Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh yeah, I remember this part

And that would be the part when the littles collectively lose all self-control after having held it together during a stressful few days. (For the most part the middles and bigs have been fine, though one middle has just stomped upstairs due to perceived injustice. And not the one you think.)  It has been very loud around here this morning. I even called J. at work and left a message on his voice mail of a particularly loud great big noisy fit, just so he wouldn't feel left out. I'm nice like that.

I'm pretty sure this happens every time, but I guess I conveniently block it out of my memory. I'm writing it down this time so that maybe I'll remember for the next surgery and can plan accordingly. Or at least have a substantial supply of chocolate on hand. It actually feels like a Monday after a long vacation.

On the plus side, H. is doing well. I broke the news to her about her hair to her last night and she took it well, though she hasn't seen it yet. She did want to see her forehead, so after I bandaged the rest of her head I helped her look in the mirror. I think she was pleased. What I noticed this morning when I was rewrapping her head made me very happy. Before, she had had a fairly large and significant scar running straight along the center of her head, right where a center part would be. I become a little fixated with styling her hair so this was less evident. The scar is gone! The surgeon was able to cut it all out and replace it with some of the new scalp and I can tell the suture lines (I keep wanting to call them seam lines because it does look as though she was literally sewn together at the moment) are much smaller than what was there before. They are also not a straight line so the hair won't want to naturally fall along them as it did with the huge, straight scar. I told this good news to H. and she was pleased. Her comment helped convince me that we really are doing the right thing. (I have more than a few moments of wondering... it is not a pleasant process.) She said, "I look like all you guys?" And I was able to say, "Yes, once everything heals and grows back, you'll look like everyone else." It felt good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stitches, drains, and hair

Since nothing is very quick in hospital and doctor land, it took a while to make it home with H. Part of the slow down was that we needed to stop by the office to have H.'s dressing changed. (Our plastic surgeon is phenomenal. I really like him. H. likes him. But he is a little finicky about who touches his patients, thus out trip to see his nurses.) It was at that moment that we got a good look at the results of the surgery.

The trouble with plastic surgery is that initially things don't look so good. There are the stitches, of course, but there is also bruising and swelling and drains. A lot of bruising and swelling. Sometimes it's difficult to determine what is permanent and what is temporary. As we do this more often, I can start to see what's what, but it is always something of an initial shock.

Here's where things stand. On the whole, it looks really good. After our talk with the surgeon yesterday, I was a little hesitant to see the results, but I'm pleased. The area he wasn't able to cover is pretty small and not that noticeable. She does have a suture line on her forehead, but I think it will be OK, plus the surgeon has plans to correct it at a later date. There is some swelling, but not too bad. Best of all, the worst of the nevus/sebaceous skin which was prominent on her forehead is gone. Her forehead really does look more 'normal' even with the stitches and swelling.

What I'm really dreading, though is when H. looks at herself in the mirror. Not because of the stitches; she's been pretty good about accepting that. It's because of her hair. Because there was so much work done on her scalp, they needed to shave a good portion of her head. Probably about a third of it. Have you ever seen pictures of Ancient Egyptian boys whose heads are shaved and they have just a long side lock on the side of their heads? Just make that side lock a little bigger and you'll get a pretty accurate image of what we have.

Let's just say H. is not going to be happy. On top of all the regular feelings we have about hair, it is doubly emotionally charged for H. For so many years H. really wanted long, long hair. But with each surgery she had in China, her whole head was shaved, and it was kept short afterwards when she was in care. This is the first time she's been able to have the long hair she so desired and has been loving it. She dutifully and carefully combs it each morning and has been pretty good about keeping it tangle-free. I just dread seeing her face when she sees what is not there. I know it will grow back. I know it is not the end of the world. I know in the great scheme of things this is fairly minor. But still... My heart breaks for her to have this added to everything else. I have the name of a hair stylist who specializes in styling hair for people who have had cranial surgery. I will be making an appointment as soon as all the drains and stitches are out.

And I will probably be investing heavily in hats.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A brief surgery update

I'm tired, but thought those of you not on facebook would appreciate a surgery update on H. The very short story is all is well and she is staying overnight in the hospital and we hope to bring her home tomorrow. (J. is staying with her.) 

Here's the slightly longer version. Originally her surgery was scheduled for 11:40 this morning, but Sunday night we received a call saying the patient ahead of us on the schedule had cancelled, so we were asked to move everything ahead two hours. So, we got everyone up and out the door and to the H-S Family's house where they were spending the day and then drove up to the hospital. We arrived on time and they admitted H. And then we waited and entertained the girl and waited and colored and waited and did stickers and waited some more. Finally, she was taken into surgery at 11am and we were notified that surgery had officially begun at 11:30. I'm so thankful the person ahead of us in line had cancelled because I hate to think what time surgery would have started with another person on the schedule.

J. and I did some work in the waiting room and were then notified that things were going fine, but surgery was going to take longer than anticipated. We decided to get some lunch while we could and then went back to the waiting room to continue with whatever work we had brought along. (We joke that some of our longest dates in the past 8 months have all occurred in surgical waiting rooms.) A while later, we were joined by the surgeon who reported that H. was doing fine and proceeded to tell us about the surgery.

The good news is that he is pretty happy with what he was able to do, but the bad news is that this statement was qualified by the word 'considering'. He was happy with what he was able to do considering the complicating factors he discovered. You all know H. has quite a bit of tissue overgrowth on her face. (The extra mass is not a tumor, but excess tissue.) Well, we know that, but we never considered that this overgrowth of tissue could be anywhere else. It turns out that she has excess tissue all under her scalp as well. The problem with this is that it made it difficult for the surgeon to move the new skin exactly where he wanted it. The extra tissue caused there to be a lot less play in the skin than is normally seen in tissue expansion. (OK, that's what I understood the doctor to say. I have a sneaking suspicion that if he were to read it, he would wonder if we were in the same room.) Anyway, it means that he wasn't able to remove quite as much of the nevus/sebaceous skin as he would have liked. Since I had already discovered that H. will have more tissue expansions in her future, this didn't cause me as much distress as it might have. There are still multiple more surgeries to go. 

When I left J. and H. late this afternoon, H. was still extremely tired. Her head is completely bandaged and she has two drains in which will stay for the next week or so. (I'm really good at changing drains now, though.) Because of dealing with the extra tissue and shaving some bone in the skull, there was quite a bit of blood. Not enough to cause H. to need a transfusion, but let's just say I'm glad it will be the nurse changing her dressing in the morning. Even with all the bandaging, it was so nice to see her head without the tissue expander. I think she will be happy about that. When she reaches a point where she can be happy about anything. She had a lot done and I anticipate this being not a very pleasant week for her.

I've put all the small people to bed and I think I will be heading there myself very soon. I'm sure I will have more to report after H. comes home tomorrow. Thank you for all of your prayers.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two little girls

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it

Something on the road, cut me to the soul...


If you have ever been in an orphanage and seen a room filled with absolutely silent babies; if you have ever had a child look at you and ask if you are their new mommy or daddy; if you have ever seen a child turn away in sadness because they were not chosen... again, then you understand the import this song to me. I have seen and experienced all these things. Many adoptive parents have. It is a gut wrenching, soul changing experience. No longer are these children faceless statistics, they are real, flesh and blood human beings longing to belong and to be loved. To touch one of these orphans, to speak to them, to hold them... it changes you. It breaks your heart. It is something you grieve over long after you return home with your child. A chosen child. A child who now has a family; who belongs; who is no longer an orphan. You wish you could give each child a family. You wish you could save them all. You wish you could communicate to people who have not shared your experiences so they understand. Really understand. You wish everyone would do something. You want to scram because you can't understand how people can go back to their everyday lives. Most of the time I keep these feelings under wraps. It makes me appear more normal. Well, as normal as I can be. I'm pretty sure most people think I'm already off my rocker, so I wonder why I bother. 

But sometimes, knowing about certain children and their need for a family consumes me and I can't stop myself. There are two little girls who have taken up residence in my brain and won't leave. Please, someone, be these children's family.

You already know about Lena, but I'll remind you. She is an adorable little girl with a very significant heart problem. It may or it may not be repairable. It certainly cannot be repaired if she remains where she is.


If she has a chance of living, she needs a family. At least she is in a very good place, but it is not a family. She does not have a mommy and daddy holding her, loving her, standing by her as she battles for her life. And she is full of life. Take a look at this video of her. Truly, if you have never clicked a link on this blog and have no intention of doing so, please, just this once, click this link and watch the video. Share it with everyone you know. Help find this child a family before it is too late. You can read more about her on the New Day blog.

The second little girl is one I've met. She lived at the same foster home as H., but was transferred back to her orphanage right after we were there. The move was due to political forces at work which did not take into consideration the welfare of the child. That means she has had yet more transitions and is now in an orphanage instead of a foster home. She has been there for two years. Years, people! With no one choosing her.

Her name at the foster home was Sharon, but she also has an advocacy/fundraising page where she is called Grace. (You know all these names are purely for advocacy purposes, right? The children go by their Chinese names.) She was born with a heart defect which has been repaired. She was a sweet, quiet little girl who carefully watched what we were doing when we were there. She was particularly taken with A. and wanted to follow her around. I cannot believe she still does not have a family.


Pray for these children. Advocate for them. Do not let them linger, with their names among thousands on a list of available orphans. Do something.

Friday, April 25, 2014

We haven't talked about food for a while

When people find out the number of children we have, asking about how I cook for them all is inevitably the first thing they want to know about. I guess routinely cooking for 13 - 15 people is on the same level as having a super power in the minds of some people. My standard response is that it's not really than impressive a feat; more a matter of practice than anything else. I started out cooking for just two when J. and I first got married and then we slowly added a child one (or two) at a time. Adding enough for for one extra person isn't that difficult. It's a skill you slowly learn and adjust to. Of course there are also those times when you realize that the size of your cookware is insufficient, so you have to upgrade, but that doesn't happen for a while.

I guess we do go through a lot of food, but since that's my normal, I don't think about it. For instance, if you're curious, it took us exactly four days for 13 people to eat 6 dozen hard-boiled eggs. And some people were a little upset that all the hard-boiled eggs from Easter were gone yesterday at lunch. I also made some breakfast food yesterday afternoon... something I had been meaning to do for quite some time. I made some granola, which filled four half sheet baking pans when it was ready to put in the oven and made 64 servings of various instant oatmeal flavors. All of this might last a week or so, depending on how hungry the swarms of locusts are and how soon the novelty of having these much enjoyed breakfast foods lasts.

So you see, the biggest issue facing the cook of a large family is price per person when everything is made. It's easier on the budget when there at least a couple of meals during the week when price per person is less than a dollar each. With that in mind, I thought I'd share one of the cheapest meals I make... and it tastes good and is easy as well. What's not to like?

White Bean Soup - serves a lot, though I often double it

1 lb white beans, any variety (if you are using beans in bulk, 1 lb beans = 2-1/2 c.
1 qt. water
1 qt. beef broth (I use bouillon)
3 cloves garlic, chopped (or more, I use a lot)
some parsley (I don't have an amount, I just sprinkle it in, maybe a couple of tablespoons?)

Put everything in a crock pot and stir together. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. And you're done! Serve with some good bread and a salad.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wonder

A blog reader wrote to me and asked if I had ever read the book, Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. (Blessings on blog readers who write to me and ask questions that I can turn into a blog post!) In short, it is about a boy with a facial deformity. A friend had recommended I read it a while back, so I checked it out of the library. The only trouble with checking things out of the library is that later on, if you want to go and look at a book, the book is not right there on your shelf waiting for you. So forgive me if I do this from memory... I may not get every detail correct.

On the whole I liked the book. Since it is juvenile fiction, it is a quick read. I thought the author's take on living with a facial deformity and living with someone with a facial deformity were pretty good. The story is told in first person, but the narrator jumps from character to character in the book. As a parent, I actually found the point of view of the older sister to be the most interesting. The feelings of always coming second and of always being conspicuous as a family were ones that parents need to keep in mind. But, in a way the author nailed one aspect of facial deformities without even realizing it. You see, many of the older sister's feelings stemmed from the fact that her brother was medically fragile for most of his early life and not so much from the fact that his face looked different. This is our experience, at least. Sure the actual deformity plays a role, but so often and so quickly it becomes a supporting role and not the starring character.

That's not to downplay the role it plays in H.'s life or ours. The fact that she doesn't look like everyone else doesn't go away, but as I have said before, among those who know her, it stops being noticeable. We don't think about it. Not in an 'elephant in the room' sort of way, but more in a 'oh yeah, we kind of forgot about it' sort of way. I would venture to say that friends who spend time with her feel the same way. H. is so much more than how she looks that people quickly see the real person and not just the outside person. It is when people meet her for the first time that we all notice it once again. There are the stares and hesitant questions as a person's brain seeks to assimilate what they are seeing, yet I've watched it all change very quickly as the person becomes accustomed to what they are seeing and start to interact with the real child. On the flip side, there have been the very few I have also seen the change never happen. Sometimes a child is initially afraid and the parent (not on purpose) feeds their fear. Some people just can't make the change, most do.

Actually, my biggest beef with the book was the author's take on education. My reaction to her assumptions very nearly made me put the book down. The child in the book, the one with the facial deformity, for health reasons (as well as how he looks) was homeschooled until 6th grade when his parents decide he needs to learn to live in the real world and they need to stop being overly protective. The book chronicles his first year in public school. As you can imagine, there is some that is good and much that is unpleasant as he navigates this supposedly 'real world'. Do I need to go into why I find all of the assumptions that author holds infuriating? I don't think I will here, but if you want me to later, let me know. I'll be happy to enumerate them. There are many.

On the whole, I do recommend it. It is well written and a great way to open conversations about what makes a person a person and how looks play into how we treat people. It could also be a great opener for discussing what exactly the 'real world' is.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The good news and the bad news

We just arrived back home from a visit with the plastic surgeon. Things are still all set to go for surgery on Monday. Everyone is pleased with the amount of expansion we have been able to get, though they expanded the forehead today and I'll do another expansion in both places on Sunday. The surgery is expected to only take around 2 1/2 hours, which seems really fast to me. That's all the good news.

My private fantasies that this will be the only tissue expansion H. will need to go through are just that... fantasies. This time the surgeon will be able to correct the skin on her scalp and on most of her forehead, but there is still a lot of skin that will need to be replaced around her eye and down the side of her face along the hairline (between her eyebrow and ear). There is no way that the tissue gained from this time will stretch to cover those areas. This means that once she has healed from this surgery, we will get to go through the same process again, this time putting an expander under the skin on the other side of her forehead. With that new tissue the surgeon will then work downward. At least he is only talking about one expander for the next time. Sigh. One thing at a time.

Here is where she is at this point, with just one more expansion to go before surgery.


(The headband is going around her head at a place without expanders.)

Someone mentioned on a previous post that H. has gorgeous hair. She really does. It's thick and lovely. This is a really good thing, because when the surgeon removes the iffy skin, the new skin, hair follicles and all, will be stretched to cover it. Because she has such thick hair, this should be barely noticeable once it's all healed. As you can see, the expander is only vaguely noticeable because of the amount of hair she has.

The adventure continues...

Monday, April 21, 2014

He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

Scenes from our Easter celebrations of the past few days, with a reminder of what they were all about.

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!
Sons of man and angels say; Alleluia!

Seder dinner table

Raise your joys and triumphs high; Alleluia!
Sing, ye Heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!

K.

Loves redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won; Alleluia!

H.

Death in vain forbids Him rise; Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

P11, P., H H-S, and B.

Lives again our glorious King; Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now your sting? Alleluia!

L., A., and G.

Jesus died, our souls to save; Alleluia!
Where your victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Easter morning

Hail, the Lord of earth and heaven! Alleluia!
Praise to You, by both be given; Alleluia!


Every knee to You shall bow, Alleluia!
Risen Christ, triumphant now, Alleluia!

L. and G.

P.

G.

TM

L.

L. and G.

L. and B.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ditto

I started to write a blog post that I eventually deleted. It was too didactic and dull to read. So instead I'm going to send you to a post a friend of mine wrote. Just click the link and go read it, okay?

Seriously Blessed:  Sacrifice

Friday, April 18, 2014

Leftovers

We celebrated our Maundy Thursday Seder last night and are heading off to our church's Good Friday family service this morning. Sometime between now and then I have dresses to finish, grocery shopping to do and a rather intimidating list of things that really need to get done before Sunday. All that means to you is that you get bloggy leftovers.

Evidently not many people write about Good Friday and children because an old post of mine, imaginatively titled, Good Friday and Children, is getting a lot of traffic this week. Take a look if you happened to have missed it... or you didn't happen to be reading this blog back in 2012.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rejoice in our sufferings

The Hearts at Home link-up topic today is "Love Your Struggles." This is a topic that I can write about. It seems learning to love my struggles has been my theme for more than a couple of years. There have been moments of life that have not been easy. Parenting children from hard places has felt as though I had been dropped into a particularly difficult spiritual boot camp. But just like a real life boot camp is designed to turn out soldiers who are highly trained for particular duties, this spiritual boot camp has felt as though it has done the same thing. I am a very different person from the one I was 8 years ago and it is all because of the struggles God has allowed me to experience.

Fear and worry have always been something that have been a challenge for me. In fact, several years ago, I wrote extensively about rooting out fear from my life. Let me tell you, there is nothing like facing one of the items on your "things that terrify the heck out of me and I don't think I could handle it" list to help you learn to combat fear. This isn't because experiencing such a thing makes a person stronger. I have a lot of trouble with the pithy, wrong-headed idea that God won't give you more than you can handle, mainly because it's not true. God routinely gives us more than we can handle on our own. If you read the book of Isaiah with any care, it becomes very clear that God doesn't want us to handle things ourselves, but instead wants to bring us to a point where we have to rely on Him. I haven't become stronger as a result of my experiences, instead I have learned the extent of my own weakness and have allowed Jesus to take over. He can handle it, I can't. People routinely tell me, "I don't know how you do it." I'm still not sure what it is that they I'm doing, but whatever it is, I'm sure it's not as impressive as they make it out to be. It's not me who's doing it after all. My struggles have taught me that I can do nothing, but my God can do anything.

This boot camp experience has also shown me both that I wasn't nearly as compassionate as I believed myself to be and made me a more compassionate person all at the same time. It is unpleasant to learn things about yourself that you'd rather not know, but until you learn them, you can't change. I learned that it is easy to be compassionate and loving when things are easy, but when things are hard, I discovered my true nature. It wasn't pretty. I was not better on the inside than the behaviors my son was showing on the outside. We were exactly the same. You think you understand the need you have of a savior who will forgive and change that disgusting yuckiness inside of you and it's another thing completely to stare that disgusting ugliness in the face. Your own. I am no better, and probably a whole lot worse than anyone else. That is what creates compassion.

It is interesting that in these same past 8 years, I have also experienced more joy than I could have imagined. The joy of adding new children to our family, the joy of seeing broken people heal, the joy of letting go of all the 'shoulds' and not worrying about what others think, the joy of resting in God's love and care, the joy of loving other people, the joy of following the adventure God has for us, the joy of great confidence because we are following where God leads, the joy of having hope.

I have learned through these challenging years the true meaning of Romans 5:2-5, a passage that as a younger person I always read with a bit of trepidation. "Through Him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (ESV)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Music for the season

Years ago I sang John Rutter's Requiem in a church choir. It is a beautiful piece of music and my cassette (!--I told you it was a long time ago) wore out from use. Today I was sitting down at my desk to pay bills and decided that I really needed to listen to it again. Thank goodness for You Tube. If you haven't heard it, take a listen. Gorgeous music and just right for Holy Week.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adventures in sewing circa 1943

Hmmm... well I certainly don't want to write about the snow that fell last night. Writing about taxes doesn't seem terribly fun, either. Really, I don't have anything to write about because I have spent every waking moment working on sewing this pattern.



Cute dresses, huh? I found it for sale when the little girls were babies and have been holding on to it until they can wear a size 6. Since for the next 10 minutes they wear a size 6, I am finally making the dresses. I very nearly let the moment get away from me. They are tall girls and between their height and the shorter style of girls' dresses in 1943, I needed to add a couple of inches length onto the pattern as it is. Since they are also rather narrow little girls, with the added length, I think I will have time to make the pattern a couple of times before they completely outgrow it.

And I do want to make it again. I have the short-sleeved version still to make after all. Well, that and the fact that the learning curve for putting these dresses together is extremely steep. I don't know if you've ever looked at the instructions for vintage patterns before, but let's just say they're not verbose. They also assume the seamstress knows what she's doing. I think I have spent as much time figuring out how to make the pieces fit together as I have actually sewing. While the dresses are looking pretty decent, all I can see are the places I want to redo because having made it once or twice, I finally understand how it all works. At least they will be easily finished in time for Easter, which is good, because they are not the only children in the house whose clothes need figuring out.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Another first horse show

Yesterday A. rode in her first horse show. P. would have ridden again, but she was broke at the time the entrance fee was due, so needs to save her money and wait for the next one. A. did quite well. She place 3rd in her first class and 1st in her second class. Not too shabby, huh? Here are some pictures.

Getting ready

Starting the class

Cantering...

and more cantering

Hearing she placed first

At the end with her two ribbons

Thanks to P. who took all the photos.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Helplessness and Hope

I think one of the reasons that the book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and your Life, resonates so much with me (other than it's just a really interesting book), is that it has confirmed and given understanding to something I had noticed in H. from the very beginning. That something would be that helpless (perceived or actual) causes passivity.

I will admit that H.'s passivity at the beginning is one of the things that made it difficult for me to attach. I found it very difficult to understand and love and help a child who exhibited such extreme passivity in the face of any type of decision making decision, much less a small setback. It was frustrating. Very frustrating. (If you know my family, you know that passive is just not an adverb which would be used as a descriptor for us.)

I had a sneaking suspicion that it was a learned behavior. After too many years of having no control, of assumed incapability on the part of others, she gave up, not unlike the phenomenon of orphanages filled with silent babies. Crying didn't cause their needs to be met, so they gave up. I was pretty sure that helplessness could be learned, but had no real proof.

No real proof until I started reading the Learned Optimism book, that is. Imagine my excitement when one of the first things I read concerned the author's experiments on learned helplessness. To condense a long and complex chapter into a few sentences, essentially he discovered that animals could be taught to be helpless by putting them in an environment in which they had no control. Once the animals learned to be helpless they were passive to whatever bad thing came their way. Why fight it? It's going to happen anyway. (The results were replicated in humans as well.) I felt as though I was reading about my daughter as I worked my way through the descriptions of the experiments and the results. It was both heartbreaking and hopeful. Hopeful because the researchers also discovered that the helplessness could be unlearned, and once unlearned the animal or human was not prone to it again. Hope is probably one of the most beautiful words in the English language.

On some level, I already knew this. Over the past two years we have seen the extreme passiveness abate a little. Every time we allow H. to affect her environment, to have some control over what happens to her, we erase a little bit more of the helplessness that was so ingrained. It is a long process. Something that took years to create will not be undone quickly. While H. now knows that she can have opinions... she can like things or not like them, she can have feelings and express them, she can do things without having to ask permission first, there is still a large area that needs work. When faced with a problem (or any degree), she instantly reverts back to passivity. It just doesn't occur to her that she has any power to figure out a way to solve it. You can see the passivity kick-in. It is immediate and pervasive.

Armed with my new information, I am slowly starting to help H. with this. And let me tell you, it is one of those ultimately good parenting things that feel really horrible at the time. Recently, whenever H. has been faced with a manageable problem, I have been letting her figure out a solution. I am supportive, but I have not been giving her the answer. Let's just say, H. is not enjoying the process... nor have I. On the face of it, it just seems cruel. I can easily solve her problem, and it is difficult to watch her stretch herself to try to solve the difficulty herself. It feels a little as though I'm a physical therapist asking a recovering stroke victim to regain use of a limb. It is painful and slow. I feel like a rotten mother for allowing... insisting... on her doing these things for herself. Yet, there is hope.

Yesterday, we had two instances of this. It took a while each time, but each time she solved the difficulty herself, without any help from me. I offered her encouragement and pointed out that she was smart and could figure this out on her own, but that was all I did. She did the rest and figured it out. By the end, it hardly mattered to any of us that the solution happened, because we were both excited that she had figured out the solution.

It feels huge, but boy, this parenting-thing isn't for wimps.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Good versus best

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what activities we choose to participate in as a family and why. Sometimes it feels as though it is a moving target with children coming and going and getting older. We live in a society where parents and children have more choices for activities than ever before. It can sometimes be difficult to choose among them and if no conscious thought is given to this process it can result in stressed and overwhelmed parents and children. Actually, sorting through the options can be overwhelming in and of itself. There is so much stuff to choose from... much of it really good.

Since I've had more than a little practice at this, I thought I'd share how we go about making these types of decisions. The place to start is to have a goal. For us, the goal of our parenting is to raise our children to know Jesus (and we hope for them to love Him as much as we do, but that's not something we have control over.) After that, we also have the goals of raising our children to be emotionally healthy, functional, and interesting adults who have positive memories of our family. It is important to think about what your ultimate goals are. For some people, their goal for their children may be to get into an ivy league college, for others it will be to give their child the possibility of being a professional athlete, and for others it may be something else entirely. These goals will cause the parents to make choices which look very different from each other. Without goals in mind, there is no way to make decisions that will help those goals along.

But back to our decision making process... with our stated goals, having dinner together as a family is the single best way for us to accomplish that. Dinner is a time when we are together, when we enjoy each other's company, when we discuss things, when we train our children to sit and be polite, and (when we are on top of our game) have family devotions. For us, it is non-negotiable. That makes the decision easy if the activity falls over the dinner hour. We just don't do it. It doesn't even require discussion, the decision is already made. There are always exceptions (we make the rules so we can break them if we want), yet when we make those exceptions it is usually when an event is a one-time thing, not something ongoing.

What about for all those non-dinner hour activities? First we need to look at how it affects the whole family. How much driving does it involve? Is it within our budget? How much do the children involved want to do it? Does it conflict with our family values? It is a balancing act. If I drive too much, it makes me an unhappy, impatient mother. I know this and the good of the potential activity is often counter-balanced by the potential for a poorly regulated mother. I will always make sure there is one day in my week where I do not have to go anywhere. An activity on that day (whatever it happens to be that year) is off the table. For a larger family, cost is often a huge consideration. There is just not a lot of money in the budget for extra activities. Don't feel too sorry for my children, though. They have plenty of experiences and activities and I'm pretty sure that no one has been stunted because I won't pay for expensive classes and camps.

The bigger question for us is always, does it fit with our values? Is what my child is going to learn and experience in this activity in keeping what we teach at home? Who are the adults involved and do I want them speaking into my children's lives in an intense way? For older children, it may be that the experience of being exposed to different ideas is valuable. So is interacting with adults whose views may be very different from our own. We don't shelter our children, but do use wisdom in deciding when it is appropriate for them to spread their wings a bit.

There are a lot of considerations. With so many, it is not surprising that just a few activities make the cut. Fewer things to choose from makes the decision making process a bit easier. But there is still one more consideration we need to keep in mind... that of the unique needs and personalities of each of our children. What may be a great option for one (or several) of our children, may be a poor one for another child. I have certainly made the choice for one child to participate in something, yet decided that same activity is a bad match for another. Just because we have many children does not mean we use a cookie cutter approach to raising them. Seasons of life in our family are different as well. In a season where I have many surgeries and doctors' appointments, there is less time to pursue outside activities. In a season of reasonable health, there is time for more. It's how life works and teaching our children to tailor their commitments to what is happening in their life is a good life skill.

There are a couple of things which make this process a little more complicated. The first is parental guilt. We hear about other things that other people's children are doing and we panic and feel guilty that our own children are not doing those same things. We tend to underrate free time and the positive things that come along with it. The time to read, to imagine, to play, to create, to experience boredom and learn to overcome it. These are good things as well, and skills that will follow our children to adulthood. We also need to remember that we are not responsible for teaching our children every single thing in childhood. It is very short and we need to leave the door open for learning things as an adult. Just because you didn't do something as a child does not mean you cannot pursue that interest later in life.

The second hindrance is peer pressure. We parents are as guilty of peer pressure as any junior high age child. We want people to do what we are doing. It validates our decisions and makes them acceptable. It makes us good parents. It is very difficult to be the parent who bucks the trend. I know. I didn't send my oldest to preschool after all. Our area is a little preschool obsessed. When I would tell people that I wasn't sending M. to preschool the looks and reactions were a little staggering. At least I was staggered by them. You would have thought I had said, "I hope to marry my daughter off at age 16 so that she can bear 30 children by the time she's 40," instead of, "We are going to skip preschool." Really.

When other parents pressure you, it can make you second guess your decisions. Are you really doing the right thing? What if I ruin my children? What if my child is a piano prodigy and we never discover it all because of me? I wish we would just allow each other to be the best parent we are trying to be. If someone decides not to participate in an activity, it is probably because it's not right for their family at that time. It really says nothing about what another parent in choosing. Let's all be secure enough in our decisions to let others make different ones. Remember different is just different, not better or worse.

Really, just think about why you do things. Do you know where you're going? Will this help you get there? If you're happy with your level of commitment, great! If you're not, feel free to say no (or add something, it can go either way). The more a person thinks about why they are doing something, the more secure in that decision they feel and thus can allow others a similar freedom. Besides, the world would be a mighty dull place if we all did the same things all the time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Pair of Red Clogs

We have just finished working on A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno. This time is wasn't so much "Five in a Row" Style as "Five every now and then separated by many day" style. A trip to Arizona will do that to a schedule.

I loved this book. I loved the drawings. I loved the story. I loved the relationships in the family. I loved the whole thing. Because the time we worked on in was a little disjointed, I didn't so as much as I could have, but here are some activities we did to go along with it.

Colored Japanese kimono coloring pages... did our emotions preschool game (the author does a great of job talking about how the little girl in the story is feeling)... found Japan on a globe...

But best of all, we looked at and played with a real pair of Japanese clogs. I have a friend who is Japanese and grew up in Japan. I had asked her if she had a pair of clogs we could borrow and carefully look at. Well, she surprised us by giving us a pair of wooden clogs. She also shared that she played the weather telling game the girls play in the book. I love connections like that.


True to form, when I asked G. or L. to put the clogs on to model for me, they both looked at me as though I had asked them to have a shot. So, you get just the clogs and not the cute girls wearing clogs. I'm sure the second I hit publish on the post, there will be a knock-down fight over who gets to put them on.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Hug your loved ones

I'm going to a funeral this morning for a friend who was just a few years older than I. One moment she was fixing dinner, the next she had a massive stroke from which she never recovered. I knew her when we were both homeschooling our oldest and the girls are still friends. I am still a little bit in shock over the suddenness of it. But since death always catches us by surprise, even when we are expecting it, I suppose that is not unusual.

We just don't know, do we, what the next year, month, day, moment will bring? Be careful with your moments. Be careful with your good-byes. Appreciate the time you do have.

Since it has been a while since I have badgered you about little Lena, I'm going to tie her story into this post. You remember her, right?


The adorable little girl who has already over come huge odds to survive? Whose heart may or may not be able to be repaired, but certainly not in her country? Whose file has been sent back to the shared list which means no agency is advocating for her? (The shared list, for those who don't know, is the giant list of children who are available for adoption in China. It is literally thousands of names long. A list of a name, a birth date, and a special need.)

I know she waits because she may not live. There are not many parents willing to go to the effort an adoption requires, to put their hearts on the line, and adopt a child who may die before she is grown. (I know there are parents out there who are willing to do this. I'm friends with a few. There are just not enough.) But you know what? We kid ourselves that we have any guarantees for any of our children, because we just don't know. Is our fear really a good excuse to deny a child the love of a family... especially when that child needs it the most?

If you contact New Day, they can give you more information about little Lena... and help you get started in the process of adoption.

And give your loved ones an extra hug today, because you just don't know.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Feeling a little bereft

I have spent the past few months rereading the entire Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. The reason? It had been a long time since I had read them and I was looking for something to read one night. I think it was also because I discovered a while back, thanks to a blog reader, that Barbara Mertz, the woman behind the pen name Elizabeth Peters, had recently died. (Last August, at the age of 85, for those who care.)

I love Amelia Peabody. Sometimes I think I want to be Amelia Peabody when I grow up. She is self-confident, doesn't really care what people think of her, and has a sense of fearless adventure. The books, which do not try to be fine literature, are well-written and done slightly tongue-in-cheek. I will also say, I don't really read them for the actual mystery, but for the story of the Emerson family which unfolds in their pages. Since the 19 books cover nearly 40 years of time, from the mid-1860's to after World War 1, it is quite a bit of time to get to know a family. My rereading has also spurred M. on to doing the same thing, so it's nice to have someone else to talk to about them. Between us, we own all the books.

But now, I've finished them. Closing the cover on the last book feels a little like losing a good friend. This is especially true when you know the author won't be writing any more. Sniff. It makes it a little difficult to decide what to read next. (I think I've solved that problem with deciding to reread the Vicky Bliss series by the same author. There are fewer books and it will be a good way to wean myself off.)

I think lots of other people should read them, too. They're light and fun and a great distraction from the harder things of life. Because the family grows and ages in the books, and there are a number of recurring characters, it helps to read them chronologically. Plus, Elizabeth Peters wrote a couple of books which go back in time and fill in some gaps. I read them in order of publication, but I think it would make more sense to read those books in their appropriate chronological order. Plus, that makes the last book read a much stronger finish to the series.

It's easy enough to find the order of the books, but I'll write them out here for your ease. Plus, then I'll have it for in the future when I want to reread them yet again. (The links are my Amazon Associates account. If you want to order through it, I appreciate the extra change it generates.)

Crocodile on the Sandbank

The Curse of the Pharaohs

The Mummy Case

Lion in the Valley

The Deeds of the Disturber

The Last Camel Died at Noon

The Snake, the Crocodile & the Dog

The Hippopotamus Pool

Seeing a Large Cat

The Ape Who Guards the Balance

Guardian of the Horizon (this is one of the later books, inserted into its correct place in the chronology)

River in the Sky (ibid)

The Falcon at the Portal

He Shall Thunder in the Sky

Lord of the Silent

The Golden One

Children of the Storm

The Serpent on the Crown

Tomb of the Golden Bird

Monday, April 07, 2014

"Hmmm... have a long way to go"

This is the direct quote from the plastic surgeon whom we saw last Wednesday when he looked at H. Thankfully, he has two wonderful nurses who work for him who are great at talking people back off the edge of the cliff, and my initial panic of having to postpone surgery was calmed. We are now expanding every four days and putting between 35cc and 40cc of saline in each expander.

Here is what H. looks like now. (Remember, I have her permission to share. People are funny, so I feel the need to say that.)


As I look at the photograph of H., I realize that it sort of looks as though I have used some sort of photo distortion program, but I haven't. You can see that the area being expanded is much more noticeable now.


Here is the view from the back. The expander is under her scalp (the upper left section in the photo), and you can see that it is far more noticeable as well.

We have to do at least five more expansions before surgery. These pictures were taken after two more expansions from the previous ones I shared and we're putting in more saline, so you can begin to imagine where they will be by the end of the month.

Everyone, now join me in hyperventilating and flapping your arms while you scream and run around the room. This is the only way I can then be calm and acting normally while I am doing the expansion and H. is telling me how much she doesn't like it. I don't like it, either. In fact, I hate it. I hate the fact that I'm the one (for the most part) doing this to her. Yet, I have to act as though it is the most normal thing in the world.

Normal, yeah. Insert needle in head, inject saline, disfigure child. April 28th cannot come soon enough. Join me in my fervent prayers that nothing happens to make us postpone surgery.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Artist Trading Cards, part 1

Yesterday we began a new art project... making our own artist trading cards. In case you haven't heard of these, they are little works of art made on trading card sized blanks. They are popular in the artist community and are always traded, never sold. I thought it would be fun to make our own attempt at them. Oh, and the reason this is titled 'part 1' is that what would be the point of making trading cards if you don't have a chance to trade them? We've invited our friends, the P Family and the H-S Family to make some of their own, and then next month we will have a trading card party. (Of course, since I arranged this way back in August, the mothers of these families may be surprised by this.)

It was a huge success, based both on the engagement of the participants and the final products. First I ordered a bunch of blanks. Yes, I could have cut card stock down to the proper dimensions, but the cards were so inexpensive that I decided to purchase them. I ordered smooth Bristol board blanks and they were so nice to work with, I think that contributed to the project's success. (I'll add a plug for giving children real art supplies and not kiddie versions. Have you ever tried to use the kiddie versions? It's incredibly frustrating.) I also ordered plastic sleeves for each card. Putting the cards in the sleeves made it suddenly look so much more important. Everyone loved slipping their artwork into the sleeve and admiring it.

We began yesterday morning by talking about what artist trading cards are and looking at a lot of examples. (Pinterest is perfect for this. Search the term 'artist trading cards' and you'll have more images than you could possibly want.) I also mentioned that each artist trading card needs to have the name of the artist on the back, contact information (for older people who have such things), and the title of the piece. At first this threw everyone, "Title? I have to title it? I don't like to title things!" Yet, I think, like the plastic sleeves, this small thing changed the way everyone thought about what they were doing and made it more important and worthy of time and effort.

After discussing the cards and showing them a few that I had made in advance out of different media, it was time to make them. I only gave each person one blank at a time to stop them from just churning them out. (This was a particular concern for the younger half.) We also got out nearly every craft supply we own. There were old magazines and books, glue, colored pencils, tape, doodads, needles and thread, pastels, watercolors, and markers. Each child made between two and three cards in the two hours we worked on them. Even the little girls took a long time for each card. It was two hours of contented busyness with everyone focused on their own work. 

Here are the results:


Some close-ups:

By D. on left and P. on right

By L. on left and A. on right

By H. 

By P. on left and TM on right


By A. on top and D. on bottom

By P. on left and G. on right

Friday, April 04, 2014

More about vocabulary and large families... or not

I promised you yesterday that I would disclose what G. was writing when she wrote this:


Some of you were able to read it, but for those who weren't, it says, "underwater creatures'. You must read it from right to left and most of the letters are reversed as well. If you aren't expecting it to actually spell something, it does look a lot like hieroglyphics.

The reason I'm showing it to you is not to discuss G.'s quirky current writing style, though I could probably get a whole blog post about just that. I've known plenty of children who have done this, and I will probably be sad when it straightens itself out. What I wanted to discuss was the whole vocabulary-thing again.

Evidently, the whole idea that the younger children in a large family are somehow intellectually compromised has really stuck in my craw because I keep thinking about it. First, I think am I being really honest with myself. Do my youngest display the same type of language development as my older children did at this age. I find myself eavesdropping on their play and conversations, making note of the words they use. That's why I paid attention to the sign that G. wrote the other day. In case you were wondering, at the ripe old age of 4 1/2, G. did not spell this out on her own. She had wanted to make a sign for her ocean box that we are making for science and asked A. to spell out "underwater creatures". A. said the letters and G. wrote them down. It was her choice of words for her sign that interested me. We had used this phrase before in our study of ocean dwellers, but I had never specifically said that it described what the children were making to place in their boxes. She had been listening and paying attention and made the inference for herself. As I said when I first discussed the topic, it really doesn't matter the place in the birth order, if a child engages in conversation with adults who use a rich vocabulary, the child will develop an equally large vocabulary themselves.

Having assured myself that there was nothing stunted about G.'s and L.'s intellectual development, I continued to ponder why this topic continued to gnaw at me. Here's what I've decided... it is the premise behind the study that irks me. The idea that a child growing up in a large family must somehow be compromised is at the root of what this (and others like it) is about. It shows a fundamental bias against large families as well as enormous ignorance of how real large families work.

I will be the first to admit that there are large families out there that are dysfunctional. They don't work as a family should and children are not being raised in a terrific environment. This is not because the family is large, but because it is dysfunctional. There are plenty of small families out there that are dysfunctional and I don't hear anyone blaming the fact that there are two children in the family as the cause for the dysfunction. Let's not mistake causation with correlation. So, for the sake of argument, let's just say I am discussing, healthy functioning families for right now.

If a person has never been a part of a large family or known a well-functioning one, what are some of those underlying assumptions I see them making? First off, is the idea that the youngest members of the family are not as loved and cared for as the first children were. They are just more little needy bodies who get lost in the shuffle. What this assumption doesn't take into account is that parents of many children love the youngest ones just as much as they love the ones who came along first. Parents are not given a limited amount of love that must be divided between their children, so that if there are more children, there must consequently be less love. It doesn't work that way. I know I anticipated the birth of G. and L. as much, if not more so, than I did M.'s birth. J. and I fawned over the last little babies just as much as we fawned over the first. The youngest ones have an added benefit that the first ones didn't... they also experience the love of their older siblings who also have a tendency to fawn over them. These little ones were awash in love from day one and that hasn't changed as they have gotten older.

This isn't unique to just my family. I've talked with countless mothers of large families who experience the exact same thing. Our love is not a limited quantity, but grows with each additional child. There was a story one mother told (and if I could remember where I read it, I would attribute it.) She and her husband had baby number 10? 11? (I don't remember) at the doctor's office for a newborn check-up. They were acting like all parents of newborns do... cooing, kissing, hugging, loving the baby... and the nurse at work that day was watching. The nurse's reaction was telling. She exclaimed something along the lines of, "They treat that baby just like it was their first!" For the parents, this wasn't odd. This was their new baby; of course they were over the moon. For the nurse, this was astounding. In her world it seems that she couldn't imagine a baby so far along in the birth order as being as loved; as if the parents would have run out of love at this point.

The second underlying assumption is that parents don't have the time for the youngest and ignore them or assume the older children will take care of the younger ones. I think this is the single biggest argument I've heard against large families... the idea of cheating the older children out of their childhood because they are raising their younger siblings. While I don't doubt this does happen in some families, though I will add it probably happens regardless of family size, that doesn't mean it happens in all. If parents love their children, all their children, wouldn't they want a hand in raising these precious beings? There is a big difference between an older children helping a parent and an older child raising younger siblings.

J. and I are the ones who discipline and train our children, who read to them and tuck them in, who kiss owies, Older siblings may also do these things, but not on a regular basis. They are helping (and certainly under my supervision), not raising. Besides, how can there be too many people in a child's life to read them stories and to hug them and to kiss them?

I know people unfamiliar with large families and who only have one or two children, remain baffled that it works. They see how much time and energy their smaller family takes up and cannot imagine adding 8 or 9 more. I want to say a couple of things. First, it is rare that anyone suddenly wakes up and finds themselves with 10 children. It happens gradually, one (or two) at a time. Adding one to any size family isn't a problem. Usually it is not even enough to warrant doubling a recipe for dinner. You get used to the larger family size gradually, you build up and learn skills as you go. Yes, to suddenly go from 1 to 10 children would be overwhelming, but we didn't.

Second, I really do have time to spend with each of my children. I may never convince some, but it is still true. This is helped by the fact we homeschool and so I spend a good portion of each day interacting with them. Also, we are very choosy about what we participate in. I just cannot spend my days shuttling people back and forth to activities. I don't think the value of the activity outweighs the craziness that over-scheduling causes. My children do participate in outside activities, but they are kept to a manageable amount. They do have time to pursue their own interests, to spend time with friends (and parents), and have dinner every night as a family. If a parent looks at their schedule and multiplies it by 10, I'm not surprised they think I am Superwoman. I'm not sure even Superwoman could manage a schedule like that. But I'm not Superwoman, so I don't even try.

There you go... thank you for reading through another episode of Large Family Myth Busting.
______________
I have another article up. It's supposed to be titled Thinking For Yourself, but for some reason there's a typo and it's titled Thinking of Yourself. It kind of changes ones expectations of what they're going to find, huh?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Fear cancels joy

Last Sunday, the text for the sermon was from John 9. You know it... it's the story of the man who was born blind. When Jesus and his disciples passed by him, the disciples wanted to know who sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born this way. Jesus replies that no one sinned, but the man was born this way in order to show the works of God. Jesus then proceeds to heal the man and restore his sight. I have always loved this story, but even more so now that I am the parent to children who were born with varying conditions. Yet this part of the story is not what struck me during Sunday's sermon. It was something that happens later on in the story.

So Jesus heals the man and the man is so joyful, he tells everyone including the rulers of the synagogue. That would be the rulers of the synagogue who aren't really fans of Jesus and continue to harass the man and his parents looking for any explanation other than Jesus for why this man can suddenly see. In vv. 18-23, the man's parents are brought before this group and questioned. I had never noticed how equivocating they are when questioned about their son. Think about it. Your child who was born blind, can suddenly and miraculously see! Imagine! You would be overjoyed, right? Think of the Facebook statuses the event would generate. Yet, when we look at these parents before the synagogue officials, they don't seem joyful. What they are is afraid. You see, people who professed to follow Jesus had been threatened with being kicked out of the synagogue... the religious and social center of life for a person living in a small town in first century Judea and Galilee. The threat was not one to take lightly.

It is so easy to look down on these parents. Surely having a son who was miraculously healed and could now see would certainly overshadow whatever human negatives were around. We think to ourselves, "Well I would have stood up to those officials. This was a big deal." But would we? I'm pretty sure we let our fear overwhelm our joy all the time. I know I do. Perhaps why this idea hit me so forcefully was that this is exactly what I had done during the weekend.

There were some less-than-pleasant moments with certain of my children from hard places. It felt as though we were in one of those two steps back places. (OK, it didn't just feel like it, it was.) It had been a while since we had been in this place and I was both out of practice and there is always a small part of me that hopes we are through it, so is disappointed. This one just hit me hard, though in the great scheme of things, it wasn't nearly so bad as our setbacks had been a year ago. The difference was that I let fear in.

Fear says that things will always be this way. Fear says that there is nothing I can do to change them. Fear says that this one thing ruins everything else. Fear kills joy. When I let fear take over I cannot see the joyful things right in front of me. After my experience of the weekend, I could heartily identify with those parents who were too fearful to fully appreciate the joy of their son's new sight.

What is also interesting is that this meshes perfectly with what I'm reading about in a book I picked up, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman. I plan to write a more extensive review of this book once I finish it, but the very short version is that Dr. Seligman has discovered through extensive research that the way we think about things, what we tell ourselves, influences who we think and feel about the world around us. If we are pessimistic, we tend to assume that things will always be the way they are and we can't change them, while if we are optimistic, we tend to assume that this event is a singularity and that we can do something about it. Those who feel helpless have the greatest tendency towards depression.

To me, this idea is terribly Biblical; it is merely a description of how God created our minds to work. When we allow fear in (which the Bible is pretty darn clear that we should try not to do), it stops us in our tracks. It steals our joy because we have no room for anything else. There is nothing to be joyful about because this one horrible thing is always going to be there. It won't change. It steals our joy to the point where we can't even rejoice in outrageous things such as a son regaining his sight.

So be careful of how you think. Are you letting fear steal your joy?
_______________
I also have a little quiz for you. G. likes to write, but she's a lefty and so typical writing development in her is a little, um, off. Here is something she wrote the other day. Can you read it? Don't worry, I'll tell you what it says tomorrow when I revisit the topic of children and vocabulary.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Out of sorts

That's how I'm feeling, and I better do something about it soon because the hyper-sensitive among us are starting to pick-up on it and then it will be all downhill from here. I have the beginnings of a big art project planned for everyone on Friday, so perhaps I will spend some time making examples to show everyone this afternoon. That sounds more inspiring than paying the bills, huh?

While I'm sorting myself out, here's a photo of the t-shirt I made for K. for his birthday. That's the Incredible Hulk on it, and I've never had such trouble sewing an item of clothing. The embroidery took hours to sew out and I had multiple broken needles and other frustrations. But K. loves it, so it was worth it.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Fool's on me

Well, I've been to the plastic surgeon's office and back today. Except that when I walked into the office and started talking with the receptionist I realized that I was a little early for the appointment. That would be 24 hours early to be exact. The appointment is for tomorrow. So tomorrow morning bright and early, I'll make the 1/2 hour drive... again.

Then on the way home, I didn't run out of gas. But only because the van has a low fuel light that dings and goes on and I knew where there was a near by gas station. I even looked at the gas gauge when I left this morning and thought to myself, "Oh good, the van has a full tank of gas," and never thought about it again. That would be because yesterday I was driving the small car. The small car's and the van's gas gauges are opposite from each other, with the empty side on the right in the van and the full side on the right in the small car. The small car did have a full tank of gas and so the needle was all the way to the right. When I looked at the van's gauge, it was all the way to the right as well, which meant that I drove 20 minutes on the highway with the needle on empty the whole way. Ignorance is bliss.

I'm a little fearful about what other jokes I'm going to inadvertently play on myself today. I'm thinking that crawling back into bed with a good book might be the safest course of action. Of course, that would mean that the masses would be unsupervised and left to their own devices, the end result could possibly be the ultimate joke of all. So, I guess I won't do that.

Instead, I'll show you some pictures from K.'s birthday celebration last night.

The cake A. made for him. You can read more about it on her cake blog.

K. with his cake.

K. being goofy... his usual mode of operation.

One of the few non-blurry picture of K. opening his gifts. He is constantly in motion.

This is more what it is like to be around him.

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