Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When life gives you lemons... or kale

A good friend has a deal with a local company to pick-up their food that they aren't using and which would have been thrown out. When it is a particular large amount, she will bring some over to us. This week was a particularly large amount, which is why I found myself with a garbage bag of kale sitting on my kitchen table this afternoon.


Now, my children like kale chips as much (or more) than the next person, but even they cannot eat that many kale chips and I certainly couldn't find someone willing to turn them into kale chips. Not wanting it to go to waste, I spent the afternoon blanching kale to freeze.


See that spider? That would be the long metal utensil sitting on the bowl. I bought it at my local Vietnamese market and use it for everything. I actually don't know how I cooked before I bought one.

All that kale was turned into 64 cups of kale that is now in my freezer. I'll use it to throw in soups or sauces or in pineapple peanut stew. I'm also considering trying some in place of spinach in my stuffed spinach pizza.


Now, not only did I get a bunch of kale, I also was given a few avocados and lemons.


For the lemons, I'm in the midst of making some of them into lemon cordial which I'll can. It sounds like a really rich lemon syrup which will be good mixed with sparkling water... or sparkling something else. I'm dehydrating the rest.


I've never dehydrated lemons before, but they sound really intriguing. The avocados (if I can rescue any from my avocado-mad children), will be made into guacamole for the 4th and I'll freeze the rest. There were also three large bunches of celery. One I fed to the children as a snack and the others I plan on dehydrating and then crushing for celery flakes.

I feel as though I should just call this blog the preservation kitchen. On top of all that, over the past few days I've made 9 1/2 pints of strawberry jam, have four cups of dehydrated strawberries, and eight cups of frozen strawberries. B. also discovered a huge horseradish plant in the back yard, which he dug some of the root from. Bless him, he was also the one to grate the rather overpowering thing so we could use it. He made one batch of horseradish sauce in the refrigerator and have enough for ten more batches in the freezer. (My children adore horseradish sauce. Really they do. I know this is odd.)

I think we need to eat more beef to clear up some room in my freezers. It's just the beginning of the growing season.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Difficult to explain

Number of days IL has cost us with our daughters: 87

There are just no words.

Now, I know in the great scheme of things, 87 days, nearly three months, is not that long of a time. For instance, those three months leading up to Christmas every year go by at the speed of light. The three months of summer tend to zip by as well. (The months of January, February, and March, not so much.) In the course of a life time, three months is just a drop in the bucket.

I get that.

Yet, if you are separated from a loved one, three months is a long time. And it's not that those three months are the only part of the wait, they are just leading up to the actual wait which itself can take six months. Then there was the two or three months of the actual home study process... Those three months have pushed us to at least a year of waiting to bring our daughters home.

A friend, trying to wrap her head around adoption commented to me on my use of "my" daughters in reference to R. and Y. It astounded her a bit that we would claim them so unabashedly as our own without having met them. This is where it gets difficult to explain.

If you have adopted, you will understand completely what I am talking about, if you haven't, I'm afraid that sometimes it seems as though adoptive parents speak a different language and there is a break down of communication. You see, in order to go through the adoption process, with its ups and downs, frustration, mountains of paperwork, government bureaucracy, and cost, you have to feel at a deep level that this child is yours. The process is too horrible to do for fun. Yes, you can fall in love with a picture and love that child in your heart. You dream about them, plan what you will do with them, imagine holding them and kissing them, think about what life will be like with them. They will have your name, be yours as long as you live, you will be present for the milestones of their lives... just as with your other children. They become your children even before the paperwork is signed to make it legal.

If you speak with parents who have had something go wrong with an adoption between being matched with a child and actually processing the paperwork, they will tell you it is like a death. It is a real child that will no longer be a part of your family and these parents grieve accordingly. Yet, it is a hard because so few people understand the depth of connection with a picture.

It is one of the first miracles of adoption, that parents can so wrap their hearts around a child they still have yet to meet. (Of course, there is the process of adjusting from the imaginary child to the actual child standing in front of you... but that's a whole separate post.) This picture becomes your child. Your really truly child. The one you will fight for and love and defend with every mama bear instinct that you possess.

Imagine that your child, the one that lives in your house with you, was suddenly transported to another country and placed in less than ideal living conditions. You would move heaven and earth and spend any amount of money to go and get them. To bring them home. And you wouldn't rest until you did that. If someone truly dear to you was far away and needing your help to come home, it would become your obsession. Of course I acknowledge that my story only correlates so far. A child who is known and lives with us will elicit strong feelings, and I agree that these feelings are greater than for a child who is still a stranger. But here is what I want to try to communicate, if ever so poorly. While a real, known child will elicit extremely strong feelings and need to protect that child, for those of us in the adoption process, something has happened and we feel about these children whom we only know from pictures and videos, in a very similar way. They are ours and we need to bring them home.

To wait is painful. We are missing children whom we realize we don't really know, yet love to such a great extent that we are willing to put ourselves through this pain to bring home. Parenting is often one constant act of sacrifice, and for adoptive parents, this sacrifice begins long before the child is known.

Please Governor Rauner, sign HB 3079. Right now it is only you who is slowing down the adoption process so atrociously in Illinois. How would you like it if some government official decided to use your child as a pawn in his political game? Just sign the bill.


Friday, June 26, 2015

The very hungry caterpillar

By chance I came across a little tiny monarch caterpillar on one of the milkweed plants last week, so of course, I brought him in. Having learned the hard way last year that it is important to wash the milkweed leaves thoroughly before letting the caterpillar eat them, he has thrived. In fact, having done this a time or two before, I would say this is the hungriest caterpillar we've ever had. Usually, I can get away with giving a new leaf once a day. Not with this guy. Recently I've had to change his leaf twice, sometimes three times. He eats so much. And if I don't provide him with new leaves, then I find him crawling all over the windowsill to search for new leaves on his own.

The little people love him and so had to name him. G. and L. were standing there when I first brought him in and at first suggested something mundane such as stripey. However, my two youngest are anything but mundane, so not being content with the first suggestion, stood there a thought a little longer. L. suddenly bursts out, "Let's call him John Avery Whittaker!" G. joins in with, "YES! Let's call him John Avery Whittaker!" So John Avery Whittaker he is. It did throw some older children for a loop at first when I asked for someone to go get a new leaf for John Avery Whittaker, We soon cleared up the confusion. For those whose children do not listen to Adventures in Odyssey non-stop, John Avery Whittaker is a character from the radio show.

Eating... which is what he does best

At home, for now, in his jar

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In which I amaze and astound you with my photographic prowess

We went strawberry picking today and picked 7 baskets, which I think are 14 quarts. It wasn't too hot and not too sunny, with only a drop or two or rain. Really, rather ideal weather for berry picking. I threw my iPod in my pocket since I thought it would be easy to use to take pictures.

In theory it was. I whipped it out of my pocket occasionally and took some pictures. I couldn't really see what I was taking because the glare made it hard to see. Evidently, I haven't quite figured out where exactly the camera is on the silly thing. This one is the best... it's L. (Who, by the way, was a terrific berry picker, outlasting nearly everyone.)


(I'm including these others because I like to make my children laugh. And believe me, they will laugh... so will you.)

Here is K., or is it G.? It's hard to tell. I took one of them both, but they both look like this... a nice picture of my finger.


Here's another one of L.


I guess you can tell that the glare wasn't so bad when I took this one, huh?

K., L., and H. (P. and G., who both seem to be fighting small colds were collapsed in the van.)

So now I have all these strawberries. They taste very good. I suppose I now need to stand up and start doing something with them. I have plans for jam, frozen berries, dehydrated berries, more jam...



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Birthday gifts for canning fun

I had a birthday earlier this month as well, and wanted to show off my birthday gifts.


Isn't it beautiful? (Thanks, Mom and Dad. They don't even know what they got me as they sent a check.) It's 7.8 quarts and made by Lodge. It also weighs possible more than K. I have a smaller dutch oven that I found at a rummage sale several years ago, but it always feels just a bit too small for the amount of food that I am preparing. This should take care of that problem. It should also make some wonderful jam, which is another reason I bought it. Now, I just have to figure out where to store it. It's a tiny bit huge and the weight would not be good for my pull-out cabinets.

The dutch oven purchase was inspired by these two books which I had checked out from the library. I fell in love with both of them and now own them. They are Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry by Cathy Barrow and Saving the Season by Kevin West. (Due to my recent computer disasters, I haven't yet found my link for my Amazon Associate's links. If you have them, use them, and maybe when I have a free moment, I'll see if I can find them myself.) I was already feeling the lack of home canned goods in my pantry due to virtually no canning last summer, but these books have inspired my to get back on that horse, plus to try new things.


Yesterday I finished pickling some juniper-pickled cocktail onions and some home-made pectin. (Both from the Mrs. Wheelbarrow book.) That pectin... it's still a work in progress. I was using windfall apples from the apple tree on my brother's (mother's... difficult to explain) farm. The yield was not quite what I had expected, but I have started an email exchange with the author (who replied to my question right away), and I may spend the rest of the summer experimenting and figuring it out. I love, love, love the idea of making my own pectin from apples that would just be thrown out.


Don't rows of little jars on the counter make you so happy?

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 2015 Birthday Bash

We have a lot of celebrations in June... six birthdays and one anniversary. Then when you add in various camps, trips, graduations, weddings, Father's Day, well, it gets to be a bit much. Which is why the past Saturday found us celebrating four birthdays at once. It was the only day everyone was free, what with camps and such. We sang Happy Birthday four times; to G. and L. who turned 6, to D. who turned 12, and to B. who turned 20.

L.

G.

D.

and B. (with TM)

And we did presents for four people.

L. and G. (Sorry for the photo quality. I was using my iPod and I haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet. Much to my children's amusement and bafflement.)

L. and G. received desks (that needed to be put together) from their grandparents. Can you tell L. is a little bit excited?



D. received a camera from his grandparents. He is also a little bit excited.



Of course, there were the audience members watching.

Well, B. wasn't really an audience member, but I don't have any pictures of him opening presents. That's the trouble with not being a little kid any longer... the camera is no longer focused on you all the time. Or maybe that isn't a problem, if you never really liked having your picture taken in the first place.

K. and M.

Gretel

B. and H. H-S

Photo bombed by D.

Yesterday was Father's Day and J.'s birthday. We had more pie, but we didn't sing. It was a pretty low key birthday. Today is our 24th anniversary. It just never stops, does it?

Here are some photos from this morning of everyone enjoying the IKEA play stand that we gave to G. and L.




Saturday, June 20, 2015

Home from church camp

On Thursday I made the drive back to the Iowa/Illinois border to return my niece and pick-up TM and P. They had a grand time... baby goats, little teeny tiny kittens, trampoline. TM has said more than once that he wants to go back, his aunt and uncle's house clearly being far superior to his own. His aunt and uncle's dog being far superior to his own. His aunt and uncle's garden being far superior to his own. You get the idea. I would say it was a terrific first time way from home for more than an overnight experience. Now, if we can all just survive the re-entry. P. had a good time as well, and I'm a little surprised that she didn't smuggle one of the new barn kittens back in her bag. When I asked her about this, she wisely pointed out that it wouldn't be safe with Gretel, the terror of any small furry mammal which happens across her path.

Then yesterday, J. made the trek north to Wisconsin to pick-up D., H., and K. A fantastic time was had by all and none of them wanted church camp to end. H.'s aide mentioned that H. jumped right in and participated in everything and that she, the aide, didn't do a whole lot. Since I know this young woman very well, I'm sure she did much more than she realizes and I was thankful she was there to keep on eye on H. The whole week was a great experience for everyone. I'm more than a little pleased that both H. and K. deemed the horseback riding to be their favorite thing. (Dang, if the sport wasn't so expensive... )

So all are home for 24 hours or so, and then very early tomorrow morning TM and D. head up to Boy Scout camp for a week. I am busy doing laundry so that they can both pack clean clothes. (Plus, today is D.'s birthday and we are having our big June birthday bash blowout party tonight, this being the only evening that everyone is free to celebrate.)

In the catching-up department, here are some photos from church camp drop-off that I was planning on sharing before the second round of computer issues took over.

H.

G., K., and L.

D. and J.

K. and his best buddy, P7

P. and TM


Tetherball with TM, and P. family dad

Now, if we could just locate K.'s suitcase...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Back online for real

Number of days lost with our daughters due to the horrid IL adoption system which could be fixed by Gov. Rauner's signature: 76

After two weeks of computer issues, I think we're all back to normal. There were a couple of times I thought we were, but evidently I was only online long enough to write depressing or inflammatory posts and then disappear again. I hope things, computer and otherwise, will all take a turn for the better now.

And what did you miss while I was hiding in the last century? Well, quite a bit. First, we hosted the rehearsal dinner for AL H-S followed by her wedding and all the festivities which went along with it. We took H., K., and D. to church camp. All three were very excited and in the pictures we've seen look as though they are having a great time. (A huge thanks goes to our church for making it possible for H. to attend by making sure she had an aide for the week.) The next day I drove to the Iowa/Illinois border to drop P. and TM with my brother and sister-in-law and bring back my niece. (The fact that TM actually made the decision to go is pretty huge.) There have been three birthdays... B. turned 20 and G. and L. turned 6. My parents celebrated their 50th (!) wedding anniversary. And I worked on my experiment-in-progress of making pectin (for jam making) from scratch from windfall apples that my sister-in-law brought me from their enormous apple trees.

See? You shouldn't disappear for so long. All of this I was planning on blogging about, with pictures even. But, it didn't happen. Other than the annoying feeling of not being able to reply to people who you need to give information to, I didn't actually mind being off line. It was rather peaceful. I need to go back to limiting my computer use a bit more. You should try it.

Now that we're all caught up, I need to run. It's time to make the return trip to the border.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

An open letter to Governor Bruce Rauner

Dear Governor Rauner,

I would truly love to know who died and made you God. The adoption community is roiling with rumors that you will choose not to sign HB 3079, the adoption reform bill, which would bring the state in line with just about every other state in the Union. Instead, for reasons of your own, you are purposefully choosing costly (which the state cannot afford) bureaucracy. We're in Illinois, though, Land of the Political Machine, and it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder why DCFS, who has historically managed to table all previous adoption bills of the same nature, chose to remain neutral on this one. It makes me wonder if there are friends and relationships that we do not know about and so they knew they could rest easy, even when the bill passed unanimously in both House and Senate. You really can't blame me for wondering. Back office deals happen with regularity in our state, regardless of one's political affiliation.

Forgive me if I am creating rumors of my own, but truly, I cannot think of any other reason why you wouldn't sign this bill. First, the state is in a budget crisis and I know you are trying to trim that budget in every way possible... even in not so popular ways. This bill would reduce the need for a whole office... and it is popular. Very, very popular. Second, it passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. You know better than anyone that we live in an extremely divided state where the two political parties disagree with each other on just about everything. I could even see them disagreeing about the color of the sky if given a chance, yet every single law maker voted for this bill. They were contacted by many constituents and they listened. It is how our government is supposed to work. If a bill has such support, it is certainly not your job to second guess them. I don't recall voting for the position of dictator that last time your office was up for election. Perhaps your staff forgot to mention that little bit of information in your orientation.

Lastly, I can't figure out why you will not sign the bill because it will help children reach their permanent homes faster and know the love of a mother and father sooner. I have a friend whose child came home a couple of years ago having lived in an orphanage. It is just now that she is feeling safe enough to share some of the stories of her life in that orphanage. She is in a wheelchair because of a degenerative muscular disease and in the orphanage accused her of being lazy. Her food would be set across the room, where she couldn't reach it because that would supposedly encourage her to not be lazy. At more than one point, a nanny would tell it would be better if she would just die because then it would be easier for everyone. Due to current DCFS regulations, this family, had they lived in Illinois, would not have been approved to adopt this child. I have met her. She is charming and bright and a joy to everyone. So tell me, Mr. Governor, why would you support an agency's agenda who tacitly agrees with that nanny and it would have been better for this child to die without a family?

I beg you to reconsider you completely unconsidered opinion on this matter. I will admit that my interest is highly personal. Our state's regulations have cost us over 70 days in bringing home our children and there is no end in sight. You signature could change that. Two children, who have no future in their country of birth, could come home sooner and begin to understand what love really looks like. My children's lives, and those of many others, are literally in your hands.

Please, do the right thing and for once, make us proud of being residents of Illinois. Sign HB 3079.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Curry

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Trying to be positive

Number of days we have lost with our daughters due to the abuse of the State of Illinois: 71

I will admit, being positive is proving to be extremely challenging at the moment. If you have a spare minute, maybe you could call the governor's office and urge him to sign HB 3079. I'll even spare you having to click... Springfield is 217/782-0244 or Chicago is 312/814-2121. Please? This is just insane.

So I will do my very best to put all this horribleness out of my head and enjoy the wedding of AL H-S this afternoon. I will really, really try.

I'll also post some links to my most recent published articles. They will be a change from having to read my continual whines.

Preparing for the Future

Top 7 Things I've Learned About Myself Because of Adoption

10 Tips for Integrating a Challenging Child into Your Family

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Not the best few days of my life

I won't spend a huge amount of time complaining, but I've had better weeks. Here's the list so far:

1. My old computer officially died. Blue screen of death. Wouldn't start. Our repair guy gently suggested it would cost more to repair it than to buy a new computer.

2. USCIS (immigration) is insisting that our home study needs to have another state approval before they will look at it and issue our approval. This despite the fact that the changes in our home study don't really change anything. Even better? DCFS, in an effort to be "fair", doesn't believe that our home study should be taken out of turn and have dutifully put it in the bottom of the stack. That would be the stack which contains at least a month's worth of back-logged home studies waiting for their own approvals. I will stop commenting on this particular subject because it will either make me burst into tears again... or use very bad words... or both.

3. That was yesterday afternoon, then yesterday evening when I checked my email on my new little iPod, I saw an email from our placement agency about the documents for our dossier that I had mailed them. I knew I was missing some and looked at their list to see if it matched mine, not expecting any difference. And then I saw this nice little bit of news, "We will need photocopies of current passports, as the ones you sent us are expired." This was not good. I had checked those passports a couple of times and they expired next spring. So I went and got them out to send a reply saying something like, take another look, we still have another 10 months or so on them. But, no. They had expired in April. I had read the year wrong (more than once) and it said 2015 and not 2016. This was the cause of a not-so-minor meltdown on my part, both because it is going to cost us and because it was such a stupid and needless mistake. I could have sent them off and had them back in the time we were waiting for the state the first time. I had no idea that services existed that allowed you to get passports in a very short time... or that they cost to much.

So that's the short story of where I've been. It almost makes me afraid to get up in the morning, because just when I think we've hit all of the snags we can possibly hit, we get to find another one.

I think I'm going to eat some ice cream now.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Too busy

I don't like busy. I don't do well with busy. Busy makes me want to crawl into bed, ignore the world and read a good book. But, I'll be the grown-up and not do that. Yesterday was the state homeschooling conference which I really needed to get to in order to shop for next year. Then, after a two hour slog home in rush hour traffic, it was a wedding rehearsal dinner. Today, after teaching this morning, it's getting ready for a wedding. Then in the coming week, I have more trips downtown for more dossier stuff and getting ready for another big wedding next weekend. The wedding is immediately followed by three children going to church camp, which will require packing at some point. The day after the church camp drop off will be a trip to the Iowa/Illinois border to do a little child swapping with my brother, with a return trip on Thursday. TM and D. then leave the next weekend for Boy Scout camp.

Whew. You'll understand if the blog falls by the wayside.

They are all good things, but do they all really need to come on the heels of each other. I'm really hoping because of the cold weather that strawberries will ripen late because I need (really, really need) to pick this year. We had no strawberry jam last year and the last of my frozen berries are gone. We don't want another strawberry-less year.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The post where you get to learn another adoption acronym

The acronym of the day is...

RFE

These are not good or happy letters.They stand for "Request for Evidence" in regards to our immigration application. That would be the immigration application we need the approval for before we can complete our dossier and actually start the clock for the official waiting to bring R. and Y. home.

But wait, it gets better. Because it is a niggling thing about our home study, there is a chance that USCIS won't accept the two additional words that need to be written in and will insist that it have a brand new DCFS approval attached to it. Remember how much fun that was that last time?

Yeah, so do I, and I just want to cry.

It all has to do with fulfilling to the absolute letter the Hague requirements. That would be the convention the US signed onto with the purpose of making adoptions more ethical. It was a grand motivation, too bad it hasn't panned out. In my humble opinion all it has done is make adoption more expensive, more time consuming, and has insured that fewer children will find families. For us, it is costing our daughters even more time without a mother and father. I'm not feeling terribly generous at the moment.

Oh, Governor Rauner. Please, please, please sign that bill tomorrow.

I'm not sure which fattening substance I should drown my sorrows in first.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

What do stay-at-home moms do all day?

I saw this question asked in a forum I'm a member of, and was at first taken aback. After I had thought about it, I realized that it might not be evident to everyone, especially if you are home for the first time after always working out of the house or if your mother worked and you saw no modelling of this choice at home. I forget what a complete life change it can be. With that in mind, I decided to tackle it. (Plus you know I'm always on the lookout for blog fodder.)

Right off the bat, I need to first voice my unhappiness with the term, "stay-at-home mom." I know lots of people use it both to describe others and self-identify, and that's fine. I know it is mainly a phrase used to communicate that a mother doesn't work outside the home. I get it. But I still really don't like it because to my ears, it is just a wee bit pejorative, as in, here is a woman who doesn't have anything important to do and so just stays at home. It is why I far prefer homemaker because it assumes industry. I'll use homemaker instead of stay-at-home mom for the rest of the post.

Having gotten one of my pet peeves out of the way, let's move on.

I'm going to answer this based on my recollections of having two or three little ones at home. I can assure you, it has been a very long time since anyone has asked me what I do all day. At some point I moved from "What do you do all day?" to "I don't know how you do it all", and I'm not sure where the dividing line was. Clearly people think something must be happening at home.

The short answer is take care of the home and the children who reside there. But what does this really look like? I think the key comes in that a homemaker is completely in charge of herself and her schedule. There are no certain hours to be worked. There is no supervisor or time clock. No billable hours sheet to be completed. There are also no coffee breaks, visits to coworkers' desks, or other directed expectations. It is a double-edged sword.

Me, being me, I made myself a schedule. That way I knew what each day would bring. (I still make myself a schedule, I just have to throw it out the window five minutes after rising every day.) I would also divide my day into different parts, ie what things happened in the morning, the early afternoon, the late afternoon. As much as we like to think when we are busy how nice it would be to have long stretches of days where we had absolutely nothing to do, it wears thin after a while. As humans we do need order and we need meaningful work.

Each day, I had an idea of what I should be doing. As a general rule, I tried to plan into each day taking care of some aspect of the house, playing with the children (going to a park, going outside, reading lots of books), meal prep times, meal times, and some rest time for me. Some days I would have outside obligations, some days I wouldn't. Even with that broad idea, I know that for some new homemakers, time does tend to hang heavy. They are looking for specifics as to how to fill that time... how to occupy the small child who craves their attention every moment... how to find other adults to talk to because if you have to talk about Mickey Mouse one more time, you may lose it.

So, here are some lists of things to put on your daily to-do lists so that you can give your day some structure.

Around the house (I am certainly not a neat freak, but I do like some order):

  • Plan one day a week for meal planning and grocery shopping.
  • Laundry. With less laundry I could get away with a single laundry day. Now, every day is laundry day and I try to do one load (sometimes two) a day to keep it under control.
  • I vacuumed and dusted one day a week. (Now my children vacuum and dust one day a week.)
  • You could choose one room of the house per week for a really good cleaning and organizing. If you consistently purge unneeded/unwanted items at this time, you should never be too swamped with stuff.
  • Have a consistent day where you tackle paperwork and bills and such.
  • If you enjoy cooking and baking, you could plan in a day(s) where you bake, make food ahead, etc.
OK, that's about it for the house. I like a neat house, I enjoy creating a home for my family, but I really don't enjoy cleaning and try to streamline the process as much as possible. Making a home involves other intangible things as well. I prefer to focus on the people in the house.

With the children:
  • Consistent daily schedules helps children feel safe, to regulate, and to know what to expect. Of course, things can come up which alter the schedule, but the more you stay on one, the calmer and happier your children will be. Have a plan for breakfast, lunch, naps (or quiet time for an older, non-napping child), snack, and dinner. 
  • Weekly library trips, even for little ones. It gets them used to the library and gives you somewhere to be. Look for story times and such to meet other mothers and give you some adult conversation.
  • Let them "help" you around the house. Small children really do want to help, so make use of that and avoid trying to keep them occupied while you do the housework. Yes, it will take longer. No, you won't be able to do it as well. But you will be teaching life skills, creating memories, and filling the hours of your child's day all at the same time.
  • Keep a running list of interesting play activities so you have something up your sleeve for those moments when you do need to occupy them. Use each idea sporadically to keep them fresh. Some ideas to get you started: playing in the sink with water, making salt dough, cutting and pasting pictures from old magazine... you get the idea. I also do this with toys and rotate toys in and out of play to keep them fresh. There is nothing like bringing out a bin of new toys that a child hasn't seen in months to keep them busy for a while.
  • Be sure to read stories together every day. Maybe twice or three times. Fussy child? Read a story, It nearly always works around here.
  • Take a walk at the child's pace. You can do this in any weather and it gets you out of the house.
  • The biggest thing to remember is that if you plan your day for moving at your child's pace it will be more successful. Children do not rush well. They do not transition well. They don't' multi-task. When we ask them to do these things, we create stress and that stress often shows up in less-than-ideal behavior. Screaming children equal a stressed mother. A stressed mother usually means one with a short-temper (at least it does for me) and that just sends you down a spiral from which it is very difficult to recover from. Don't assume you child can handle and adult's over-scheduled schedule. Actually, it would be good for all of us if we didn't expect adults to handle an over-scheduled schedule.
And I know when you have little children, that sometimes you can do all this and there will still be times when the day seems long and you wonder how to fill it. It is OK to do something for you. In fact it is more than OK, it is good for you to do something for you. What could you do?
  • Volunteer somewhere doing something. What are you interested in? A cause? Working with children? do that, just be careful of the volunteer creep that can sometimes happen. It's also OK to say no if you're at your limit. Don't let someone guilt you into doing something you don't want to because "you're home, so you have time."
  • Cultivate your own interests. I also really don't care for the term hobby, because it also implies something not terribly serious or important. Ask someone with a deep, abiding interest in something and they will not see it as unimportant. Do you love to sew? It's OK to take some time to sew each day. (My children have loved to sit on the floor next to me playing with the fabric scraps which I throw there.) Painting? Music? Solving math problems? Learning a language? Do it. It will keep your mind fresh and make you a more interesting person. It will also fill your heart and make you a better and calmer mother.
  • Rest. Yes, just sit down in the middle of the day and put your feet up and do nothing. It's OK. It is a made-up rule that we must be running from sun up to sun down.
  • Invite people over. We all know that play dates are really for the parents, right? A chance to share a cup of tea and some conversation while the children play? If not, I don't think you're doing it right. There is a new play place near me that just opened that sells coffee and (for a not small fee) the children play while the mothers visit. I think I'm getting old, but I just don't get it. We used to do this in our homes for free. But if you need something like this to meet other moms, then great. Go and meet people. Then ditch it and invite people over. (I'm getting old and crotchety, evidently.)
  • Join a mom's group. I loved being part of the mom's group at my church when my children were young. We did book and Bible studies, had monthly speakers, and had a chance to visit while our children were playing downstairs. It was one of the highlights of my week and I still call many of those mothers I met there friends.
There is so much to life. Think about what is important to you and how you want to fill your days and then do it. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

It's always something

I haven't been home much today. First, I repeated my trip downtown to certify and authenticate more documents. I should never assume that anything related to adoption will be easy. This time what should have been straight forward found me sprinting about the loop in search of notaries. The staff at the Secretary of State Index office are incredibly nice and helpful and helped me figure out a way around the problem and I was able to get this next set turned into the Consulate.

I made it home in time to have some lunch, read a story to a child, take care of some laundry, and head back out with H. We had a consultation with the person in the plastic surgeon's office who does the laser hair removal treatments. I don't think I've mentioned this before, but with the last tissue expansion, in order to get enough skin to go across the forehead, things got shifted all over H.'s head. The end result is that skin that was scalp is now on her forehead... and that skin has hair follicles. Lots of them and they grow thick, dark hair. It has felt like a two steps forward, one step back process. While the left side of her forehead is looking pretty good, the side that was good is now covered in hair. It doesn't make her happy, and I can't say I blame her. We've tried some depilatory, it is a less than ideal solution.

The treatment happens in six sessions, one time a month. It evidently works best on thick, dark hair, so H. is an ideal candidate for the process. Even better is that it is in our plastic surgeon's office. The bad news? (I bet some of you have guessed already.) Well, it is considered a cosmetic treatment and won't be covered by insurance. That's right, even though she needed to have the nevus sebaceous removed for medical reasons, and that in the process of doing the medically indicated surgery, she now has hair growing where no person would want hair growing, it is now a cosmetic issue and we're on our own. You don't need me to tell you what I think about this, do you?

We're all scheduled and she'll start in July and be all done by Christmas. What a nice Christmas present that will be for her.

In other 'it's always something news'.

  • J. needs to take the small car back the repair place because even though the brakes were just repaired, the dashboard lights still come on screaming, "STOP! STOP! STOP! BREAKS NOT WORKING?" I hope someone just forgot to tell the computer the brakes were fixed. 
  • Our garage renter will no longer be renting our garage and we need to find a new renter... because I really want the money. If you're in our immediate area and know someone who needs/wants to rent a garage space, send them my way, please.
  • Despite my best efforts, I still don't have a full piano studio. Once again, if you know of someone looking, send them my way.
But you know what? Despite all of this (and the things I haven't mentioned for fear of verging into whining territory), life is good. We are blessed beyond measure and love our crazy family and our crazy life. My days are full... of purpose, of love, of hilarity, of joy. Not everyone can say that. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Being dragged into the current century

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that having the most up-to-date technological toys is just not remotely important to me. I have a pay-per-use flip phone... and I like it. I don't want or need anything more. And considering my fail rate of having a phone with a charge and with money and turned on with me, I guess I don't even really need that.

I like putting CD's into a CD player. I like walking and running outside and not having music or other noise piped directly into my head. I like land lines (well except the on-going atrocious service we get from AT&T which causes us to have a rotating roster of phone repair guys trooping through our house on a monthly basis. I don't like that.) I like real books. I like actually speaking to people instead of texting. And I am the despair of all of my children... especially those who really, really, really like the latest techy toys. All phones look alike to me and I just don't care, even when a child will stand in front of me rattling off why this latest version of whatever phone is the best and coolest.

Which is why it was rather amusing that I was the one to drive A. to the phone store this morning to purchase a new phone for her. (A graduation gift from her grandparents.) I was really only there for transportation reasons, as you could have probably guessed from the previous paragraph. I can also check an item off of A.'s necessary life skills list before I send her off to college: withstanding the hard sell. She did a very good job of saying, "No." As the phone guy was chatting to us, he tried to make small talk and asked me what kind of phone I had. Clearly, flip phone with a pay-per-use plan was not what he was expecting. (I guess I look as though I might have some clue about gadgets.) While he didn't come out and say it, I felt as though the thought bubble above his head was saying, "Wow, I've heard about people like you, but never thought I'd actually meet one."

A.'s new phone is why I am now the unpremeditated owner of an iPod Touch. My children are very excited for me. One son even commented, "I just can't picture you holding something like that." I am also the cause of great hilarity among my children as I try to figure out how the silly thing actually works. I could probably figure it out without so much outside "help." The real reason I agreed to become its new owner is because my children tell me that I can download translation apps that could be useful when we eventually travel. I have several months to figure it out. My children helped me get it set-up and then I turned it off because I didn't need it at the moment. This alone marks me as a technological Luddite... based on some children's reactions to this, I guess turning it all the way off is just not done.

So much to learn.

If I actually cared.
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