Monday, August 31, 2015


I wanted to share a little personal achievement with all of you, but first you need some backstory to fully appreciate it.

I have never been terribly athletic. It was the combination of not being able to do something well the first time and little natural interest. (Equestrian sports aside, of course. For those I have both aptitude and interest.) I was the child who hated PE. The child who was always one of the last to finish that dang 600 m. run. (Oh, how I loathed the 600.) The child who preferred sitting and reading to just about anything else. It was a good thing I was also blessed with a fairly high metabolism to make up for my sedentary preferences.

Fast forward to a body who gave birth to a set of large and full-term twins combined with heading rapidly towards age 50. (For those of you a little ahead of me, you know exactly what's coming, don't you?) You see, it seems that as we age our metabolism can slow down a bit. Okay, a lot. It also seems that at the same time our metabolism is slowing down, hormone levels are deciding to kick it up a notch, or ten. It makes for a rather toxic cocktail.

All this is to say why last summer, I decided that I had to something to if not reverse, at least stem the affects a bit. I really felt as though God was nudging me to run. I would have this little voice say to me, "You should start running." My reply to that little voice was always, "What are you insane (and since I was seeming to talk to myself, that was a valid question.) I don't run." And that statement was true. I didn't run. Ever. This conversation played itself out more than a few times until one day I found myself in the store buying running shoes.

Well, having spent money on those shoes, I felt as though I needed to use them... at least a little bit. So, without telling anyone what I was doing, I started. As I've already told you, I've never been in great shape. When I started I could only (barely) run one block and then had to walk the next. Over time I could run two blocks, walking the next, and so on and so on.

So I find it nothing short of amazing that last week I discovered that I could run the entire mile and a quarter.

Other than the fact that I am pretty amazed, why I am sharing this with you? Mainly it's because the difference this regular exercise has made in my mental health. I can't say that I have noticed a significant change in dress size (which, truly is why I do this), but I keep going because of the change in my outlook on life. There really is something to this exercise-thing. I feel better about myself and that spills over into all sorts of things. I notice a huge difference in the days where I run and the days where I don't. I just cope better.

And now I come to the real point of this post. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try getting out and starting some sort of exercise. I don't have anything to sell you, it just has made a pretty significant difference in my being able to deal with life. For the record, I still don't like it. I am never going to be a marathon runner. I find it dreadfully dull and cannot wait to be done. I make it marginally more bearable by putting language CD's on my iPod and listening to that. But I keep doing it because of how I feel afterwards. The running may be boring, but it certainly makes the day go better.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Poor little girls

G. and L. (and K. and H. to some extent) have had a hard day. This morning, J. (along with some littles) helped B. move into the house he is sharing for the school year. At one point, J. looks and sees G. sitting on a tree root, looking extremely glum. B. spent some time holding her before J. took everyone home.

Life has been hard and things have not been good today for people. Life has also been loud since little people are having difficulty regulating their emotions. The low point came when J. headed up to the little girls' room to sort out the aftermath of a World War III scale battle between the two of them over doll clothes. When he gets there, he sees G. sitting on her bed with her little bottom lip quivering and L. curled up in a fetal position on the floor. When he says, "It's really hard to say good-bye to A. and B., isn't it?" The flood gates open and he has sobbing girls on his hands.

So it turns out to be a very good thing that we are not trying to start school in Monday. We need a week to recover from saying good-by and to do some fun stuff. The down side of a large family is that older brothers and sisters head off to school and the little people who adore them are left behind. It's not all bad, though, because it shows how much love there is between all of them.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Moving In

Today was move-in day for freshmen and so we piled into the van along with all of A.'s stuff (which wasn't a whole lot) and took her to school. We will miss her a lot, but she is oh, so ready for this next new adventure.

Her dorm

Unloading the van

Does she look a little excited?

With all the stuff piled in the little, bitty room, before any organizing or sorting took place.

B. with L., G., and K. standing in the hallway. (No room inside the room for everyone.)

Bunking the beds. (B. is handy to have around and M. is on the other side, you just can't see her.)


Really, they knew each other before this. (Both also have parents who teach at the university.)


The requisite family picture. We're missing M. She stopped by a couple of times to see the progress, but had to go back to work before we organized a picture. (It's really handy when you're entire family all works at or attends the same university.)

This is what the room looked like when we left to feed the masses. I'm sure it is all organized by now. Some of us will be returning for the new student family dinner this evening.

It seems a bit odd to have a third child entering college. It will take a while for everyone to sort themselves out a bit to fill in the void that our energetic, bouncy, and funny A. will leave while she is gone. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Drowning in books

Normally this would be a good thing. Right now, though, having put off my homeschool planning for the coming school year, it means feeling a little overwhelmed. From past experience, I know this is a passing feeling and as that I sit and look at them and sort and re-sort them into piles, the important ones (for us, for this year) will rise to the surface and I will begin to make sense of it all. The trouble is, I usually allow a couple of weeks for this sorting process and I really need to be done in a few days.

Part of the difficulty is that we have moved along to the Renaissance in our cyclical cycle of history. As we get closer to our own time, the breadth of things to learn about increases dramatically. It's pretty easy to take the resources for Ancient Egypt, fit them in a school calendar and have it be all nice and tidy. Not so much with the Renaissance. I could make any one aspect of the era take up an entire semester (or year!), so trying to fit the whole thing in just goes against my compulsive tendencies to learn everything I can about something before moving on. Plus there are so many really good historical fiction chapter books for this time period. How does one possibly fit all of those in as well?

But that's just half of my difficulties with planning the school year. The other part is that I realize I have a goofy combination of abilities this year. P. is in high school, so she is pretty much on her own. TM and D. are now in middle school and all the rest are in the pre-reading, focusing on phonics group. They are great listeners, so that's good, but there is a definite ability gap between the two groups. For someone who likes to combine children together this makes for a tricky dynamic. I'm still letting ideas about how to deal with this flit about in my head as well.

It all boils down to  there is a whole lot of ideas floating around inside my head, but nothing to grab onto and put down on paper. What it looks like from the outside is me picking up a book, looking at it, putting it back down. Looking up something on the computer. Writing another book idea down on my list. Picking up a book, etc. etc.

Of course, having the 12 year old being three again today (and the 6 year olds doing a mighty fine rendition of the terrible twos) doesn't help the thought processes. Plus I get to try to make the schedule flexible enough to accommodate a three week trip to China at some unknown point in time. I keep telling myself I like a challenge.

Here is what my desk area looks like at the moment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day

What would I do without Facebook? How else would I know that today is National Dog Day? Thank goodness I have been saved from missing out on this major holiday. In honor of the occasion, I present you with a brief poem in honor of Gretel, completely and totally stolen from a meme I saw on, you guessed it, Facebook. Without further ado...

We were brave.

We were fierce.

We were wild.

We roamed free.

And then we discovered you had couches.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And now we are 12

One of the things about older child adoption is that you just never know what age your child is going to be. Now I don't mean that the paperwork is wrong and you're not sure if it is correct, though that certainly is a very real thing. No, I'm talking about what age your child is going to be on any given day, or at any given moment. It's a moving target.

As I wrote about earlier, H. has been going through some emotionally younger ages recently, which even though it's hard, is a very good thing. Every child needs to move through these developmental stages to reach full health and maturity, and for adopted children with a trauma history, their past did not allow for them to do this work at the optimal time and so they do it later. 

What I find to be the trickiest thing, though, is that while they are doing this younger work, they are also continuing to do the work of their chronological age. This is also healthy and appropriate. It is also the cause of a bit of parental whip lash as their parents try to keep up with whichever developmental age they happened to jump to at that moment.

Case in point. The day after the post about H.'s regressive behavior, she was happily and calmly spending her day making complex origami creations. (She really wanted me to share these with everyone.) The frames are made separately from the stands behind them which are separate from the pictures she drew to put in them. I think  friend showed her how to make them initially, but from that point, she was completely on her own. I have no idea how to make them. Considering where she started three years ago, this is no small feat. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The trouble with being too young

P. loves animals. Not only does she love animals, they also love her. She has quite a knack with them. She's calm, respectful, and has absolutely no fear. (And that's even when faced with a horse who would rather take a bite out of her rather than be tacked-up every week.) Because she is not yet 16, and can't get an animal-related job, she thought she would look into volunteering at an animal shelter. I thought this was a great idea and that she would be a great addition to any volunteer team. I mean, who wouldn't want a calm, responsible, hard-working young woman who was willing to work for free?

Evidently everyone.

She has spent hours researching various animal shelters looking for someone who would be willing to take her on. With every single one of them, the requirements are essentially the same: must be at least 16 years old and have some parental accompaniment. So, I wrote some emails. I explained that I understood their policy, but then pointed out the reasons why she would make a good exception to them, offering to bring her (and me) in for an interview if they wanted to get to know her and see her in action. I also explained that having a parent come along wasn't really an option for us. Not only do I literally not have the time, but if they want me to come with her, then, they would also get six other children who are not quite as calm as P. Pretty much the response was the same. We would love for her to volunteer if her parent is willing to come along. Um, I guess they didn't really read my email.

So we are frustrated. P. is frustrated because it really does seem like a completely arbitrary age cut-off and can't understand the purpose behind it. (Frankly, I can't either.) I am frustrated because I know she would love this and I can't figure out how to make it work. There is very little this child asks for and unlike some of her more vocal brothers and sisters, she is not loud about her desires. When she does mention something, I listen, because it is the equivalent of another child following me around and badgering me for days on end.

If I felt as if there was some logic to the restrictions, I might be more understanding, but I fear there isn't a logic to it. Rather, I have a sneaking suspicion that once again, our society devalues what young adults in their teens can actually accomplish. That once again, there is the assumption that they are not capable of real work with real value and that all they are good for is doing school work. No wonder we have so many lost and aimless teens... we refuse to give them responsibility and work that actually matters. (And no, I don't believe that school and school work are all that important, but that's a post for another day, I think.)

So here's my plea, particularly if you are in the Chicago area. We are looking for an animal shelter or some sort of animal/wildlife rehabilitator who would be willing to give P. a chance as a volunteer. Yes, she is young, but I believe she would excel at this. Heck, she would be getting herself there on her own, via public transportation or bicycle. If she can navigate the city on her own, surely she can volunteer, right?

Friday, August 21, 2015

I thought I'd never be able to this....

but after

  • 9 months
  • over 100 days delay by the state
  • one state law changed
  • countless (truly) letters to congressmen, senators, governors, and journalists
  • two interventions by our senator
  • one conference call between DCFS and our two agencies telling me to essentially shut-up
  • one home study agency going belly up
  • application paperwork to a second home study agency
  • one intervention by a friend to release our home study
  • one RFE
  • one near RFE
  • two waits for state approval
  • four visits to the Secretary of State
  • four visits to the Chinese consulate
  • several notary disasters
  • one set of unexpectedly expired passports
  • seven FedEx envelopes (maybe more, I've lost count)
  • missing paperwork
  • misdirected paperwork
  • multiple emails from J., who I dumped the whole nightmare on when I couldn't take it anymore
  • a nervous breakdown or two (or five)
and a whole lot of whining I can finally announce that....


That means, we could realistically be looking at travelling to adopt R. and T. in four to six months. It also means that we have moved a step forward on the nice little timeline I wrote out for you all, oh, so long ago. If you look at it, we have now moved to step 11.

What's next? We wait to hear that our dossier has been logged-in to the CCCWA, and from there we wait for our official notice that we have been officially approved to adopt our girls. These two steps can take 2-3 months. 

Have a terrific weekend. I know we will.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

And so we rock

Well, when the honeymoon ends, it goes out with a bang. For nearly three years, H. has kept her negative emotions pretty bottled up. Everything was fine, everything was happy, everything was good, even in the face of huge change and horrible past experiences. The trouble is, no matter who you are, at some point, all those negative emotions are going to have to be dealt with. Dealing with those feelings... anger, sadness, fear, grief... is not fun and can be pretty scary. You need to feel you are in a safe place in order to do that hard work.

The good news to my story is that I think we have brought H. to such a safe place and given her permission to start to deal with those big feelings. And that really is good news. She needs to do this and there were times I thought perhaps she was too bottled up to ever attempt it. I don't need to worry about that anymore. Not only is she progressing through the developmental work of a three year old, we are now adding the harder, emotional work on top of it.

And it is hard. Hard for her, hard for us. There was a lot of pain and loss in her previous life and I think there was never a point after the loss of her first family to really process it. J. and I are now truly her parents to her and we are safe. She feels safe to vent the emotions that have been stuffed down inside. Safe to let out the anger and fear and sadness that her earlier experiences left her with. While I realize that we are the stand-ins for other parents who let her down, it is not a fun thing to go through.

At least we have a little bit of practice with all of this, which is why I found myself rocking my 12 year old daughter like a baby in my lap the other day while she expressed some of these feelings. This helped to regulate her a bit and life was calmer for a while afterwards.

Even though I have experience with this, I can often be slow to catch on. Yesterday was not a good day for H. Nothing went her way, nothing made her happy, and she went out of her way to assure that these two things remained true. And I, woman who finds the personality trait of patience to be a developing skill, was feeling as though those reserves of patience were starting to run threatening low. (It was a very, very good thing that yesterday happened to be my riding day. Very restorative.) And as I'm racking my brain to try to figure out a way to re-regulate the child, my brain starts to make connections.

H. going out of her to be naughty and unpleasant....

we are heading towards a huge crying jag on my lap....





My girl was looking for a way to get her needs met, she just didn't know what she was looking for or how to ask for it. She knew how she felt, knew that I had helped her feel better the last time she felt this way, but couldn't quite make the connections to get what she wanted.

(And trust me, following me around for hours on end whining my name, "Mooommmmmyyyyy..... Moooommmmmyyyyy.... Moooommmmyyyy....does little to communicate what is desired or elicit much maternal sympathy, though through what must have been Divine intervention, I kept my cook and remained calm and caring towards her.)

After my light bulb moment, I asked if she wanted me to hold her and rock her. Her light bulb then went off and she nodded yes. So that is what we did. That very little girl inside of her needs to be loved and soothed and protected because it didn't happen the first time around. It's a good thing I have a nursing rocker with very low arms, because holding a 12 year old in your arms like a baby is not all that easy, but that is what we are going to do. I'm hoping that by caring for her in this way, we can meet her needs ahead of time and perhaps head off some of the more unpleasant behaviors we've been seeing. I know it won't hurt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Klondike or Bust!

I have been reading through a mystery series that is set in Alaska. While the mysteries themselves are nothing spectacular, I have been thoroughly enjoying learning about a slice of life I didn't know much about. The first book is Murder on the Iditarod Trail in this series by Sue Henry. Her books are filled with depictions of life in Alaska, the sport of dog sledding, and history of the Klondike gold rush, which, aside from being able to recite chunks of "The Cremation of Sam McGee," I didn't know a think about. I have been fascinated.

This probably explains why, when I came across the book, Jason's Gold by Will Hobbs, when I was checking out recorded books for our trip last weekend, I grabbed it. It is about a 16 year old boy who goes in search of his brothers who have headed north as part of the Klondike gold rush. There is a lot of history about the time period, but it is well folded within the story and had us all on the edge of our seats. (The reader on the recorded version does a satisfactory job... you just never know when the reader will ruin a really good book.) We all really like it, and with an age range of 6 to adult, this is no small feat.

My new awareness of all things North is probably also why I decided that one of the things we would study this year would be Alaska, the Arctic, and the Antarctic, with a little dog sled racing thrown in for good measure. The summer has been wonky, so I felt as though I'm doing this a little last minute when I sat down yesterday to begin school planning in earnest. (I made a good start yesterday, so I think we're good to start after Labor Day.) In doing some research, I came across the National Park Service's website for the Klondike gold rush. I had no idea that there was a National Historic Park encompassing part of the trail the prospector's took to get to the gold fields. There were a lot of photographs and we were all thrilled to see actual pictures of what we had just listened to. Seeing actual pictures of the Chilkoot Trail, I find it amazing that so many people transported thousands of pounds of supplies over the trail on their backs. Go ahead an take a minute to use the link to look at the pictures. It's gorgeous... particularly if you don't have to hike it carrying 1000 pounds of stuff.

And now I have one more thing to put on my list of things I would love to do. How cool would it be to hike the trail? M. and I were commiserating the other day that there are just too many things to learn and to do to be able to fit them all into one life time. We are absolutely baffled that anyone could be bored... God has made the world such an interesting place.

For now, we'll all have to be content to learn more about it. I hope some of you will as well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pictures of kittens... or a surprise 50th anniversary party

Our event that I mentioned on Friday was actually a surprise 50th anniversary party for my parents. My dad was in on the secret, but my mom had no idea. My brother and sister-in-law hatched the plan early in the summer and when my parents were here visiting us, we had a small decoy party for them. Little did my mom know that the real party was yet to come. 

Saturday morning we all piled in the van at 7 am and headed off to Iowa. My parents had arrived the day before to visit my brother and were already there. My mom was out with my sister-in-law and niece when we arrived, so we were there when they returned. Now, my mother is very difficult to surprise, but surprise her we did. She was thrilled to have her children and 11 of her 13 grandchildren all together. (M. and my brother's oldest couldn't be there.) 

We had a nice time together and my children loved every second of being on the farm. Some photos.

Here you will start to see a theme running through the pictures... Kittens! There were kittens in the barn and life was good for a few girls.


G. and L.

The cake

G., who loved the kittens 



G.'s feet which were following kittens when she wasn't holding them

H. loved the kittens just as much as G.

Cutting the cake

H. discovered how to play with the kittens with a piece of hay

two of the five kittens


G. (We also picked some apples off their trees)

My parents


P., who has wanted a cat for years

L. and H H-S who also came with us

It was a good weekend and good to surprise my mom. Now to deal with the aftermath of too many weekends away.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Simplicity 2469 and other randomness

I have had this pattern cut out for the little girls for over a year now. I worked on it a bit last summer and then the pieces sat there, staring at me, taunting me with their unfinishedness. I decided that if I was going to actually finish them, I had to do it soon, or else G. and L. would have outgrown them before they were even finished. We have a shindig this weekend, so it seemed the perfect reason to dig them out and do that last little bits. Here they are:

The fronts

Here is a closeup of the print. It's little frogs.

The back has shirring. 

Now they needed something to wear with it. They both love knit shorts and pants and rarely wear anything else, so wanting them to actually wear the fruits of my labor, I made a couple of pairs of shorts.

They'll get another month or so of wear out of them before the weather starts to turn too cold and they grow too large, but the fabric and pattern is no longer sitting on my sewing table sticking its tongue out at me.

In other randomness, B. entertained G. and L. yesterday while I went downtown. Afterwards, I found this charming picture.

It is a joint effort between B. and G. B. drew the panda, G. colored him in and drew everything else. The little black figure is a little black ninja standing on a ball. G. often likes to dress up like a little black ninja and she says this is her. The panda is holding a balloon and the green up and down marks are bamboo. Because pandas eat bamboo, you know.

Lastly, after 8 or 9 months of both putting it off and forgetting to call and make an appointment, I finally got my hair cut. (It was getting dire and I was just about ready to imitate G., who trimmed her own bangs yesterday, and cut it all off myself.) The timing works out well, because we do have this shindig tomorrow.

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