Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reunited, if briefly

When one of your best friends now lives a 1 1/2 hours away from you, you have to grab the times you can get together. The P. Family mom and I had a little outing to IKEA yesterday, along with 14 of our children. (Though since one of hers is in her 20's, she doesn't really count as a child anymore.) You see, I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and so I needed a bookcase.

It makes sense, really, though it can also read like a mom-version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. As you know, my current dining room is a little bit smaller than we had before, so fitting 24 people in becomes a little more challenging. I figured out how to do it, but it involves putting the large coffee table under the piano to get it out of the way. The trouble is, I currently have quite a bit of piano music stored under the piano. Of course, the obvious solution is to finally buy the second bookcase for the rest of my piano music. (Actually, no, the thought of just moving my piano music somewhere else, didn't cross my mind until right now.) So, if you need a bookcase, you go to IKEA. And if you are going to IKEA, you need to invite one of your best friends who loves IKEA as much as you do.

We had a lovely time. Sure we had 13 dependents with us, but we were able to send the 6 high schoolers off on their own. That left us with my six younger types as well as the youngest P9. We've done this 'take everyone to IKEA -thing' before, but the last time, G. and L. (the youngest of our combined crews) were very, very little. I have to say, it is much easier shopping when your youngest is 8. We even had lunch together.

P. Family mom and I both agreed that it was a very refreshing 4 hours, which says something about our lives, because I'm pretty sure that we looked like a traveling circus wherever we went. Thankfully it wasn't crowded, and most people just tried to get by us, when they could, that is. It turns out some of our younger children are quite adept at blocking aisles.

I came home with nearly everything on my list... a bookcase, hangers for my tablecloths in my new china cupboard, a rack to hold pot lids. And a few things not on my list... two new dining room chairs to replaces the ones that try very hard at collapsing under people (it's what happens when you refuse to pay more than $25 per chair), some lovely red cushions for those chairs which match some of the art in the dining room (and which L. has taken a hearty dislike to and refuses to sit on), some candles so that I'm prepared for Advent (if only I could find that Advent wreath I so carefully packed away), and a few other assorted things.

My idea for storing my tablecloths has turned out quite well. Want to see?

And here's what the new cushions look like on the dining room chairs. (Photo taken in store to send to J. to discuss.)

I'm sure L. will come around to using them... someday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Awash in boxes again

With the holidays upon us, I was realizing that there were things packed away in boxes stored in our storage locker. Quite a few boxes had been living there because I couldn't figure out where it would all live, and had kind of resigned myself to waiting until we were finally able to build some more storage to get it all out.

This did not make me terribly happy, as I routinely used much of what was in those boxes, especially around the holidays. It also seemed a little silly to pay to store things which weren't being used, and that we had no room for. I was stymied.

On Friday, I had a brain storm. What if I used the closet under the stairs for china-type storage? (Yes, we actually have a closet under the stairs, and for a brief moment, D. thought it might make the perfect bedroom for him. Just for a moment, though. It is not terribly large.) The only problem with this idea was that I had already filled that closet up with boxes and boxes of old family pictures and things of that sort. We did have a crawl space they could go in, if I were to replace the cardboard boxes with something sturdier and more vermin-proof. So that is what I did.

Having pulled out all those boxes and transferred their contents to sturdier storage containers, I suddenly had a whole new space. J. built some shelves, and we were off to the storage locker to bring back a whole bunch of boxes.

This many boxes, to be precise.

I'm always amazed at how much less space things take up when they are not wrapped and packed to withstand the moving process. All of those boxes produced all of this paper.

And after having unwrapped everything, I then began to sort it out into new homes. Some of the things I found places for around the house, but a good portion of it went in my new china pantry.

I like that I can see everything all at once, and even though I have it pretty well crammed in there, I can still get to it all. In the bin on the floor are all our placemats. It's not ideal, but better than being in a box several miles away. On the other side, J. is putting up hanging rods.

This way, I can put the tablecloths on hangers and hang them against the wall. It will be a bit tight, but once again, better than being in a box in storage.

This gives us just the Christmas decorations, Easter baskets, and a few odds and ends in the locker. Once we bring the Christmas decorations back, we think we have found a place for them to be stored in the house. The Easter baskets will most likely fit there as well. Then we just need to finish bringing over the last few odds and ends that shouldn't be too difficult to find homes for, as much of it is gardening-related items and can live outside. It will be great to be able to let the storage locker go, and to not have to pay rent on it anymore.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Teaching hand sewing

Whenever I start to make things, I can be pretty sure that some smaller people are going to want to make things as well. This is great if they stick to their usual raid the recycling bin and tape mode, but something they feel as though they would rather do something 'real'. This type of craft usually everyone wanting to do it at the same time, but it (whatever craft they have landed on) is often just a wee bit above their ability level, and thus they all need me all at the same time.

L. has been on a kick to hand sew for quite some time now. I actually meant to teach people over the summer, and had invested in a bunch of new felt and new needle threaders to do so. But summer, well, it all escaped me. Yesterday, L. really, really, really needed to learn to sew. She was at the level of need that it was just easier to go ahead and teach her than to have to continue to fend her off. The trouble was, I have been down this path before and just couldn't face five frustrated children all clamoring for my attention all at the same time. Since L. was the child who was genuinely interested at the that moment, I made a new rule. I can only teach one person to sew at a time. Everyone will get a turn, but all on their own. In the moment, everyone was ok with this.

There a few tricks to hand sewing with children. The first is to get them able to immediately learn to thread and knot their own needle and thread. If you do not do this, you will be spending untold hours doing it for them. L. mastered it pretty quickly, and can now even thread her needle without the handy needle threader. The quilter's knot took just a little longer, but she can now do that as well. The next trick is to use felt for the first few projects. It is forgiving. It doesn't ravel. And it has some grip to it so the two pieces stay stuck together without a lot of bother. I decided that L. should make a bookmark first, so I cut out some shapes, showed her how to start, and let her go. She worked on it all afternoon yesterday, only needed a tiny bit of help. Today, I cut out a back and she sewed that on. Here is what she made.

Not bad for a first try, huh? But L. was not done. I have a book that I love, Feltcraft: Making Dolls, Gifts, and Toys by Petra Berger. I've used it for years with various children. In it, there are little patterns for making small felt animals. I had some traced out already, and sent L. to see if she could cut out one of the patterns. She chose a dog. So between today and yesterday, L. cut out her pattern, sewed it together, and stuffed it. The only thing I helped with was to show her how the different parts fit together and the order to sew them, and to embroider the face on. She did absolutely everything else. Here is her little dog.

Empowered by her new found sewing abilities, she then went on to make him a ball and pillow of her own design.

Of course, by this time, I had four other children clamoring to sew, too. I reminded them of the one-child-at-a-time policy, and that everyone would get a turn. With L. sewing independently, Y. was next in line, being the quickest on the draw to call dibs for the slot. She wanted to make a bookmark like L.'s, except for a pink flower. She, too, has mastered threading and knotting, and an unforeseen benefit of my completely unthought-out plan is that L. taught her how to finish the end of her thread, because I was busy cooking. Y. sewed the stem tonight and is ready to start on the flower and pedals tomorrow morning. She is pretty tenacious. I expect she will have completed her own felt animal by the end of the day. Here's the beginning of her bookmark.

At the rate people are learning and with the enthusiasm I am seeing, I have a feeling I will need to restock my felt supply fairly soon.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday bullets, Nov. 17, 17

We are now less than a week from Thanksgiving. I have no idea how that happened. I also have no idea if we will be ready. Oh, I know we probably will, but it sure doesn't feel like it at this moment.

  • In Thanksgiving-related news, look what I bought.

This is a turkey roaster. This is also a turkey roaster which will cook a 20+ pound turkey. I have been struggling with having only one oven. (I know, first world problem.) But when you have had two ovens for so very long, you get kind of used to it. I am still not used to having just one. And then when I try to figure out how to make Thanksgiving happen for 24 people, I couldn't. My parents always cooked a turkey in a roaster because of the one oven issue, so I decided that is what we will do as well. Plus, it can function as a very large slow-cooker, which is not a bad thing around here.
  • I also need to pull the turkeys out of the freezer today, and probably changing the setting on our second refrigerator should be in order as well. All last week, we had frozen poultry issues. The first time happened when I discovered right before dinner, that the chicken I thought was in the refrigerator had been put away by some helpful child in the freezer instead. It was rock hard. We ate late that night. Then the next night, when I went to get the whole chickens I had pulled out of the freezer to thaw four days earlier, I discovered that they were pretty well frozen as well. This makes me nervous about a 10 pound and a 21 pound turkey.
  • Olive turned six months old this past week. She is a very good puppy, though while she acts like a puppy, she is 60 pounds, so it is difficult to remember she is a puppy sometimes.
  • Nefertiti still loves boxes and seems to have some sort of box radar. The second there is a box lying around, she is in it.
  • One of my children's new favorite things is to joke about how they can now say, yes, indeed, they were raised in a barn. 
  • I love family dinners where people linger at the table because they are all enjoying an interesting discussion. The question being debated last night was, if you could pick any of the wonders of the world (ancient [assuming you could time-travel for some of them], modern, and natural], which seven would you pick? I decided on: The hanging gardens of Babylon, the pyramids, Petra, the Taj Mahal, the Christ the Redeemer stature in Rio de Jenero (and thus sneakily giving myself 8 since the Rio de Jenero bay is also on the list), Macchu Picchu, and Victoria Falls. I've already been to the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall, so didn't have to factor those in. What would yours be?
  • While I have cut out L.'s new dress, I haven't yet begun to put it together. This is because I was suddenly overcome with the need to make these:

They are little crocheted fall leaves. No, I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. If you go to Attic 24 (my all-time favorite crochet blog) you will see that she also has patterns for oak leaves and little acorns as well. I will be making these next. I'm now pretty speedy at the beech leaves you see in the picture. The first one took a while, because it had been two years since I had picked up a crochet hook, and kind of had to teach myself to crochet all over again.
  • I always feel ridiculously self-serving and odd to mention this, but the film-maker who is working on a documentary about our family is now in the fund-raising stage of things. You can go to the Facebook page (Hayden and Her Family Facebook) or you can view the trailer (Hayden and Her Family trailer) if you are curious.
  • I try to make it a point to tell my children things on a need-to-know basis. This usually works because first, I am not hounded to death with questions beforehand, and second, if something happens to be cancelled, we all avoid huge bouts of disappointment. This doesn't work so well, if you have trouble remembering things. The hounding questions to have the purpose of keeping things in the forefront of one's mind. Take yesterday for instance. I had dropped P. off at the stable, and had headed to the store for exciting purchases such as toothpaste and soap. I was planning what I would do when I got home. (Making little crocheted oak leaves was right up there at the top.) When I suddenly realized that I had signed up the four elementary people for a free five week art class at a local studio. There was a brief moment of panic as I thought through was time the class was and what time it currently was, and happily noted I had not missed it, but it certainly did change my plans. And boy, were the four going to the class surprised when I walked in and informed them that we needed to leave in less than an hour because they had a class I had forgotten to mention to them. They loved it, by the way.
  • D. has taken an interest in philosophy, theoretical physics, and astronomy. I'm afraid I am a disappointment to him, as the ideas pondered in theoretical physics make my head hurt to even begin to think about them, much less try to discuss them with a 14 year old. His reading list at the moment makes mine look as though I read tabloid magazines in comparison. 
  • Q. has not laid another egg so far. But every time she makes a noise even slightly different from what people are hearing, many children run to go and stare at her.
  • At the grocery store where I shop, they cater to a large Hispanic population. As a result, for the past several weeks, there have been the most wondrous super large pots on display. I thought at first they were just really big (as in 40 quarts big) soup pots. On closer examination, I realized, that while you could use them for soup, they had steamer inserts in the bottom to steam tamales. I could buy a pot that steams 120 tamales at once. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to come up with reasons why I do not need this pot. No, I have no idea where I would store it. Once I solve that little difficulty, well...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Saying yes.

Earlier today, I was thinking about the difference between my young mom parenting and my now older mom parenting. I want the same things for my children. I want secure, well-adjusted children who can practice self-control, think of others, and use their talents to the best of their abilities. What has changed is how I think they best get there.

There is a huge paradigm shift that happens as you change from parenting small children to teens and then to adults. What you thought was important turns out to be not nearly as important as you believed, plus you also realize that as much as you want the nurture half of the equation to be the bigger piece, you just cannot escape a child's nature, either. Pretty much my parenting method these days is pretty simple. Love them a lot, be a safe place to land, love them a lot, have reasonable expectations, and love them a lot. This is not to say that we are one step removed from being the modern version of Lord of the Flies, we do ask for common decent behavior, but I'm far more concerned about my relationship with my children than I am with knee jerk obedience. My young mom self would look at my old mom self with absolute horror, I promise you.

One of the ways that I know I have loosened up over the years is my willingness to say yes to things. My young mom self needed to be in control. If an idea didn't come from me, I just wasn't comfortable saying yes to it. I needed to think about it. I needed to figure out how big a mess it would make. I needed to be in control of it. Now? Eh, not so much. As we went through the afternoon I realized that I had made a habit of saying yes to my children more. I am more relaxed and I think my children are, too.

Some of the things I said yes to included, copying pages on the printer from coloring books so they could be colored; having snacks; using tape and glue; copying their show program (scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving... it seems to be some sort of Thanksgiving pageant) that they had carefully written out, but needed more copies; working on some hand sewing; having hot chocolate. I'm sure there were more, but you get the idea. None of these are huge things. None are particularly difficult or costly or messy. All of them brought joy to my children. But I can guarantee you, that 15 years ago, it would have been difficult for me to say yes to any, much less all, of them, unless the activity happened to be a part of my plan for the day.

Some of this is just the mellowing that happens with age. The other piece is that I've learned that our children really do need to hear yes, especially our children who come from hard backgrounds. For hurt children the no's they hear are hard. They, the no's, just confirm that the world is indeed out to get them; that nothing ever works out for them. Yes's are what happen for other people, but not them. No's play into their already extremely low feelings of self worth. Saying yes all the time is not going to fix this. I also realize that saying yes all the time isn't possible for a variety of reasons. But saying yes, a lot, can help to begin the healing. It can help to confirm to the child that you really are in their corner and want good things for them. Saying yes helps to create understanding and relationship.

So take a lesson from this old mom, especially if you are a young mom. Say yes. Take a deep breath and just say yes. You don't need to be in control of every single minute of your child's life. And I hate to break it to you, your control is just an illusion anyway. At some point, someone will think your a bad mom, whether or not you have done everything 'right'. Take a deep breath, and realize that it's okay. If you love your children, and are working in their interests, then you are a good mom. Saying yes more to your children will give them joy, and cut you some slack all at the same time.

Did you know...

that I have lots of lists of previous posts listed under the pages tab at the top of the blog? (I know, they're kind of hard to see, but they're there.) When a blog has so many words on it, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. The only reason I can is that I can see a nice list of previous posts with a handy search engine attached. Otherwise, I would never be able to find anything, either.

For instance, under 'About', you can see the faces which go with all the initials I use and confuse you with. (When I went to double-check what was there, I realized that they are some rather outdated photos as well. Add at least an inch to every person, and maybe 5 or 6 inches for D.) Under 'Homeschooling' is a handy list of every post which has to do with some sort of learning project we did, all nicely categorized for you. There are also some more general education posts there as well. What isn't there are the posts dealing specifically with education and adopting older children. I need to find them and add them to the list. 'Recipes' has a pretty complete list of all the of the recipes I've shared over the years, while 'Large Families' has a list of posts directly related to parenting a larger than usual number of children.

Go ahead and take a look. You might find a post or two that you missed.

No, I didn't really have anything to write today. Why do you ask?

I have a new article published. As always, I and my checkbook appreciate any and all clicking and sharing. Why It's Important You Complete Post-Placement Reports in International Adoption

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kwik Sew 3861

I am pretty excited about having my sewing area up and functioning. I really enjoy sewing, and it's nice to be able to do it again. Because of the 'L' shape, this is an even better arrangement than the one I had before. All I have to do is swivel my chair to change from sewing machine to serger. I like it.

It's also good, because I have some girls who keep growing up, but not really growing out. This, combined with being tall for their age, makes finding dresses for them, that they also like to be tricky. It's so much easier to let them look through my patterns and then choose the fabric. I can cut the dress to fit them, and everyone is happy.

G. was the first to get a new dress because she had nothing in her closet for colder weather. She chose Kwik Sew 3861. If you click on the link, you will see that the pattern envelope shows it is for a loose shirt, and not really a dress. I had made this before, so thought it would be pretty easy to lengthen it and make a loose dress. So, off to the fabric store she and I went, because while a have a lot of fabric in my stash, I don't have a lot of knits, and certainly not enough to cut out an entire dress. We found a blue material that she liked, so we headed home. To make it more interesting, we decided that it should have some contrasting parts, so G. decided that add some grey to the blue would be nice. And I think she was right. I added a grey band around the bottom of the dress as well, to tie the whole thing together a bit more.

Here's what we ended up with. I promise you, she is very happy with the dress, just not with having to pose for a picture when she really wanted to change and go outside to play.

But I tell you, taking nearly a full year off from sewing wrecks havoc with one's sewing skills. I am more than a little rusty, and there is so much about this dress that you won't be seeing close up. I need to brush up on my sewing skills. This will be pretty easy to manage since L. decided that none of her dresses fit, either. They actually fit fairly well, but what L. really meant was that she wanted a new dress, too. She ended up picking the same one as G., and decided that she wanted the reverse, mainly grey with blue trim. This made me very happy, as it is what I would have chosen. I can make the twinniness last just a little longer. After that dress is done, Y. realized that perhaps she should be getting a new dress, too. R. and H. are pretty well set for dresses, but we'll see if they decide that they, too, need an addition to their wardrobes.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The birds and the bees

On Saturday, quite a few of us were standing around the kitchen when K. yells, "Q. laid an egg!"
"Yeah, right," was pretty much everyone's response.
"No, really. Look!" K. insisted. So we did. And guess what we saw.

Yes, indeed, Q. really did lay an egg. "Well, that would explain that odd noises Q. was making earlier," J. added. Other questions quickly followed. "Are we going to have baby quails?" "Is Q. going to lay more eggs?" "When does the baby hatch?" It was a sad group of children who slowly understood that no, there would not be more baby quail. "Can we fry it?" H. then wanted to know, not one to let a good egg, even a small one, go to waste. "I'm never eating quail eggs ever again!" G. replied in protest.

We are all struggling to get used to referring to Q. as a she rather than a he.

Quail eggs, especially Bobwhite Quail eggs, are terribly tiny.

The fate of the egg was to eventually be thrown away. Too many curious little fingers picking it up and examining it, led to it getting cracked. I have no idea if we should expect more eggs in the future or not.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Down the rabbit hole

G. and L. continue to be master players and masters of imagination. Yesterday, at various turns, I had authors (which involved a very long and complicated story about a family of sea horses), potters (until we ran out of clay, and then great plans were made for when I got them more clay, including making all their own cups and plates for the pretend restaurant they run out of the playhouse), parachute makers (which also doubled as a pet bed, which along with the pets, joined us for a piano lesson), pet shop keepers, school students, teachers. And those are just the ones I can remember.

They are probably the very best thing that could happen to K. and Y., as G. and L. tend to pull everyone in their wake down the rabbit hole with them. Last night, after dinner, it was suddenly high school. All four were in high school, and diligently doing their homework. while J. read their bedtime story. As I tucked K. and Y. in, they were both very anxious about tomorrow. They both had reports due, and they would both have to read them in front of the class. What if they didn't do well? Did I ever have to give reports in front of the class? Was China really in Asia?

Yes, I was soothing anxious school fears for a completely imaginary situation in an imaginary school which doesn't exist. I can't make this stuff up.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday bullets, Nov. 9, 2017

I have a lot of pictures for you this week.

  • Many children have discovered that it is possible for them to walk over to the forest preserve and go walk around. They love the feeling of freedom, and since it is basically our backyard, I love they can go explore without undue worry. Here are a few pictures of L. on one of her exploring trips.

  • Olive no longer fits on her favorite chair for her naps. She is sound asleep here, though I have no idea how.
  • Today we packed a box for an elder in an nursing home without any family. A new friend was organizing this, and it seemed like a good, tangible thing to do for Christmas this year. Everyone made cards to include, and some children included some clay creations to go along with our bigger gifts.
  • Clay has been the activity of choice around her for the past couple of days, though I don't think it can continue much longer, as the supplies of bake-able clay are running low. Here are some of the current creations.

  • My sewing area is now completely finished. I have enough counter space for both the sewing machine and serger, good lighting, and space for all my supplies. I feel so spoiled having a dedicated studio, plus table to work on. No more cleaning off the dining room table to cut things out, and then having to put everything away before I'm done because it's time to eat. I've cut out a new dress for G. (whom we discovered had no long sleeve dresses), and I hope to have it done before Sunday. (Really, I do have good, bright light. I just didn't bother to plug it in for this picture.)
  • We left Brazil today, and on Monday we'll head to Peru. At the end of a visit to a country, I'm having everyone dictate to me what they have learned and what we did. Last time, with Mexico, this proved difficult to many people. I'm happy to report that this time around, the exercise went better. I imagine that by the time we finish with England and Scotland, they will all be old pros at it. The immigration line to have their passports stamped continues to entertain. This time, G. and L. came into my room first thing in the morning to show me the souvenirs they had bought and would be taking on the plane with them. Have I mentioned that their line between reality and play is very, very fuzzy?
  • TM is learning to play Mary Did You Know? on the piano (by ear, and his own arrangement), and has been working with Y. on it a bit. She is avidly copying everything he shows her.
  • Our Sharpie marker collection is rather worse for wear. I didn't realize quite how bad they were until I sat down with everyone to make the cards I mentioned earlier. I could find only a few that had sufficient amounts of ink in them. I feel as though I just bought these. Why can't markers last indefinitely?
  • Even among special needs parents, I'm an oddity, it seems. My new church has a once-a-month special needs parents' support group, but due to both family size and the fact that I homeschool, my world is just very different. It's great to have such a group, but I, more often than not, feel as though I'm Hermie from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (If you know me at all well personally, you will be laughing at the fact that I have compared myself, even in passing, with someone who wants to be a dentist.)
  • K. had an appointment with the bone graft doctor earlier this week. He's scheduled for a bone graft at the end of January. I've been kind of dreading this particular surgery, mainly because of the need to keep the child still and calm for such a long time afterward. I'm just not sure how, exactly, we will be able to keep K. still and calm for the time needed.
  • I stopped and counted. This will be our 12th family surgery, 15th procedure under anesthetic, and since we'll be at a different hospital, the fourth hospital to have a child have surgery in. That sounds like a lot, but I have friends for whom these numbers are nothing.
  • The younger crew are quickly becoming readers. More often than not, I see one or more of them reading a book. L. is working her way through Boxcar Children (and Genesis), G. prefers the shorter stories in graded readers because she can finish an entire book in less than an hour, and Y. is reading Magic Tree House. They are all at the stage where I'm not entirely sure they are really reading much of it, but yet they sit and stare at the pages for quite some time. Plus, they have been able to tell me about what they are reading. They may not be getting all of the words, but they are certainly getting something. K. reads well, but would much prefer building with Lego and playing with cars. He reads quite well, and does so when I ask him to, but it is not his default activity. It's why I have reading time for each of them built into our school morning.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


A new friend of mine invited me to write a post on adoption for her blog. You can read A Mom of 12 Shares the Beautiful Truth About Adoption. In reading some of the comments, there are a couple of questions asked that I actually hear fairly frequently. I thought perhaps doing a FAQ post, where I address some of the more common questions I'm asked would be interesting. (OK, maybe it won't be, but it gives me something to write about, so play along.)

1. How do you give all your children enough love and attention? Aren't the children in large families neglected because there aren't enough of the parents to go around?

Well, the honest answer is that I'm sure I don't give all of my children all the love and attention they need all of the time. I'm actually fairly certain that parents with smaller numbers of children don't do this perfectly all the time, either. I cannot do perfect. So with that off the table, the answer is, J. and I do our best. It helps to be a homeschooler. I have all day to interact with each of my children. It gives me the needed time. Here are some of the things I try to keep in mind throughout the day. Have I greeted each child and had a positive interaction with each of them before the demands of the day begin? This also has the benefit of giving me a chance to take that child's emotional temperature for the day. Am I going to need to pay closer attention to them than usual? Have I had a real conversation with each child? Did I actually look at that child and set aside whatever I working on when I had that conversation? Have I been able to say yes to that child today? Have I hugged each child and told them I love them?

Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the my children appreciate the fact that there are more children to dilute the parental focus and attention. I can be intense, and all of that intensity focused on just one or two children would be, well, intense. It has been agreed that the older half are thankful to have that intensity diluted. They don't really want (or need) my efforts directed at them and on their behalf all day, every day.

2. How much laundry do you do?

If I do at least one load of wash every day, with two loads every third day or so, I can keep up. This rarely happens for extended periods of time, and to get out from under it, I have been known to do two days in a row of five or six loads each day. I do not enjoy this.

3. What do you drive?

A 15-passenger van. What do I want to drive? That would be an electric blue Mini Cooper with black racing stripes.

4. How do you afford all those children?

I'm not sure we do, actually. It doesn't really make sense, but it has always worked out so far. I'm pretty sure my anxiety about money was not a part of making it all work out. But people usually want details with this. I don't buy a lot of processed food, buying in bulk and making things from scratch when I can. I make or buy second hand the vast majority of our clothes. We don't buy a lot of extras, and older children earn their own money to buy things such as small, expensive electronics. I limit extra curricular activities that are expensive, usually with the older children getting first priority in that realm. The younger ones will get their turns later on, and really, just playing is best for them anyway. No fancy vacations, we camp and invade family members instead.

But we have enough. Enough food, enough clothing, enough shelter, we do fun things, my children experience a lot. No one is deprived. God is faithful in taking care of us.

5. Do they all get along?

Yes, except when they don't. But there is always someone else to play with if you are having difficulties with a particular sibling. And then there are those people who engage in bickering for pleasure. We generally try to just tune them out.

6. Isn't it loud at your house?

Yes. If you find me shouting at you, just gently remind me that I can turn my volume down.

7. How do you do it? My two take all of my time.

This should, perhaps, be number 1. I think I hear it most often. I'm also never quite sure how to answer, because I wonder what it is that people think it is I do. I'm sure if they were to actually follow me around during the day, it would be fantastically disappointing. The other thing is, like you, my children take up my time. It's the nature of children. I don't get anymore time than anyone else, and I don't think I'm running a deficit. Can you even do that?

8. How do you cook for so many people all the time?

Cooking for a crowd is a learned skill. Remember, we didn't start out with 12 children, they came to us gradually. Certainly slowly enough that it was easier to figure out how to go from cooking for two, to cooking for three and so on. (I cannot cook for two anymore. I wouldn't even know where to begin.) I am really good at doubling and tripling recipes, and adding bulky fillers to meals to fill in the empty places.

How's that to start? I think I hit the ones I hear most often. Did I miss any?

Deceptively easy crafts

There is nothing like the promise of a craft to get people in gear. We had a lovely, cooperative morning of school work, followed by the much anticipated craft.

We are still in Brazil, so did a Brazil-themed craft. This was paper tearing to create a sunset background, and then I had a silhouette of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janero to be glued over it. (No, I didn't think it up myself. Are you kidding? I totally borrowed it from this website.)  I thought this was a going to be a breeze of a craft. Tearing paper, glue, what was there not to like or to be a problem?

Well, this was one instance where something that seems easy turns out to be deceptively tricky. I'm still not sure why. I think it was that the vast majority of the crafters had a lot of trouble with the idea of tearing long strips of color to create the sunset. It was as though they all got the idea of mosaics in there heads and couldn't move past that.

Here are the final products. They turned out just fine, but it wasn't the easy-peasy craft I was thinking it would be.

Based upon the mess that was left behind after everyone was done, they all ended up having a very good time.

I did not take a picture of the floor, but it was similarly decorated as well.

As an aside, there are six completed pictures... L., G., K., Y., and H. The sixth was TM, who decided to join in as well. That means that R. did not make one. No, she was not having a terrific day, and I was the recipient of the stink eye more than once. Today, she sat staring at her paper, occasionally holding up a piece of paper and grunting at me, waiting for me to do it for her. I've watched this child participate in things for the past nearly two years, and this was totally within her skill level. In fact, I thought that tearing paper and gluing would be just up her alley. But not today. I gave her some suggestions. I showed her how she could make her own picture. I provided her with materials. But because I wasn't going to do it for her, she decided to not participate. It has been a staring sort of day in general. (Bless H. for playing with some Duplo with her this afternoon, to get her doing something.) Maybe she will decide to join the world tomorrow.
I have a new article published. Click and share early and often. How to Keep Your Anger in Check When your Child is Pushing you Over the Edge

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Dinner in Brazil

There are some days where you think that perhaps God got you somehow mixed up with Job. We'll be OK, but geesh. You do know that not everything around here is bloggable, and that I only share a fraction of our lives, right? I would hate for anyone to think less of themselves or their families because they don't understand they are reading a very edited version of our days. Everyone's life has mess in it, our included.

Even with the mess, there are still little people to teach and love, laundry to do, food to make. You know, life. Which doesn't stop and pause whether we want it to or not. Which is why on this Job-like day, we still had our meal from Brazil.

Along with the Brazilian music in the background, here is what we had.

Pao de Queijo (cheese rolls), and

Sopa de feijao (black bean soup).

Not only was this dinner pretty economical, but nearly every single person, took a bite and exclaimed, "This is good!" Those of are some of my favorite words. 

Now, because I know some people will ask, I can give you one recipe, because it is hardly a recipe, and the other, you will have to either Google it, or check out the book, The Cooking of Brazil by Matthew Lorcricchio. I will tell you that you need tapioca flour or starch to make them. The easiest place to find this is in a grocery store with a good Asian section. It looks like this. It will probably be right next to the sticky rice flour and regular rice flour... and the banh xeo mix, if you are so lucky.

So on to the soup.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly, because I already had frozen black beans in the freezer. This means I didn't cook the beans as the recipe said, but added things afterwards. Essentially, get yourself some cooked black beans. You can either cook them yourself, or open a can. Heat the beans on the stove in some chicken stock. It's a 1:1 ratio, so one cup of beans to one cup of stock. In the meantime, hard-boil some eggs and cook some bacon. These are going to be used as toppings for the soup. Set them aside when they are done, but don't get rid of the bacon fat, because you are going to saute a chopped onion and some chopped garlic in it. Once they are pretty well cooked, add them to your soup pot, along with some salt and pepper. If you have an immersion blender, pause for a moment of thanks, and then use it to puree the beans and onions. If you don't have one, put it on your Christmas list, and go through the fuss and bother of using a blender. Either way, puree the soup. Keep it warm until you are ready to serve. Set the chopped eggs and crumbled bacon on the table for people to garnish their soup with. (You're also supposed to add cilantro. We don't do cilantro here, because I am the one responsible for the grocery shopping, and I cannot stand the stuff. About half of my children agree with me. My cilantro-loving family members have to be content with begging it at restaurants and other people's houses.)


Monday, November 06, 2017

Do not believe the cats

See these two?

They are waiting, oh so patiently, outside the utility room door. This is the room where they are fed. They have learned that sometimes someone will enter the room, see the cats waiting, oh so patiently, and they will get food. Extra food. Food that is not part of their daily food schedule. One cat is unlikely to get extra food. Everyone knows that this usually means the cats have been fed, since they are not both there, waiting. They are smart cats. They have figured this out. This happens so many times throughout the day, that a very common question can be heard, often more than once. "Have the cats been fed?" When the target person walking nearby does not provide extra food, the cats walk away as if they weren't asking for more food anyway. After a suitable time has passed, they will regroup and try again.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

How we spent the day

We got a couple of jobs done around the house (and by we I mean J., with me offering opinions). Such as hanging this pot rack above the kitchen island.

Now we have some more space in the pantry, and perhaps I can bring another kitchen box home from the storage locker and unpack it.

J. also made me a counter to put my sewing machines on.

This means I can actually set up the machines, and finally start sewing again.

And we celebrated in a very low key way TM's 15th birthday, though he did allow us to put candles on his cake this year. No singing, though. He invited a friend to join us for dinner, and chose roasted chicken and vegetables with cheesecake for desert.

Happy birthday, TM! I love you very, very much!

I also have a new article published: I Just Knew

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The long process of healing

For the past couple of days, my days have been mostly filled with the continuing job of helping two girls work through their past abuse and trauma. Some days it feels as though it is never ending, and that we will never reach a point where they are not significantly impacted by their past. I often feel like part therapist, part private detective, part cheerleader, and part referee... all at the same time. I also have decided that it is my lot in life to help my children heal by spending countless hours picking up approximately 1 million Legos. No wonder by the time evening rolls around I'm not much good for anything except staring at the computer, watching an episode of Speechless, and reading a good mystery.

But in all of the yuck that the past two days has brought, we have also seen some hopeful positive behavior as well.

H. continues to allow herself to express emotion. Recently this hasn't always been coming out in pleasant ways, and it takes some work to get her to being able to think about and verbalize what she is feeling, but it's coming. Of course, she just turned 15, so that could also play a part of it. She is definitely not the preternaturally happy, Stepford child any more, and that is very good news. You have to be able to allow yourself to feel the emotions inside of you before you can deal with them. Stuffing them and smiling all the time is never terribly healthy. In some ways it feels as though we are helping her learn what each of these emotions feels like and are giving her names for those feelings she has shut down for so long as well as giving her scripts as to what to do with them.

R. is making inch-by-inch progress, which definitely swings widely back and forth between functioning and non-functioning multiple times during a day. She did have a pretty good day for the second half of it. (The first half was, um, shall we say, loud.) The biggest thing was that she finally agreed to go upstairs and play on the floor with everyone building with blocks and Legos. We have been working on her being able to do this for a year at least. She came to us so very disassociated that it is how she spent a good part of her day. Her favorite activity was one she could do sitting at a table and just do over and over and over and over, for literally hours if I didn't intervene. Slowly I added to the list of activities which I could only allow her to do very occasionally and for very limited amounts of time because I have become so concerned about her inability to stay in the present. I often felt like the ogre mother, because they are activities she enjoys, yet they are also activities which she can use to aid her disassociation. Her list of options that she wanted and was willing to do was getting shorter and shorter.

I don't know what it was about today, but when I suggested she go upstairs and build a house, she actually went. Not only did she go upstairs, she did so without shrieking and she actually built something. Even better, G. and L. were able to play with her (bless them), and not only was she doing something that she couldn't disassociate while doing, but she was engaged with other children.

The good news doesn't stop there, because we also had a couple of real conversations. These are very rare, as R. is usually content just to follow people silently around, stand far too close right behind them, and if she says anything it is merely to parrot single nouns. (That's not annoying at all. [sarcasm emoticon should be inserted here.]) A real conversation, even if brief is a very welcome change. And these were conversations not only about what I was doing (laundry), but some emotional processing as well. (Why we do things here that she didn't do in China. How I took a plane to get her. How China is a long way away and you have to sleep on the plane. Why does Mommy love her? That sort of thing. Kind of heavy stuff for someone who usually communicates by single English nouns and a handful of Chinese verbs.)

My last bit of good news is that we have seen R. start to try to experiment in moving her body in different ways. She can now do a high kneel, with fairly decent posture, without any help and without shrieking as though we are pulling off her fingernails. We have also seen her be a little more adventurous in how she moves, trying different things which go beyond the sitting, standing, lying down trio that she would not venture away from for over a year. I am convinced that the ability and willingness to be more in touch with her body is directly correlated to both her emotional and cognitive gains.

I know that this healing process is a three stop forward, two and 9/10's steps back progress, so I won't be surprised if we are back to the status quo tomorrow. But we have seen positive things, which gives me hope that the potential is in there.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Apple cider donuts

Clearly I hit a nerve with my picture of the donuts I made the other day. I should post food pictures more often. My stats would skyrocket. Here is the recipe that so many people requested. I have had this for so long I cannot remember where I got it, thus cannot attribute it. I hate that. Anyway, here it is. It is incredibly easy, so go ahead and try making them yourselves.

Apple Cider Donuts - makes 1 dozen (though you must know I triple this when I make it, right?)

1 1/2 C. flour
2/3 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 C. apple cider
4 TBSP butter, melted
Vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, sift (or stir well with a fork like I do) together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the cider, then stir in the melted butter. (Do let the butter cool just a little bit, or you will scramble your eggs.) Make a well in the flour mixture and stir in the wet ingredients. Turn the soft dough onto a lightly floured surface and put it into a 1/2-inch high round. (I first knead the dough five or six times to make it into a soft dough. You really can't do that with a fork in the bowl. Don't do it too much, though, or your dough will get tough.) Heat 3-inches of oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Use a donut cutter (or biscuit cutter or glass) to form rings. If you need to poke the holes, you can do it with your fingers or use a knife to cut out small circles. I've done it both ways. I sometimes fry the donut holes, and sometimes I knead them back into the dough for more donuts. Depends on how I feel. I stack my cut out donuts on parchment paper, to stop them from sticking together or to the counter too much. It helps to lightly flour the parchment paper as well. Once the oil begins to bubble, take a little bit of dough to see if it is hot enough. Drop it in. If it sinks down to the bottom, but then rises too the top fairly quickly, your oil is ready. Carefully lower a donut into the oil. I use a slotted spatula. You can cook more than one at a time, but don't let them touch. Once a donut rises to the surface and begins to brown a bit, flip it over with a spatula to cook the other side. The should be done in 2-3 minutes. If they are pretty thick, give them a little more time. It helps to eat the first one to double check you are getting them cooked through. I find this to be a very important step, be sure not to leave it out. Drain the cooked donuts on paper towels. Stir together the glaze and spoon it over the donuts.

Apple Cider Glaze

Mix together 1 1/2 C. powdered sugar and 3 TBSP apple cider

Enjoy. We're back in a donut phase, so I'm feeling as though I want to try other varieties. Pumpkin donuts would be good...
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