did not try to put H. into a bucket.)

TM whipped together some antennae for her.

and HGbaby was a bear. (She is the 7th child in this house to wear this costume. Had I but known when I was making it 20 years ago...)

Am I the only one who thinks that after we hit this particular time of year it's as though someone hits the fast-forward button on life? 

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