Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Quail tractor

Some of you may be aware that a chicken tractor is a movable outdoor coop for chickens. Yesterday, B. whipped up a quail tractor for Q. B. also is thinking that Q. is going to turn out to be a girl, since we aren't seeing the black and white markings on her face which would indicate she was a boy.

We had a great day yesterday, visiting with lots of friends. J. and I also got the garage sorted out and packed up. I'm afraid his weekends from here until the move are booked with fun activities such as this, working on areas of the house where I just don't know what needs to go and what can stay. We keep telling ourselves that at least it's not winter.

I'm also having some significant internet issues. Sometimes it works (such as at this moment), but more often than not, it doesn't. Our motivation for calling AT&T and getting it fixed (again) for just three more weeks is very low. So, if I don't post or return a message or email, it is probably because I can't. You may have to resort to the phone. It's a good thing I'm taking a month or so off from my freelance writing job. Turning in articles has been tricky.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Digging Out, Part 2

(If you missed the first part, head to Part 1, first.)

Are you ready to move on? Is your kitchen cleaned-up? Have you been continuing to put in that load of laundry? (Yes, I know the clean laundry is starting to pile up.) How are you feeling about your relationship with your children? Have you been smiling at them more? If you can feel pretty good about your answers to those questions, then it's time to move on.

Step 1: Let's tackle all that laundry next. A few notes on logistics, for at least how laundry works around here. My older people do their own laundry, so I just do H.'s on down. For those who can fold and put away their own clothes, I pile the clean laundry into baskets and let them deal with it. I fold everything else, though I only put away my own clothes and sheets and towels and things. Even those who have a bit of trouble with folding can put away their own laundry. Think about how your laundry system is or isn't working and delegate where needed. My main goal in finding a laundry system that works is one where I am not constantly confronted by piles of laundry and I have clean underwear. It's best to have manageable expectations.

But you do have piles of laundry at the moment, I imagine. So, get all the clean stuff together in one place, where you usually fold. Put on some music or something to listen to (sometimes I listen to radio shows or foreign language CD's while I do this) and get started. I find it easiest to fold where I have enough room to make piles of the various clean laundry. Just assume this is going to take you an hour or so and get it done... then put it right away. When I'm at the top of my game, I will do one load of laundry a day, and get it folded and put away before bedtime. Folding one load of laundry takes all of ten minutes. It's really not that much time, and far better than an hour plus when it gets behind. Remember that the next time you're tempted to push that laundry basket to the side for tomorrow. For the future, figure out when that ten minutes fits best in your day and plan your actual doing of the laundry around that. If it's right after lunch, then plan to have a load ready to fold by then. Plan for the folding and putting away first and the whole thing becomes that much easier.

Step 2: The two worst areas for getting behind in are usually the kitchen and laundry. They are daily chores which are easy to put off. It takes a little bit of self-control to tackle them each day, but if you feel as though you have them under control, then it is that much easier to remind yourself how good it feels to keep them under control. How you feel about your home has a lot to do with your willingness to keep it under control. How we feel often is directly related to how rested we are. I don't know about you, but sometimes when life gets too chaotic my bedroom ceases to become a restful room. It gets piled with stuff.... laundry, out-grown clothes, things that don't seem to have any other home, children's possessions which got left there, and just general junk. I don't know why this is, but it is. To see those piles right before you go to sleep and to see them the first thing upon waking is not soothing or restful or enjoyable. For me at least, it fills me with immediate stress. So instead of doing any other public room in your house, I would suggest you work on your bedroom next. You are doing this for you, so you have some where to retreat to that is peaceful and not a reminder of all that you have to do. Everyone needs a place where they can breath.

Depending on the state of your bedroom, this could be a big task. It might take you several days or more. The first step is to take everything out that is not essential. Leave bed, dressers, seating... those things you need in a bedroom. Everything else? Take it out. Pile it in your living room if you need to, just get it out of your bedroom. In order to really do this, you need to start with a blank slate. Trust me. Once you have emptied the room, it's time to clean (which is going to be much easier and faster than it would be otherwise.) Dust, vacuum, wash the windows, change the sheets. If you have curtains and they seem too dusty, do something about them as well.

Now you should have a clean room with just the big essentials. Leave it for a day. See what if feels like to go to sleep in that room. What do you enjoy about it? What do you miss? This will help you figure out what needs to go back in. Clean each item before you put it back in, and really think about what the item adds. Some things we just need whether we love them or not, some things we have in our bedrooms because we genuinely love them, and some things we have just because they ended up there and we never made a conscious decision about them. Be choosy about what goes back in; make it an actual decision that you thought about. And please, don't put something back because not putting it back makes you feel guilty. That's just your stuff robbing you of a little bit of piece. Stuff has no feelings. It's a misuse of imagination to think that any THING has any sort of power over you. Guilt is usually sign you don't like it, but only keep it because of it's connection to some person or event. Take a picture of it if you have to, but give yourself the gift of not being beholden to a thing.

Some of the things you have, you may find make more sense in another room. Some things you may realize that you just don't need. And often we just have too much. Remember how good that empty room felt? Think about that before deciding that more is better. If you just can't let something go, or don't know what to do with something, put it in a box. Put the box somewhere out of the way. Put a date on the box. Later, when we do the room you stashed the box in, you'll have a chance to revisit those items. Sometimes when we are doing a major cleaning the emotional fatigue that goes along with making decisions about what we own becomes overwhelming and we just can't think about it anymore. By putting some things away when you reach that wall, you give yourself a break. You haven't gotten rid of it, you've just moved it out of your line of sight for a while. That's OK. I do this often and I find it clarifying when I come back to that item.

This is where I'll stop for this section. I want to give you time to do this next step. Give yourself the gift of a peaceful place to rest. Just be sure to keep up on the areas where you've already gained control. That foothold amidst the chaos combined with a place to really rest will empower you to move on to the next stage of the digging out process.

(To continue reading, head to Part 3)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Bullets, May 26, 2017

It's sounds as though the lawyers have finally come to a verbal agreement, the papers were all sent over, and now we just wait for a signature and earnest money. It all seems too good to be true, huh? Perhaps I'll make that flooring down payment yet.
  • I've been packing, but the younger people are having more fun. We are currently reading Swallows and Amazons for tea time, and as I expected, it has captured their imagination. Here is Y. with the firewood they have collected for their camp, and L. just walked in to ask if they could use the tarp in the garage to make a tent. If you haven't read these books with your children, you really, really should. 

  • My friend the H-S Family mom has been helping me to figure out how to reconfigure the kitchen in the new house to make it large family friendly. I really love the new plan, but of course, I'm concerned about cost. If I can find things like appliances and cabinets and such at used prices, we might be able to make it work. This is why I was wandering around a Habitat for Humanity ReStore yesterday. I was hoping to find workable cabinets. No luck there, but I did find a sink. Look... cast iron, big, single bowl... just what I was hoping for. $100! You really cannot beat that, especially since it looks as though it is brand new. We now have a very heavy sink decorating our front hall, along with a bunch of other stuff. We passed 'decorated' weeks ago. (And if anyone local is perhaps gutting their kitchen and is replacing their cabinets, let me know. I just might want them.)

  • I've spent the past several days packing up the school room. Other than the kitchen, this is the area that had the most stuff, plus it still needed sorting through. I'm almost done. See my empty shelves?

Here is what I'm giving away.

And here is what a fully stocked schoolroom looks when it is all in boxes. I will admit the amounts makes me a wee bit nervous for putting away on the other end.

  • Q. continues to grow. He is now losing his baby head feathers, so is looking more scraggly. I tried to get a picture, but he moves really fast and does not pose.

Here is a close-up of his back so you can see what his adult feathers look like.

  • Can anyone tell me how it got to be the end of May?
  • Our tea kettle of 26 years finally gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago, after nearly daily use. I broke down and bought an electric tea kettle, because everyone I know raves about them. I have to say, I am completely sold. It heats water so amazingly fast. Why did I not make the switch years ago?
  • R. is currently sleeping off a seizure she had this morning. It is the first we've seen in a long time. I'm more than convinced that her seizures are anxiety related, and the move is certainly causing her anxiety. Even worse, it is anxiety that she cannot process, and thus it has to come out in another form Seizures. Ugh
  • My endless posts about moving, are not exactly riveting reading, it seems. (I actually didn't think they were to begin with.) My stats are truly pathetic these days. So, thank you to those of you bearing with me through this move. I am really looking forward to the day when I have something to write about that is of more interest to me and to you. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Digging Out, Part 1

There was an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things that he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn't because of the state he was in.
     -- A. A. Milne

I often feel like the old sailor in this poem, being surrounded by lists and piles of things to do, wanting to tackle it all, but sometimes sitting down and doing nothing because it all feels so overwhelming. Usually this comes after a particularly stressful or busy time of life, when either things have gotten out of control because of too little time or because of too little emotional margin. I know for a fact that I am not alone in these feelings of despair and helplessness because of the state the house has become. The chaos in the house is often compounded by the corresponding state of family affairs which often seem to mirror the environment one is living in. It can be frustrating and upsetting to find oneself in this position.

Since I have had the experience of digging out from under chaos and putting the house and family back to rights, I thought I would share some of my tactics in case anyone else is currently finding themselves in the same position. Don't worry, there's no extremes, a la Marie Kondo here, just practical advice to get you from being the old sailor to feeling as though you might have a chance to get a handle on things.

I will do it in steps, but you will need to decide how long to take to do each step. But here is the key, once you have completed the step, it becomes part of your daily routine. Maintenance always takes far less time than having to dig out once again. Remember how not fun it was the time before if you need a little incentive to do the maintenance tasks.

Step 1: Get a garbage bag and go around your house and just throw away all the garbage you've been walking by, stepping over, ignoring, or inwardly swearing at the for the past couple of weeks. It's OK, I live with gerbil children, too. I know that sometimes actually picking up the scrap of paper is more than you can handle sometimes. But now you're going to go blitz through the house and throw it all away. Don't worry about doing anything else, just pick-up the scraps of paper and other garbage that happens and move on. (I, personally, include small Legos in this category. I have a standing rule that is well known around the house that if I have to pick-up a random Lego, I will throw it away. If you choose to do this, it is probably a good idea to give some advance warning.)

Step 2: Throw in a load of laundry. Don't worry about gathering it all, just throw in what's immediately available and get it going. Don't worry about all the laundry you have that needs to be folded or sorted or whatever, but the key here is to keep the laundry train in motion. You'd much rather have children digging through clean clothes for a pair of underwear rather than the dirty ones, right? Keep doing a load a day, to get the piles of dirty laundry gone. (If you have a large family, up that to two loads a day.) Let the folding pile up. Really. You just want it clean.

Step 3: Clean your kitchen. (At this step, I suggest planning a very easy dinner for afterward, or treating yourself with some take-out. It will give you more time to do the cleaning and won't cause an immediate mess after all your work.) If you are anything like me, the kitchen is a great indicator of the state of my emotional well-being. A clean kitchen usually means I'm functioning pretty well, a vaguely mess one means life has become a little hectic, and disaster usually means I've used up all of my emotional margin and people should be happy if any sort of food appeared that day, and please don't ask for anything else, because I should probably go to bed.

I promise you, if you can get a handle on your kitchen, it will make you feel so much better. Put the food away. Get those dishes done. Yes, even the ones that have been sitting in the corner of the counter that you have been pretending are not there. Do them all. Once you've done the dishes, work on your counters. Put away anything that doesn't belong there. Throw away stuff that no one know what to do with. The less stuff you have living on the counters, the easier it is going to be to keep it clean and organized. Wipe the counters down. Move onto the stove. Clean it. Sweep the floor. Take out the garbage.

There. Doesn't that feel good? It now looks as though it is somewhere you would like to be rather than somewhere to be avoided at all costs. Now you've done the hard work, and depending on how bad it was, it was a good several hours of labor. Your goal for these next steps is to do the kitchen after each meal and before you tackle the other areas. It won't take that long, I promise. Don't believe me? Get a timer and find out exactly how long it takes you to deal with a kitchen that was clean prior to the meal and only has one meal's worth of mess in it. Unless it was a multi-course dinner on china and crystal, it just doesn't take that long.

Step 4: Spend some time with your children. This may sound a little crazy, but hear me out. If any of you are like me, when I am just barely functioning, for whatever reason, one of the first things to go (along with the kitchen) is how I am relating to my children. Being the fun, communicative mom just goes by the wayside. As a result, the children become as stressed as their mother, and we all fall off the cliff of being generally unpleasant and grouchy together. What fun. Not.

I've heard so many times, that when a home gets into disarray that the parent is also having issues with pleasantness and cooperativeness with the children as well. "They don't pick-up anything!" is a common refrain. No, of course they haven't, because wanting to help and pitch-in is a relational task. When the mom is not relating well with the children, there is little connection. This usually means that the children are doing the best that they can as well, because mom is feeling a little distant and that's scary. Fear in children can often come out sideways in anger or sadness or just general unpleasantness. You'll notice that I have not suggested that you ask your children to help in those first steps. There's not much point yet. Before you can ask that, you first need to rebuild your relationship. You all have to spend some time getting on the same team first. Then, once you have done some relationship repairs, as long as everyone is pitching in together, the odds of cooperativeness happening significantly increase. Your children are not your servants, but sometimes it's easy to act as though they are.

So, go do something together. Get outside. Play a game. Read some books. Do whatever you know will fill the need for security and love in your children. Remind them that yes, indeed, you can be a fun mom, and not one that is just grouching about messes all the time. If anything shows us how damaging too much stuff can be, this should be it. Are you spending more of your day kvetching about putting stuff away and cleaning and 'why do we live in this mess?!' than you do having positive conversations and interactions with your children? If you answered yes, then take it as a wake-up call that your stuff is hurting your family. I cannot tell you what or how much you need to get rid of, but I humbly suggest that you do. Our stuff should be a tool for our families, so that we can spend more time together. If you are spending more time thinking about your stuff (putting it away, cleaning it, etc.) then something has gone wrong. No thing is worth spending more time with than a family member.

This is a good stopping point for now. Keep the garbage thrown away. Keep the kitchen clean, Keep the laundry going through the machines, and spend time with your children. Those are the first steps. On Saturday, I'll come back and have the next group. It might not hurt to take a timer and begin noticing a few things. How much time are you currently thinking about cleaning up, actually cleaning up, and telling people to clean up. How long exactly does it take to put something that was already pretty organized back to rights? How long do you spend interacting with your children and spouse in a day? (And that would be really interacting, not while glancing between the child and the computer or anything else that involves a screen. It only counts if you are making eye contact.)

And finally, don't feel bad if this is you. It has certainly been me at various points. Entropy is something we are all constantly fighting against. The trick is to stop the slide and know how to dig out and put things to rights again.

(To continue reading the series, head to Part 2; Part 3)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It seems like it might be hope

The title of this post is from one of my favorite songs by Sara Groves, It Might Be Hope. There have definitely been moments in this parenting journey when the lines from this song do run through my head. In the past day or two they are there again, this time in regards to R. 

I have been pretty open about how challenging this child is. I'm realizing that the biggest challenge is not from her delays or her seizures (which were pretty bad at first) or even her indiscriminate affection. No, the biggest challenge has been how stuck she has seemed in where she was. With H., we saw right away a child fighting to get out. She was at least aware of when others were doing something and she wasn't, and she would at least try. With R., we seem to have a child who has become so comfortable in her extremely narrow little comfort zone, that for whatever reason (probably fear... all fear) she cannot tolerate being out of it. I have never seen a child who can sit for three to four hours a day doing the same repetitive task over and over. (That's when I'm either too distracted or didn't catch it. We don't let her do this regularly, it is so unhealthy.) Her lack of desire to expand her world; her seemingly obliviousness to what else is going on around her and that she might take part has been the most difficult. How do you create even the most cursory amount of curiosity in a child? I'm not sure I know, but that doesn't stop me from trying different things.

Felt safety, a push (or two or one hundred) out of her comfort zone, continuing to try to increase her English language ability, and work on her use of her body have been what we have been doing. For a very long time it has felt as though I don't have enough years left in my life to see genuine progress based on her past rate of glacial progress. (Actually glaciers might move faster.) 

But we have seen glimmers of hope...

One of the things we have been really pushing is for her to go back to being right-handed. Based on her pretty amazing chopstick skills, I'm quite sure that her right hand was her dominate hand before her brain surgery. Then, as a result of the surgery, she switched to her left hand and her right had a tendency to hang in a way that reminded me of a stroke victim. The right hand, though wasn't being held by spastic or hypotonic muscles, it had just become a habit brought on by the surgery. (I'm guessing here, but I think I'm correct.) When asked to relax her arm and hand and hold them straight, she can. So like a stroke victim, we have been insisting that she use that hand, mainly to facilitate the connections in the left half of her brain which were compromised by the surgery. It takes a lot of reminding.

Well, the other night when I was tucking R. into bed, I noticed a funny thing. She had her right hand in front of her face and was opening and closing it and tracking its movements with her eyes. If you have ever watched a baby when she first discovers her hands, this looked remarkably similar. Could it be that R.'s brain is finally realizing that she has another hand? I don't know, but this is certainly worth noting.

Next, we have been working on basic body movements, such as a tall kneel. Now, a year ago, getting R. to do a tall kneel took two people, a lot of encouragement (from us), and a whole lot of screeching (from her). We weren't hurting her, just asking her to do something outside her comfort zone; her comfort zone being sitting, standing, lying down, and 'W' sitting. (Don't worry, we nixed the 'W' sit immediately and she never does it now.) But anything outside those things didn't happen. No lying on the floor trying to do different things with her body such as every other child in my house did. The high kneel felt so odd to her that it was terrifying. She couldn't balance or hold it by herself and needed support. She just didn't know how to use her muscles to do such a thing. By contrast, Y., who has a genuine reason to not be able to do a tall kneed (and it was actually a PT goal), worked relentlessly on it and conquered it by the end of that PT cycle. (Ah, the competition is strong in that one.) We didn't do it everyday, but we kept on. 

The other night, when all the younger people were trying to outdo each other in the physical fitness department, R. noticed! She wanted to join in. (Do you have any idea how huge this is?) She got down on the floor and started doing a high kneel. It was a rather, um, interesting high kneel, but she voluntarily did it. Over the past couple of days, I have gotten her to do a more traditional looking one. She still doesn't like it, and complains at how it feels, but she has been doing it on her own. After she complains, she will look at me and inform me that she didn't have to do this in China. 

Finally, she has drawn her first recognizable object with no outside help. Here, look.

There are still a lot of unrecognizable squiggles, which are very typical of her normal drawing, but look there in the center and the left. Can you tell what those are? They are trees! When we asked her what she drew, and she said trees, we didn't have to ask which squiggles were the trees. We could tell!

These are our glimmers to the child within. A child so locked-up by past trauma that it is terrifying to come out. (I just want to be clear. The trauma was from her time in the orphanage, before she arrived at her foster home. Her foster home loved her and put her on the path towards healing.) If you can't understand how a child could become such a shell, then you need to read the description of what life is like for a child in an orphanage. My real-life friend has several older girls who were adopted. They are all very articulate and are able to share what their previous life is like. The are, in my opinion, the best advocates for adoption. Read what they have to say. Yes, life can be challenging helping a child heal. But is there a better way to spend your time and your life?

Adoption Questions, Part 3

Seriously, take the time to click on the link and read.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

See how Q. grows

Q. is getting bigger and bigger. He can flutter about with his wings, likes to be held and petted, and particularly likes to walk around on the kitchen table. His adult wings are continuing to grow in on his body, though the down under his wings is not starting to be replaced with real feathers and he looks a little scruffy. Today we also noticed that his head is starting to lose its chick fluffiness. Once the adult feathers all grow in we will be able to tell if Q. is a boy or a girl. Boy bobwhite quail have white patches of feathers on their face. 

You get quail pictures because that involves no thought. STILL no earnest money. I need to pay the down payment on the carpet and flooring so it can be ordered, but it is a lot of money. It is a particularly large sum of money if you are still feeling uneasy about your buyers. I'm just not sure I can pay the down payment with this much uncertainty. Of course, this also means that they cannot order the carpet and flooring. It also makes me a little nervous that we will lose our spot on the calendar to install it during the week the furniture is in storage. I vacillate between extreme stress to extreme anger to extreme despair. It's an exhausting way to live. Why, or why can't people just be nice and do what they say they are going to do?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday move update, May 22, 2017

All this blogging about moving is sure to get worse before it gets better. I have nothing else inside my head. Please accept my apologizes in advance, with a promise to try to venture into other topics soon. Maybe when the earnest money appears. (It's still not there. Really. How could I make this up? It's like living in a bad novel at this point.)

Instead, I continue to spend money (or promise to spend money) that we don't really have yet. Today it was to finalize the carpet and flooring in the new house. We're all set to go, once we have possession. I will probably more than a little neurotic about the carpeting and what is and is not allowed on it for quite a while. Sticker shock is a real thing... and I think we've even got a pretty good deal.

Why do I have such trouble justifying the expense of the flooring? I'm really having trouble not feeling as though I'm spending money frivolously. I guess I've lived with questionable flooring surfaces for so long that paying for something I actually like feels wasteful. I am also quite sure that at this point in time, I'm not actually a completely sane person, so that could play into it as well. Does anyone else have trouble like this?

I also realized that on Saturday it was one month before the moving vans arrive. Yes, I panicked. There is still a lot to pack. Up to this point, the move have been so far out that it has been a bit hypothetical, but less than a month makes it seem far more real. That, and starting to say good-by to people. There have been a few moments where the realization that this is really happening has hit me, and it feels a bit shocking.

Because there is nothing else but moving in my brain, I asked the family if they would mind skipping dinner for the next month or so. Surprisingly they did not all jump on the band wagon. I suppose this means that I still have to cook and go grocery shopping as well as fix what is vaguely passing as dinner these days.

If this is all a bit too repetitive and rambling for you, then go and check out my latest article, which is not about moving. Changing a Child's Name After Adoption

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday bullets, May 19, 2017

This is much later in the day than I normally write, but I've been home about 1 1/2 hours today. I'm pooped.

  • One of the day's activities was to go to a local, large appliance store with three friends. Three of the four of us are contemplating differing degrees of kitchen remodeling in the near future, so we went just to scope out the appliances together. And have lunch. And spend time with each other, which we very rarely get to do.
  • About that scoping out... well, I bought a refrigerator. The one in our new house is not as big as we are used to, nor will there be room for the second refrigerator that we also have here. I was a bit concerned about how we were going to make this work. Well, we saw a floor model on sale that was big enough on the inside so that it just might work. So I bought it. It's being delivered at the end of the month and will just have to sit in the garage. I also have to call the moving company to warn them we are adding a refrigerator to the moving total. It was really a good deal....
  • I have now sorted and repacked all the boxes which were packed months ago. The pile of things to go on the truck is about a quarter smaller, which is a good thing. And now that I'm done moving backwards, I can start packing in earnest.
  • D. did a fantastic job in Fiddler on the Roof last weekend. I was very proud of him. He is really not a little boy anymore, and his acting really shows that. While I thought he was good last spring in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he has significantly matured in his acting over the year and it really showed.
  • Living with actors has taught me to expect this, but the post-show slump is not my favorite part of the whole process.
  • Did I mention that J. bought a functioning car earlier this week? He did! Now he doesn't have to stop several times during the commute to put coolant in. The crazy thing, and somewhat telling about our lives at this point in time, I have yet to actually see it. He parks it in the garage in back, and the hours that he is home are not exactly the hours I'm going to head out to the garage to look at a car. Maybe I'll see it this weekend.
  • I only have four more weeks with my current piano students. This makes me more than a little sad, as I am used to watching them grow up and mature. It seems a bit wrong to leave mid-stream.
  • This evening we went down to the Field Museum Member's Night, where they pretty much throw open the museum to members, even the parts that aren't normally open. It is one of our favorite museum things to do. We spent most of our time this year down in the second lower level, two floors below the ground level which is as far as we can usually go. We saw all sorts of specimens. We got to touch a skunk pelt (very soft... who knew?), see an angler fish (much smaller than I imagined), look at a hippo skull (much larger than I imagined), and learn about the Golden Mole, which is neither golden nor a mole, has no eyes or ears, and pretty much lives below ground all its life. It's kind of like a burrowing tube of fur. It's pretty hard to go wrong with an evening like that. The best part? Even though it was late and we'd been standing for quite some time, everyone held it together and we all had a lovely evening. (If you know G. and L. personally, you have a good idea of how extraordinary this is.)
  • J. may have to sleep for a month once this whole moving thing is done. He ends each week more exhausted than the one before. At least this weekend does not involve commencements.
And now, it's really late and piano students come early in the morning. I'm heading off to bed. Good night.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Welcome to the bug museum

This is what has kept the younger half busy for much of the day. They made a bug museum, with a huge portion of the fun being the digging up of the bugs. They made an entrance.

Followed by two tanks of exhibits. The tanks are some the M. has stored on our back porch, being of the mind that one can never have too many tanks, because you never know when you'll come across an animal in need of one. They also dug out some old fish tank decorations to give the bugs, "Something to play with and look at."

Then there was the touching station, where you could interact with the bugs one-on-one. (Do you think these children have been to their fair share of museums?) When I was visiting, I was shown the petting area, but was told it wasn't open and that I would have to come back.

While they were creating their museum, I was folding laundry, making lists, driving people places, and doing a little grocery shopping. I'm pretty sure they had more fun.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

That was a long day

We spent the afternoon at the new house so that architects (aka my good friend H-S Family mom, who conveniently also happens to be an architect), contractors, and flooring measurers could come and do their thing. There was a lot going on. Plus, I brought all the little people so that they could see where we were going to be living. They enjoyed running around and looking at things, but I think it still had a feel of someone else's house, so that heavy-duty investigations will wait until we've actually moved.

The contractor brought up some issues that we will need to think about and how it all fits into the triage list of what to take care of first. Having a HVAC guy come out, it quickly rising to the top. The heating and cooling systems of the house, while there, are all a bit wonky, and possibly expensive to run. But we received some good news, too. The wall I would like taken out before we move in, shouldn't be a problem, and adding a larger dining room onto the back of the house also seems to be a fairly straightforward process. And I still love the house and the land is still beautiful.

The ride out there and back, though were less than enjoyable. It was very warm today. It is also the day that we discovered that not only is the air-conditioning not blowing cool air, it is not blowing any air at all. The fan seems to be broken. It was like riding in an oven on wheels. (The window situation on a large van does not lend itself to a lot of air flow.) I stopped and bought the overly tired and hot children some ice cream before we headed back. At five pm. Right in the middle of rush hour. I'll be calling to take the van in tomorrow to get the air fixed.

On the other hand, J. was able to purchase a more reliable vehicle today, which means he won't have to stop two or three times on his way home to put water in the cooling system. It will make his drive a lot less stressful. He is counting the days until we move, because the commute becomes increasingly miserable for him. We're down to 38 days until closing.

No, don't ask about that niggling little issue of earnest money.

Monday, May 15, 2017

It's time for...

the weekly Monday Move Update. I bet you all can't wait. It would be much more exciting if I had some truly positive news to share. But I don't. It's like this little game we're playing. They pretend they're buying the house, I pretend we're actually going to move, and hopefully somewhere along the line, we can all stop living in our little fantasy world.

In the meantime, I've put done a decidedly not imaginary deposit on the movers, as well as a deposit to the company who is going to get rid of anything else we don't put on the moving truck. I had forgotten exactly how expensive moving can be.

In other fun news, I've spent a good portion of the day up on the third floor where we have a very large pile of boxes already packed and stored. I should add, these boxes were packed and stored before we knew where we were going to be moving. There is something about knowing the space things are going to be going into, to make one reconsider exactly what one is taking. Thus, I realized what I really, really needed to do was to go through these boxes, untape them, look through them, sort, and repack them all. Sounds like fun, huh? (It's not.) But I also know I will thank myself when it comes time to actually move and then unpack. Plus, I now have a nice color coded labeling system, which should make it easier for the movers to get everything in its proper place, so I while I'm repacking can do that as well.

When I'm not unpacking and repacking boxes, I seem to be driving children around getting various orthotic devices repaired. K. had a bracket come off his braces over the weekend, and one of Y.'s AFO's had a clip which broke off. Off course, neither office was close to the other. One was a half hour south, and the other a half hour north. That equals two hours of driving for appointments which combined took less than a half an hour.

But at least the weather is glorious and the children are enjoying being able to play outside. Even Q. is having some fun due to the warmer weather. Earlier today, B. took some smaller people down to the local pet shop so they could spend some of their 'hard-earned' picture selling money. What did they buy? Small crickets so the quail could enjoy chasing them around and having a tasty snack.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Our newest college graduate

B. graduated this morning with a B.A. in Environmental Science. We were all there to witness the event. B., we are so proud of you and love you very much!

This is B. receiving his diploma. The one really bummer about J. moving schools is that he missed being able to hand B. his diploma. (It's a perk of working at North Park and having your child attend that you can be the one to present the diploma. J. was able to present M.'s a couple of years ago.)

And then we took a family picture. Family pictures are not really our thing, evidently. Some families end up with these lovely portraits. Us, not so much. Some of us are not so, uh, cooperative, shall we say, so this is the best that we can mange. I'll take it, though.

So here we are all. Looking at it, I'm realizing that K. is growing while H. is not. K. was so little for so long, we never had to think about where he stood. Since you can barely see H. behind him.

Then we realized that K. had been scowling in all the pictures so far.

Then the attempt to get him to smile and G. to take her thumb out of her mouth.

I'm not sure this is better.

But we were all here, together, to celebrate with B., and that's what matters.

As a complete aside, there do not seem to be a whole lot of parents who are at the college graduations of their children, who also have young grade school age children in tow. I forget that we are somewhat outside the norm on most days.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday bullets, May 12, 2017

The lawyers may be getting closer to an agreement on the final contract, but my stomach still has yet to have cause to unknot. This house buying and selling business is not for wimps, I tell you. There have been other things going on around here... when I stop worrying long enough to notice.

  • A. is done with the semester and is now back at home. It's really nice having her here.
  • More picture selling happened today, though it didn't seem to be quite as lucrative as yesterday's sale.
  • I have found movers and people to haul away all the stuff we are not moving. I have found flooring guys and a contractor who can all get out to the new house at the same time to measure and give estimates. I have arranged to be able to get into the new house so that the contractor and floor guys can do their thing. Now, all I need to do is confirm with the moving company I chose and tell the ones I didn't choose that we're going with someone else. That's a big thing off the to-do list, huh?
  • I finished another Ivan Doig book... English Creek... and really enjoyed it. I'm now on my third Ivan Doig book, and still highly recommend him as an author.
  • I'm realizing that I need to take a little time to plan on how to send 5 children to sleep-away church camp next month. What has caused this realization is because the past two days have been warmer and I'm starting to my children wear what summer clothes they own. I'm remembering that some children's summer wardrobes were looking a bit small and more than a little worn by the end of last summer, and I'm going to have to do something about that if they are to have any clothes to pack. And shoes... ! They insist on growing and nearly everyone needs new sandals. I started to do some replacing today, with Y. getting new sneakers and sandals, as she needed them the most desperately. I think she has grown the most out of anyone this past winter. Well, except for the adolescent boys. It's hard to keep up with that kind of growing.
  • It is interesting watching all my people process the impending move. It is (not unexpectedly) particularly difficult for Y. and R., who just had some major changes to their lives. Y., or course, is quite able to articulate exactly what is bothering her, R., not so much. It comes out in unexpected ways. The other day, R. asked me what we would eat for breakfast in our new house. This was a different question from her standard litany of naming objects and asking if they were coming with us. I admit it threw me for a moment. Then I realized that with her last huge move, her whole world changed, including her diet. (And food is extremely important to this one.) Why wouldn't she expect this next move to feel as totally different? I was able to assure her that we would be eating exactly the same things we do right now.
  • J. may have some leads on some working cars. This would be most welcome, as the state of his current vehicle is declining by the second. We just have to figure out if getting the cheapest car, knowing it will be driven short distances once we move would be best, or spending a bit more (out of a budget we don't really have for it), and hoping that it lasts longer and requires less maintenance. None of the cars in question are what anyone would call new by any stretch of the imagination. I hate spending money on vehicles. I am just not a car person.
  • P. has decided to work on learning Romanian (via DuoLingo) as her free time summer project. She is also continuing to learn Dutch. And TM has now decided to join the fun and learn Spanish... because then he can understand the lyrics to Enrique Iglesias' songs better.
  • Everyday, we are treated to the countdown until June 3 from TM. (It now stands at 23 days.) What is June 3? Why the Enrique Iglesias concert that J. is taking him too. We decided that J. would be the more fun parent to attend a concert with, since my claim to fame is having fallen asleep in a Violent Femmes concert. True story.
  • D. is in Thin Ice Theater's production of Fiddler on the Roof this weekend. Come see it if you are free... it will be very family friendly.

D. as Tevye

  • And because having a show this weekend isn't enough fun by itself, tomorrow morning is Blaine's graduation from college. I'm sure I will have photos to share afterwards.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

It must be spring

I say that because my children have decided that it's warm enough to take their entrepreneurial selves outside and see how much money they can con earn from passersby. Today the sales even was pictures that they drew. And once again, the first few pictures were fairly decent and they took more than a minute to create. Demand was high, evidently, and I'm pretty sure quality went down as the day progressed. Did this stop people from throwing money at my children? No, it did not. I think the total for the day's sale was somewhere around $30. I kid you not.

I guess they are still young enough to get away with this. Of course, every year, I think, that the young and cute factor will play itself out, and every year I am proved wrong. They have big plans to continue the sale tomorrow. My suggestion would be to hit their stand early for best quality, unless like some people, the actual product doesn't matter. There were more than a couple of people who just handed them a few dollars as they passed by.

What are their plans for their new found wealth? I'm not sure, though A. was trying to work an angle to get them to chip in and help pay her phone bill. I do know that it will be burning a hole in more than a couple children's pockets until it can all be sufficiently spent. Yes, I'm on the fence about all of this.

I'm also afraid that living in the country is going to come as somewhat as a shock, what with no sidewalks or foot traffic at the new house. I'll be curious to see how they compensate.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Not so fluffy

Still. No. Earnest. Money.

The stress is roiling around inside of me non-stop, so you get animal pictures. Again.

Q. is getting bigger and is now in that awkward adolescent stage. His fluff is falling out and adult feathers are growing in and, it looks a bit goofy. He still peeps very loudly, still seems to enjoy having the cats sit on top of his box, and likes to walk around and peck at the pan of sod we put in his box for him. I do wish I could provide a birdy-friend, but am not sure that is going to be able to happen. We will need to come up with different accommodations for him as he gets bigger, so we can still keep him safe from the cats and allows him to see the things that are going on around the house. It would also be nice to come up with some outside accommodations for him, too. I'm afraid, though, he is just going to have to deal with the box until we move.

And for reference, he is now about as twice as big as he was a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Moving stories

My head is full of facts about carpeting and measurements and boxes and estimates. So far today, I've driven to and from Aurora to look at (more) carpet samples and get (more) estimates, met with a(nother) moving company representative for a(nother) moving estimate, had teatime and read to the masses, called a(nother) handyman/contractor about a(nother) estimate, set-up some therapy for Y., and am about to start a load of laundry and make dinner. It's hard living such a glamorous life, but someone has to, I guess.

Meeting these moving company reps has been amusing, and perhaps highlights exactly how not normal my life actually is. The first one got his time wrong and called fairly early in the morning to say he was on his way. I panicked only slightly, and asked if we could make it later because I had a houseful of sleeping children. (Our friends, the H-S Family are in town, and we had had a fairly late night the evening previous.) He agreed, and he came later. Since I never volunteer the exact number of children who live here unless absolutely pressed, it can be a bit surprising to visit the house and have them start to appear from everywhere. He did mention to me that my excuse of too many sleeping children seemed odd at the time, but made considerable sense once he understood the situation.

Today's moving rep story was a bit opposite. I'm used to people commenting on the number of children who live here, so when it doesn't happen, I notice. Not once did he ask how many children I had, or comment on the number of beds that were involved in the tally. I finally let my guard down a bit after the third bedroom. No, what this guy wanted to comment on was the fact I was so calm. He said it multiple times, so it seemed to make an impression on him. This actually made me laugh, and it would surely have caused comment from some of my more filter-less children had they heard. Because I don't feel all that calm. It's not calm in my head, I can tell you that. And I'm still not entirely sure if his surprise was my calmness at the number of children, or the imminent move, or the fact that the house currently looks as though a tornado went through, and it didn't seem to phase me. (This would be a massive food eating, but not food clearing up, tornado, based on the state of the kitchen.) Keeping the house neat and tidy has really plummeted down to the bottom of the list at the moment, and frankly, I don't really care. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.  Oh, and the fact that I wasn't swigging from a Jack Daniel's bottle as he went around and did his tally. I also got to hear some interesting stories from the life of a moving company rep.

Tomorrow I have another estimator coming, and based on the first two experiences, I just don't know what to expect. What I do know is that he will tell me that this is a big move. They will be extremely careful with all my things, and will be vaguely surprised that I plan on doing all the packing myself.

Finally, I want to share one article, because when my brain is not filled with moving and packing and carpets and estimates and unpleasant buyers, it's filled with horses. Therapeutic Benefits of Horseback Riding

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Happy 12th Birthday to R.

Today was R.'s 12th birthday. We began the day with our traditional birthday breakfast of donuts, and then the festivities continued. If you weren't aware, today was Free Comic Day, a day my children look forward to all year long. G. and L. had even picked out special clothes to wear for the occasion. (No, I don't know why, other than it was an occasion.) So, after breakfast, while I taught, J. took the younger half on a walk to the local comic book shop. Having arrived early, they all came home with more than a few comic books. R. even got one that could be colored in, which thrilled her to no end.

For her birthday dinner, we decided to get Chinese take-out. She loves Chinese food more than anything, though we have yet to find the food she doesn't like. We knew this would make her happy, and it did. This was followed by cake (store bought, because they are fancy) and presents.

TM holding her birthday candles. (We didn't put the on them cake, because we learned our lesson last year. She has a little difficult with blowing and it makes the cake seem just a little less appetizing.)

Blowing out her candles.

The hand is J., as he help direct her efforts to blow out the second candle. She actually blew them both out on her own this year, something she couldn't manage last year.

The cake

Then presents!

She received some clothes. I don't know if you can see her expression here, but it was pretty cute.

More clothes

Some books

And the highlight of the gifts, a Fisher Price 'Codeapillar' It is a noisy toy, but I'm hoping that it will get her to play with it. It moves different ways depending on how you put the sections (connected by USB connector) together. I'll be curious how she does with it. She was more than a little overcome by it. First she shrieked and waved her arms all about, and then put her head in her hands and just stared. 

I think she likes it.

And there was a Play-Doh set from Grammy.

R. seemed to enjoy her birthday celebration and her gifts. After dinner, when people were washing up and getting ready for bed, R. comes down to the dining room where I was packing some china, and says, "Mommy, me happy!" There was something about this sentence that seemed like one of the first truly genuine statements I've heard her make. Maybe we're all getting somewhere.

So Happy Birthday, my dear child. I truly do hope you are happy here. I want so much for you. I don't really care how much you learn or accomplish, but I want you to know you are a person, a beloved daughter, someone who can have ideas and thoughts and influence your world. I want you to feel safe and loved. I wish I could go back and erase the trauma and neglect of your past, but I can't, but I hope we can redeem what was lost in the years to come.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Friday bullets, May 5, 2017

We're still alive. I thought I'd drop by and see what was happening here on the ol' blog. I can't think the last time I let blogging go by the wayside for so long. I'll start my list and you can see why.

  • We still have no official contract or significant earnest money in the bank. The lawyers are still in negotiation. I may permanently start to look like Quasimodo, as I carry all my stress in my left shoulder. I also feel more than a little nauseated every time I think about the situation, which would be, oh, every 10 seconds or so.
  • Yet I still have to work as though everything is going to work out. I've been calling movers and such and trying to figure out how to move 12 people, 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 quail and all their belongings, what to leave behind, and what to do with what we leave behind, with the least amount of fuss, money, and homelessness in the interim.
  • I suppose I should also start to pack. My motivation for packing is incredibly low until that money shows up in the bank, though.
  • Did I mention that on top of moving the third week of June, that is also the week that five of my younger people will be at camp. Yes, that means on top of compulsive packing, I will be getting five people ready for sleep away camp, three of whom will be going for the first time.
  • I should also mention that June is the month where we have six family birthdays as well as one anniversary. 
  • At least one big occasion will be next week... B's graduation from college!
  • Other things have been going on around here besides the move, too. K. got his expander out (hooray!), but at the same appointment he got braces put on his upper teeth (boo!) This is all in preparation for his future bone graft surgery.
  • I had my annual eye appointment, which always makes me a wee bit nervous leading up to it. I have extremely near-sighted eyes, which means their shape is not optimal for eye health (I've already had retinal surgery on both), so that combined with a dicey family eye history, well, I know what the bad news can be. But, one more year, and one more year of good eye news. Stable is exactly the word you want your eye doctor to use.
  • Our good friends the H-S Family are in town for the month! It is fantastic to spend time catching up together.
  • Q. the quail is growing, though still pretty cute and fluffy. He will sit in my hand and let me pet him, which is very cute. We also think he now calls the cats when they are not on top of his box. He seems to think they are the right and proper part of his universe, and that they are caring friends. I'm not sure the cats see themselves in quite the same roll. We don't plan on anyone finding out any differently. We did look into seeing if we could find another quail chick or two to keep Q. company, and J. did find a place that sold Bobwhite quail. The only difficulty was that they only sold the chicks in lots of 100. I don't feel the need to live 101 Dalmatians... the quail version, so we didn't get them.
  • J. continues to enjoy his new job, though he is officially tired of his commute. Actually the 'tired of his commute' status probably happened a couple of weeks ago.
  • To give you a sense of my less-than-terrific mental state, all I should need to tell you is that I have not finished a single book in the past week. For someone who averages two books a week, this is telling.
  • Next weekend, along with B.'s graduation, is Thin Ice Theater's production of Fiddler on the Roof. D. is playing Tevye. A nice farewell roll for him with this theater company. It will be bitter sweet. Come out and see it if you can. I'm sure I'll have cast photos at some point this coming week. 
  • Local friends, put Sunday, June 4 on your calendar, starting at about 3pm. A friend is hosting a giant good-bye party for us and we'd love to see all of you. It's a potluck, but the main dish in the form of a pig roast will be provided. Email me for the address. 
  • Finally, you just never know what you're going to come across when you are cleaning out stuff. For instance, you might find a photograph from nearly 14 years ago from when your history co-op was doing tableau vivant. This photo is actually from the first time we did them, the link is from the second. B. may not be happy with me for sharing it, but it is too funny to miss.
First you have to see the painting we were copying. We chose this one because we had a handy baby in the form of D.

And here's our copy. That's a wig we made B. wear; it's why he doesn't like this. But look at P. and A. They were so little! They were so cute!

Monday, May 01, 2017

I may develop an ulcer by the end of all this

I keep not writing, hoping I will have something positive to share, but I don't.

The trouble with selling a house the way we are, before actually going on the market, is that you are then between a rock and hard place, and have very little wiggle room when the potential buyers want to make additional demands.

The short story is that I'm not sure a barn will be built at any time in the near future on the new property.

I wish people could be nice.

And some significant earnest money in the bank would be even nicer.

At least the animals are getting along and the quail is still alive. (The cats lay on top of his box so often now, that we think he thinks that is what happens in the world. He peeps very loudly when they are NOT there.)

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