Showing posts from August, 2013

The ugliness of perfectionism

Things are going better today. Since I have working brain cells today, I've been thinking a lot about our little episode yesterday and the idea of perfectionism in general. There's nothing like seeing your own worst traits reflected in your children to bring you up short, huh?

You see, I am a recovering perfectionist.

And when you couple the perfectionism with a strong competitive streak, I'm afraid the results aren't always pretty. I've known I am perfectionist for as long as I can remember... even before I had a word to describe the need to do everything right. Like most perfectionists, it came out in one of two ways, really depending on how successful I imagined I could complete something. If it was something I felt capable of, I was insanely driven to do it 'just right'. (Um, this would be not unlike how I recently tackled my school planning for the year... remember I'm recovering.) Or, if it was something I knew I would not be able to do as well as…

A word of advice

Just file this away for future reference...

If the day is very, very hot and your children are at loose ends, and you happen to be at the craft store picking up a few more supplies for your preschool curriculum, do not under any circumstances also buy your developmentally older children paint-by-numbers to pass the time. Do not do this even if the disregulated child you have with takes a sudden interest in them and thinks it looks like something he would enjoy. Just turn around and make the few purchases you actually came for.

Because if you don't, you will be reminded how dreadful it is to deal with a frustrated child who is an extreme perfectionist. And the fact that the painting does not look like the picture, even though only four spaces have been painted in, will undoubtedly be your fault. Your fault for allowing him to choose an obviously defective kit. Your fault that the colors do not match exactly. Your fault that he cannot paint like the computer generated image. And whe…

Recent news

I'm spending my day catching up with laundry (desperate... I should take a picture of the pile of dirty laundry just to make every other person feel better about their laundry) and working on making preschool activities for the school year. It will mean doing copious amounts of laminating. (I'm secretly very excited.) The trick will be to keep all the smaller people in my house occupied while I do this. Preferably with an activity htat has limited mess making possibilities. I am not hopeful.

Recently the favorite activity has been to play "Going on a Trip". They love this game. I do not, other than the fact it does keep them busy. It is mainly because the game involves packing. And by packing I mean the littles take nearly every item in their room, put it in any available container they can find, and carrying it downstairs where the 'vehicle' is. Inevitably when they arrive at their destination, they must unpack. For some reason, when they go on trips, they a…

Frugal large family meals: Not-from-a-box hamburger helper, or keeping up with the garden

B.'s garden is doing exceedingly well this year. He has been growing beans, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers, among other things. It is the first year that I have had to work to keep up with the produce. That is why I threw this dish together last night; to avoid good produce going bad. The only reason I used this combination of vegetables is that it was what was sitting on the counter. I make a similar version in winter with carrots, celery, peas, and canned diced tomatoes. Really, it can be just about any vegetable you have on hand.

Not-From-a-Box Hamburger Helper
Serves pretty much as many as you need it too, add more noodles. (I'm going to write out a manageable sized version. I had more leftovers than I expected to last night.)

1 bag egg noodles
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
handful of green beans, chopped
2 small eggplant, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 tomatoes, chopped

Cook the egg noodles as directed (since I will be adding the…

The finally completed homeschool schedule

I know some of you are very interested in how our homeschool day works, so this may be a little more detailed than others of you really care about. Permission to skip this post and come back tomorrow is granted.

In trying to figure out the details, I had a couple of problems. I had a lot of little people and not-so-little people who needed my attention through out the morning. When you include the older grade school student who isn't quite ready to do everything on his own, the junior high student who needs not as many check-in times, but still needs them, a completely independent high schooler, and an ESL high schooler, it made for a lot of needs and not so many people to fill them. I eventually decided on a less-is-more approach. Here is how I hope it will work.

9:00 - 10:00 - This is the hour when I will do work with G. and L. (they are beginning the Rod and Staff preschool books this year). I expect that they will breeze through their work (I'm thinking 10 minutes for each …

What we did on everyone else's first day of school.

Often I take advantage of the quiet and go to a museum. Pretty much on the first day of school the museums are completely empty and we have one of them all to ourselves. I think we'll try to hit one later in the week and it will probably be just as empty. But today we stayed home.

You see, J. went to the farmer's market for me on Saturday and I had bags of beans in my refrigerator and half a bushel of peaches on my counter which were joining the cucumbers I had already bought and had been waiting a little longer. I was starting to have stress dreams about all this produce going bad so today was the day to do something about it.

I pressed many people into service and we got a lot done. Total for today: 7 pints of peach jam, 5 pints of dilly beans, and 3 quarts of bread and butter pickles. I still want to peel and slice some more of the peaches to put in the dehydrator. that may have to wait for tomorrow because my enthusiasm for the project is quickly waning. It does feel good …

Children and reading and a few book recommendations

I think it is done. The school schedule, that is. After hours and hours of thinking and making notes and flipping through books and staring at Pinterest, I think I know how I'm going to make it work. I'm so tired of thinking about it right now, you'll have to wait for the details. I know this will sadden the dozens and dozens of you out whose schools include 5 developmental preschoolers, a 5th grader whose fear is triggered by school work, typically developing 5th, 8th, and 10th graders, and an ESL high school student who are dying to hear my plans.

In one of the past comments, a real life friend asked if I had recommendations for mysteries for her grade school aged son because she was heartily sick of the Hardy Boys. I'm happy to think about books that are not in the piles which have surrounded my desk for the past two weeks, so I'll chat about this instead.

First I need to offer my disclaimer about our family reading policy before I go recommending any books. Tha…

Adding to the law

Dear Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society,

Since I am a homeschool teacher, it's that time of year when I sit down and plan our schedule and also arrange for field trips for my children. To that end, I was looking at your website thinking that a trip to your zoo would be a wonderful destination. For the majority of institutions in and around Chicago, I have simply registered as a school group and away we went, so when I noticed you have a separate page and policy for homeschooled students, I knew it couldn't be good.

To say I was dismayed at reading your policy would be a complete understatement, outraged would be far more accurate. Since your policy was most likely made out of ignorance, I will try to explain how the homeschooling laws in Illinois work and perhaps help you to understand why I had such a strong reaction. First of all, the Illinois school code (article 26 if you would like to look it up yourself) states that a school, either public or private which…

And he's off

Yesterday was the big day when B. moved into the dorm to start his freshman year of college. It was a little tricky to figure out how we were going to make the logistics work. We finally decided that B. would say good-bye to H., K., G., and L. at the house and then HG would take all the little people to the park. The older children would then come to school and see B.'s dorm room and help move him in. My job was to be supportive and not blubber to an embarrassing amount.
First the good-byes at home. H. and K. didn't want B. to go, but were OK with saying good-bye and having a picture.
H. and B.
K. and B.
And then it was time for B. to say good-bye to L. and G. These were two sad little girls. L. coped by clutching an old balloon and B. had to scoop her up for a picture because she was NOT going to cooperate. That was a bit sad.

But not as sad as when it was time to say good-bye to G. When he called her over to have her picture taken, she burst into tears grabbed onto his leg …

Pausing in the planning to write a post

I'm still knee deep (nearly literally) in homeschool planning. I think I probably have a grip on how I'm going to make this goofy year work and when I'm done I'll share it with you. But doing all this planning combined with being a wee bit compulsive means that not much else has happened, including laundry. I really need to something about the laundry or it will get ugly.

All that to say, there's not a whole lot else going on in my brain these days. (Unless you count preparing to send B. off to school tomorrow. I'm pretty sure there is a good chunk of mental real estate given over to that somewhere in my head.) So I'll share a couple of things with and then I can get on with my planning.

The little girls never fail to delight and yesterday HG came up to me laughing with a funny G. story. (Remember, I've done a new cast of characters so you can keep straight all the initials including the few new ones I'll be using.) Ever since HGbaby has been here, t…

All-new, improved, cast of characters

I know that my initial system for identifying family and friends can be tricky to keep straight, and if you are a newer reader or don't know us personally, it can be even harder. So, now with updated pictures, here is a list of everyone, starting from youngest to oldest.

L. (on left) and G. on right - with M.'s velociraptors she made 
G. (on left) and L. (on right)
G. and L. are next in the line-up. They are four year old twins and a lot of fun to have around. G. loves panda bears and L. love superheroes (especially Superman). They are very bright, verbal, and determined. This is not always a good combination in a four year old... just sayin'.

K. is next. He is seven years old and was adopted from Vietnam at the age of two. We adjust his age down two years to make up for the very deprived two years in the orphanage. K. loves vehicles of all types and also really likes super heroes. He is small but ridiculously strong... his ability to do sit-ups and pull-ups is astonishing…

The travails of an avid mystery reader

I think I may have already mentioned that I read mysteries like some people eat candy. They are my escapist occupation at the end of what can be long days. The trouble is, I don't really enjoy poorly written books and the number of mysteries that I've begun but can't bear to finish because of pretty rotten writing or plot is large. Thus, when I find well-written, entertaining mysteries that aren't too graphic, and that happen to part of a series with the same detective, I'm thrilled. I have weeks (or sometimes months) of happy reading as I plow through the entire series (in order, of course). And then I come to the last book. Sadly, it is impossible for mystery writers to crank out new books fast enough to keep up with my reading speed.

My absolute favorite detective is Lord Peter Wimsey by Dorothy Sayers. Since there will be no more books, I make do with rereading them every 10 years or so, when I've forgotten most of the important points. My next favorite is …

Graduation dinner

Last night we went out to dinner to celebrate B.'s high school graduation. With him moving onto campus next week, we realized that we needed to schedule this or he would leave for college before we got to it. This is also what we did for M.'s graduation. She really didn't want a big party, so I completely stole the idea of a dinner with just our older children from Mary at Owlhaven. She had written about having a date with her older children and I loved it and stored it in my mental files. It seemed to be the perfect way to celebrate the end of high school. B. also did not want a party, so we did the same thing with him.

He chose to go to an Irish Pub restaurant in town and it was just M., B., and A. who went. We had to make the decisions that you counted as an older child if you were in high school or beyond. It was a lot of fun. As much as I love dinner with everyone at the table, it can become a bit loud and difficult to have real conversations. This allowed us to reall…

Appropriate emotions

I've written before about how sometimes children coming out of difficult living situations have learned to disassociate from what they are feeling. It can mean some odd looking behavior... laughing at something that is not funny or not crying when they are obviously hurt. It is survival behavior that allows them to function in hard circumstances, but it is not healthy and not appropriate in a family setting.

This has been true for all of my children who were adopted, each with varying degrees of impact. But with H., the continued absence of genuine sadness has been, well, odd. She is a naturally cheerful and positive child, so her overall good nature doesn't surprise me, but life doesn't always go her way. Occasionally she will do something that gets her in trouble, or she will not get something she wants, or any of the other small disappointments that come in life. When this happens, she will look a bit sad, but then agreeably go along with whatever comes next. This is in…

School room, the real life version

I don't know what to write today, so am going to take advantage of a homeschool blog hop and talk about our school room... or lack of one these days. For several years, we actually had a dedicated school room in our home. It was large and held a big table, wall to wall books, a computer, and even natural history items including small mammals. And then our family grew again, and suddenly having another bedroom became much more important than having a school room.

In full disclosure, the last few years of the school room's life were not optimal. Once our kitchen was redone, it was a much more pleasant room to be in and many people opted to be there instead. The school room became a disaster area waiting to happen with the dump-and-run phenomenon happening. You know what that is... instead of actually entering the room and putting something away, the child would enter only as far as necessary and dump whatever item was in hand on whatever surface could be reached first. It became…


Here is the letter I sent off to the writer of the Ask Amy column in the Chicago Tribune this morning.

Dear Amy, I have been following with interest the responses to the letter from the young girl who was convinced that she never wanted children and desired to do something permanent in that direction. I was pleased that others chimed in with their experience. At 19 we think we know what we will be like 10, 20, or more years down the road, but really, there is no way to know what forces will shape our lives and how we will change. The respondent's tone was understanding of where she saw herself now, yet tried to communicate how limited her life experiences and views of the future really were at this young age. And then came the letter from the woman about never having wanted to be a 'breeder'. How very "Handmaid's Tale". I cannot even begin to describe how extremely distasteful I find this phrase. To describe a fellow human being as a 'breeder'…

Making stuff makes me happy

Somehow or other I ended up with quite of bit of time this weekend and was able to make G. and L. a pair of t-shirts. Creating things really does help to relax me and put me in a healthy frame of mind. I truly believe that people were meant to create, in whatever form that takes, and it is in this way that we show how we are made in the likeness of God, the ultimate creator.
Besides, who cannot help but be happy when you see four big spools of this color of blue on your serger?

It also makes you especially happy when, after a good chunk of time, you finally feel as though you have truly figured out how to thread that serger. Plus, being able to change the thread on the serger allows one to make a couple cute t-shirts in the same pretty blue. (These are from Burda 9614)

Oh, how I love my embroidery machine (and my parents for giving it to me several years ago). Because then I can make these...

a panda for G....

and Superman for L.

It felt as though it was a educational experience, for…

Can you recommend a book?

Normally I have no problem answering this question. I always have a book (or two or ten) to recommend, but this time I realize I was stumped. On one of our adoption agency fb pages, someone posted a question as to what book people would recommend to prepare this family for adopting the first time around. Most of the books I usually recommend were mentioned (they are numbers 90-94 on my top 100 books list), and I was trying to think of any others I could add.

What I wanted to recommend was a book that prepared a family for the possibilities of what adoption would bring to their family. While I don't want to scare anyone away from choosing adoption, I also think that going in fully informed is a good thing. (I will also say, that sometimes no amount of books or classes or first-hand accounts can prepare you for what it is like to adopt a child who is damaged from trauma. Until you have lived it yourself, you just cannot know.) I was wanting a memoir that would share the real difficu…

Office supplies

While I may be purposefully ignoring the rapidly approaching school year, my children are not. And really, it is not because they are all so anxious to crack those math books open again. I know why. It's all because the beginning of the school year means new school supplies which means a trip to the office supply store. The badgering has already begun. "When are you going to get school supplies?" "Can I come with you to get school supplies?" "I love going to the office supply store!" And on and on and on. They love office supplies and love to walk around the office supply store. Every single one of them.

(Actually, I have no idea if G. and L. love the office supply store since I have never taken them there. I have taken them to very few stores at all. Poor things don't get out much.)

You would think to hear them that we were down to two short stubby pencils and they were pulling paper out of the recycling to use. The reality is, I'm not sure w…

What's the point?

It's been one of those days where I run from one thing to another and things like blog posts just don't get written. Better late than never, right? I've noticed that the back-to-school gear up has begun and homeschoolers are not immune. (I would like to be immune, really I would. I'm still feeling as though it's the middle of summer. Please don't disabuse me of that notion.) I've also noticed that, for homeschoolers, teaching high school, especially when one is just beginning is a major hurdle to wrap one's mind around.

I can remember that feeling of being a little (or more than a little) afraid of homeschooling high school when M. was a freshman. I was worried that we would have to completely change how we learned things; that we would never have fun together again because it would be all academics all the time or else I would have failed my daughter miserably. I can remember secretly hoping that she would decide that she never wanted to go to college,…

It's that time of year

As much as I don't want to, I need to start thinking about school plans for the fall. We have done very little formal school work this summer and I have appreciated the break. (I may change my mind about that when we start back. That first week of math can be unpleasant.) I think my children have appreciated it too, in that they are starting to ask when we will begin school and what we are going to be doing. I have the general idea in my head as to what we are going to be working on, but the details are still a bit fuzzy.

You would think that by the 16th year of homeschooling I would have the logistics of it all worked out. I thought that as well, but as I think about how the school year is going to work, I'm realizing that I really need to go back to the drawing board and rethink how we are going to do school this year. It's all because I've never had this odd set of ages and abilities before. And it is a bit odd.

Here's the spread. I have two doing high school wo…