Monday, November 30, 2015

So very thankful

We are back from our Thanksgiving vacation and unpacked and the laundry is even under control. It was wonderful having everyone together for several days. It was also pretty darn blissful completely ignoring the computer for four days. Well, blissful that is until I finally did turn it back on only to have to slog through over 200 emails. But, I digress. As usual.

I'm always interested to know how other people celebrate holidays, so I thought I would share a bit of what our Thanksgiving is often like. We often travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where J.'s aunt and uncle live and we were joined by two of J.'s sisters and their families. We were a crowd of 25 for the holiday. We all departed on Wednesday, well, all of us that is except B. We did a little car trading before we left and 11 of us rode in the van and B. stuck around for another day and drove himself on Thursday morning. It's tough when you have a Wednesday night class that was not cancelled.

Thursday morning was spent as most Thanksgiving days are spent... alternating cooking with throwing logs on a huge bonfire. There is also a creek which runs through the property and at least two boys went in the water when there were various raft failures. Because of my lack of photographic equipment, the few pictures I have are from A., the only child to actually take a photograph. Here is G. in front of the bonfire.


Later in the afternoon, it was time to head back to the hotel to change for dinner. We went back a bit earlier so that children could swim in the pool first. Then it was into nice clothes for dinner. G. and L. had new dresses to wear for the occasion. This seemed like a grand idea a few weeks ago, and a really bad idea on Wednesday morning when I was sewing at 6 am putting in the sleeves right before we left. But I finished them. I asked A. to take some pictures and she ended up with this nice little series. G. is on the left and L. on the right. Notice the pre-dinner melt-down by G. while L. continues to stand nicely and cooperate. (They like to keep us on our toes by switching roles every so often.)







G. recovered and we ate dinner. On the menu? Turkey, of course, as well as stuffing, mashed potatoes, red curry sweet potatoes, creamed onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, cranberry-orange relish, and homemade rolls. For dessert... pie. Pumpkin, pecan, apple, and chocolate.

Following dinner, we always gather to watch the movie A Child's Christmas in Wales. If you haven't ever seen it, you should try to find it. It is a charming live version of Dylan Thomas' Christmas memoir of the same name. There is also a sometimes tradition of J. writing and telling a light ghost story, often involving John Howland who was the family's Mayflower descendant. (He was the one who fell off the boat.) Finally, we load up overly tired children and head back to the hotel.

We had a lovely time. It is the increasingly rare time when I have all my children together and I appreciate it all the more. Plus, cousins, aunts, uncles, and plenty of unstructured time to visit, and play games, and burn things up, equals a great holiday.

Now, it's back to reality and the need to create a giant to-do list in order to be ready for Christmas and international travel back-to-back.

Deep breath.

Ready.

Set.

Go!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Boy, this makes me uncomfortable

If you know me in real life, then you know I really do not care to be the center of attention. You also may know that watching myself on video is something I just don't do. My children's choir appeared on TV one year and I had to be part of an interview that was part of it. To this day I still have not watched it. I just can't. This is all to preface the extreme level of discomfort I have in the rest of this post. The only thing that is allowing me to push past my reticence is a need to bring my daughter home.

As you know, R. has a grant that is paying for her adoption. Since we were already able to get to China, it has allowed us to bring Y. home as well. God is good, and every time we have needed to come up with funds for the next set of expenses, money has been there. (Thank you to my dear friends. You know who you are.) Since we should be hearing that we have Travel Approval some time in early December, and plan on travelling in January, I need to be honest. There are still some expenses we have coming up that R.'s grant are not going to cover. People always seem to want real numbers. Well, when I add up the needed orphanage donations, visa/medical processing fees, passport fees, and travel fees, the number I reach is about $7000. It is not an insignificant chunk of change. We would also love to be able to take P. with us. We have found that having another child is extremely helpful for the new child, plus, if both girls are having a hard time, then we also have another set of hands to help with things such as luggage. Adding her to our trip would mean adding all of her airfare... US to China, three internal flights, and a flight home.

I will practice my slow and calm breathing now. We have managed three other adoptions and it has worked so far, I have to remember that.

The other thing that has been going on around here for the past year or so, and that I haven't mentioned, is that a film maker has been working on a film that involves us. (Cue more uncomfortableness on my part.) It feels a little weird, but I was also interested in showing that we are just a regular family. What we do is nothing all that special. Adoption is a feasible option.

So, with that very long prelude... here is the trailer our film maker friend made and gave us permission to use for fundraising purposes. To watch it, you'll need to type in the password: CURRY (Yes, case sensitive.)





If you feel led to donate some money (you cannot see my grimacing face as I type that), please contact me through the blog email (ordinarytimeblog (at) gmail (dot) com). We have worked out an avenue for receiving a tax deduction and I can give you the specific information. And do feel free to share this with others. (Grimacing again.)

Thanks for putting up with all of this. Here are the reasons I am putting you (and me) through this.

R.

Y.

Friday, November 20, 2015

So really what you are telling me is that large families are not welcome here

Going to doctor's appointments is just a normal part of our week, and because of the various needs of various children, we see a lot of different doctors. I have it pretty much down to a science of where to park and what vehicle I need to park there. Some offices have a great parking situation and others not so much. Some involve low ceiling-ed parking garages that our little sedan barely seems to fit in and others have wide open parking lots. I've learned which car I need to drive to which appointment and J. and I plan ahead accordingly, constantly switching cars. As much as I like to drive the little sedan, it also means that it will be a day where we cannot all go together as a group since we don't fit. It's pretty much a first world problem and not one I spend thinking too much time about.

Well, until this morning.

H. and head out to her quarterly eye doctor appointment in the van. This office is in a suburb and has no parking garage. I have never thought twice about taking the van here and it has never been an issue in the past two years we have been going to this particular office. I do a quick trip around the parking lot to see if there are any open spaces because then I do not have to wait around for the valet guy to bring me the van. As usual, no open spaces, so we head to the free valet parking. So far, nothing about this visit has been unusual. We do this little dance every three months.

I pull up to the curb, turn off the van, hop out, and prepare to give the key to the valet guy, when suddenly, I feel as though I have fallen down the rabbit hole. "We can't park that," Mr. Valet Guy helpfully tells me.
"There's a spot right over there," I say, pointing to the valet area, thinking he didn't think he had an open spot.
"No, the van. We can't park it there," he tries to clarify.
"Um, it will fit. Trust me," I reply, thinking to myself of the hilarity involved when the short almost-50 mother-type can park the giant van better than the very large, macho-type valet guy.
"No. We aren't allowed to park that here. It is too long. You can't drive that here." The light dawns. It is not that he can't park the van, it's that he won't.

At this point, I will draw a veil over the next little bit of conversation where I strongly pointed out that a) if this is the vehicle I had available to drive, what exactly did he expect me to arrive in? b) I have been coming here for many years and this van has never been an issue (besides 'no vans' is not even on the sign) and c) the van most certainly will fit in just about every spot in the lot. I may or may not have raised by voice, and by the time the attention of everyone at the curb was caught, another valet guy hustled over, took my key, and said it would be fine.

But I'm still annoyed. So, NorthShore University Health System, let's really stop and think about what your valet guy was telling me. When there is no physical reason why I can't park my van (a too short parking garage, for instance), it makes me wonder why your representative tells me I can't drive my van. It's not as though I look at the multiple vehicles in my driveway and say, "Gee, I love driving 15-passenger vans. I'll leave the Mini Cooper or the Maserati at home and drive the fun car." No one chooses to drive a 15-passenger van for the fun of it. We who do, drive them because we have to. We either have too many children to fit in a more acceptable vehicle or it is because a family member has a mobility issue and the larger vans work well for a wheelchair. If we are to travel together, it must be in a big van. To say my van is unacceptable is to say my family (and its need for a larger vehicle) is unacceptable. Do you really want to go there? (And for the record, I could have easily parked my van in the open spots available in the valet area. They were exactly the size of parking spot I park in all the time.)

OK, vent over. Here is the good news from H.'s eye doctor appointment. First, she is stable enough that we now only need to back once a year from now on. Hooray! I'm always thankful for fewer doctor's appointments. Second, the astigmatism, which was significant, is now nearly gone from her eyes. This is pretty amazing. Third, oddly, her prescription has now moved from a near-sighted prescription (in the -2 range), to a far-sighted one (+2). The doctor agrees that this is more than a little odd, but not something to be alarmed about.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

It's that time of year again when I feel as though I have entered my own special version of The Monster at the End of the Book. I'm sure you know this book, it stars loveable, furry, old Grover and my children love it just as much as I did as a child. (Usually I don't go so much for licensed character "books", but this is an exception.)

In this version, though, Christmas is at the end of the book. It's not a bad thing in and of itself, but my problem is with the speed with which we speed towards it. So here I am, doing my lovable, furry, old Grover imitation and am pleading with you to please, please, please, do not turn another page.

If you do turn another page, please, please, please do it very, very slowly.

And then I look at my to-do list for the rest of the this week and realize, not only did you turn a page, you turned it quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I am a bit worried that you tore it right out of the book. We don't do that here. We should pause here for a while, for a long while, and I will fix it. First I have to find the packing tape...

Ahhhhhh!

Not only did you not let me fix the page you just tore, you also turned another page. You see, while I was looking for that packing tape, I realized that I had bought a new roll at the Dollar Store when we were filling our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Shoeboxes we still need to put together and deliver to the drop-off point. I need time to do this people! You really need to stop turning pages.

Because really, if this continues, how will I ever get by to-do list done before Thanksgiving, much less Christmas? How I ask you?

It doesn't help that on all the regular holiday craziness, we have follow-up vet appointments for the dog who didn't bother to look at the calendar before coming down with some crazy infection. Or that even though I had over an entire year to get ready for traveling to bring home two new children, I hadn't done a thing and am now scrambling to be ready to travel after the holidays. Or that D. has a tech week thrown in there with a weekend's worth of shows to go to. So please, won't you stop turning pages?

OK

I can see that begging isn't helping since,

YOU TURNED ANOTHER PAGE!

Why?

Why must we speed through this time of year?

Why can't we all just take our time and able through it and enjoy it all?

I don't know, either.

But, please? Let's take this packing tape I just found... can't we just tape the rest of this book shut for a while? Maybe when all of us are ready, we can cut the tape off. Otherwise, I'm afraid that when I wake up in the morning, it will be Christmas and I won't be ready. Or it will be time to fly to China and I won't be ready.

Pretty much, if you keep turning pages with such speed, I can't be responsible for the consequences.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Détente



A rare moment when Gretel is not trying to pester Midnight and Midnight is not swiping a claw at Gretel's nose. I'm happy to report that Gretel continues to be on the mend and the anti-biotics seem to be working. Each day she is bouncier and bouncier.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How about some good news?

And it's really, really good news.

So, you remember Peter, right? Well, I am beyond excited to tell you he has a family working to bring him home! Even better, I know the family and think it is a fantastic match. I love God. But, as you should also know, adoption is expensive. Here is a great chance to help this family bring Peter home in a timely manner. Even a small amount will help.


If I have done it right, if you click on the image, it should take you to his You Caring site. But because I don't trust my computer abilities, use this link if it doesn't work.

That is one less child to find a permanent family, which is terrific. Really, really terrific. Yet there are so many more children waiting and waiting for someone to see their humanity through their list of diagnoses. Please don't forget little Gracie.


Isn't she a sweetheart? This little peanut is already 10 years old. She has cerebral palsy which affects her legs. You do all know that cerebral palsy is a static disease, right? That means what you see is what you get; it doesn't get worse. It also means that it can only get better with appropriate therapy and love. The kind of love only a family can give. She even has a $1500 grant that will go towards her adoption. Please, let's avoid the panic-filled, she's going to age out and she needs a family now push when she is 13. Let's help her find her family now.

Let's not stop at advocating for one child. The Baobei Foundation, that wonderful foundation which has been caring so beautifully for R. and who raised the money to make her adoption possible, has asked me to advocate for Timmy.


Timmy is 12 years old and has overcome some huge obstacles. Earlier this year, a tumor was discovered that was compromising his ability to walk and function. He was shunted and the tumor removed. Since then, he has regained his abilities, including being able to read and write, and subsequent tests have shown that the tumor was benign and no further growth has been found. There are so many people who know and care about this sweet boy, you should just go and read about him from them. First there is his Twenty Less description and from there you can go to China Special Treasures for more about him.

But wait, there's more. Currently Timmy has a combined $7000 grant towards his adoption. This could significantly help a family to bring him home. Please take a look at everything written about him and share... or maybe this little boy is your son. The clock is ticking, he has less than two years to find a family.

____________

And, if you want to read about why we all need family, here's my latest article:  We Never Outgrow the Need for Family Please feel free to share (and share and share...).

Monday, November 16, 2015

The ongoing saga of Gretel the dog

It seems that Gretel's goal in life is to see how many times she can visit the emergency vet clinic. Evidently, the emergency surgery she needed as a puppy to put her back together was not enough, because this time, she decided to be sick enough to be admitted for the entire weekend. And it only gets crossed off her bucket list if it happens on a weekend, I might add.

I had mentioned last week that we were a little concerned about how Gretel was acting, and hoping that it was just a case of her having overdone it playing sled dog. Well, she didn't really improve that much over the next couple of days and by Friday afternoon, one of her favorite people walked in the house and she didn't get up and bark obnoxiously at her. This was very odd. And Gretel had stopped eating. Very, very odd. And then TM threw a crumb of food for her to catch. She missed it (not odd), but then left it lying there on the floor a mere inches from her mouth. We called a made a vet appointment for Monday.

Less than a half hour later after making the appointment, Gretel looked decidedly bad. She was drooling, lethargic, fairly unresponsive. Really not good. So not good that J. scooped her up and drove her immediately to the emergency vet. They agreed that she didn't look good, started an IV, and drew a lot of blood and other tests.

Now the good news is that there was nothing obviously wrong... no injuries, no masses, no questionable items lurking inside her intestines (she is a lab, you know, the goats of the dog world). Yet she was running an extremely high fever and was very anemic. The poor thing felt really, really miserable.

Over the course of the weekend, they started her on various antibiotics as well as anti-nausea medicines. By yesterday afternoon, she was looking a little better and by yesterday evening she was looking much better and started to eat and drink a bit. Definitely well enough for J. to go and bring her home.

She was soooo glad to be home. And we were so happy to see the happy lappy licky dog looking a bit more like her bouncy self. She continues to look as though she is improving, though we kept the vet appointment this morning where they took more blood to see if they can narrow down exactly what was wrong with her. In the meantime, she has four different medicines that are on four completely different dosage schedules. It is very complicated and I'm going to have to make an actual chart of what medicine to give at what time.

I'm hoping she is now really on the mend. It would have been more than we could imagine to lose two pets in one month. But I'm really done with vets for a while.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Motives and Unity

I have a pretty interesting news feed on Facebook. Interesting as in, it's enough to give a person whiplash when reading. Evidently I know people across a wide spectrum of society and often the opinion posted by one is followed by a second post of exactly the opposite opinion. The juxtaposition often makes me giggle and other members of my family have commented on exactly the same thing. To top it off, I like these people who are posting in my news feed, even though they are very different in their outlook on life.

Having a diverse group of friends and acquaintances also highlights something less than amusing. We Christians (and really this post is directed to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ) are not terribly good at differing opinions. We are so quick to assume less-than-positive motives to our family on the other side of the spectrum.

I understand the difficulties. I am pretty conservative in most of my views, both political and theological. (I hope that doesn't come as a terribly big surprise to anyone.) Because I live in a pretty liberal (both politically and theologically) area, I am used to being the lone conservative. I know how easy it is to feel as though the people to my left are just not taking Scripture seriously enough. I know how easy it is to assume their faith just isn't as important to them as it is to me. I know how easy it is to fall into the holier-than-thou trap. It's not pretty. I'm not proud of it, but it's true.

While this may be the case, I have also had the opposite experience. I have a master's degree from a pretty conservative seminary. A seminary which is even more conservative than I. I found it to be an extremely interesting lesson to suddenly find myself left of center. It was certainly not a place I ever expected to inhabit. And on that more left leaning side, I understood how easy it was to be just a little more intellectually superior than my fellow student. If they really thought about what they were saying, surely they would see the illogic of their position. Come on, critical thinking, people. Yes, it is just as ugly here on the other side.

I'm not proud of my not-so-humble reactions to those around me, and it is something I fight down all the time. I'm also pretty sure I'm not the only one. We humans are great at putting ourselves, our faith, our intellect up there at the top of the heap. We are not so good at being humble. We are really not good at the whole unity of the body-thing that Scripture asks of us.

To do this we have to take ourselves down a notch. We have to assume the best motives in our fellow believers.. whether we agree with them or not. And this, more than anything is what I've realized as I move between the different ends of the spectrum. I know these people. I know they care. I know they love Jesus. I know they are doing the best they can. We may be at different places, but it is not my job to force them onto my path. It is my job to love and support them. God can take care of the rest.

Now, does this mean we don't discuss important things? No. Does this mean we all have to agree? No. Of course it doesn't mean these things. It does mean that we assume the best from each other. It means that even if we think someone else is wrong about something that we still love and want the best for that person. It means we don't belittle them or treat them unkindly. It means we love them.

And the red cups I promised you yesterday? Well, isn't this a perfect example of what I'm talking about? In my extremely diverse Facebook feed, I saw no initial outrage over those silly red cups. (And really, trust me when I say that if a small faction was outraged, I probably would have seen something. My feed is just that crazy.) The first I saw was the outrage over the "outrage." So quick were people to assume that their fellow Christians (the intellectually bankrupt ones) were doing something stupid again, that it didn't take much to believe it. Immediately following was the outrage over the outrage over the "outrage." (You still with me?) It's hardly the outrageous love we are called to show to others. And if we can't even show that level of outrageous love to our fellow believers, then how in the world can we ever expect to show it to the world?

If you have a problem with someone, take it to them personally. Work it out. Discuss it. But assume the best motives. We are called to be different. We are called to be known by our love... to each other and to the world.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Well, that was messy

I'm spending my afternoon filling out DS-260 forms and dealing with GUZ numbers in the list of interminable steps that have to be done to make the US Immigration Department and US Consulate happy. Thus, I am not going to be able to write the long and thoughtful post about red cups that I was planning. You'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Instead, I'll share this picture.


I'm sure you have no idea what K. is doing. Well, we have been studying arctic animals. It's cold in the arctic, so those animals have lots of blubber to help keep them warm. We were pretending we had blubber. Using some instructions I found when I was planning school, we did that, and made a mess.

Pretty much, each child put on a disposable plastic glove, covered their hand in cheap vegetable shortening, I then wrapped said hand in plastic wrap, and then they put their hand in the ice water. It actually worked pretty well and for the children who were able to cover their hand in shortening the best, really did feel the difference in warmth.

Now, covering a child's hand in shortening is a lot easier said than done. It didn't really want to stick to the plastic gloves and would drip off in large and small glops all over... well, everything. I think I have it all wiped up. Everyone now has a greater appreciation for blubber and I have a greater appreciation for skin that stops that blubber from dropping off in glops all over everything.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

That's life

Sometimes life is a little yuckier than you would like and that doesn't make for terribly nice blog posts. But even in the middle of the yuck, there are still good things to be found. Such as...


  • L, G. and K. formed a band and gave us a concert this afternoon. K. was playing (and I use that term loosely) piano, G. was on drums, and L. was guitar and vocals. (Her guitar was the little played 'unitar', which is actually a stick unicorn turned upside-down. There was a good attendance at their concert, since L. convinced everyone, including TM and P. to attend. I hope she uses these powers for good later in life.
  • Gretel has taken it as a personal affront every time Midnight tried to use something inappropriate as a scratching post. Midnight starts to scratch and Gretel's hackles go up and she lets out a rather menacing growl. It's enough to stop the cat, but she never does anything more. I appreciate that.
  • Gretel is also feeling a little under the weather today and I'm wondering if I should take her into the vet. (I'm a little gun shy about taking animals into the vet these days. You'll understand why I hesitate.) But, it could have been she overdid it yesterday playing sled dog with TM. Evidently TM was on a scooter and Gretel pulled him up and down the block. And up and down. And up and down. You'll remember that Gretel is really not very good at knowing when to stop. This is what comes of teaching your children things.
  • We received our official immigration approval for both Y. and R. We are now working our way slowly through the remaining immigration/travel approval steps. These are pretty much uninteresting busy work, so I won't bother to explain each of them to you. I'm not even sure I could explain why I'm doing what I'm doing... I'm following directions and assuming I get to the end.
  • I cut out dresses for G. and L. and am almost ready to cut out a new top for H. I'm quickly reaching the point, though, where I'm going to have to involve the little girls a little bit more in the decision making process. As I was cutting out the dresses, L. comes up and asks what I'm doing. I show her the fabric and tell her I'm making her and G. and dress. She looks and say, "Meh." I'm forging ahead, because I still reserve Sundays as my day to pick their outfits.
  • All the younger people in the house have been on a huge Calvin and Hobbes kick. J. has read one complete book to them and is on another. We both see eerie similarities between L. and Calvin. It makes me wary of giving her a cardboard box anytime in the near future.
  • TM has Für Elise by Beethoven nearly completely learned and is doing a fantastic job. You can tell I love the boy because I'm teaching it to him. I'm a piano teacher and have a firm stand against the piece normally. All anyone every plays is the easy first page and when it gets hard they quit. TM has not quit and really only has the arpeggio section left to really learn. I'll see if I can get him to play it once he secures it while I take a video.
  • G. came to me today with a library book and announced, "It says, 'Pop'. It's about bubble gum. Read it to me." I think the phonics lessons are working.
  • M. found her winter coats in her apartment, so I can stop worrying that I gave them all away with the latest pile of stuff. In my defense, all things stuffed in garbage bags look alike. But I didn't give them away. Phew.
  • In looking for M.'s winter coats, I came across a very nice Italian leather jacket that seemed to have been spawned by the pile of coats in the basement. No one recognizes it. And it fits me. Guess I have a new coat.
  • We had a brief moment of D. thinking he wanted to audition for Master Chef Junior which is going to be holding auditions in a few weeks here. Then we watched an episode. He has decided he would rather continue honing his cooking and baking skills in the privacy of his home and not have to worry about being a slightly smarmy child actor at the same time he is cooking. Plus, he wouldn't have been free for the filming as he has a fairly big role coming up that he is committed to. Maybe I'll just let him cook dinner for a while. For the practice, you know.
  • K. watched the episode with us and was incensed that there were 9 year olds cooking. He is 9! Why isn't he cooking? Oh, I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that every few minutes he feels compelled to throw himself on the floor. Or wave things around. Or hit things together. Handing a knife to someone with these habits does not seem wise.
  • D. is doing NaNoWiMo (National Novel Writing Month) and is over halfway to his goal, word wise. He has been writing for at least an hour or two consistently for a few weeks now. I should have him write this blog as well. 
  • If I have D. cook and write for me, I might be able to catch-up on the laundry. Again. I'm always catching up on the laundry. All it takes is missing two days and I'm behind again.
  • TM and D. and I are still working our way through the Swallows and Amazons series. The book we just finished was We Didn't Mean to go to Sea. It was very good and very exciting. We all recommend it.
So there you go. Some of the news from the past few days. It's good to look for the good amidst the hard.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Sharing

M. messaged me the other day and said, "So, if you're ever needing something blog to about, you could share my tumbler page." Hint, hint.

Well, I think today qualifies so here it is: Flying Tadpole Creations. Be sure to look at the video of the bird mask with the hinged jaw that she just made. This is what she does when, for the first time in weeks, she is home without a deadline for a show opening hanging over her head.

And since we're sharing, you could also read my newest article at Adoption.com, 3 Ways to Help Kids from Hard Places Succeed in a Homeschool Setting. You could even share it... and then my little tiny paycheck would be a little less tiny. Thanks.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Museum day

We spent the morning at The Field Museum to see the Mastodons and Mammoths exhibit because it will be closing in January. It was a lot of fun. There was a huge amount of hands-on activities... mammoth and mastodon models to pet, trunks to manipulate, little bull mammoths that could fight together. There were also some videos that were very well done as a part of the exhibit as well. And the best part, in my opinion? There were none of those ridiculous push-button displays which are supposed to teach a child something, but in my experience, the only thing they teach a child is to push a button. I've never seen anyone use them for their intended purpose, only to push the button (at random and fairly quickly) and watch the result and then run on to the next thing. The interactive displays were actually interactive rather than button pushing. Thus, no button pushing happened... mine or the exhibits!

And here is my random mammoth fact for the day. Did you know, at the time when the great pyramids in Egypt were being built that there were still mammoths roaming across Siberia? How cool is that? (I kind of think big shaggy elephant-type animals are very cool, if you hadn't guessed.)

Now, some disappointing news for all of you Thursday Next fans out there. (And by now, after me touting the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde off and on for many years, you are all fans, right?) A small, but funny and recurring plot device in the books is that in Thursday Next's England, mammoths had been cloned and herds of them spent the year migrating back and forth across England. It sounds funny, but played havoc on people's gardens. Well, according to one sign in the exhibit (undoubtedly created by a Thursday Next fan), scientists do not have the full genetic sequence of mammoths mapped out... they are missing approximately 30%... so no mammoth cloning is going to be happening. The whole sign so amused me that I actually took out my phone to try to text M. the news. (Which, if you know my views and abilities with texting, you will see the magnitude of the event.) I say tried because the cell reception in the museum is tricky and I was not in a spot where I could send a message. (Sorry, M., consider this your text.)

The beauty of museum memberships is that you can take everyone down to the museum for the morning, see a few things, and leave before everyone gets tired. All without feeling guilty that you didn't get your money's worth. So that is what we did. We were all back in time for a late lunch and everyone is relaxing.

If you are in the area, and haven't seen the exhibit yet, you should go and check it out before it leaves.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Dear New Adoptive Mom,

Congratulations on your new little person. I am always happy to know that a child has a permanent family. I am also glad that so far your transition has been easy. That's great. I would not wish a difficult transition on anyone. It is hard on the parents and harder on the child. But in reality, two weeks is still a pretty short period of time. I've been at this for over nine years now, and have earned more experience than I ever wanted. It hasn't been an easy day today, so maybe it is my own fatigue and fear showing, but I'd like to share some of that experience with you.

Resiliency and an easy transition are not the same thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, resiliency is "adapting to adversity." It is the "ability to roll with the punches. When stress, or adversity, or trauma strikes, you still experience anger, grief, and pain, but you're able to keep functioning -- both physically and psychologically." At two weeks into this adventure, all you know for sure is how your little one deals with shock. Because she is in shock, and frankly, probably so are you. It's a big change suddenly having a new family and it's a big change suddenly having a new child. You may not feel as though you are in shock, and your child may not act like it, but you probably are. In a month or two, when things have settled down, then you will begin to get to see the level of your child's resilience. This is when the new has worn off and the realization dawns that this change is permanent. And maybe, your child really is very resilient. If so, be grateful, because this is a very great gift.

But here is where I start to get a wee bit tetchy. Sure, some parents and children do have an easy time of it. It is the preferred rainbows and happy trees scenario... the one everyone hopes to goodness that they have. And just because it is fairly rare for everything to be absolutely awesome, it doesn't mean it is not a valid experience, because it does happen. It is one of a myriad of possibilities.

I will admit that I start to squirm a little when people start to hint that God must really love them because of this ease. I will also admit that in some of our experiences, it has been very difficult to take God at His word and be thankful in all things. It is very difficult in the moment to give thanks for a child who is physically hurting you out of his own fear and pain. Yet, looking back there are things I can give thanks for through all of that. Important things that were vital to me growing as a Jesus follower. As hard as it was, I can look back and say that God must really love me to allow me to go through that. Redemption looks all the better from the bottom of the pit.

And I will continue to tell my story. I will continue to counsel families looking into adoption to be careful to count the cost. I will continue to share the hard parts and the unlovely parts and the parts that I wish we didn't have to live through. I will continue to do this even if it means that someone may be scared away and say adoption isn't for them. If just hearing about the hard is too much, then what happens when life becomes too hard and they weren't ready for it? What happens to the already broken and damaged child? The truth is hard. Adoption is born out of loss and trauma. You cannot have the one without the other. While we all wish we could love the hurt away, that's just not how it is.

Redemption is costly. It cost Jesus His life because we were broken and damaged. Adoption is costly. Hurt and pain are not easily healed. It takes time. It takes sacrifice. And sometimes it takes an almost inhuman ability to keep moving forward. But Jesus has our backs and keeps moving us forward when we think we can't possibly move ourselves.

So, new adoptive parent, please do not discount or belittle the hard stories because they are not yet your story. Who knows? I don't have a working crystal ball, they may never be. But I've also seen children thrown off the rails unexpectedly for a variety of reasons and you just can't predict who that will be and when that will happen. Does this mean you need to live with a constant dread that your perfect story is going to end? No, of course not. That way insanity lies. But, it is always good to know that life can be turned upside-down in an instant. This isn't an adoption-thing, but a life-thing. My point is, do not rope your child into a certain scenario. Give him the freedom to express his full range of emotions.. even the hard stuff. Even the stuff you would rather not hear. The always perfect child adoption story can sometimes make it difficult for a child to break out of the mold if they need to.

I do wish you all the best.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Street signs

Yesterday was H.'s day to come with me to the grocery store. On the way there, I hear her saying something out loud. It sounded like, "Ssss.... tttt.... oooo... p. St... ooo... p. Stop. The red sign says, 'Stop'!" I agree that it says stop and tell her she did a good job of reading. At another stoplight, I hear her sounding words out again and she reads, "Park in rear." We had to talk a little about what that meant, but she read it.

I have taught 6 children to read and am on numbers 7 through 10. I have learned that the moment when the child becomes aware of the printed world which surrounds them, and believes that they can actually read the words in that printed world, that we are one significant step closer to that child actually reading.

I have no idea what H.'s future holds for her, but this is a very encouraging sign.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Costumes 2015 plus a very merry unbirthday

First, costumes from Saturday. We only had four dressing up this year, which seemed... odd. Bizarrely easy and odd. 

L., K. and G.

Plus H.

G. was a little black ninja.

I made the hood and J. made the ninja swords. 


She needed (with L, it is always need, not want) a two-holster belt and pistols. The pistols are rubber band guns (no one has lost an eye yet) and I made the holsters.

K. was a lion. I made this costume for P. years and years ago.


H. was a cat. A cat with ears. No, she did not want a tail. No, she did not want whiskers. Yes, she did want candy. It's hard being both 13 and 5 at the same time.

Here is Gretel. She is calm. She is not barking. She didn't have to start out in her crate. It is hard for her to keep up the calm, non-barkingness when people keep coming to the door. The evening did not turn out to be as fun for her as she had hoped.

TM also turned 13 this weekend. Birthdays are hard. Birthdays are harder when they come with Halloween and you don't like Halloween. Since it is good to listen to your child and take his needs seriously, we kept everything very low key.

But I still made him donuts for his birthday breakfast and still made him his dinner of choice. He even unwrapped his gifts (which he had wrapped himself) and liked them. We didn't take pictures. We didn't sing. We saved the ice cream dessert he had chosen for tonight. We all survived and with limited drama. 

So, TM, my dear son, Happy Birthday. I love you, possibly more than you will ever be truly able to realize. You are bright and inventive and artistic. You can be so caring and thoughtful, it makes me a little bit weepy. You have changed me in ways that I could never have imagined before you joined our family. I so wish I could go back in time and save you from every hurt and loss. I cannot do that, but I can love you. And I do. Forever.

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