Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Costumes 2017

Well, first, before the costumes, we started the day with homemade apple cider donuts. Today was also TM's birthday, and though he prefers to celebrate it not on Halloween, we do his birthday breakfast on the actual day.

I've had a couple of people ask me for the recipe. I'll try to share it with you tomorrow. It's actually pretty easy, and makes some very tasty donuts.

This was a pretty low-key Halloween for us this year. P. stayed home in case anyone came to the door. (They didn't... a huge change from passing out 500+ pieces of candy in one night.) TM and D. went to a friend's house. A. went to work. (She is now working at a restaurant.) So that left the six younger ones. Most of them took responsibility for their own costume.

G. went as a green ninja.

Y. and L. were box trolls. L. was Fish and Y. was Shoe. J. also had a box, which the girls labelled Eggs, which he wore for a while during Trick-or-Treating. But Y.'s very large box proved difficult to maneuver with, so he traded boxes with her. No, I didn't get a picture of J. in his box. (Sorry, M.)

K. was a police officer.

H. had decided she didn't want to dress up this year, but at the last moment, A. helped her put together a costume, and H. went as Alice in Wonderland, complete with White Rabbit.

R. was a princess. I was relieved that this still fit her, though it was a bit short. We still don't have my sewing area quite sorted out into usable-ness yet, so sewing wasn't in the cards.

We did some Trick-or-Treating, enough to give us a big bowl full of candy, but my goodness it was cold. All in all, it was a fine holiday.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Autumn doings

After church yesterday, we headed to a pumpkin farm. It was the perfect low-key venue for us. Things to do, no entrance fee, and plenty of pumpkins.


Of course, I now have a serious case of barn-envy.

Of course, if you have the pumpkins, you have to carve them.


What the forest preserve is looking like right now.

L. and K.



H. and R.


R.'s pumpkin proved to be made out of steel. J. had to use a hacksaw to get the top off, followed by a drill to carve it. He mentions that drilling into a pumpkin is fairly messy business.


D. decided he really wanted to carve a pumpkin, but wanted to do it inside.

That's how he created this.

Every is very excited about the candy  holiday tomorrow. So much so, that one wants to wear one's costume all the time... even when doing school work. Which proves to be difficult when you have decided to go as a box troll.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tackling one of my least favorite jobs in record time

You see this?

And this?

What you are looking at is the winter wear for 12 people, all sorted, and tried on for fit, and stowed away. It only took a couple of hours, and there isn't even a huge pile for me to figure out what to do with after having outfitted everyone. This is also the first year that I haven't had to go rushing around trying to find gear to fit the ever growing masses. (Actually, I take that back. D. needs a winter coat. He needed a winter coat last year, and made due with cobbled together jackets and layers. I think I need to get him a real coat this year. Anyone have a men's medium winter coat kicking around?)

And it's not even November, yet!

Our motivation for getting this job done was not only the few snow flurries we had today, but the fact that all of the outerwear was stored in the crawl space under the house, with the exterior entrance. The exterior entrance which, if it snowed any amount, would be extremely difficult to get to.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday bullets, Oct. 27, 2017

Because it's been that kind of week, I am sneaking under the wire with these.

  • B. now has a car. We found it and bought it while he was here last weekend. After several misadventures with the battery, and a safety check (and a little more money) at the mechanic, he now has a reasonably decent car. This is good because I was not looking forward to worrying about him in the winter driving around on his scooter. I don't think he was looking forward to driving around on his scooter, either.
  • Does anyone else think that food prices have gone up significantly in the past few months? Please say yes, because otherwise it means my grocery shopping skills are slipping.
  • There was a dead mouse on the kitchen floor this morning. In my book, a dead mouse is far preferable to a live one. There was also a small window between the time J. left for work and the next person entered the kitchen in which it could have arrived. Our best guess is that this was a gift from Nefertiti. The past two days she has been lying and staring under the stove. I think the mouse was under there somehow and that she finally caught it. It doesn't seem to matter that she doesn't have her front claws. She's that kind of cat. Personally, I'm thrilled to have a cat who is a good mouser. We've had various instances in other houses where we had issues with mice, and this makes me very happy. D. wasn't quite so happy when I asked him to dispose of the mouse, though.
  • We promised TM that when we moved to a place with more land, that we would get him a husky. Well, here we are with more land. As a result, we have now sent in our deposit to a breeder to reserve a puppy due to be born sometime next year. (Don't get started with breeder vs. rescue, please. We've had our share of rescue animals, but I also do a lot of research. With our current population of children and animals, the whole thing is going to work much better if we start with a husky puppy instead of a husky rescue. And yes, the breed in this case is very important.) 
  • We have now talked R. out of seizures multiple times. If we can get her breathing deeply and look around and notice where she is, and that nothing scary is happening, she can now calm down and the seizure aura (or whatever it is) will go away. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: The brain is weird.
  • It's a good day at the thrift store when you find 16 new in the box glasses for $6. That's just thirty or so cents a glass. Glasses have a short life expectancy around here, and I don't like to spend more than fifty cents per glass, or maybe as high as a dollar if it's really nice.
  • The newest game from the master of play involves bedtime. Recently, I have to be sure to get into their bedrooms in time, because it seems they are sleeping in some sort of space sleep pod that leave to head to the sleepy-time planet. If I don't get there in time, then I will miss saying good-night because they will have already blasted off. Usually I have to help L. adjust her invisible helmet when I kiss her good-night.
  • A. is still looking for a vet she likes. (I'm more than happy to let her do the leg work on this set of doctors.) It seems when you are 19 and have a Great Dane puppy, it is difficult to get vets to take you seriously. The first vet completely dismissed A.'s questions she had from the research she had done. The second vet told A. that there was no way she could socialize or train Olive herself and that she needed to get help. I've trained dogs, she is doing just fine. I can bet you a lot of money that if it were I, the not-so- soft-spoken-51-year-old, who had brought in the dog, it would have been a far different conversation. I bet if I had just been in the office with A., the conversation would have been very different. 
  • A. also informs me that I have yet to do Olive's 5 month update... because people are waiting to hear. Olive is a smaller Great Dane, at currently 48 pounds. She is now officially taller than Kenzie, though she still tries to walk underneath him. She's a pretty good puppy. I am also supposed to tell everyone that she knows how to shake now. And that she has nearly 200 Instagram followers. Can you tell that A. is just a little smitten with her?

  • K. had an orthodontist appointment this week. (Sorry Chicago friends, we were just in and out.) We are now on the train to have his bone graft done after the holidays. Sigh.
  • I kind of made up a new dish tonight for dinner, mainly because I never got it in the crockpot this morning. So, I figured I could do it on the stove top, and ended up tweaking it a bit. Do you want the recipe? It was one that everyone ate. Remember I'm giving you the amounts for 12 people, reduce as necessary, or just make it as is, and freeze the rest. That's what I would recommend.
Pepper Steak

Some round steak, sliced thinly (I think I used about a pound)
Green peppers, chopped (I used 3)
1 onion, chopped
Tomatoes, sliced (I used four)

Brown the steak in a little bit of olive oil in a large frying pan. Remove and set aside. Wipe out pan, and heat a little more olive oil. Saute the peppers and onions until they begin to brown. Put in the following for the sauce.

3/4 to 1 C. of soy sauce (use more if you like things a bit saucier)
1-2 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp salt
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 tsp ground ginger
some pepper

Stir well. Add the steak back in as well as the tomatoes. Simmer until sauce has thickened a bit. Serve over egg noodles.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Appropriate expectations

Many people around here have been feeling a little under the weather. I think we are past the worst of it, and so far I have remained healthy. (I know, famous last words.) We did manage to share the fun with M. and B. when they were both here this past weekend. Nice of us, huh? I'm not sure either of them thought so.

Most children, the second something doesn't feel quite right, are more than ready to complain about every little cough and scratch in the throat. I never have to guess if they are feeling ill. This morning, I was reminded yet again of just how long it can take for a child who has experienced neglect and abuse to feel safe and behave in expected ways. 

I often see posts from people who have just come home with their new children, and are deep in the throws of adjusting. It can feel overwhelming, I know, but part of the problem seems to be the lack of appropriate expectations that many of these parents have. They seem to think that after just a few months everything should be sorted out, and life will have settled back to a normal routine. I'm sure it can be a little overwhelming to hear that they are still actually at the very beginning of their adjustment. But appropriate expectations can go a very long towards not becoming frustrated with a situation or with a child. If you think everything should be fine after just a few months, and it is not, then that is actually where the problem lies. The frustration comes from expecting more from the child than the child can possibly manage at that point.

I'm going somewhere with all of this, I promise. When I tell parents what a more reasonable expectation for a child's adjustment is, I tell them to think in years not months. And even I can be surprised when this is the case.

I was sitting down to work with H. this morning. You know, my child who has been here over 5 1/2 years now. We were going to review something that she had some trouble with earlier in the week and I was all set to present it a completely different way with some manipulatives. It was one of those moments where I'm all set to teach something, in a way I believe is going to be engaging and helpful, and instead I receive the stink eye as only an early teen can deliver. While I'm doing some deep breathing, I wonder what on earth happened, because everything went south so gosh darn quickly.

Now, this is not a child who divulges how she feels easily or quickly. It has taken us a very long time to even reach the point where she can express negative emotions, much less discuss what is at the root of them. Often I have to play a bizarre form of one-person 20 questions, watching her body language and interpreting her now non-verbal grunts, to figure out where the problem started. I really didn't want to have to go this route this morning. I pointed out how she often felt better after we had talked about what was really wrong, and made some attempts at guessing. 

Finally, H. mutters in her very small (and somewhat infuriating for the parent) tiny voice, "My nose is stuffy." I'm getting better at my non-reaction, so I could ponder this statement for a moment. My first reaction, which I sort of squelched was to suggest she go blow her nose, so we could get on with things. Instead, with the various clues slowly clicking into place... stuffy nose, we've had sick people, H. hasn't complained of being sick, maybe she isn't feeling well... I ask, "Are you not feeling well?" She shrugs, and complains about her nose again. I decide that this is as much as she is currently in touch with, so proceed as if she doesn't feel well. I told her of course she didn't have to do work if she wasn't feeling well. G. had already gone to lie down for a bit, and also wasn't doing work this morning, and I reminded her of that. I suggested that perhaps she wanted to get her blanket and curl up on the couch and look at some books. 

H. was still balking a little bit, but I could tell she was coming around. I finally felt the need to remind her that here, in this family, it is OK to be sick. When we are sick in this family, we are taken care of and we don't have to keep work. In this family, no one gets in trouble for being sick. As I was reminding her of this, I could watch her body relax and her eyes fill with tears. Her breathing deepened and I could watch her brain come back online. She agreed that perhaps resting for a bit sounded like a good plan.

I have no idea what she experienced before she joined our family. I have a pretty good idea that much of it was not good. I forget how much she has overcome and progressed over the past 5 1/2 years, so I forget sometimes to speak to her very real and very deep fears. She has come so far, but still has so much farther to go. 

Past hurts are not healed in a matter of months. Healing, which really can happen, is the work of years, if not a lifetime. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Well, hello there

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, though it might have seemed like it. Instead, I've been driving to orthodontist appointments, buying children cars, paying bills, giving sympathy to sick family members, driving to places other the orthodontist, and all those other things which fill my days. I just haven't been able to get on top of things, and instead of writing, fall into bed exhausted.

I have to admit though, that the other thing that put me off my game this past week was homesickness. I've come to the conclusion that moving from somewhere that you liked, where you had your whole social system set-up and running, and you were comfortable, is like experiencing a death. The grief of leaving that place can feel awfully similar to the grief experienced when a loved one dies. I've now mentioned this to several people who have done big moves, and they all agree with me. It is a loss to move from a situation like that, and the grief is going to be the same.

What this means in practical terms is, that one moment you can think you are doing just fine, and then the next moment a memory or something will trigger a deep sadness about what you have lost, and the grief will smack you up side the head before you have even realized it. Anyone who has experienced grief knows that there is just not a lot of functioning that happens during those times.

For me, this time, it was thinking about the holidays. I loved the holidays in our old house, in our old community, and I am having a whole lot of trouble imagining them in our new house and our new community. There is a part of me that kind of wants to skip the next couple of months, and deal with it all next year. (For my children who are beginning to panic at reading this, we won't, of course. Never fear.) I know different isn't better or worse, but I will be the first to admit that I don't always care for difference and change.

So there you go, my explanation for my little blogging hiatus. I did have a new article published a couple of days ago. Please feel free to read and share. Tips for Respectfully Asking Questions About my Special Needs Child.

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!
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