Saturday, September 30, 2017

So I guess yesterday was Friday

It's been that kind of a week.

  • The reading is really starting to click for some people, particularly L. She is starting to read just about everything. Last Monday she read Go Dogs Go to me, and Tuesday she read the first page of a Magic Tree House book. 
  • M. has been spending some time here for the past couple of days, and is certainly winning the "Energizer Bunny" award... trailer gutted, TM's room primed, D.'s dresser (finally) put together. 
  • We've got to get this making dinner-thing under control again. The last two nights we have eaten very late... even by our late standards.
  • I now own my very first pair of snow pants ever. (Thank you LLBean points... I paid a whopping 84 cents for them.) You can now plan your own winter wardrobes accordingly, because I have probably just guaranteed us a completely snowless winter. My children my not forgive me.
  • Olive is evidently in her teen years of development, and driving A. a little crazy.
  • Everyone is doing well in their piano lessons. H. is particularly enjoying learning piano, and she is doing a great job. I'm excited for her.
  • I've been keeping track of my reading again this year, and I just wrote down book #60. That is putting me at a solid 6.5 books per month average. Not that I care or am competitive or anything...
  • We discovered this week that Y.'s AFO's are too small. This would be a simple thing if we hadn't moved. Now, I need to have her see a new pediatric orthopedist, so the doctor can write a new prescription for the AFO's, and then we can go and have them made. This is not sounding like a fast process to me.
  • I have a new piano student starting next week!
  • A friend took me out to a chocolate restaurant in Geneva last night. It was very, very good. I will have to go back.
  • We asked P.'s horseback riding trainer to come out and look at our property with us last weekend. She was extremely positive about it, and gave us some really good ideas and advice for how and where to put a stable and fencing. Now, to get quotes from various barn builders, followed by recovering from sticker shock.
  • And now I will go and try to do more with my day than just make a grocery list, go to two stores, and drive children around. You know, now that it is time to start fixing dinner.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Contour maps

Before we go on our round-the-world trip for school, I thought it would be good to do a little bit with basic geography and map skills. So far we've covered north, south, east, and west; latitude and longitude; map projections and the challenges of creating flat maps of a curved surface, and today was contour and physical maps.

I first saw this 3-D contour model on Pinterest, and loved it, so decided we needed to create it.

Here is our little river delta with water, green areas and some hills. I made this as we discussed the different things we were learning about. The blue and green are our of foam sheets and the hills are made our of sheets of cork.

Then, because we were discussing how physical features translate into flat maps, they then drew a map of it.



K.'s (Which if you look closely, you will see that he added Texas as an underwater island there in the ocean. No, I don't know why, and apparently neither does he. These things just seem to happen sometimes.)

The hills have the contour lines which show their elevation. They also colored them, because of having talked about physical maps representing the terrain with color. 

Our last project will be to do some compass work. This will involve a treasure hunt using the compasses outside. A project such as this always sounds so good on paper while you are planning, and quickly becomes one of those things you wonder what on earth you were thinking when you see it written down on the calendar and have to actually do it. First step, purchase actual, working compasses...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The other side of the coin

I've posted several times about how welcoming and accepting our new church is of our family. Our old church (I still have trouble writing that, because we will always feel connected there), was equally welcoming and accepting. Because of that first experience, I wasn't sure what to expect when we started visiting churches, because when you live in the adoption and/or special needs world you hear a lot of horror stories. A lot. Before I go on, I want you to take a moment and read this blog post by another adoptive mom.

When Church Becomes a Negative Experience for Adoptive Families

No, really, go back and click on it, I'll wait. I want you to read this, especially if the adoptive, special needs world is not one you spend time in.

If you also read the comments, then you will start to get a sense of what many, many adoptive, special needs families face when they want to go to church. The internet is kind of blowing up about this post at the moment, and people are sharing some of their very hard experiences. Frankly, they are experiences that as a Christian, make my cringe. People are sharing comments and attitudes and a lack of grace they have been on the receiving end of, that really do not square well with what being Christ-like is all about.

Of all the places a family could be, it seems as though church would be the one place where they could find safety and rest and understanding. Where did things go so wrong? It truly makes me want to weep. Yes, I know churches are filled with recovering sinners, and I am certainly one of them. Yes, I know none of us is perfect. But to hear some of these stories, it really seems as if no one is even trying. Why else would people be sharing extremely painful stories such as having others laugh at their child, with the child right there... of people asking, "What's wrong with them?"... of being asked if someone paid them to take them [the adopted children]. These types of behaviors are beyond the pale.

Sure we all make verbal gaffs now and then. Usually most people realize what they've said and how it could be construed about 2 seconds after it has left their mouths. I know I have. More than once. The only thing to do then is to apologize. "Oh, I'm so sorry. That sounded way better in my head than it did out loud," can work wonders. I also don't mind it when people ask me genuine questions because the other person wants to be educated. Actually, I should amend that. I don't mind it when people ask me genuine questions when my children are not present.

I know some children have difficult behaviors. I know they can be tough to integrate into a children's program. But I also think this a case of deciding ahead of time what you are aiming for. Are you aiming for perfection? The perfect Sunday school class, the perfect children's choir, the perfect worship service where everyone does what they are supposed to at the correct time? Or can you accept a little messiness in church? We Christians of all people should know that our lives are all about the process and not about the product. We can't turn out a perfect product to save our lives. Literally. That's why Jesus came after all. We don't do perfect, He does. But, boy, that sure doesn't stop us from trying much of the time.

The trouble with aiming for perfection is that we forget people, messy and sinful, along the way. We forget that it is how we treat others and love them that really matters... not if they stood in the choir perfectly still and were singing on pitch... not if the worship service went off without a hitch and with no interruptions, such as that crying child in the back. No, it's how we love the child who doesn't stand still, the child who cries in the middle of the service, the help we give the probably stressed out parents of that screaming child. And no, offering to separate the child and the parent is not helpful, no matter how kindly it is done. A snack, a book to distract, a smile, a cup of coffee, these are helpful.

Sometimes the excuse of the church is that special families take too many resources. It's already tough to find volunteers, and to take on needy families means that even more volunteers will be needed. Yeah, people are messy and time consuming, but if people are not the focus of the church then what is? Especially if those people are right in your midst. People half a world away are always so much more pleasant to do things for, because you don't have to actually interact with them, and if you do go on a week's mission trip, you get a lot of positive feedback for your good work. Quietly being a buddy on a weekly basis for a child the the whole congregation knows (and not for a good reason) doesn't provide the same positive strokes. More likely that person is going to hear, "Better you than me!" And don't think the mother doesn't already know how people feel about her child.

I also know that church leadership cannot do much about those members who will behave other than would be helpful. Church culture can go a long way, but every church will have its loose cannon, and well, if I were southern, I would just say, "Well, bless their hearts." But the other members of the church can certainly step in when overhearing less-than-helpful comments. They can redirect the loose cannon, they can move the hurting family somewhere else, they can just speak up and say something to negate the damage that has just been done.

Please, Church, do not let these experiences that special needs parents have shared be common. Look at yourselves and really examine how welcoming you are to people who don't fit in to whatever system you have in place. And remind yourselves about what is actually important. Hint: People are always more important than programs. Be the place that provides refuge for hurting families. I can tell you that special needs parents spend their days fighting for their children in all sorts of venues: schools, doctor's offices, insurance companies, neighbors, and even extended family. Do not make church yet one more place that needs to be fought, instead, make it the place where the parents find rest and encouragement to keep on with their battle.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Great Dane puppy

I used my writing time last night to work on an article which was due. This means that my dear blog readers will have to make due with a photograph today.

Here's Olive at 4 months old. She is looking much more Great Dane like, don't you think? She is much jowlier than she was, and as a result she is also a lot droolier. We are discovering that sometimes things stick to her drool. At her vet appointment she was over 30 pounds. That means in the last month, she doubled her weight. Eating 7 cups of dog food a day will do that. (In comparison, Kenzie, who is about 60 pounds, eats less all day than Olive does at dinner.) And here is your random Great Dane fact for the day. They were originally called Boar Hounds, since they were used for, you guessed it, boar hunting. English mastiffs were probably a part of the breed development early on. 

A. has decided that instead of becoming a crazy cat lady, she will become a crazy Great Dane lady. Can you imagine how much food it would take to feed multiple Great Danes?

Monday, September 25, 2017

New church

Yesterday was the big kick-off neighborhood party for the new campus of the church we have been attending. It's a little complicated, and I'm not sure I have completely worked out how it all works. There are now three campuses to this church, yet they all function as one. I wasn't convinced, but it seems to work. I think it's because the mid-week things all happen all together. The Bible studies, the youth groups, the service projects, all draw from all three campuses. It is not a live feed, sort of thing for Sundays, but the preaching is all on the same verses.

When you make a big move, such as we did, sometimes I have found that it can be easier to just make big changes, rather than find things that mimic your old life. We will never completely replace what we had, so I guess we decided not to even try. This new church, for the most part, is pretty uber-contemporary. (There is a traditional service, but coming from a service that had blended traditional and contemporary aspects, we found this a little too much on one side as well.) The setting is also pretty contemporary. We came from a 150 year old church.... stone, , pews, stained glass, carved dark wood. Here is what the new one looks like.

Sorry for the pole. I was standing in the shade, under the tent while people ate lunch.

No pews, no stained glass, though this campus has plenty of natural light, white painted walls, coffee in the lobby to bring into the service. No pipe organ. (I'm still having a bit of trouble with that.) We came to the realization that we could either have the architecture we were comfortable with or the theology we were comfortable with, but not both. We opted for theology.

And the people. We have really felt welcomed and accepted by everyone we have met. We are an unusual family and it can be difficult to meet the needs of everyone. No one has seemed put off or overly burdened by our more challenging family members. Just the opposite, in fact. People have really bent over backwards to make things such as Sunday school and youth group work for each child. 

What we love most is that the people we've met here are really trying to live out the Gospel message. Sharing the love and power of Jesus is really central to what they are all about. For that I can miss a pipe organ. 

So this party today... the third campus, the one we are attending because it is far closer to our house than the others... just held their second service today. The party was to invite the neighborhood it is in to come and check things out. There was a bounce house, face painting, food trucks, games, music, and tours of the new building. All free for the neighborhood. Here are some pictures.


K., with H. in the background




This feels like a huge piece of the moving puzzle has been figured out. We now know some people. When we go to church, there are people we know and who know us. I can make the check-in system work for Sunday School. I have people's names and phone numbers in my phone contacts. And I am now beginning to hear things such as, "Mommy! Can I go and play with my friends?" when we are at church.

That sound you hear? That would be me breathing a great, big, huge sigh of relief.
I have a new article published. Go ahead and click and share all you like. How I Met My Child

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Suffering and comfort

In the Bible study I have started attending, we are going through 2 Corinthians. I tend to stick to the Old Testament or Gospels in the studies I've led, so it will be interesting to do one of the epistles. I like narrative, so that is probably why I've kind of not chosen to study them. It's good to move out of your comfort zone now and then.

I have to admit that the first chapter has had a lot in it that I have been thinking about. In particular, the idea of suffering and comfort in verses 3 through 7. I'll write it out for those who don't want to go search out a Bible.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as your share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, ESV)

I am initially drawn to this passage because of the mention of the word 'comfort' ten times. The past couple of years have definitely had their difficult (sometimes extremely difficult) parts. There were some time in the past few years where feeling God's comfort seemed like a very foreign thing indeed. Looking back, I know it was there, but it was difficult to notice when I was so focused on the hard parts.

But it you look, not only is comfort mentioned ten times, but 'suffering' or 'affliction' is also mentioned more than once. Six times, to be exact. The suffering and the comfort come together, side by side, through the entire passage. It's as though you can't have one without the other. And in a real sense, you can't. If you are not afflicted or suffering or broken hearted, you have no need of comfort.

The writer of the study guide we are using likened it to the Amazon river, where the two tributaries meet, they are different colors, and for quite a while remain to distinctly different rivers flowing together to form the Amazon. They later on mix together, but not at the start. The two rivers are suffering and comfort joining together to form one thing; one creation of God. I like this analogy, but I think I have come up with a better on.

As you know, I have been working to regain what skills I had in hand spinning. Yesterday I finished plying together two spools of my ugly, practice yarn, figuring that it would at least be good for the practice if nothing else. The wool I was spinning for the most part wasn't even particularly lovely, and just random bits that I had left over from other projects. I never expected to like the results, but take a look.

It's kind of cool, just don't look too closely at the uneven spinning, that still needs work. The thing I did right was to keep one of the bobbins filled with one color of yarn, and mixture of pink and purple. The other bobbin was all over the place, with one color following another, just as I happened to grab the wool. That first bobbin was ugly. Trust me, it just was.

But to get back to Corinthians. My trouble with the river analogy is that eventually the two tributaries meld together into one large river, where you could never tease apart which water came from which source. This yarn I've spun fits much better. That first, ugly spool is the suffering and affliction. It was not pretty. I didn't like it. I didn't even think anything good could come out of it. I kind of didn't want anyone to see it. I wished I could just skip it and get to the part where I felt comfortable with my skills again. The second spool is the comfort. It looked better in general. The spinning was definitely better. I liked it, mainly because it gave me hope that things would get better in terms of my abilities. And I couldn't have done the second spool without first spinning the first, whether I liked that first one or not.

Even though I liked that second one better, it was still lacking. There was no way I could have done anything more with it on its own. Plying them together did something. By combining these two spools together, I created something significantly better than the sum of their parts. I could do something with this skein of wool; it can be put to use. Not only is it stronger, but it is also much, much more beautiful. More beautiful, actually, than I ever anticipated it being.

Isn't this what Paul is saying? It takes both the pain and the comfort to change us into something more beautiful and useful. But those two parts are always there, while combined together, always separate and distinguishable. We will always be able to sort the pain from the comfort, that will always be part of our story, but once combined, we are forever something different... and better.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday bullets, September 22, 17

I'm not sure how much I have for you from this week, but I'll give it try.

  • Re-entry from our vacation really threw us off our stride this week. It took us a good two days to settle back down into our groove. It was a great vacation, so I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it was spending time in a place that we've been going to for years and coming home to a place that still feels very new. I don't know.
  • I know everyone is saying it, but the weather is crazy. I do not enjoy low 90's in mid-September.
  • Olive is still growing. I know I mention this every week, but my goodness, it is extraordinary. Want to see? First, here is Olive's puppy picture from the breeder, right before A. went to pick her up.

She's so tiny, she fits right in the person's hand. Here is the picture A. took two days ago, copying this pose.

I don't know about you, but I find this hilarious. I particularly like Olive's expression in the second one.
  • J. is reading Anne of Green Gables (possibly one of my very favorite books ever) to the six younger people at bedtime. Anne has quickly become Y.'s favorite book character. She adores her. She will happily talk to me for a long, long time, extolling Anne's virtues. I love this more than a little bit.
  • G., L., and Y. have decided that their new favorite game to play is to run a school for their stuffed animals, to teach them (the animals) to read and to arithmetic, and I think at least one of them has thrown some science in there, too. I love this, mainly because they are creating workbooks for their animals which includes all the work they have each been recently doing in their own schoolbooks. You can't force this kind of reinforcement on a child. Then tonight, L. had an easy reader out, and was reading it to her teddy bear. She did more reading tonight in one go, than I can usually get of her when asking her to read to me. 
  • I discovered yesterday that poor H. has really been brooding all the past week about Grandpa and our good friend who recently died. She is still so very sad (and a little scared) about it all. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is at the root of the increased seizure activity we've been seeing over the same time period. I've known for a long time that extreme emotion triggers seizures in her. But, the silver lining is that she was able to tell me about her feelings and we were able to talk about them. That has not always been the case.
  • P. keeps sharing horses that are for sale or need a home. Dang fencing. We do have someone coming out tomorrow to take a look at our property and help us to figure out what should go where.
  • In my quest to figure out this fancy camera, and really learn how to use it, I bought a guide specifically for the brand of camera I have. And I suddenly remember why I avoid photography. I just cannot wrap my head around the terms and what they mean and what you do for them. F stops, exposure, noise... aaaahhhhh. Who can recommend a good book which really explains all these camera terms in a way that I can understand it? I don't know why I have such a hard time making sense of this stuff; I'm far from stupid. If I could just find the right book, it could make all the difference.
  • The vaguely mustardy-tan color walls in my bedroom are making me less and less happy. The idea of painting at this point in time also does fill me with joy. I will continue to try to ignore them. I'll focus instead on the fact that they are intact, which admittedly, is a big step ahead for us in terms of bedroom walls.
And that's it for today. Enjoy your Friday.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Children, dogs, and carpet

As you know we have a couple of dogs, and more than a couple of children, and an entire second floor of brand new carpet. I will admit to the combination making me a wee bit paranoid. Especially when, first thing in the morning, you hear your dog making a certain noise. A noise which says ugly, horrible things are soon going be spewed upon your new carpet. A noise which causes you to leap out of bed and across the room at a rate that would make a fire fighter proud.

This is how I was awoken yesterday morning. I hear the sound. I leap into action, dragging the dog into the bathroom and onto the easily cleanable laminate flooring. I think I have made it all in time only to look behind me and see that the spewing was actually happening as I was dragging. It's not pretty. In fact it's a two foot long swath of yellow ugliness on my new carpet. Bad words were not said because a small child happened to be in the room at the time. I know I need to do something about it soon, or all hope of ever getting it clean will be lost.

I send the small child down for supplies. In this case, Dawn dish soap, paper towels, a bowl, and a plastic bag. A month or so ago, there was a little incident with dripping blood, and the water and Dawn combination took it out. I had no idea if it would work on my current ugliness, but I thought I'd give it a try. I am happy to report that I think it will work. I can still see where it was, but after I vacuum and go over it one more time, it should be pretty unnoticeable.

It worked well enough that I decided to try it on the two large spots on the stairs which had been nagging at me. I have not idea what they were from. (ie I didn't know whether to blame an animal or a child.) But there these two hideous dark spots were, causing me agonies every time I saw them. What was I thinking putting down carpet that wasn't dark brown? Why did I think I could keep it clean? Why did we spend the money on it? Etc., etc.

Well, look. Here is what my little concoction did.

First, take a look at that ugly stain. Two steps were like that. Bleh.

Then after I rubbed and rubbed with my mixture. I think I will sleep better at night now.

For those who want the details, I put a good couple of tablespoons in a smallish bowl and filled it with water, stirring it around, I pretty heavily soaked a paper towel, and then just rubbed on the spot(s) until it was clean. The steps were pretty wet for quite a while. Other possibly pertinent details... the carpet is 100% nylon, and we put in a waterproof backing under the mat. But so far, this magic-like mixture has removed blood, dog vomit, and that dark mystery stain that I cannot even begin to imagine what it was.

My next goal? Figure out how to get Sharpie out of carpet. Yes, Sharpie. And after only a couple of weeks after it was installed. I'm pretty sure I cannot blame any of the animals for that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Large families go to the movies

The younger people have been going through a spurt of watching all of our large family movies. You know the ones... Cheaper by the Dozen; Yours, Mine, and Ours (both old and new), that sort of thing. I have been amused by their reactions.

They have absolutely loved them. I would say it's because they enjoy watching movies about families that are similar to their own, but I'm not sure that's it. I think it's just because they're funny. I say that because, they have also mentioned more than once that we should have as many children as they do in those movies. Basic counting evidently needs to be added back into the curriculum, because at the time they were watching Cheaper by the Dozen, the one about the family with 12 children. Like ours. They all seemed surprised when I pointed out that movie family had the same number of people that ours does.

It just goes to show what I've been saying all along. Being a part of a large family really doesn't feel any different from being in a smaller one. It is when you are outside looking in, that it can feel a bit overwhelming. I've decided that it is because when you are not a part of it, you just don't know all the members that well. It's hard to keep names and faces straight, what age everyone is, what they like or don't like, whether you should try to talk to certain people when they are hungry or not. Twelve or fourteen people you are not entirely sure about feels like a lot more people than twelve or fourteen people you know really well.

I haven't been watching the movies with them, but will poke my head in every so often. These are the movies I adored when I was younger and dreamed of living in a larger family. I know them well. It is a bit different to view them as the mother of a dozen, though. Yesterday they were watching the old Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. It was the scene where Henry Fonda's children are meeting Lucille Ball for the first time and are none too happy about it. I happened to glance in because there are some funny bits. It wasn't the humor of the moment that I noticed, or even Henry Fonda's extremely well-stocked liquor supply. No, it was the four (FOUR!) ovens in the kitchen. He plays the widower with ten children. I can tell you, no one needs four ovens. Not even the parents of ten children. I currently have ten at home, and we are functioning pretty well with one oven. (Would I like a second one? Yes, I would, but except once or twice, we have managed just fine without one.) This was evidently a case of the set designer imagining what raising ten children must be like and creating the set to match that imagining. Four ovens? I wanted more close-ups of the kitchen to see what else had been put in there, but the movie wasn't cooperating.

As much as I enjoy these movies, they are all based on the assumption that large families are somehow intrinsically different from families with two or three children. It's just not the case. We're not different, we are just more. More laundry and more food, more voices, more relationships, more unique personalities, maybe a little more chaos, but certainly a lot more love.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Off-season travel

We got back last night from a long weekend out of town, up at J's aunt and uncle's place in Michigan. Unlike past years, when we've gone in July and had atrociously cold and wet weather, this year in September, we had terrific beach weather all four days. Go figure.

Our days at the beach house have a certain rhythm to them. Often after people wake up and find food, many of them head down to the beach if it is sunny.



Y. and TM

Olive, who liked to dig in the sand.

Kenzie, who did not like the water.

Olive and A.


L. and G.


H., with A. and P. in the background

TM and Y.



G. and J.

Then it is time to head back up to the house for lunch.

After lunch, we either spend some time resting...



Y., working to figure out Rummikub




K. and G.


Other days we go and do things, such as head down to the outlet...

TM, posing with a dead fish we found. No, I don't know why.

Looking for minnows.



Nearly everyone in the lake.

Or we head to our favorite children's museum. And we discovered another perk of this off-season-thing is that we had the museum virtually to ourselves.

D. and TM

TM, E., and L.


J. and H.


L. and G.

L. and Y.


P. and L.


G., with stuffed chicken

L. and A.




Followed by ice cream, naturally.


L., P., G., Y., and TM



It's then time to head home to make dinner.

And of course, the day ends with good food, good family, and a gorgeous sunset.

It's back to real life today... though it's going to be tough remembering that it's Tuesday.

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