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Showing posts from October, 2015

When you want to make it all better

Let's just say trauma stinks. I hate what it does to my child's brain. I hate that it turns things that should be good and fun into something anxiety-producing and detestable. I hate that it robs children of their childhood.

That said, we've come around another corner and due to some out-of-the box decisions, life is good again. Or at least as good can possibly be. I'll take that.

Sorry if this is cryptic. But it is also true that as children get older, it becomes more difficult to share the hard stuff. Just know that life was hard. Decisions were made and discussions were had. Life is better again. Just don't be expecting birthday pictures from the celebration of the last family member to have a birthday this year.

Yes, I'm disappointed, too. But some things are more important.

Children and cooking

You know that you must have done something right when your children discover the TV show, America's Worst Cooks, and spend all of dinner rehashing with great incredulity the ineptness of the cooks. They were just amazed that adults... and old adults, 44 years old!... could not know how to cook.

It makes me realize that my children's kitchen abilities are not something to take for granted. And pretty much, they are all good cooks who know their way around a kitchen. I cannot tell you how many times I have come home from being out at a doctor's appointment to discover that a boy has made cookies or a cake. (It does kind of play havoc with my sugar supply, though.)

Baking is a favorite activity, but they can also cook meals as well. For instance, D. helped make the dinner tonight, while G. and L. wielded knives and chopped all the vegetables. It only causes me to say about 1000 times, "Remember to keep your fingers tucked in." G. is also a lefty, and I've discov…

Because I can't stop thinking about him

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Life is returning back to normal after a dreadful start to the weekend. P. is doing well. She would be doing even better if math never existed, but there's not much one can do about that is there?

But here is who I've really been thinking about pretty endlessly... Peter.


You can read about him at his listing at Twenty Less. He turns 14 in April. That gives him just over 25 weeks for a family to commit to him, get all the paperwork done, travel to China, and sign the papers. It is not overstating things to say he is running out of time. A woman who knows him and recently talked with him says that he told her that we wants to become a composer and write music that makes people happy. His best friend, who is now in the US with his family and who is also blind, just ran a full marathon. There is no reason that not having sight will stop this child. It shouldn't stop a family from committing to him, either. As far as anyone can tell, not one single family has asked to see his f…

We ended the day with chocolate. It couldn't make it better, but it also couldn't hurt

"Just tell me when you're ready," the vet said softly.
"Is this what you would do if this were your cat?" I sniffed again.
"Yes. You can see how much difficulty he is having breathing."

This was not how the day was supposed to end. We had no intention of learning what the initials FIP stood for. This was not the lottery we wanted to win.

Two days ago, P. mentioned to me that Moon, one of her new cats, the dog-starer, wasn't eating very well and his eyes were starting to run. This didn't sound good and I wondered if he had developed some sort of respiratory infection. When he wasn't better the next day, and frankly, looked worse, my intuition said we needed to get him to the vet soon. Our wonderful vet had an opening and we took Moon in. She took a quick look at him and grew very concerned. He was far sicker than we had thought and she wanted to run some tests. We left Moon at the vets and returned home. Twenty minutes later, she called and…

Fun with chalk pastels

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When you are studying the arctic, you have to talk about the Aurora Borealis. It is also something which lends itself to a cool art project. Plus I found instructions for how to make drawings of the northern lights using both oil and chalk pastels. Now, we have lots of oil pastels and they see quite a bit of use. We didn't have chalk pastels. What a great excuse to buy a new art supply. TM and I picked these up yesterday.


As you can see, I took picture after they were used all morning. They didn't come out of the box looking like this. You can also see that they were a popular art medium. Even now, after we finished with our project and had lunch, I have four people still sitting at the kitchen table creating new pictures.

Our project was to draw the northern lights. We used black paper, oil pastels for the ground, and chalk pastels for the lights. We also threw in a little ethnomusicology into the mix and listened to modern and traditional Inuit music while we drew. There was…

In search of red pandas

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This morning the Lincoln Park Zoo had a special member's event that allowed them to see the new red panda cubs. This is the first time they have been on display since they were born. Now, I love pandas. I didn't think I was as big a fan of red pandas until we saw them in China. Red pandas are really, really cute in person. So, who would pass up the chance to see babies? Not me.

We left in plenty of time this morning (for once) and it was a good thing. We got there a little early, but they started to let people in so we were one of the first. The little cubs had just come out into the outdoor exhibit following their mother. We were able to watch them for five or ten minutes before they both headed back to the inside exhibit, not to come out again. Boy are they cute! Their fuzzy heads are a little too big for their bodies and short stubby legs. Cute, cute, cute. D. brought his camera, one of the few working ones in the house), and took some pictures.






After the cute, fuzzy, littl…

Crystal balls don't work

I remember vividly having a little heart-to-heart chat with B. one day in his room, sometime during his junior year of high school.

"Do you have any idea what you think you might want to do as an adult? Do you think it might involve math or science?" I asked.
"No! I don't want to do anything with math and science," he unhesitatingly replied.
"Fine. Then let's put us both out of our misery and say you're done taking math and science classes for high school." We both paused for a moment, breathed a sigh of relief and B. went back to reading book number 253 about World War Two that he was in the middle of. (For the record, he had enough math and science for his transcript. I'm not completely negligent.)

Fast forward four years.

That non-math and science loving boy is now an environmental science major in college and doing quite well. In fact, he has become something of an organic chemistry rock star. I look back on that earlier conversation a…

Leitner boxes and spaced repetition

A reader mentioned to me that I should do a post on Leitner boxes since I mentioned them in my previous post. She may not be the only who who doesn't know about them, so here's a brief explanation.

We can't start with the boxes, though. We have to first go back to the idea of a spaced repetition memory system. This is the idea that there are optimal times between review sessions of material to firmly implant an idea into ones memory. Different scientists early in the last century worked on this problem and I had run across the idea in various forms in my somewhat compulsive reading about brain science. I think that's why I was so intrigued with Sebastian Leitner's system of using index cards when I read about it in the book, Fluent Forever. I knew the science behind it and it made sense. Plus, it used an organized system with schedules and index cards and little index card dividers... all things that I enjoy playing with. It is also hard to ignore the results of su…

How'd it get to be 5 pm?!

I don't know, either. Consequently, the blog post, with real content is just not happening today. Instead of a blog post, I have the laundry completely caught up,shopped at four different grocery stores, made the week's menus, made an unexpected trip to J.'s place of employment because I forgot to send some important papers with him, have all of our I800 paperwork turned in for our new girls, and did our full school schedule this morning.

Either I'm feeling such relief at having this adoption progressing that I can finally focus on things, or because our adoption is progressing, I am having some severe nesting instincts kicking in. Or both things at once. Yesterday, along with church and taking P. to a horse show (she placed, 1st, 4th, and 5th in her classes; her first over fences), I made a huge dent in the laundry, cleaned off my sewing table, ironed some fabric so I can cut out some patterns, did the mending that had piled up, caught up with my language learning Lei…

Shopping with Boys 2

I love my boys. Boys are wonderful. Little boys are really easy to dress as they tend to be content with some jeans, t-shirts, and the few dress clothes their mothers insist on adding to their wardrobe.

And then they grow. Sometimes overnight. Suddenly, those little boys turn into great, big boys with feet the size of small boats. They also start to develop opinions as to what they put on and are no longer quite so content to just randomly pull out whatever is at the top of the drawer top of the pile on the floor and put it on.

None of this would be so bad if there was such a thing as hand-me-downs for great, big boys. It also wouldn't be so bad if the clothes still cost the same as it did when the great, big boys were little. Instead, one day you wake up and discover that your cute little boys have become great, big boys, wearing men's sizes, and they have nothing in their wardrobe which fits, especially as the weather is getting colder.

That is why I have spent the entire af…

I'm giving a yell and that rhymes with 'L' and that stands for....*

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L O A!

Remember, LOA is the acronym for Letter of Acceptance, the official document giving a family permission to adopt a specific child.

We received ours yesterday for both girls. Well, technically, it is the 'soft' LOA, because the hard copy still needs to arrive at our agency, but it is on its way. We have official permission to adopt

R. 
and
Y.
This weekend I will be working on immigration paperwork for both of them. (The next step is to apply for each girls' individual visas so they enter the US.) I will also be making photo books to send to them because now that this adoption is a sure thing, they can know about us and that we are going to be their family. Not a bad to-do list for the weekend, huh?
*I'm afraid you'll have to get used to The Music Man references, in not too long, it will start to take over our life.

Some H. birthday photos

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We celebrated H.'s birthday last night.

With  three away and unable to join us last night, the party looked a little small.
Waiting for cake
When I asked H. about her birthday dessert, she was insistent upon a cake with flowers. So, in a rare birthday move, I bought a cake knowing exactly what kind of flowers she was talking about.


TM and D. put some trick relighting candles on the cake. It took a little bit before H. realized they kept relighting.
Waiting to open presents
A craft set
TM, K., G., and L.
Grammy and Grandpa sent a fancy party dress that twirls. The twirling aspect is extremely important.
Moon and Midnight joined us. They tend to follow P. around like dogs. Gretel started out at the party, but she was disinvited when she wouldn't stop bouncing and barking. 

Happy 13th Birthday, H.!

Today is the beginning of the trio of 12 year olds turning 13. H. is the first, quickly followed by TM, with D. bringing up the rear in 8 months.

H. is very, very, very excited about her birthday. She has been counting down for a couple of weeks now. It's hard to have one of the last birthdays of the year, because it seems as though it will never come. But is has. Phew!

I cannot really fully convey the changes we have seen in this child over the past year. The best I can describe is that it is like watching a pretend child turning into a true and real child. She has awareness of her surroundings, honest emotions, more language to convey her thoughts. There are thoughts to convey!

The simplest example I can tell you about happened last week. Now H. has ridden in the car with me a lot. We go to a lot of doctor's appointments together as well as when we're going to places as a family. Yet the last time she came with me to the grocery store, something was different. (I rotate …

Sorry, been a little distracted

because I've been listening to the Cubs game on the radio. And since they just won their National League Division series, I can do other things. Such as blog.

You may have picked up on the fact that I'm not a huge sports fan. OK, not really a sports fan at all. Except I do like the Cubs and have spent more than one game in the bleachers. That would have been back when you could just walk into a game on game day, and even though tickets were cheap, the bleachers were cheaper.

Plus, who doesn't like a really good underdog story?

Go, Cubs, Go!

Day 43

That would be 43 days since our dossier was logged-in and we've been waiting for our LOA's. That would be "Letters of Acceptance" that officially give us permission to adopt R. and T. I'm starting to get just a little antsy. At least a couple other families who are on about our same timeline have their LOA's, so we should hear soon. I hope. I would really rather not be the seemingly random family that occasionally has a 90 day wait.

I want to start making photo books to send to the girls so they can be told they have a family coming for them. I want to start picking up a few new clothes for each of them. (And yes, I actually leave the tags on. Who doesn't like brand-new clothes?) I want to be able to start making real plans for being gone for nearly three weeks. With and LOA, we will have a much better idea of when we'll actually travel. I'm just very ready to leave this limbo we've been living in for nearly a year. That would be the limbo of …

At least I know they're listening

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D. was kind enough to take some pictures for me yesterday. Because I really wanted to document this...


Can you tell what it is? It's G. with her sled dog team. We've been reading a lot about the Iditarod and sled dogs and sled dog racing and Alaska. Because of the wiggle factor, I'm never quite sure what the youngest are getting out of all that we read and talk about. But I think I can put those concerns to rest. All yesterday afternoon and into this morning, the play has been sleds and sled dogs. In the picture above, you'll see that G. has harnessed her dogs together and is always very careful to keep her lead dog first. She also made her own sled, that the bunny is driving. Look closely and you'll see that out of the materials at hand that constructed it pretty accurately... storage up in front with runners for standing on in the back. She did have a handle for the rabbit to hold on to, but tape is a finicky constructing system and she couldn't get it to sta…

Shopping with boys

I had promised TM and D. a trip to the local game store and Vietnamese market this afternoon, so that is what we did. They love this particular trip, going out without a whole bunch of little people, and were in quite pleasant moods. I only had to ask them to put their antlers away once. The trip pretty much sounded like this.

Boys: Vaguely inane and specific discussions about various cards in their deck-building strategy game they love (and the reason for the trip to the game store). I try to tune it out because it makes no sense and I don't care enough to try to have it make sense. They understand this about me and only once in a while do they attempt to explain the game. I will abbreviate this ongoing and endless discussion by just writing cards, cards, cards. You will get the idea.

Me: Silence. My super power is to be able to tune out all but the most vociferous arguments or screech of pain.

Boys: Cards, cards, cards.

A boy: How many miles to where we are going?

Me: I don'…

Tea Time

I've learned that sometimes a schedule that has worked for years, suddenly doesn't make sense anymore and needs to be reinvented. Ever since M. was in kindergarten, I have read a chapter book at lunch. It allowed me to read interesting books that my children wouldn't normally sit through, but because they had their lunch in front of them, they were virtually a captive audience and I could get away with it. Usually we ended up loving the books we read, but sometimes we gave up on one by general consensus. I loved those times with my children.

As we began our homeschooling schedule this year, something seemed off. We had made it just a few pages into the book we were reading at lunch and I was getting complaints about the whole process. We had done this for so long that I was a bit stymied. As I thought about it I realized a few things. For various reasons, much of our group time this year is spent in reading books. That is going very well, People are engaged and interested …

Help me out here

I'm trying to figure something out. This isn't meant to be snarky or back handed, I just really do not understand. I've been reading and hearing in lots of different places about parental frustrations with homework. I'm not in that world. We don't have homework here. We are able to get the bulk of our schoolwork done in the morning and we move onto to other things. I truly do not understand homework.

When I was in school, until I got to upper grades, the only time I had homework was when I didn't take the time to get the work done in class. I never had specifically assigned homework. There might have been a special project assigned every so often, but in my memory those seemed rare. (And the only reason I spent hours on a report on horses in sixth grade was because I wanted to. Turning in a multi-page report complete with multi-page bibliography and illustrations says far more about me than about the assignment.) I don't think the children of the human spec…

One of the problems of a voracious reader

The other night I'm happily reading a book. I was ready for a new mystery and this was proving enjoyable. As I got further into the book, I start thinking to myself, "Gee, this seems a lot like another book I've read. You would have thought the similarities between the two would have been mentioned in the somewhat extensive introduction." I chalk it up to an interesting, yet inconsequential coincidence and keep reading.

I reach a part that is particularly exciting and continue to feel as though it really is very similar to another book. Well, I think it is similar until I get to a part and suddenly realize I know exactly what is going to happen. I am proved correct as I continue reading and slowly have to face the fact. I have read this book before.

I have no recollection of having read it before, but since I exhibit ESP in no other realm of my life, I have to assume that I have. As I continue to read the book, I remember details as I get to them, but still have no i…

Just sayin'

You know, I can see the stats of how many people have looked at a particular post. It is always interesting the things that garner a lot of attention. Sometimes I can predict what will be popular and other times I am completely baffled. One thing I have learned though, is what is not popular. I can guarantee that whenever I write a post advocating for a child or children who need a family, the number plummet.

I know cats and dogs are cute. We like cats and dogs around here. I'm sure once I have something that takes pictures again, you will get to see more pictures of our three furry friends.

But the posts that get ignored are about children. Real, live, living, breathing children who do not have a family to call their own. Children who will spend the rest of their lives in some sort of institution if they do not find their family. I know it is hard. I know it is painful. I know what it costs to give a child such as these a family. I know.

I am begging you to do the hard thing. Loo…

Because I can't un-know what I know

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It's one thing to know the huge numbers of orphans in the world. (Current estimates put the number at between 500,000 and one million in China alone.) It's another thing to know the actual children behind those numbers. The statistics alone can be overwhelming, so overwhelming that it is very easy to lose the humanity they represent. This is especially true for anyone who has not had their world rocked by spending time in an actual orphanage. And while I certainly don't advocate orphan-tourism, because of the negative effects it can have on the very real children who must live in them, there is no escaping the positive effects it has on the adults who visit. Because all at once those huge numbers and daunting statistics have a face... a personality... a deep, deep need to be loved and to belong to someone who will call them son or daughter. Everyone needs a place to belong, a sense of permanency, a promise of unconditional love.

It is impossible to meet even one of these c…

Truth and consequences

(Don't read more into this post than is intended. We're fine. I actually can't write coherently when we're not.)

I've discovered this is a thing. Parents who have successfully raised biological children who then adopt and are thrown for a loop when those traditional parenting practices don't work. More of the same doesn't work. (Isn't that one of the definitions of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results?) I'm certainly a founding member.

I've also discovered it's a thing as well, that while some people are willing to change, there are more than a few parents who are so committed to traditional parenting practices that they just can't bend. Often this is to the detriment of both the child and the family. It takes a huge amount of humility to say everything you thought about parenting is wrong and change. Especially if that change is to a method which on the face of it seems at odds with every…

A bullet point kind of a day

Mainly because it is easier to write short, unrelated comments rather than trying to force my brain into something coherent.

The brain space was already used up on the article I (finally) finished... a mere four days late.D. has already revised the beginning of the story I shared and it is significantly improved. He is thinking doing NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) in November might be something he wants to try his hand at.I took my iPod in today to see if it could be fixed and, sadly, it is down for the count. Do not expect any photos on the blog in the near future.The dog and the cats have made brief acquaintances. At least Gretel has stopped the perpetual whining outside P's door. The few times we've let them socialize, Moon just sits and stares at the dog. It's as if he is the dog hypnotist. He stares and Gretel just stares back, transfixed. Midnight, on the other hand, runs which Gretel interprets as, "Hey, I'm going to play your favorite game. Co…