Thursday, July 31, 2014

Homeschool planning

My family wants me back. I want the family room end of my kitchen back. I want to be done planning this year's school work and I am so close to being done. Every year I mistakenly think that I can have the school planning done in a week and this year I won't let it take over my life. And every year I am wrong. Want to see how wrong?

This wrong. It's not a pretty sight and everyone, including myself, is pretty tired of the obstacle course. What you see here nearly every resource we (me and my 9 students) will be using for the next school year. We have kindergarten, we have grade school interest-based projects, we have art lessons, we have high school curricula. All in a nice neat pile. (cough)

Some of the things we will be studying are the human body, the middles ages, Lewis and Clark, bookbinding, nine picture books to use Five in a Row style, and lots and lots of art projects. P. will be working on the history of Japan and A. wants to study the history of police work. Oh, and we're also going to be doing some work with maps and wayfinding.

So what's left? Well, I have all the resources bought or library records recorded, so I think my shopping is done except for a few more craft supplies. I am in the middle of typing everyone's schedules into the computer (yes, I do all this long hand), and I hope to finish today. I have a couple of games to make and quite a bit of photocopying to do. Oh, and I still need to make the paper model of the human body so I can figure out how it is going to work before doing it with the masses.

Tomorrow is my self-imposed dead line and I think I will make it. And it will be so nice. Everything will be put away and papers will be sorted into binders. Then, there will still be the entire month of August to enjoy stress-free because I will have done all my thinking and won't have to worry if I will run out of time (like last year) to get the planning done before the beginning of the school year.

You'll know how well I did if you see a post here tomorrow. It it's here, I'm done, it it's not, then you can assume that I am still buried under a pile of books and may never see the light of day again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another unexpected biology lesson

(Warning... this lesson did not have a happy ending. You have been forewarned.)

We are over run with rabbits in our neighborhood. They are everywhere. When I come back home in the early evening, it is not uncommon to find five rabbits sitting in my yard happily eating the hostas. They even have babies in a warren in the middle of my front yard. Nearly every year. The only house on the block that routinely has many children running around it. No one said they were bright.

This year we have had an uncommonly large number of little baby rabbits hopping about. They are cute, but... the children are in love with them. They want to hold them and love them and squeeze them and pat them on their cute little heads. TM really wanted to try to catch on and make it a pet. (Yes, I know that it doesn't work to try to make a pet a of wild bunny, but not everyone wants to hear that.) The bunnies are also very fast. They will let you get within a foot or so of them, and just when you think you could bend down and scoop one up, they are off like a flash. You just can't catch a healthy wild rabbit with your bare hands. Which is why I told TM that if he did catch one we could keep it. 

Yes, I know. Famous last words.

We walked home from church on Sunday and TM had run ahead. When we caught up, he was sitting on the ground with a baby bunny in his lap. My first thought was that this must be a very sick baby bunny to have let itself be caught, and I wasn't far off. M. was with us, and being our resident amateur biologist, she took over. (Hooray!) The little rabbit wasn't sick, but it was injured. It appeared to have severed or damaged (internally) its spinal column because it's back legs didn't seem to function, yet they didn't seem to be broken. The adults in the family all knew this was going to end badly, but with a passel of children standing around we also knew that leaving it to be eaten by a passing fox, raccoon, or falcon wasn't an option. Nor was helping it along its inevitable path. 

M. took one of the dozens of tanks she has stored on our back porch and made a nice little nest for the bunny and did some research on how to care for it. We were careful to smuggle the bunny into the house and put it in a room with a latching door before Gretel became aware of it. (Gretel LOVES rabbits. They are the best plaything ever. We try to keep her away from them.) The first day, it looked as though maybe the pessimists among us would be wrong and M. was suddenly thinking that she would have to design and build a little bunny wheelchair for his back legs. Here is the little bunny on Sunday.

You can see there was something up with his back legs. This is not how rabbits normally sit.

He liked the carrots and greens and eventually ate the whole plate full.

Sunday passed... rabbit lived... Monday morning came... rabbit still alive and we gave him more food and water. Monday afternoon came and little rabbit was starting to breath very shallowly. Uh oh. The adults all knew this was not good. By late afternoon, the little rabbit was on its side, breathing very shallowly. Uh oh, really not good. By evening, M. was telling D. that he could use the leftover alfalfa hay for the gerbil. In my mind, it was a much better end... warm, dry place, good food... than being eaten by any of our resident predators. 

Life is never dull around here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Another addition to the 'good books for boys' list

The boys and I finished reading another book last night and everyone loved it. It is Ali and the Golden Eagle by Wayne Grover. It is sadly out of print, but there are plenty of used copies for sale. (Just to remind everyone, if you buy something through one of my Amazon links, it helps us a little over here.) I happened to come across a description of it in the Rainbow Resources catalogue as I was reading it last month and thought it sounded interesting, and a change from the Three Investigators. (Yes, I read the giant 2000+ page homeschooling catalogue that arrives under my mailbox every year. It's a quirk, but it often pays off.)

What I hadn't realized when we started reading it is that it was a true story about an American who worked for an US oil company in Saudi Arabia in the 70's. In the course of his wanderings around the area where he lived he happened upon a remote village deep in a canyon and befriends the people who live there. They are excellent falconers and the author manages to capture a golden eagle chick to give to a boy in the village. The rest of book is a window into how raptors are trained and the relationship between the eagle and the boy. I wasn't sure I would be terribly interested, but ended up loving it as much as the boys.

Other than just being a good read, it would be great to go along with a study of the Middle East in general or Saudi Arabia in particular or if you were studying raptors. I am now on a search for a falconry demonstration that we can go to because the three of us are quite interested to see some real birds in action. An added benefit is the discussion opportunities that it provides about whether it is better to live in isolation and relative contentedness or to have modern conveniences and health care along with the rest of the angst of the modern world.

It almost makes me want to study raptors this year for school, but since I have the finish line in sight for my school year planning, I'm not going to go back and redo it now. Another year perhaps...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stonehenge in blocks

K. is continuing in his desire to recreate buildings and structures that he sees out of blocks. We have a postcard collection and I try to ask people to bring us a postcard if they think of it, when they go somewhere interesting. A friend of ours recently returned from England and she brought us a postcard of Stonehenge. (Thank you, Patti!) K. has been a wee bit obsessed with this postcard and every time he tried to build Stonehenge yesterday, Godzilla (aka HGbaby) would come along and knock it down. HG is out today so the coast was free and clear to construct Stonehenge.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Child collector

For those of you in the adoption world with more than the appropriate (ie under 6, though that might be a stretch) number of children, you read the title and your hackles are already up. But others of you might have never heard of, or at least thought about the term before. I personally find it vile and demeaning to the utmost.

What is it, you ask? It is a term bandied about that refers to people who adopt (collect) children, often in amounts larger than deemed acceptable. It has overtones of abuse and neglect and is pretty consistently used in regard to cases of adoption, abuse, and neglect. Can we just end the use of the term period, and call it what it is, which would be serial abuse? To call it 'child collecting' is to both minimize the abuse and demean the children involved to the status of thing. This is not the use of the term that has rankled me in recent days, though.

A few days ago I was reading a blog and was reading the comments when I came across a particularly disturbing use of the term. (I love this writer's blog and the comment didn't really have anything to do with her post. I don't want her very well done post to be linked to this whole rant, so I'm going to just leave it anonymous at the moment.) In the comment, the poster accused the parents of a functioning, loving family as being  child collectors pretty much because the family had more than the usual number of children. Once again, through ignorance, all the usual accusations were trotted out. What are they? It is impossible to love and care for more than 10 children. The children are homeschooled and thus are unable to function on their own or with any competency. The older children raise the younger children. And, in this case, it was even patently worse because some of the children (gasp!) had special needs. Rarely have I seen all of these in one place. It was almost as if it was written as satire. But is wasn't.

To beat a dead horse, because evidently there is still much education to be done, here go again. (If you're part of the choir you can move along to the next blog because you've heard all this before.)

Child collecting implies that children are things and not human beings. It says that the parent has no connection with the child. It says that there is some competition to see who ends up with the most children. What all of these assumptions do not take into account is that there is so much more going on than just bringing a child into a home. These children are human beings. They are unique individuals with their own needs and quirks and gifts. There is both work and effort and joy that comes from raising a child and that it true for any number of children you happen to have. No one (if they are mentally sane) brings a child into their home, puts that child up on a shelf, and then goes looking for another child of a type they don't have yet. The process is too costly.

People who have trouble with the number of children a family are showing their own deeply held belief about the nature of love. It seems they come from a place where love is a limited commodity, as if a person is given just a certain amount of love to give out throughout their life and if it is used up... well, too bad for you. With this view, love is something that must be guarded carefully and doled out to only a few. What a sad and stunted way to live. Love doesn't work like that. Love is infinitely available. It can never run out. In fact, I would venture to say the more you use the love you have, the more love you have to give away. A visual idea of how this works is one that is used with adopted children sometimes to explain how they can love more than one set of parents. I also find it a highly useful way to explain how parents can love more than a couple of children. Picture several ( or 20 or more) candles on a table. Take a match a light one candle. How many candles can you then light with the already lit candle? Just a couple... or more? Do you ever 'run out' of fire to light the next candle? No, of course not. You can always light another candle. You can always love another person. Just as the fire is not diminished by lighting another candle, a parent's love is not diminished by loving another child.

But how do you have time to care for all those children? Well, you just do. You prioritize what is important, you make choices, you ask children to help. It works out. Based on the number of parents who have three or less children and have told me that theirs take all their time, it seems that ones children will take all your time regardless of how many you have. More is just a little more efficient.

Instead of going on and on and repeating myself, I'll just take this opportunity to link back to past posts where I say the same things over and over again. At least that's what it feels like.

How Do You Do It?

Small Annoyances

That Will be a Table for 25 Please

The Tale of Three Frying Pans

An Open Letter to President Obama

In Which we go on a Field Trip and I continue to Tilt at Windmills

Circus Side Shows

December Outing -- or doing some large family myth busting

Group Home of Family

Growing from a Small Family to a Large Family

Institutionalization, Large Families, and Expectations

More is Easier

The Joys of a Large Family

Large Families, Older Siblings, and Vocabulary

Thursday, July 24, 2014

O glorious day

Yesterday morning was so beautiful here... deep blue sky, no humidity, temperatures in the upper 70's... that I decided we needed to go somewhere outside. So we made an impromptu picnic (and by we, I mean HG made the sandwiches and I took a shower) and set out for the Chicago Botanic Gardens. It was one of those perfect days where you could walk in the sunshine and not feel too hot, so it was wonderful to be able to walk around the gardens.

Some pictures from our outing:

Water lilies... I love water lilies

Most of the group


The waterfall... the place the children always want to visit and could stay at for hours



TM, D., G., L., K., and HG4

Beautiful day, isn't it?

D., K., and G.

D., TM, and P. (The little people were annoyed I didn't let them go down, too. Funny, I just didn't feel like fishing little people out of the water.)

A view of two of the Japanese island gardens

I've set a bad precedent, though. When today dawned as nice as yesterday, everyone instantly asked me, "What museum are we going to today?" Much to everyone's disappointment, we're staying home. Nice weather or not, I still have some things I need to do around the house.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I've stayed up far too late reading

I just finished reading Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. They are sort of hard to classify as to what kind of books they are. The library classes them as science fiction since time travel plays a part in the plot, but they are also really excellent historical fiction. Hang in there with me if you heard science fiction and are ready to move on. I'll explain. The conceit of both books is that the year is 2060 and time travel has been invented (discovered?). The way time travel works is that anyone travelling back in time can do nothing to change history and the mechanism for time travel will not allow anyone through if there is a chance they could affect history. Thus, historians are the only ones who use the technology so that they can travel to a certain period, blend in with the people and observe history first hand.

In this pair of books, the Blitz in London is the main focus of the historians' study. I found the best part of the book to be the descriptions of what life was like in London during the Blitz. I realize it was an event that I had a vague idea about, but didn't realize the extent of what it was really like. What an astounding and devastating time of history. I also didn't realize that there were V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks over England after the Blitz had ended. What I realized is I didn't know a whole lot about England during WWII... well, other than I knew it was hard, bombs were dropped, people died, and rations were short. These books really filled in some blanks in a very engaging way.

A few notes about reading the books themselves. A friend of mine recommended them to me and told me to be sure that I had the second one in hand before finishing the first. The first book ended rather abruptly and you would really want the second book to keep reading. I thought she was exaggerating a bit, but, wow. No she wasn't. The first book ends as if she had finished a chapter, decided to make one book into two, and began the next chapter as the next book. Nothing tied up in the first and nothing explained in the second. I'm glad I had some warning.

The second thing I need to warn you about is to give them some time if you are going to read them. It took me a long time to finally begin to sort out who everyone was, what time period they were in, how each story was related, and where everything was going. This feeling of being a little off balance lasted for quite a while, but I'm glad I kept at it. Because of these issues, I would consider it a challenging read. It takes a bit of patience to get where you need to be to really understand what's happening. Also, somewhere in the second book, I very nearly gave up on them. The same things seemed to be happening over and over and no progress was being made in the story. I even set it aside a couple of nights while a read a couple of mysteries. Well, it turns out that I set the book aside, right before the chapter when all the loose ends begin to get tied together. The rest of the book was fantastic.

I recommend these books to you, but be a little patient with them as you read. They are definitely worth it. And, you'll never hear the word Blitz in quite the same light again.

If you want to try out the author with a lighter, easier read. She uses the same world in her comedy, To Say Nothing of the Dog. I might actually start with this one if you are new to the author.

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A different biology lesson

I think we have solved at least one of the mysteries I wrote about over the weekend. All morning at Saturday various children kept staring at the monarch caterpillar trying to decide it if was really and truly dead. (It was, but hope springs eternal and no one seemed to believe me.) Thus it was that several children had front row seats to a very different biology lesson than watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Instead they received a lesson on...

Parasites of the Butterfly World.

And it was gross. As they were watching, they saw the back of the caterpillar split open and some sort of larva emerged from the caterpillar. It was light green and almost as big as the caterpillar. There was a general uproar and it took a minute for me to fully understand what many children had run to tell me. Seeing the larva out of the caterpillar was yucky enough, I was glad that I didn't see it emerge. Eeewww!

I did manage to find another monarch caterpillar who was very, very small. I am hopeful that he hadn't been around long enough to get infected. Plus, we are also now washing the milkweed leaves before we feed them to the caterpillar in case there is anything toxic on the leaf. A friend did remind me of the city's mosquito abatement policies.

So we are now on caterpillar number three. Maybe this one will actually become a butterfly. I hope so for H.'s sake. She love butterflies and I really want her to be able to see the progression from caterpillar to butterfly. Third times the charm, right?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The mysteries of life

Aside from the perpetual question of what happens to single socks, why is it that...

Every single time I walk by the children's bathroom I must flush the toilet and turn out the lights... even if I walked by it just five minutes before?

I routinely pick up random nails and screws which appear on the ground?

There seems to be some force which repels game instructions from being placed inside the game box?

There are no pens in the drawer (or anywhere else) even though I buy them by the bucketful?

and related to that...

Why are there no erasers on the nearly new pencils?


What is going on with the monarch caterpillar who seems to be trying to turn into a chrysalis but, from experience, I know he is not nearly big enough?

I think he is dead. Perhaps he had secret hopes of joining L.'s pet collection. That makes us 0 for 2 in raising caterpillars this year, which is odd because we have raised them successfully (in the same way) many times in previous years.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Life with L.

Life with L. is never dull. She is currently sitting on my lap because her "pet" [read dead] moth has disappeared. She was happily playing with her pet and now he has vanished. It's terribly sad because now the moth cannot meet the "pet" [read dead] lady bug she keeps in her room. I think it would be an understatement to say that L. has an active imagination.

Two nights ago, as people were getting ready for bed, I noticed L. had found a small electronic game which she was using as a cell phone. She had it up to her and was pacing and talking and gesturing with her other hand. (I'm sure that reminds me of someone I know. M. claims it is me.) I just happened to overhear a brief part of her conversation. To listen to it, it sounded all the world like any other conversation you would overhear when an adult is talking on their phone.

L.: What the heck do you mean?!
(Pauses to listen to reply)
L..: I have two suggestions...

She then goes on to elaborate on these suggestions, but frankly, I was too occupied with not laughing out loud (and she had paced away) that I didn't catch them. I'm really dying to know what they were. This was just the middle and I think the conversation went on for about five minutes or so. It sounded so much like a real conversation, I could almost believe that she really did have Mickey (or whoever it was she was talking to) on the other end.

Her imagination is like that. It acts like some sort of vortex which pulls in unsuspecting passersby.

A. holding G. (in blue shirt) and L. (in grey)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Unusually ordinary

The Hearts at Home link-up prompt today is "Loving your Ordinary," or something like that. This seems a perfect topic for me given the name of my blog and the number of times I've written about the topic. (Ordinary Times and Purpose in the Ordinary are two past posts from quite some time ago and you may not have seen them.) I actually wondered for a minute if I really had anything different to say after I went back and read those posts. They seem to pretty much cover it.

And then I got to thinking about some of the various comments I've heard over the past several years. Comments that would seem to imply that there is nothing ordinary about my life. There seems to be a tension there. Parts of my life seem terribly, terribly ordinary. I cook and go grocery shopping, do laundry, read stories to children, apply numerous band-aids, pick-up toys, pay bills, just like nearly every other mother around. It's not terribly exciting. Important, yes, but there's nothing spectacularly different about it from anyone else. I will agree the scale in which I do these things is bigger than some, but that's really just a matter of practice and habit. Anyone could learn to routinely triple a recipe or drive a 15-passenger van.

I also know, compared to most people, my life really is unusual. Our choices of being open to more than the normal number of children, our choice of how we educate them, voluntarily choosing to add children with special needs, practicing extreme hospitality... these mark us as different. What soon becomes ordinary to us, remains a rather baffling mystery to those who don't know us.

I can't count the number of times I've heard, "I don't know how you do it!" My standard response is, "What do you think I'm doing? Because I'm pretty sure it's not what you think." Yes, if someone were to be dropped into my life as it is right now, it would be overwhelming if they hadn't had practice running a large family. It would gradually become easier, but it would be a steep learning curve at first. But we didn't just start here, it was a process. One decision led to another and each step a stretch, but not outside the realm of our imagination.

So where am I going with this? (Sometimes I'm not sure myself and I have to stop and think about it.) Most of life is filled with normal, everyday things, no matter your situation. We all need to eat, to have shelter, to care for our young. These are basics and people across the world do these things. They happen everyday over and over and over. We also quickly become accustomed to what we do a lot. Our brains are very good at creating habits; at making things automatic. Something may require work and effort and first, but over time, we stop having to think about it. When we look at someone living an unusual (to us) life, we forget that to them it is normal if they have been doing it for any length of time. What we often lack is imagination.

People entrenched in their own ordinary lack imagination as to what they are really capable of. It is this inability to imagine that something outrageous could ever become normal that, I think, stops many people from choosing a different, less ordinary path. It's what stops them from taking a chance. A chance on a child, on a different job, on a different living situation, on exhibiting outrageous love. What is your ordinary?

I don't know what your goal in life is, but mine is to make the practice of the outrageous love of Jesus my ordinary.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being a creative family

Our current lunch time read aloud is Applewhites at Wit's End by Stephanie Tolan. It is the sequel to Surviving the Applewhites which we have listened to more than once and all love. If you haven't read either of them, the first book has all the right components... bad boy makes good; large, crazy family; and let's put a show on in the barn... all rolled into one. An added bonus is that the Applewhites are homeschoolers and rarely have I seen such a realistic portrayal of homeschooling in main stream fiction. The sequel, which we are in the middle of has the Applewhites strapped for cash and so decide to run a camp for creative children. We are all enjoying it.

The reason they chose to run a creative camp is that every single one of the Applewhites is some sort of an artist. (Well, all but one, which is part of the plot of the first book.) This plays into my enjoyment of the book because I have always been a little obsessed with large families populated with creative people. Part of it was that the reality of living in such a family was so far removed from my own experience that I found it fascinating, and the other part was that it just looked like fun. My first experience with such a family was in the movie, You Can't Take it With You. My only complaint was that though I loved how the family pursued the things they were interested in, none of them was very good at it. My competitive nature just couldn't imagine pursuing something without seeing decent results... and I also couldn't quite understand how you could be so unaware as to the true nature of what you are creating. But it also is what made the movie, so I could let it pass.

Perhaps this is why I love the Applewhites. Not only do they all pursue creative endeavors, they are also good at what they do. Since I still have a tendency to focus on product over process, I find this satisfying. But creativity is really more about the process... the doing. I know my own tendencies and try not to pass them along to my children. We talk a lot about the enjoyment we get from what we do; about how nothing will be perfect; about trying again another time.

But this isn't the only ingredient in becoming a creative family. I find much of it depends on me and my attitude... about mess and effort. Encouraging children to be creative also means that there will be messes. It means that I have to take the time to get the watercolors out for the littles. It means that clay will sometimes be stuck to the table. It means that I can't get upset when my children have used up yet another role of tape. Creativity and the excessive order that I sometimes crave just can't live in the same house.

This is the other reason I love the Applewhites. It's because in reading about their family, and the crazy, messy, uninhibited, colorful existence that they lead, reminds me that mess is OK. Life should be joyful and relaxed and that excessive order is neither of these things. It encourages me to allow my children to be creative... and myself as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer homeschooling tasks

I realize that in a good year, there are certain things I do throughout the summer that makes the school year go more smoothly. Last year was not a good year and I had zero desire to do anything, much less think about school. Stress will do that to you. So, if you are feeling as though you are barely keeping your head above water because various of your children are going through a rougher patch than normal, just don't read this; you don't need more guilt. For you I would prescribe respite in any way you can get it and doing the much harder work of connecting with your child. Been there, done that, we're in a much better place this year.

I think because there has been such a difference between this year and last that I am more aware of what normal looks like, as opposed to just survival. I realized that there some important things I do now that makes for a smoother school year. Here is my short list.

1. I clean my house. Let's be honest and say that cleaning is rather cursory during the school year. Life is busier, school does take time and effort, and schedules are more hectic. It all adds up after a while and when summer comes I look around and realize that things have really gone down hill. I have spent that past few weeks going through the house a room at a time and really cleaning... and putting away... and straightening. I'm a great one for piling when busy and so those need to be excavated as well. It feels so good to restore order again. I feel as though I can think. And breath. And relax. Having a clean house is a good thing.

2. Reorganize my homeschool supplies. These, too, get a little chaotic during the school year. Children look at books and I pull out things and then pile them over and over again. Plus, I don't use my resource room as much because I've done my planning for the year and I forget what is there. By reorganizing it, I make it usable again, plus I remind myself of what is there. I also use this time to purge things we don't need or want anymore. As my children grow and change, there are things that we are done with or interests have changed or just never worked out. I don't need their clutter or the collective guilt the failed resources bring.

3. I do a lot of brainstorming and research and a lot of list making. What would be interesting to learn about this year? What are my children's current interests? What resources would be good to use to learn about these things? Plus my continual and ever present search for new chapter books to read aloud. By doing this work gradually during the summer, it makes the actual planning for the school year a bit easier. It also serves another purpose in that it helps me get excited for another year of learning with my children. This will be my 17th year of homeschooling and it takes some effort to keep up the excitement of what I'm doing. Planning new studies and projects keeps things interesting for me as well.

I know it's hard to think about school during summer break, but none of these things is terribly hard, and they do go along way to a smoother school year.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Advocating again

The cousins leave today and I imagine everyone will be feeling a bit sad and at loose ends most of the day. It has been so fun to watch the cousins all play together. They are all in the same age range and get along terrifically. I must come up with a plan for when they pull out of the driveway.

In the meantime, I will remind you about two little girls who still need families.

First is Grace. She has a repaired heart defect and has waited so long for a family. Why has no one chosen her?

Second is Ting. I am fairly certain that she share the same genetic condition as H. She needs a family. Are you her family.

If anyone is interested in adopting either of these two little girls, please contact me. I can put you in touch with the people you need to talk to.

And I leave you with an article to ponder about When Enough is Enough.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A month o' cousins

We currently have 19 people living in the Big Ugly House. J's brother and his family are staying with us for a few days and it's been great to catch up and let cousins get reacquainted. There has a been a lot of playing and a lot of over-tired children. Last night we had a big family reunion with all of J.'s siblings and their families... with still more cousins and still more playing and still more over-tired children. 

My children are blessed with an abundance of cousins. Between both sides of the family, there are 14 first cousins and they are all in the same age range as mine. Since I only had one brother and no cousins growing up, this makes me so happy. 

Lots of aunts and uncles... lots of cousins (of all sorts, first cousins, first cousins-once-removed, and second cousins) all of whom we see on a fairly regular basis. It is an embarrassment of riches. 

Now, back to the fun.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What changed your mind?

A friend of mine wrote a post asking this question and I've been thinking about my answer to it every since. First some context. That would be changing your mind about pursuing adoption. What pushes a person into action? What moves someone from thinking that something is a good idea in the abstract and pushes them into action? So I've been wondering what was it that did it for me.

I usually tell people that I'd always been interested in adopting, but that is sort of a vague statement and doesn't really describe why it had even occurred to me to think about. After a little pondering, I remembered by obsession with the DeBolts. Many of you probably remember the made-for-TV documentary called, Who are the DeBolts and Where did they get 19 Kids? I loved it. It fascinated me and fed my desire as a child to live in a large family. The fact that it was a multi-racial family and many of the children had disabilities added to its appeal. As I grew up, the TV show faded in my memory, but I think its impact continued to work inside my head. So when I say I've always been interested in adoption, I'm pretty sure that it was some latent desire to be like the DeBolts. And it was really latent. It wasn't until both TM and K. had been home for a couple of years that I even recalled the show and remembered its impact on me.

For our first, adoption, it was really just a now-or-never moment. When you already have five children and you are not getting younger, you realize that some things can't be put off. For that first decision the main spur that goaded us into action was the desire to avoid regret. Would we regret just never getting around to adopting? Evidently, the answer was yes, we would have regretted it too much.

The second adoption was perhaps the easiest decision. We always knew that if we adopted once, we would adopt again. We were very conscious of not wanting our one adopted child to always be odd man out in the sea of blond, blue-eyed children. We started the paperwork for our second adoption immediately at the six month mark of TM being home. The soonest we could have possibly done it.

Then came a lull in the adoptions... and G. and L. arrived. I can say without any hesitation that even thinking about adopting was the furthest thing from my mind during G. and L.'s babyhood. That would have required some sort of conscious thought and I was too sleep deprived to manage that. (I was too sleep deprived to manage much of anything but nursing.) At this point, I was quite sure our family was complete. We were maxed out on all fronts and that was OK.

So, when I came across (by accident) a picture of H. on an advocacy blog, I wasn't looking for a new child. We were done. Quite done. And yet, there she was... the girl who wanted a mommy and daddy to love her and sing to her and cook her good food. The girl whose face was different and who had a very scary diagnosis attached to her. I went round and round with God. It was crazy... we had our hands quite full with lots of children, one of whom had significant emotional needs, not to mention two year old twins. Crazy. Our hands were full of children yet quite empty of money. This child would need surgery, not to mention that incredibly large amount of money which would be needed to bring her home.

Still there she was, always lurking around the edges of my brain.

So what changed my mind? It was a combination of two things. The relentless pursuit by God and something I read by someone. I can't even tell you who or where I read it. I'm not even sure that I can recall the exact words, but I do remember the idea. I kept telling God that I needed some sign, or even better an engraved invitation, and then I would know that we were supposed to do this crazy thing. And then I read this line: "You say you are waiting for God to give you a direct message before you adopt, yet God already has. We are already directed to care for the orphans. Why does He need to tell it to you again?"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ending the freak show mentality

I have been doing some research into resources for families with children with facial differences and I have discovered two things. First, the reasons for having or developing a facial difference are many and varied. It is such an unique problem for each individual. There are some syndromes which are more common than others and present with pretty much the same issues, but common is a relative word and for the most part these syndromes are fairly rare.

The second thing I've discovered is that it is something that is very seldom talked about... at least based on my cursory search. If you Google blogs about raising a child with cerebral palsy or cleft lip and palate or spina bifida or limb differences, you immediately get dozens of helpful articles and blogs by parents travelling this road with their children. If you Google blogs about raising a child with a facial deformity, well you get the modern version of the circus sideshow. There's not a lot that's helpful or supportive and an awful lot of things like "25 most hideous faces". And in the first two pages you get my blog. Now, in the great world of Google analytics, the fact that my lowly blog makes it onto the second page of results for such a broad search topic tells me that there's just not a lot out there.

I did find a couple of single posts or articles, mainly about the experience of various mothers when their child was born and they were confronted with their child's differences. But others' experiences with the implications for day-to-day life just don't seem to be there. And when you add adoption into the equation, well, there seems to be even less. It seems the best we can do is the fictional account found in the book Wonder, which while good and opens up a lot of discussion, is not a personal account. 

I firmly believe that talking about hard issues, not hiding in shame, and normalizing life for anyone who looks different is the best way to deal with these hard things. It is one reason why I blog. When we adopted H., I don't think we realized how far out of the norm we were moving. I want my child to be comfortable with who she is. I don't want her to think that how she looks is something to be hidden or embarrassed by. At the same time, I also don't think it is wrong to pursue options to change her appearance to one that she wants. What is always lurking behind the surface is the tension between these two positions. We need to be able to talk about it. We need to think about these things. What we don't need to do is hide or be surreptitious in our dealings with these issues. 

To this end, I would love to find other parents who are raising children with facial differences. I would especially love to connect adoptive parents together. But I don't know how to find them! So, if anyone knows of a blog or something of that sort to point me to, I would appreciate it.
I have a new article up:  Taking a Break

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

More laminator love

A couple of weeks ago I spent some quality time with my laminator. I had purchased a Kumon book a while back thinking it would be good for some of my people working on learning their numbers. And I was right, it is. I really like some of the Kumon stuff. It's on good, heavy paper, the graphics are appealing, and they do some good incremental review that isn't found in regular math texts. All of this good stuff comes with a price and I needed four of them. Plus, my crew needed even more repetition than doing a page just once would give. The little girls tear through workbooks like they are candy, sometimes with about as much thought. H. and K. could use some significant repetition. I liked the book, but didn't want to keep buying more and more copies of it. 

Enter the laminator. I took the book apart and laminated each page, then hole punched them and put them in a binder. (Thus giving me the double satisfaction of using the laminator and putting things in binders. Bliss.)

This is all great, but you need to be able to write on the laminated sheets and then remove the writing in order to be able to reuse them again. Thus enters my homeschooling tip for the day where you can benefit from my rather expensive trial and error investigation. First, dry erase markers stains lamination. Don't use them. Having failed with dry erase markers, I then switched to erasable crayons. This does work, but it really depends on the brand. Crayola worked well, but they do eventually break (or get mixed in with the regular crayons) so need to be replaced. The next time I bought a different brand (Alex, I think) which did not work at all. At. All. complete waste of money. Finally, I friend suggested I try wet erase markers. I don't know why I didn't think of this in the first place. I've used these markers on large laminated maps for years. Sometimes my brain just doesn't make the connections. I'm happy to report that the Vis-A-Vis wet erase markers work great. They are easy for the children to use, they don't smudge, and they erase completely with no staining.

Everyone has been happily doing these pages over and over again, which makes me happy. I love my laminator.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Making progress

M. has finished painting the walls of the boys' room and is now working on the Bible verses which will go up on their walls. Yes, she is doing this freehand.

Monday, July 07, 2014

More soggy camping

We spent the holiday weekend in Iowa with my brother and his family. My parents were also there, so it was a great big family reunion. Minus M....  sniff.

We camped because my brother's house is not huge and certainly not big enough to house 14 extra people. Plus, we're cheap and didn't want to spend money on hotel rooms, so we camped on his lawn. Here is our little tent city we set-up. Look carefully, there are four tents out there.

We helped do some work around the property.


Cousins did a lot of this,

And this....

And we did some more work. (This is A.)

There are great trees to climb.



More cousin bonding. This is B. and his same-age cousin.


J. helped to put up a tire swing. I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures of my husband and brother throwing the croquet ball up into the tree to get the rope around the very high branch. A video would have been even better.



All of my parents' grandchildren. (Minus M.... sniff.... sense a theme?)

(Almost) the whole family

The tire swing was very, very popular.

G. and L.

We took a walk down the road to a park by a creek.

L. and D.

And there were sparklers on the 4th.

A., G. (who wasn't sure she liked them) and B.

The weather was beautiful until the last night we were there, when it stormed and stormed and stormed. Some of the tents probably should be retired based on their inability to keep out water. One of the boy's tents and HG's tent were more like swimming pools by morning. Things were packed up into the trailer in the rain... soaking wet.

Which means that when you get home you have to let things dry out.

It was a fun, if damp, vacation. Back to real life again today.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Simplicity 4927

I've been doing just a little bit of sewing, despite the fact I have several things cut out and sitting on my sewing table. Here are a pair of dresses I did get done. It's a very simple pattern, yet because I've been enjoying the nice weather just a bit too much, it took me a month. After I made them, I discovered a bonus. They are big enough and the style and color of the dresses is just right to put over longer layers in the fall and keep using them. I love that.

My two little models were feeling cooperative when I took pictures of them in their dresses. G. has a pair of pink sandals that match L.'s purple ones, but they must have been kicked off when she came in from church. J. and I think they are not looking quite so look-alike in these pictures... or is it just us?

(L. on left and G. on right)

And as a bonus, I was able to use some of my grandmother's antique buttons for the fasteners. You gotta love dresses without zippers of button holes (these use elastic to close attach to the buttons).

The question is, at the rate I'm sewing this summer, will I get to the things I planned on making in time for the intended wearers to wear the clothes before it gets too cold or they are outgrown? I guess we'll have to wait and see. 
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Pin It