Thursday, October 19, 2017

Friday bullets, Oct. 20, 2017

  • Well, Wednesday was a terribly busy and productive day, but we all paid for it yesterday. We were all wiped out, especially me. It may still take me another day to recover completely.
  • We have left Mexico and have headed to Brazil. The immigration stamp I bought for the pretend passports we made continues to be a huge hit. Everyone lines up at the passport control desk, and waits to go through customs. You would think this is the single most fun thing we have ever done. I'm going to quickly run out of immigration official personalities, I can tell. Maybe I'll have one of the big boys leash up Kenzie when we leave Brazil and have him play the fruit and vegetable sniffing dog. 
  • On Tuesday, A. came home from work, and asks, "What's with all the birds?" when she entered. I had no idea what she was talking about, so went outside to investigate. Our silver maples were all filled with what turned out to be grackles, all making amazingly loud noises. There were hundreds of them. Occasionally, you would see a bunch of them fly to another tree, but the noise never stopped. It was pretty amazing. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, all hundred plus birds in all the different trees, became quiet at the same time, and flew off together in a huge mass. It would seem we were merely a brief resting spot on their migration route. It was pretty darn cool.
  • For those of you who read The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig when I recommended it a while back, be aware that there are two more books which follow Morrie, the school teacher on his further adventures... Work Song and Sweet Thunder. I enjoyed them both, perhaps not quite as much as the first, but they were worthwhile, especially if you liked the character.
  • Olive was five months old yesterday, and is now officially taller than Kenzie. 
  • We have discovered that Q.'s favorite treat, besides bugs, is graham crackers. He loves them. He does not love worms, however. Not one little bit.
  • I still have room in my piano studio, for anyone in the area who is interested.
  • L. has moved from writing fiction (last week), to writing reports this week. She carries around a pad of paper and a non-fiction books, and writes out her report. We will frequently hear her say, "I need to go do my research," and she marches off to find another book to look at. 
  • I took G. and L. with me to go get P. from her riding lesson yesterday. It seems there was a line waiting for the wash rack, so it took a little longer than usual. As we were waiting, L. asks (again), "When is she done?" G. replies, "You can practice your patience." L., correctly, says loudly, "I AM NOT GOOD AT PATIENCE!" G. and I heartily agreed with her.
  • I think all my children will be home this weekend. Hooray!
  • We had to wait a couple of days for a book to arrive at the library for our tea time read aloud earlier this week. People were not happy at not having a book to listen to, so K. offered to read one of his. He read a few pages and the masses were happy again.
  • Y. has used her knee immobilizer for three nights now, and the difference is amazing. (It's essentially a leg brace, like they put on people after knee surgery. This is at least our third one in the family, due to the crazy amount of knee surgeries my children have had.) After the first night, she felt as though she was leaning the whole day, because the leg she used it one was so much straighter. The next day, she felt even again. She is so pleased with the difference that it makes it easy for her to comply. Plus, she loves not having to wear braces during the day. I imagine that once we get the night time AFO's made, the difference will be even more noticeable.
  • We have friends from Evanston joining us today. I'm excited to see the, and I'm sure that Y. will be excited to have some Mandarin speakers around for a bit. 
Enjoy your Friday and your weekend.
And yes, my Friday post is publishing on Thursday night because in my stupor, I forgot to set the publish date for tomorrow.

And I even bought children new shoes

You all know that I don't like to have to leave my house, right? That's why yesterday was a bit of a stretch. We had our monthly homeschool co-op group in the morning. I'm enjoying it. The younger six are enjoying it. It just happened to fall on the day when I was able to get three back-to-back cranio-facial team appointments for K., R., and H. In Northbrook. Which is an hour and a half from our house. I've learned you don't turn these appointments down, so booked them, even though the timing was not great. It made for a crazy day.

9 am - Start dinner in the crock pot.

9:10 am - Leave for our co-op group.

11:45 am - Leave co-op, and head to the drive-through for lunch. No time to go back home if we are going to make the appointment, and no supplies to make a lunch for on the road.

12:15 pm - After having had to go back into the restaurant to correct meal orders, we were on our way.

1: 20 pm - Arrive at our appointment, 40 minutes ahead of time. Traffic was lighter than I had anticipated.

1:25 pm - Take everyone into Nordstrom's Rack, just down the street from our appointment. Mainly because I don't want to wait in the waiting room, and because a couple of children have been complaining about shoes being too tight. Find dress shoes for L., and sneakers for K., which fit and are affordable. For another week or so I can now avoid the daily shoe crises.

1:45 pm - Arrive back at our appointment. Now, I've spent a lot of time at this office with H., due to all her past surgeries. I'm friends with the nurses. We spend quite a bit of time catching up with each other. It's so nice to be somewhere I don't have to introduce myself all the time. When it's our turn to go back to the room, I leave G., L., and Y. in the waiting room. They have brought bags of activities. I go back with K., H., and R. I know the team members, so it's a pretty easy going appointment. Essentially, K. will finally have a bone graft after the holidays. R. is not going to have anything done right now. Structurally she is fine for the time being, and her medical anxiety is so high, just being in the office sent her off to crazy land. (Even though all the doctors and nurses were incredibly low key and careful. It just doesn't take much for her.) H. is in the driver's seat for what happens next; it's entirely her call. The plastic surgeon went through what could be a possibility if she chooses. She was starting to disassociate a bit at the end, so we will need to have multiple discussions about it all. She's been through a lot, I can't blame her for not wanting more surgeries. The whole visit took less time than I expected, even with all the visiting, which is good, because our day wasn't done yet.

3:30 pm - Pile in the car and head back out west. This time there is traffic. Lots of traffic. I kind of wished I had bought a coffee for the trip. I had some tired people in the van, so put on our recorded version of The House at Pooh Corner, which I love. It's just so calm and soothing. Calm and soothing is not really what you want after a full day, late in the afternoon, while you're driving. (If you can find the audiobook version of Peter Dennis reading the stories, it is worth the effort. They are very well done.)

5:10 pm - Arrive home. Greet my older people who have been home all day manning the fort. Put some soup in bowls for K., Y., G., and L. for them to eat. Look at my phone for messages, realizing I haven't looked at it all day. Drink a glass of water. Tell the four eating soup to finish up, and get ready to go.

6:05 pm - Briefly say a few sentences to J. about the day so far, and head back out to the van with the four who just ate dinner.

6:20 pm - Drop off the four I have with me at either their midweek program or their youth group at church. Thankfully all in the same building.

6:25 pm - Leave to take myself to the other church site where my Bible study meets. Enjoy the Bible study and fellowship.

8:00 pm - Dash out of Bible study, get back in the van, and head to pick-up children at the other campus. Discuss K. signing out the girls so that I don't have to go in when I pick-up.

8:25 pm - Arrive home with tired children, who are then ushered upstairs to get ready for bed. I eat a bowl of soup.

9:00 pm - Tuck in tired children.

So, all good stuff, but boy, I'm glad I don't do this every day! Back to our more normal, low-key existence today.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Starting to rebuild our medical professionals list

One of the most difficult things about moving is having to find new doctors and other care providers. I built up our long list of doctors slowly over the years as we added more children and more needs. This time around I have to do it all at once. I'm not enjoying it. Some of our specialists, whom I like and we don't see all that often, I'm keeping. There is no way we can replace some of them, and I wouldn't want to even begin to try. Others, however, are not people I'm willing to drive an hour and a half one way to see. Our orthopedic doctor was one of those. He was fine, but we didn't see him often enough or have a connection strong enough to warrant keeping him.

As I might have mentioned before, Y.'s AFO's are far too small for her, as she has done such a huge amount of growing over the past year. Well, the way things work, without a new prescription we can't get the new AFO's made. And without a doctor, we can't get the prescription written. And down the rabbit hole we go. I asked the orthotics people if they could recommend an orthopedic doctor, figuring they of all people, knew and dealt with this specialty more than anyone else I had contact with. They did, gave me a name, and I made an appointment for yesterday.

(This is a complete aside for anyone living in Chicago or along the North Shore. This new doctor is in Sycamore. Sycamore is north of DeKalb. It took me as long to get to Sycamore from our house as it did to get to our pediatrician in NW Skokie from our old house. Yes, I drove to Dekalb for an appointment, and didn't even think twice about it. Just ponder that for a while. We are really west.)

I never know what to expect when meeting a new doctor. Am I going to like them... get along with them... are they going to get along with me... am I going to have to educate them about adoption, trauma, and homeschooling? I try to keep an open mind and not let the chip on my shoulder be too evident, but I'm also not going to fight with the doctors we work with, so see them as probationary until it can be discovered if we can work together. Well, this was one of those times when I hit it off immediately with a doctor. She was not put off by me, and I liked her. It was a very nice appointment.

The short story is that Y. looks great, and she also likes this new doctor because, "She gave me choices." The biggest one was if Y. wanted to keep wearing AFO's during the day, or if she would rather wear them at night instead. It seems in Y.'s case, either would be equally effective. Y. chose night, and is so very excited to never have to wear AFO's during the day again. According to Y., "She [the doctor] knows what 10 year old girls want."

I liked this doctor so much that I asked if she had any pediatricians she could recommend. I got the name of the family practitioner she uses, which would take care of primary care doctors for everyone in the family. This will be my next doctor to sort out, as I am tired of writing we don't have a pediatrician yet on forms.

It's this kind of stuff that can make one feel as though they don't really live in a place yet, and when you get it figured out make you feel that much more settled. I may just be down to dentist and oral surgeon now.

Today's fun includes a cranio-facial team appointment with three children. It will be a nearly full-day extravaganza, made even more fun by having to take three extra children with me to the appointment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ojo de Dios

We're almost done with our visit to Mexico, and today we were due to make a craft. I decided that making Ojo de Dios, or God's Eyes, were just about perfect for my crew. While we made them, we also listened to music from Mexico. I think the whole thing was a huge success.


G., with R. and Y. in the background

Y. and G.

H., with G. in the background


L., with K. in the background


Here are some of the finished ones.

It turned out that many of the children enjoyed it so much that they continued to create God's Eyes all afternoon, H. and K. in particular. Between the two of them, I think they made over 20. 

My tip for doing this, is to use variegated yarn. You get the change of colors without having to stop and start different colors of yarns. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Happy 15th Birthday, H.!

Hayden turned 15 on Saturday. She was 9 when she came home 5 1/2 years ago. I cannot believe it has been that long. How far both she and I have come.

For her birthday breakfast, we had, as usual, donuts. Then, A. took H. out shopping. Just H. and A. H. loved it, and came home with some jewelry which A. bought for her. In the afternoon, H. spent a long time picking up the toy loft, all by herself. I know this sounds like an odd way to celebrate your birthday, but it is what she wanted. Normally the toy loft is filled with all sorts of toys, usually in some form of block city. H. is a pretty orderly person, and this drives her a little crazy. What she likes is when the blocks and toys all get put away neatly on shelves and sorted into their proper places. She really enjoys the sorting and organizing process, and gets extremely upset when her little brothers and sisters get everything out immediately upon getting it all put away. Really upset. So, for her birthday, we promised that she could pick it up, and it would stay that way for a while. This was a bit of a present to her from the younger people, as it was a stretch for them to leave it all put away for a while.

H. chose take-out Chinese food for her birthday dinner, and a store bought cake. It makes it easy for me.

Pictures from the evening.

H. and G.

H.'s birthday cake

Scenes from the party:

It was raining, so Kenzie spent the party in the bathroom closet.

One of H.'s gifts was a hand-held game system. She loved it because it was sooo close to a phone.

The other thing she asked for, and you can see she was very excited to get, was...

a Rubiks Cube. 

She was also very pleased to receive money from Grammy.... just like one of the big kids.

Figuring out the game-thing.

The pictures were compliments of TM.

So happy birthday, my darling girl. I am so thankful that you are my daughter. I have been astounded at what you have accomplished and how far you have come. I am excited to see what the future holds for you. I love you very much!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I seemed to have missed Friday again,

but we'll do bullets anyway.

  • Today is H.'s 15th birthday. How can that be? 15 seems so darn old. We are celebrating tonight, so I'll do her birthday post on Monday, so I can include pictures.
  • I did the math, and realized that in eight years, we will have 8 teenagers in the family. That seems like a lot, doesn't it? 
  • J. bought himself a chainsaw (a piece of equipment he has been hankering after for a long time, by the way), and has been cutting down some of the many overgrown and volunteer bushes that we have growing. It is pouring today, so I can't show a picture of the progress, but we think it looks a lot nicer. 
  • A. now has a working car. It involved a couple trips to various places to look at various cars, but we are now done trying to figure out how to get everyone where they need to be with not enough vehicles. She is now trying to sell the old car, which is barely drive able due to the wheels potentially coming off. I am amazed at the number of people who have contacted her about it, even through she was honest in her description. I think it's because she had named her car Wally, and she mentioned that in the add.
  • L. has spent the entire week writing novels. The first one, which is six chapters long, was an imaginary story about Q., the quail. In it, Q. thwarts some robbers and the police reward him with a worm. But, I was also warned before I read it that it had a sad ending, "because it is an animal story, and they have to have a sad ending." She is now working on one about a penguin who is a detective. She is hoping to have B. illustrate it for her. Note that this is the first time B. is hearing about this. So, B., start working on your penguins. I believe there is also a talking panda involved.
  • I have a little Putumayo addiction. They are the record label that compiles world music in different collections. J. and I have a CD we love, and that everyone refers to as 'the cooking music' since we tend to listen to it while we are fixing dinner. And now with our around the world trip, I have an excuse to buy more. My plan is to play music from each country while we do a craft. I suppose I could have checked them out from the library, but my experience is that library CD's are usually scratched. My disk with music from Mexico arrived yesterday, and I'm liking it.
  • The weather must be finally changing, because I made several big batches of instant oatmeal for breakfast the other day. 
  • A.'s eye is getting better. She went back to the eye doctor yesterday for another follow-up. He was pleased with how it is looking, though he did add that it was a very large ulcer, so it will take a while to go away. I'm kind of glad to not have known that the ulcer was 'very big' when it was first discovered.
  • I have been having R. watch some Leap Frog Letter Factory every day for school. I didn't do it last year because even that seemed too much for her brain to take in and sort properly. She seems ready for it this year. And she is loving it. Because of her working memory issues, it will probably take about a million more viewings for it to really stick, but she can now tell us what sound some of the letters make if she hears a letter name. She also used the phonics firefly appropriately for the first time last night. She didn't get any of the letter correct, but she was at least sort of understanding that there was a process to it. This time last year, she would just randomly push buttons and ignore the spoken prompts. It's progress.
  • I love having a smaller house. To really clean it is a matter of a couple of hours at most. A couple of hours working in the Big Ugly House would have been just a small part. 
  • It has rained and thundered all night and now all day. Poor Kenzie is back to hiding in closets and bathrooms. He really enjoyed our month without rain. (And we've tried everything people have suggested, and nothing really helps. He just doesn't like thunder.) Olive doesn't seem to even notice.
Now, off to continue to get ready for birthday celebrations this evening.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dear Mom-Shaming Mom,

I was you once, so I get it. I really do. My five children were well-behaved, cooperative, and I could take them anywhere. Life at home was pretty calm, and everyone pitched in when asked. I was a good parent. In fact, I might have even thought I was a super parent. I had this parenting gig figured out, and I was good at it. My children were the people they were because of me. Now, I would never have actually said this out loud, but I certainly said it to myself.

Frankly, this job of parenting wasn't even all that difficult. We set high standards, we followed through, we were consistent, and we added a heaping dose of love. The whole recipe worked well. If a mother was having difficulty, then surely she was using the wrong recipe. (If you go back and read some of my earlier blog posts, you will see some truly cringe-worthy examples of this thinking. I keep them up to remind me of where I was. It's humbling.) I also wasn't shy about sharing my parenting wisdom gained over the past decade with other, less-informed parents. I hope I wasn't too over-bearing, but I fear I was.

And then we had another child. You know the saying, "The higher you are, the farther you fall"? Well, I certainly learned that the hard way. This new child...

This new child didn't seem to understand how life worked: We made the decisions, he was to follow them. If he did, life was terrific. If he didn't, life wasn't quite so rosy. We were consistent. We were firm. We were careful about not rewarding unwanted behavior. We tried every trick in our parenting book; the book that had served us so well up until now.

It took far too long for me to realize that the script we were following was not going to work. If it were, this child would have been made perfect through our efforts. He was not perfect. But neither were we, his parents, nor the method of parenting we were using. We were one horrible, messed-up, imperfect mess, which for a while I wondered if it could ever be put right.

We did end up putting it right, but it was costly. Costly to my sense of what was right in terms of parenting, and costly to how I viewed my parenting abilities. It was a hard lesson, but one I'm very glad to have had.

Because here's the thing. We parents are not in charge and responsible for how our children turn out quite as much as we like to think we are. Sure, we can influence and set a general course, but we are just a part of puzzle. There are still the innate personality and experiences of the child in question. How those things interact with your parenting decides how life is going to play out. What worked well for one child, may not work at all for another. What works well in one family, may be a total train wreck in another. Even if we think we know what we are doing, we don't actually know what is going to work for that other mom.

Now, about this mom-shaming. I don't get it. Why are we all so insecure that we need to point out to another mom all the things she is doing wrong? How does that make anything better? Well, the answer is, it doesn't. That moment you are commenting on is a small slice of life. You have not seen the before or after. You do not know how life is on any given day. You do not know anything about this mom, really, or about her situation. If a medical practitioner were to offer medical advice with the same lack of information, malpractice suits would come swift and fast.

The chances are good that what you are seeing is a mom having a bad moment. We all have bad moments. Heck, forget moments, I've had bad years. If you cannot empathize with another mom having a bad moment, then I've afraid you will have a rude awakening at some point in the future, because bad moments are a part of life. Hopefully when you are having yours, someone who thinks they have it all together doesn't come along and decide to kick you when you're down.

Let's just all go back to the kindergarten rule of, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." You may think this mom is messing up totally, but do you really need to say it? Is that going to help her? How many times have people been rudely told they are doing something wrong, only to have them look the accuser in the eye, say, "Wow, you're right! I never realized it!" thank them for their concern, and leave a changed and better person? I don't know about you, but I can't picture that happening.

If you see another mom struggling, wouldn't it just be better to think the best of her, give a smile if you can't manage anything else politely, and maybe buy her a coffee? Be her friend? Get to know her? I know that to do this means you might have to realize some of the things you thought were set in stone were not. That can be hard.

Remember one thing. Attacking another person and showing that person all the mistakes they are making does not make you a better person. Don't fool yourself that you come out looking good in any way. You don't.

Be kind and do no harm.

(No, this is not in response to anything anyone said to me. I'm perfectly content with my imperfectness these days, and probably would say all this out loud to whomever it was who thought to educate me. This was in response to something else, but I thought it would make good blog fodder.)
I also have a new article published. When Your Kid Says, "You aren't my real mom!" Click and share as much as you like. Thanks!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The ER trip we missed

On Monday, A. woke up complaining that her eye hurt. Being the kind and caring mother that I am, I told her she probably had something in it and to flush it with some water. She decided to keep her contacts out because it was hurting so much. I thought this was a good idea, since you don't want to scratch your eye by putting in a contact when you have debris in your eye.

Tuesday night, A. woke up with it still hurting, and complained that she got hardly any sleep because her eye was bothering her so much. I decided that this sounded a little bit more severe than merely something in her eye, and suggested she call the eye doctor and see if they could see her. Thankfully, she had already established a relationship with an eye doctor out here because she had needed to get a new prescription for contacts earlier this summer. When she called, they first had no appointments, but when she said there seemed to be something really wrong with her eye, they squeezed her in.

Well, it turns out there was something really wrong with her eye. It turns out she had developed an ulcer on her cornea caused by a bacterial infection. The doctor prescribed some antibiotic eye drops which she was to put in every half an hour for the first three hours, and then every hour following. He wanted to see her the next day. This is when he informed her, that if it wasn't looking better, he was sending her to the ER, because the ulcer would eat her cornea if left unchecked.

I'll pause for a moment while you blink your eyes a lot and possibly squirm a bit. I know that's what I do every time I think about it.

Yesterday, she went back to the eye doctor. I held my breath to see if she would call me and tell me to meet her at the ER. It was a happy mother who heard her pull down the drive after her appointment, instead of hearing my phone ring. The swelling is definitely better, and the doctor thinks it looks better. A. is to continue putting in the eye drops (they hurt, so it won't be fun), and see the doctor again next week.

I know we will be visiting the ER at some point. I even know where it is. But I guess this wasn't to be the visit, thank goodness.

I'm still squirming about the cornea-eating ulcer, though.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I have nothing to write, so was scrolling through the pictures I have on the computer to see if there were any that I hadn't shared, when I came across these. Look how little they are. (That's L. on the left and G. on the right.) And I loved those dresses, too. I can say that even if I made them, right? This was taken at church on Christmas Eve. It was probably before the Christmas Eve pageant. Sigh.

Monday, October 09, 2017

So this happened today

That would be Y., riding a two-wheeled bike without training wheels. This is the child who could not ride a bike last year, even with training wheels, because she could not control how far her feet turned in, and they would catch on the frame and in the chain. She has worked and worked and worked. I have rarely met someone as tenacious as this child. I am so very proud of her, and find this to be absolutely astonishing.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Dinner in Mexico

Part of our around the world trip involves food. That means that we'll have one dinner based on the food of the country we're studying. Since we are currently in Mexico, we had Mexican food tonight. As I was planning I realized this would not make tonight's dinner any more special than any other night when we have Mexican food. (I grew up in Arizona. I make a lot of Mexican food.) So I wanted to find other options from our usual taco, tostada, rice, bean, enchilada, albondiga soup, mole meals. When I was doing all my initial research, I came across a book series written for children about cooking foods from different countries. They looked interesting and possibly good resources, as they contained foods out of the typical range. A cookbook is only as good as its recipes, though, and so I was reserving judgement until I had actually made a recipe from one of them.

When I flipped through The Cooking of Mexico by Matthew Locricchio, there were the standard recipes you would expect to find, but there were also a couple of different ones. Since most of my people love shrimp, I decided to treat them to camarones al pipian, otherwise known as shrimp in pumpkin seed sauce. It went together pretty easily, but more importantly, nearly everyone loved it and ate it up. I served some yellow rice along side as well as some fresh corn tortillas that my new favorite grocery store makes in-house.

But we needed something else to go along with the shrimp. One of the folk/fairy tales we will be reading this coming week is Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition adapted by Jewell Reinhart Coburn. In the story, Domitila makes nopales, otherwise known as prickly pear cactus... they are the pads, not the fruit of the cactus. Now, I grew up surrounded by prickly pear cactus, and had eaten jelly made from the fruit, but had never eaten the pads, so I was intrigued. While my grocery store does carry fresh nopales, I decided to go the easier way and by the already prepared jarred version. I turned them into a salad with onion, chiles, red peppers, and tomatoes, with some avocado and queso fresco on top, with some lime juice squeezed over all. It looked good, but I had no idea if the masses would like it. They did. In fact, there was very little left. I chose to make a sauteed version tonight, but more common it seems is to leave all the vegetables raw. It would be a great summer salad, and will definitely be added into our meal menus.

(Picture complement of TM)

We haven't read the Cinderella story yet; that comes next week. But when we do, everyone will have a very good idea of what food the story is talking about. I always go back and forth as to what the best order is for something like this. Is it better to read about it first, and then experience it, or vice versa? In this case, we've done the experience first.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday bullets, Oct. 5, 2017

It's Friday and I actually realize it.

  • A.'s car, which was pretty old and cheap when she bought it, is now undriveable. The list of what is wrong with it is so long that the mechanic said she would be better off buying a new one. Or at least buying a less old one. Since the wheels are capable of coming off is she hits a pot hole of any kind, it is now parked. This means that the car situation here is pretty dire. We have spent the week driving and shuttling cars and vehicles between the three drivers who need the two cars. Anyone have a cheap, yet driveable car that A. could buy? 
  • This urban girl has been fascinated by watching the farm fields around her new house. I've certainly driven by lots of corn and soy bean fields in summer when they are all green and growing. What I didn't realize is how dried everything gets in the fields before it is harvested. I also didn't realize how yellow the soy beans become before they dry. What I think I love most, though, is watching all the birds enjoying the fields after the harvesting is done.
  • There has been much cooking at lunch by the younger people. L. in particular has been enjoying cutting up vegetables and cooking them in some oil in the frying pan. (She has been doing this all by herself.) Today she decided to become even more adventurous and added a cracked egg on top. As a result of her cooking endeavors, she spent the rest of the afternoon writing a cookbook for me. The recipes (and spelling) are all her own creation. The peanut butter 'cac' [cake] recipe will give you a sense of what she has come up with. Pretty much, you take some peanut butter and spread it on a tortilla. That's it.
  • Since we have been learning about Mexico, everyone now wants to go and visit Chichen Itza in person. 
  • Olive is now as tall as Kenzie. She is 18 weeks old.
  • We will be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival tonight with some new friends who also have children from China. It was actually last Wednesday, but Wednesdays have become a little nutty around here, so we pushed it back to a more relaxed day. I'm making a chicken, lemon grass, and potato curry (it's Vietnamese), sauteing some lotus root, and steaming some dumplings. There's, of course, a couple boxes filled with moon cakes as well. I do admit to buying lanterns this year. Making them seemed a bit too much.
  • The process of finding new doctors continues. Y. now has an appointment with a pediatric orthopedist in a couple of weeks. In the meantime she is off the hook for wearing her AFO's, and is not missing them. 
  • The past week has been crazy. I have only managed to get into my studio once. This does not make me happy. I'm not entirely sure why this week has been different from past weeks, but I haven't enjoyed it.
  • It was K.'s turn to pick the bedtime song last night. He looks at me and says, "Can you sing the Imperial March (from Star Wars)?" Um, no, I couldn't if you were curious.
  • For the last three or four days, K., Y., G., and L. have had a long and involved game going on in the toy loft which revolves around the massive block city which they built. They have all spent hours playing this. When I occasionally listen in, it is like listening to a soap opera. The drama that befalls all the people and animals who inhabit this city. It's quite something. Here are some pictures of the city that has kept them all busy for hours on end.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Learned mindlessness

One of the things we're doing for our trip around the world, is to draw the flag of each country we are visiting in our journals. This seemed like the perfect activity to leave the younger children doing while I ran to pick P. up from her college class. (We are still working on getting her a driver's license, and I cannot wait!) I try to encourage R. to do as much as she can with everyone else, though sometimes it is admittedly difficult to find an appropriate version of the activity that she can do. The flag-thing seemed like a perfect thing, though. I drew the flag, I colored the outline of each third with the correct color, and her job was to fill in each rectangle. Everyone else was happily drawing their flags, and were even making game attempts at drawing the eagle sitting on a cactus, holding a snake which appears in the center of the Mexcian flag.

I retrieve P. and arrive back home. Everyone is happily showing me their flags, which they had done a great job on. R. then shows me hers. I'll show you a picture, but just look at the top flag for right now.

Now, I work with this child every single day. I know without any doubt what she is capable of. She is more than capable of matching colors; she actually does it quite easily, though just don't ask her to name any of them. She is also capable of careful coloring. So this top flag? Really it's not even close to her best work, or even mediocre work. It is thoughtless work. The result of years and years and years of being trained to be thoughtless, because everyone assumed she couldn't do more. Poor, poor dear, let's pat you on the head and send you on your way.

We don't do much of the poor, poor dear-thing around here. Actually we don't do it at all. We acknowledge that it can kind of stink when our bodies or our brains do not cooperate with us the way we would like, and then we try to figure out how to help our children live a full life anyway. This continues to be new information for R... the fact that we don't feel pity for her, or let that get in the way of our expectations of her.

I pointed out to her that she didn't quite follow my instructions, and that she could do a much better job. She was not happy with me at all when I drew a second flag and again traced the outline of each color. I didn't help her at all, other than to repeat the same instructions I had given her the first time, but I was sitting there and keeping an eye on things. Because she knew I was watching, she decided to pay attention, and the second flag is the result. And yes, I praised her heartily for her much more thoughtful work. (Ignore the eagle in the middle. That is my quick sketch so that her flag would have all its components. I'm pretty sure some of the other people drew much better eagles.)

Many days it feels like building a sky scraper. Before you can even start to build the actual building, you have to lay the foundation. And before you can lay the foundation, you first have to clear everything that is not needed in the actual construction out of the way. I feel as though was have spent the past year and a half, carting out the rubble that is in her head. Just when we think we have got it all, we find another little pile here or there that needs to be dealt with. Figuring out the seizures and working on weaning off medicine is part of that demolition work. Then we can begin to start over with a strong foundation, and in the end have a strong and stable building.

Learning that she can and should pay attention to what she is doing, how her body moves, what her hands are grabbing, where her feet are walking, what her brain is (or isn't) thinking, is the beginning. And slowly, oh so slowly, maybe we will start to see the real child emerge.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mail you don't want

I find that ones attitude towards collecting mail is a deciding factor in whether you are a natural optimist or a natural pessimist. I am a mail optimist. I love the anticipation of walking to the mailbox and wondering what is going to be inside. Will there be an actual letter? or a magazine? or maybe a large check? Even though I can count on one hand the times a large check has unexpectedly appeared in my mailbox, every trip to the mailbox finds me wondering if such a check will be there. I am actually disappointed by just junk mail, even if that mail contains no bills. A really terrific mail delivery is one that contains no bills and something else exciting.

I enjoy walking down the drive to go and collect the mail, particularly if the weather is fine. I don't even like to wait to get back to the house to look and see what is there, but leaf through it right by the side of the road. On this particular day earlier this week, though, I didn't need to walk out the mailbox. The mail carrier came right up to the house because I had to sign for a certified letter. I signed and brought the mail into the house. The letter I signed for was from the Kane County Treasurer. It had the look of a tax bill about it, and since I had been expecting a tax bill wasn't worried. I was pretty impressed that the county cared so much about tax payers getting their bills that they sent them certified. This would be quite a change from Cook County, who couldn't even get them mailed through the regular mail on any predictable schedule.

It was with very little concern then, that I opened the letter. This lasted for all of two seconds, because the first words I read were, "Impending tax sale." My first overly optimistic thought was that they got the address wrong and this letter was delivered to the wrong address. No, there were mine and J.'s names and our address listed at the top. The letter further informed us that unless we paid the taxes which were overdue, the property would go up for sale to pay for the back taxes at the end of the month.

This was not good.

Taking my own advice to decide not to panic first, I thought about what I could do. It did seem as though there must be some mistake, and shouldn't all of this been taken care of at the closing? The closing... we used a lawyer at the closing... he gave us his card... where was that card... ? I knew where I would put it now, but is that where I would put it in the chaos of unpacking? Who knows? I went to look, and lo and behold, something in my brain must have been functioning, because there it was.

I called the office and spoke to the lawyer's paralegal. (I'm convinced that knowing an attorney's paralegal is on a par with knowing a doctor's nurse. It can make things so much quicker and more helpful.) She looked up everything from the closing and was able to solve the mystery. We were given a credit for the amount of taxes at closing. This I knew. What we were not given by the sellers was a copy of the tax bill which was due a week after we closed. Without that little piece of paper, we had no way of knowing when or how to pay the taxes. This would explain why the expected tax bill never showed up in the mail. I was also able to discover from our conversation how the property taxes in our new county work. Bills are always sent out at the same time, and each installment is always due at the same time each year. How novel! One can actually make a budget and work with this system. Someone should let Cook County in on this little secret of advance planning.

This afternoon I drove over and paid the taxes and got a receipt to prove I did so. No tax sale will be happening here at the end of the month. It would really have been an extraordinary amount of bother to have to pack everything up again.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Packed and ready to go...

around the world.

Today we put together our travel journals and passports in anticipation of our around the world trip this school year.

I found these blank passport books at a homeschooling convention a while back, and have been holding on to them for just the right project. I got out one of our real passports so everyone could see what it looked like. We looked at the personal information page and the visas and the entry and departure stamps. This was one of those glorious homeschool moments where you pull out the project that you have so carefully prepared, and everyone is genuinely excited. They were thrilled to have their own passports to travel to each country, and happily wrote everything I asked them to. We even took passport photos against a white wall. I'll pick them up from the drugstore tomorrow and we will add them in.

Then we made our travel journals. We talked about how in earlier years of around the world travel, suitcases would be covered by the stickers of the various countries and hotels and shipping lines. I had found some reproduction travel stickers, so we got their 'bags' ready to go, and decorated them with the stickers.

These are actually blank, hardcover books in which we will put information about each country... flag, map, narrations of what we learned, etc.

And to top it off, I ordered a custom made stamp for immigration.

You can't read it, because it's backwards and too hard to read. It says, "Passport Control" on top, and "Immigration" on the bottom. There is space in between for me to write the country and entry and exit dates.

Everyone is excited. We head to Mexico tomorrow. Actually, what everyone wanted to know at dinner tonight was when we get to start eating food from the countries we're visiting. Some children seemed to be under the impression that we would eat that country's food for a whole week, and were a little disappointed that I was doing just one dinner. And that pretty much sums up life around here most days... everyone's biggest concerns are: 1. Making things, and 2. Eating things. If these two things happen simultaneously, then life is very good indeed.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Junk hauling, take 2

Right after we closed on this house, we had to have a junk hauler come in because the previous owners had left so much stuff behind. Two large trucks worth of stuff. Even as we were collecting it all, we knew we weren't going to be able to get every last bit of it. We managed to get the stuff from the house and the two outdoor sheds hauled away, but there was still a ton of old lumber and metal and who knows what that had been piled up under various bushes and trees around the property. As summer went on, we had to leave the grass growing around these piles, because there was no way the mower could go over them. It made an odd patchy look to the yard.

As I mentioned on Saturday, M. had spent some time out here to gut the trailer, in preparation for completely rehabbing it. The entailed creating quite a pile of debris, as M. and various siblings tore everything out down to the studs. The solution was to hire our junk hauler to come and collect the pile. Since it was such a nice weekend, it also seemed the perfect time to finally do away with the rest of the junk we inherited, and split the cost of the junk truck.

Here's what will be disappearing later on today.

This pile is mainly from the demo on the trailer.

But, all this wood, and...

most of what you see here, we pulled out from under trees and bushes. Yes, that is approximately 10 sheets of rotting plywood. There were also large plastic hoses, odd shaped metal pieces, and other useless garbage.

It felt so good to finally collect it and know that it is going away. Another item checked off the list as we work toward actually putting things in and not just throwing things away.

In that vein, you want to see my new barn? Well, at least where my new barn is going to be? We also spent some time measuring and marking so we could see what the footprint will actually look like and to live with it a bit.

See it? Look for the orange cone. I'll get closer.

That's a little better. The larger orange cones are the corners.

Here we're looking straight at it, and those smaller cones you see mark the center aisle of the barn.

Then there'll be one pasture here on the north side of the barn,

and another pasture (and dry lot) here on the south side.

Since it was a nice day, Q. got to come outside for a bit.

This cage works great for him, since we can just lift off the top, and put it down on the grass somewhere.

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