Saturday, December 31, 2016

The year's underappreciated posts

We're doing more relaxing here, and getting ready for our annual New Year's Eve party. If I ever doubted that my crystal ball is completely non-functional, all I would have to do is look at the stats page for this blog. Posts that I wondered whether I should even hit 'publish' on turn out to be super popular, while other posts, which I really like, linger in obscurity. Maybe it's word length. I know I can be a bit wordy.

To end a trying year, instead of coming up with something to say, we'll just do a little retrospective of posts I thought would hit a chord more than they did. It could just be that no one liked them, in which case this will be a collection of completely loser posts. I'm hoping that they just got a bit lost in all of my wordiness. There is a lot to slog through on this blog, and it's easy to miss something.

So here's a bit of reading to occupy your hours as you wait to drop kick 2016 into oblivion.

There's really nothing from January to put on this list. We were gone nearly the whole month in China.

Don't be a sea squirt
Movement and Cognition

Homeschooling the Adopted Child, part 1
Love is not a limited commodity
Breathing a huge sigh of relief and now able to tell the rest of the story
Master players
Attachment tips

Notes on large family car trips

Sometimes I get it right
The classical un-unit chardorfisorri method
Moral: Friends don't eat other friends' species
A dog story
The cat

A broken and messy people
Cooking with Elizabeth

Timeline notebooks
Timelines: How to do it

It all started at IKEA... or a Venn diagram activity box
Teaching children to cook
Teaching children to cook, take 2

Why I'm not always giving warm fuzzy adoption advice
It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how
Fear and learning
The blessings of hard

Hands-on learning, or stepping on more than a few toes. You decide
School philosophy... or it's all in the spin

Teaching the disregulated child

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday bullets - Dec. 30, 16

What have we done this week? Nothing. Well, unless you count laying about, playing the occasional game, fixing the occasional meal, and muttering things such as, "I wonder what we should do," as something, then we've done a whole lot. I wonder what I can come up with to talk about.

  • We celebrated Boxing Day again this year, but due to schedules, it was the 27th instead of the 26th. Our good friends the P. family came over and the adults talked, the children played, and we ate some food. We even got to Skype with our other good friends the H-S family. It just seemed right since we usually celebrated Boxing Day at their house. A child was sent to fetch a tissue only a couple of times.
  • Talk around the meal table continues to debate what other animals should be acquired. There is still a strong lobby for a miniature goat to live in the house, though the miniature donkey contingent is fairly powerful. I question the motives of some of the lobbyists since I have discovered that one in particular just wanted to be able to tell friends about the antics of their family and adding a goat to the mix sounded like a nice addition to their story telling. 
  • Various children have been passing around a rotten head cold this week as well. It could explain the general malaise the household is suffering from. So far M., B., A., D., and K. have succumbed and recovered, and it has now moved on to Y.
  • I went to the grocery store last week to stock up on food for Christmas Eve and Christmas. It was just two days and it was more than I usually spend on a week's worth of food, so I didn't buy anything else. It's a good thing I have a well-stocked pantry because we scrounged for food this entire week. I finally had to go to the store again today, because people were starting to complain. TM went with me. He is an enormous help, and when he comes I can do the grocery shopping in half the time it usually takes. I bribe him with coconut gels, which he loves. As we were looking on the shelf so he could decide which variety he wanted, I saw this:
I'm not sure there's really anything else to say about it. I didn't buy it, but now I'm kind of kicking myself that I didn't. 
  • In other grocery store news, a couple of times someone had to run to our nearby grocery store for an item or two that the pantry did not have (brown sugar, for instance). We made banh xeo last night because TM had been wanting Vietnamese food, and I had most of the ingredients. We just needed a couple of fresh things to go along with it. I realized exactly how spoiled I am by shopping in a small grocery store whose main clientele are immigrants. Not only can I find just about any ingredient or spice, often in bulk and for less, that I need, especially those outside of traditional American cooking, but the produce selection is large, varied, and decent. Take fresh herbs, for instance. In my usual grocery store, I can find huge bunches of fresh herbs at a decent price. When J. went to our nearby, large American chain grocery store, all he could find were these teeny-tiny plastic bags filled with pathetic looking herbs that used to be fresh and charged an arm and a leg for them. We seem to be a nation of non-cooks.
  • The hit game of Christmas has been Robot Rally. I had spent quite a bit of time wandering around Chicagoland Games with a helpful clerk tagging along behind. After much discussion, this is one of the games he recommended. And once again, I'm happy to say, the staff at that little store knows their stuff. Everyone loves it. The box says it is for 12 and up, but even the seven year olds have figured it out. There is a little bit of reading, but not too much, with the bulk of the game relying on directional arrows. Essentially, you put down programming cards which will tell your little robot how to move each turn. Other things can happen which can upset your plan, including getting hit by lasers or falling off the board. Ultimately, you want to be the first cute little robot (and yes, there are actual little robot figures to move) to get to the winning space. The beauty of this game is that not only can six people play at a time, but it has many different boards, of increasing difficulty, which can also be combined to make a vast number of different games. The downside? Well, if you are playing with someone younger than 12 who may not quite get the logic of how to get their robot where they want to go, it can have a vague Candy Land feel to it. You know, just when you think you are going to get to the candy castle and finish the game, you draw the molasses swamp card and lose another 30 minutes of your life. This has only happened once with the robot game, and that was mainly because there a couple of rules we had missed that would have helped significantly. I recommend it.
  • We also now have the game Pandemic. I have spent some time reading the rule book, but have yet to get enough older people in the same room in order to try to play it. I still have a couple of days of vacation and am hopeful we can try it. It looks like fun and I'll let you know what we think of it after we actually get to play it.
  • Hypothetically, if I were to apply to give a TEDx talk, and that application was accepted, what topic would you be interested in hearing me speak on? Hypothetically, speak on, that is. 
  • Another navel gazing question is, would you be interested in reading a list of the books I've read this year? Or is that just too fantastically dull to contemplate? Annotated, or does it matter?
  • The checkbook is not going to be happy starting next year. So far, two of my more than weekly expenses have given notice that they are going up, both horseback riding and our copay amount. The copay is going up another TEN dollars per visit. This does not fill me or my checkbook with any sort of joy. That sound you just heard was me pulling the belt that much tighter.
Food, games, and books. Yep, that about sums up the past week. Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Decorating gingerbread... an odyssey

Our sole accomplishment for the day? Making gingerbread cookies and decorating them. Yep. That's it. Partly this is because J. and I have been staying up far too late reading, followed by sleeping late in the morning. The whole house is sleeping late. It's lovely, but kind of messes up one's productivity. Next week, when J. is back at work and we are back to school, is going to be a great shock.

But back to the gingerbread. 

While I finally had molasses, we had run out of brown sugar, so J. walked to the store for me to pick some up. He was just going to go by himself and this would have been quick and uneventful. Instead, he ended up taking G. and L. with him because that was quieter. At the checkout in the store, the clerk, in a very friendly manner tries to talk to the girls. The girls stare. This is what the girls do when they are out in public and strangers talk to them. The staring does not often dissuade people from talking to them, though. "Are you twins?" Stare. "Are you out with your grandpa?" Ouch. (I can fully sympathize because I have been asked if I am the grandparent before as well. It's always at the grocery store for some reason.) J. informs her that he is actually the father. She then wants to continue chatting. "Are they your only children?" 
"No, actually, they are my youngest."J. replies. Since short, evasive answers never seem to shut down conversations with these types, she continues on. "Oh, how many do you have?" 


It's always hard to evade a direct question, so J. replies, "Twelve." 
"Did you say twelve?" says someone from another checkout stand, where J. realizes multiple heads have swiveled in his direction at the news. 
"Yes, twelve," he replies, "it's a lot of fun." At this point he is rescued by a friend whom he hadn't noticed previously, and begins to chat with her, thus sparing him from further inquisition.

And now, well stocked with brown sugar, we could actually make the gingerbread cookies.

Do they look a bit pale to you? They did to me when I took the first batch out of the oven. So I start going over the reasons that they could be so light compared to how a friend's cookies with the same recipe came out. I wonder if she used a different type of molasses.

Molasses. Hmmmm.... molasses.

Wait for it.

Yes, I forgot to put in the molasses when I was mixing the dough. Grumble, grumble, grumble. At least they still tasted fine, if not as fine as they would have with the molasses, and we now have cookies to decorate. Finally.

The dolls were relegated to the couch and couldn't join the decorating fun.

Mixing up the colors and putting the icing in decorating bags.

After what felt like days and days of talking about doing this, and hours and hours of getting ready to do this, we finally set about decorating cookies.


K., with R. looking on.


D. and Y.



R. really, really, really liked squeezing out the icing.

M. stopped in and decorated a cookie.


D. made the Grinch

TM was playing around and discovered he was making a skeleton.






Notice the evolution of TM's cookie

That's a toothpick covered in frosting for the special effects.

The clean-up isn't too bad. Most of the sprinkles were contained on the trays, the icing was contained in the glasses, and the pastry bags are disposable.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Very Merry Christmas (photo heavy)

We went to the pageant (TM did a great job as one of the kings... I was so proud of him), came home, and had dinner for 19. Here is our birthday cake for Jesus.

After dinner we sang carols and tucked everyone into bed to be ready for the next morning. Would you believe our dear children allowed us to sleep until 8:40? I can hardly believe it myself, and I was the one sleeping.

The table all ready for breakfast (cinnamon rolls, grapefruit, and fried rice).

The stockings...

and the tree all ready for the morning.

The whole crew, in new pajamas, waiting to go downstairs.

B. giving Kenzie one of his new toys.

At the breakfast table, after lighting the Christ candle.

L. - new cowboy boots

Y. with her new doll

G. with her new doll

A. and L.

P. and TM (those are not his pajamas, he does not care to lounge in pajamas)

M. helping R. open...

her new doll. R. named her Lily.


L. in her new scientist togs.



G. with her new drum set. Yes, you read that right. Drum set. Evidently I have lost my mind. Notice it took getting to 12 children for this to even be a possibility.

L., playing mad scientist.




I've decided that beginning with Christmas Eve dinner, that the holiday is just one long meal, punctuated by gift opening. Today, we are actually going to just relax and play with new toys and games and not eat four big meals in a row.

We had a lovely, lovely day. I hope yours was just as enjoyable.

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