Showing posts from June, 2014

Mail from Mickey

Several weeks ago, L. (who LOVES Mickey Mouse) decided she would write Mickey a letter. She asked A. to write the letters as she dictated. Here is her letter. (It reads: Dear Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Clarabelle, I will come visit you when I am 5 years old. I like to dress up as Superman. I am very excited to meet you. Love, L)

I seemed to remember that there was an address to send fan mail to Mickey, so we looked it up and mailed it. It was worth the stamp because L. was going to be insistent that it really be mailed. For the first few days L. hovered around the mail box waiting to see if her return letter from Mickey arrived. Then, thankfully, she forgot about the letter and only occasionally asked when it would arrive.
And then on Saturday it arrived! Oh glorious day! A letter from Mickey and all his friends. L. loves it and is even planning on bringing it along on our trip later this week. 
Notice L. has now entered the goofy, forced smile…

On not being lost in Iowa

While there were some humorous moments, I am happy to report that I am not writing this from the back roads of Iowa still looking for a driveway. All went well and I am now home with two less children than I left with, but that was the plan so it's OK.
The drive was fine and then we turned off the interstate to head north. That was fine until there was a detour. Now, historically, I do not have great success with detours. I don't know if I miss signs or just have happened to be on poorly marked ones, but they never seem to end and I have to make up the last bit on my own. I do not view detours signs as happy things. Yet, the bridge was out, so I had no choice but to take the detour. I drive on and then the detour brings us to the town where I have been to pick-up our side of beef. I know where I am! The trouble is, while I can easily find the meat locker in this small town, I have always had difficulty finding the road north out of it. Ask my children. I probably hold the reco…

Road trip!

I'm leaving this afternoon with several children (I'm taking the helpful ones and leaving J. at home with the, um, less helpful ones.) My brother and his family have recently moved to Iowa (long story, not mine to tell) and they need help getting the place ready to house a horse and other farm-type animals. Enter B. who likes nothing better than to do hard work around farm-type places. He will be working for my brother for most of the summer and we need to drive over to drop him off. Of course, other children want to come along and see the farm and play with cousins, so that's what we're doing. It's a quick trip and I'll be back tomorrow. That's OK because the whole family will be heading out next week (with a dog sitter at home... just need to point it out) to spend the fourth over there. Because we'll be back next week, P. is going to stay there as well and we'll bring her home with us next week.

Now, I've been in the area before, but not freq…

Here's some reading for you

Here are some interesting things I've come across that you might find interesting.

First, One Thankful Mom has written one of the best posts I've ever seen about homeschooling.
Homeschooling: Six Truths I Wished I had Known in the Beginning

Next a couple of articles about reading.
Why Books are Better than e-Books for Children
Read to a Tiny Baby? Yes

And a couple on adoption.
The Adoption Process Really isn't the Hard Part
Post-Orphanage Behaviors in Internationally Adopted Children

Finally, a link to a video Love Without Boundaries produced. It really highlight for me what these children face when they are adopted.
Hope for Orphaned Children

Lena may have a family now, but that still leaves two girls who really need someone to be their mommy and daddy.

Here's Grace. She is 7 years old and has waited and waited for a family while being shuffled from place to place. She needs some love and stability.

And here is Ting. I found another site advocating for her with so…

Catching up on pictures

My mother reminded me that she is still waiting for pictures from D.'s birthday. Here they are.
We also celebrated J.'s birthday. You know we have candle issues in our house... never having a dessert that can hold them and my penchant for recycling them over and over. I think this is a new low (high?) in candle recycling. It's hard to see, but B. is holding a '4' and a '6' and four single candles, which if you add all those numbers together you get the somewhat milestone age that J. just turned. I don't think he minds me outing him on the internet. Much.

D. actually had candles that said his age: 11. And they were new! You should have heard the exclamations over using new candles.

Opening presents.

(That smile is for the camera, Grammy and Grandpa.)
I also wanted to show you photographic proof that we don't have a crazy Lab in the house, but merely an over sized gerbil. I walked through the house yesterday and started seeing little bits of cardboar…

What has it cost you?

One afternoon while I was sewing I had the radio on and happened to catch an interview with Rosario Butterfield about her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith. I haven't read the book, but there was one part of the interview that I have continued to think about for months afterwards. As Ms. Butterfield was contemplating choosing to follow Jesus, she was speaking with the pastor of the church she had been attending about the fact that she felt she would have to give up too much in order to follow Jesus. She felt as though her experience was unique and that probably no one else in the congregation had to give up as much as she would. The pastor challenged her to go ask them. Go ask people what they had given up in order to follow Christ.

At this point I admit to losing track of what was on the radio because I wondered what I would say if someone asked me this question. Have I had to give up, sacrifice something I felt …

The further adventures of Gretel... or the worst first piano lesson ever

Gretel loves to play. One of Gretel's favorite game is chase. Gretel doesn't want to chase people (though there's nothing better to her than chasing rabbits and squirrels), she wants people to chase her. Chase is even better than fetching balls. Playing chase is the best, best thing and Gretel will do anything to get people to chase her. Gretel has discovered that bolting out the front door is the very best way to play her favorite game.

Gretel's people do not like to play chase. They will throw balls. They will point out the rabbits. Gretel's people do not think playing chase is fun. Gretel's people think that playing chase with Gretel when she bolts out the front door is the worst game in the world. Gretel's people have to play the game Stalking when Gretel bolts and carefully sneak up on her, piece of food in hand, to stop the game the of chase. Gretel's people do not like this.

One of Gretel's people teaches piano. This is fun because there are …

Happy 11th birthday, D.!

Today is D.'s birthday, though we won't celebrate until tomorrow since he is still up at church camp. It also marks the day of a three day in a row string of celebrations... tomorrow is J.'s birthday and the next day is our anniversary (our 23rd). Is it any wonder that I have a love/hate relationship with June? This also marks the day where we have three 11 year olds in the house.

It also caused me to do some math to figure out what years will have the most children in their teens living here. It's a tie between when the virtual triplets turn 13 and when they turn 16. Both years will see five teens in the house. Don't read too much trepidation into that statement, because I happen to like the age. I actually find it (the count of teens in the house) more interesting than anything.

Anyway, back to D. I love this not-so-little boy so much. He is perhaps one of the most empathetic people I know. He really just loves people. He also has a most remarkable memory. I'…

Love your uniqueness

The Hearts at Home blog hop's topic this month is "Love Your Uniqueness." I will admit that as much as I love a prompt, this one has me a little stymied. I have a pretty healthy self-esteem, but I am also realistic about areas I need to work on. I'm also a little wary of the school of thought that tells us to love ourselves without a hearty dose of clear-headedness about our strengths and weaknesses.

We humans also have quite a bit of trouble with uniqueness anyway. We tend to prefer when everyone is comfortably like ourselves. Different is hard. When people take a different path, it tends to make others nervous; not everyone, but in general. I think this is because when people do things that are unique, it makes us question what we are doing. I find this to be particularly true with parenting. The minute a mother chooses something different from the crowd, a minor brouhaha erupts. Pick your topic... breast feeding, working, vaccinations, sleeping arrangement, all th…

Those times when you realize you have a big family

Most of the time I don't think our family is all that big. Yes, there are a lot of us, but it's what we're used to. We see the individuals, not the group as a whole. Does that make sense? When some are missing, many times at least one person will look around and say, "Is that all? Do we have everyone?" Even though the group consists of at least 6 or more people, it seems small because of our normal numbers.

There are times though, when I have moments of seeing our family with someone else's eyes. Those times when I catch a glimpse of my family, yet don't immediately recognize it as such. I do have moments of, "Wow! That's a lot of children!" I then realize it's my own family, laugh, and the size doesn't seem so enormous anymore. Or, I'll look at photos of other families with the same number of children and be momentarily overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. That is until I realize that this family I'm looking at has one l…


Over the weekend we went to a BBQ at a friend's house and they had chalk to use on their long driveway for the various children who were there. Suddenly everyone was playing hopscotch and HG even taught us how to play a Honduran version. When we got home the hopscotch craze continued and my front walk is covered with various hopscotch games, some more traditional than others.

My favorite is this one:

It starts in front of my house and goes on and on. Notice that TM added to it on the front end so used negative numbers for the squares.

The hopscotch game continues down the block for four houses. If you look down the sidewalk you see a person in a blue shirt standing far, far away. That is H. who is at the end of the hopscotch game.

The last square is labelled 134, so that makes a total of 138 squares once you add in the negative ones.

It's great exercise and good for certain people's large muscle development. H. can do about half of it before collapsing. TM, the human perpe…

Why we really chose homeschooling for our family

I know this seems like a slightly odd topic for the end of the school year, but it's what has been on my mind. It all has to do with G. and L. turning five years old. There must be something about your youngest turning five to make you remember your oldest turning the same age. It was about when M. turned five (or maybe a little earlier, I don't really remember) that there was a Baby Blues comic that appeared in the paper. The short version is that the mother sees a school bus going down the street and clutches her baby a little tighter thinking about having to send her away to school. I loved this so much I put in on the refrigerator where it hung for years. I've even blogged about it before because the whole idea is really the reason we started homeschooling.

Having the little girls turning such a pivotal age, it feels brand-new, this feeling of needing to keep my little ones with me just a bit longer. And five years old really is little, it was not so long ago that they…

The first June birthday bash... or Happy 19th birthday B. and Happy 5th birthday G. and L.

We have a lot of June celebrations in the Big Ugly House. Eight to be exact; 7 birthdays and 1 anniversary. To make things simple, I decided to combine several of the birthdays into one big celebration. Last night we celebrated HG3's (though now he is HG4), B., G., and L.' birthdays. To cover all bases, we had both pie and cake. 
A. made panda cupcakes.

I made peach pies.

The pies brought the funniest moment of the evening. You'll see I wrote the ages being celebrated on the pies. I even pointed out to B. that I had done so. He said he had noticed. Then J. points out that B. isn't turning 18, but is turning 19. B. and I look at each other and burst out laughing because neither of us had really caught onto him turning 19. You'll be happy to know he now knows how old he will be tomorrow.

Here are a few scenes from the evening. We sang one round of 'Happy Birthday' and each person had a candle or two to blow out. (We never seem to have a dessert that candles …

Distracted from distraction by distraction*... a book review

I finished reading The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr about a week ago and I've been digesting it ever since. I'm not sure I can even now write a completely coherent review, but I'm going to try. There is just so much in this book.

The thesis of the book is that by using and relying on the internet for more and more of our day and for more and more varied tasks, we are changing our brains... and not necessarily for the better. The Internet is training us for distraction. As a result, it is more difficult to think deeply, to engage in extended serious thought, or to sustain concentration.

 "... it would be a serious mistake to look narrowly at the Net's benefits and conclude that the technology is making us more intelligent. Jordan Grafman, head of the cognitive neuroscience unit at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, explains that the constant shifting of our attention when we're online may make our…

Hair extensions

H.'s hair extension arrived not too long ago and I wanted to share with you how it works. I think it makes the shaved part of her head virtually unnoticeable. It's made out of human hair and the color is a perfect match. Here is what it looks like.

There are two little combs that open up with a little pressure (just like barrettes).

The little combs slide over the short hairs that are growing in and attach really securely. Here is what it looks like when its in. (It's on H's left side.)

Can't tell, huh?

Worth every penny.

I had a couple of questions about shampoo and smell. First, the odor from the medicine. I'm not sure I can really describe it. It has just a vaguely unpleasant smell and I'm not really good and describing scents. Maybe a little sour? Definitely just 'off', not what children, even dirty ones, usually smell like. It does not smell like a child under constant anxiety and fear, though. I know that smell. TM would smell like that before…

On not answering the question

I go to great lengths to avoid answering the question of how many children I have. I'm the queen of the smiling, noncommittal answer. Conversations usually go something like this.
I'm out with some of my children and a stranger notices that I have more than a couple of children with me. "Oh my. Are these are yours?" (Which, since it is usually a fraction of the real number, always feels a little amusing.) I look around me to be sure they really are mine, answer in the affirmative, and try to keep moving. 
Or another scenario. I have just one child with me and someone asks if I have other children at home. I usually mumble something like, "Yes, a few," and try to move along.
There was an online discussion I read about this very thing and some women were adamant that my mumble and move strategy was tantamount to lying. (I wasn't participating in the discussion, but I'm not the only one to employ this strategy.) Others were appalled that those of us wi…

Off line

Just wanted to let everyone know we're OK, but I won't be posting for the rest of the week. It turns out our modem is bad so I won't have phone or internet until at least Saturday. Just don't ask me how much I love AT&T U-Verse at the moment. Unless you want an earful that is...

Just can't wait

I went to a homeschooling conference on Thursday to shop the vender hall for next year's supplies, and came home with several bags of books and resources. My children seem to have inherited my love of books, because just having them sit around and not use them has been difficult. Some things I really will keep until fall, but others I am letting them start in right now. I was planning on doing some school-type stuff throughout the summer anyway.

"No, you can't do any math right now. We have to save it for September," said no mother ever.

There is another story from the weekend that I've gone back and forth about whether to share or not. It feels so private but at the same time, it highlights the need that some children have for families. It breaks my heart every time I think about it. Before we left church to come home yesterday, H., G., and L. needed to use the rest room. HG and I were waiting out in the hallway chatting, when we hear the most gut-wrenching howl…

Old World Wisconsin

I've spent the past two days driving long distances, walking and standing all day, then driving long distances again. It was all good, just exhausting. Thursday I went to a homeschool conference, not to listen to any speakers, just to shop and spend time with friends. (I may have to go to all conferences this way.) I was able to get everything on my list and school planning later this summer should be a breeze. I'm not sure there's better R&R for a homeschooling mother than a day buying books and chatting with friends. (We often chatted about books, but that's what makes us happy. We're odd like that.)

Yesterday we drove up to Old World Wisconsin to spend the day. It is a really well-done living history museum and we had a grand time. The H-S family joined us as well as another family who started out as virtual friends and have become real-life friends over time. (The P. family couldn't make it this trip, much to my children's disappointment... ) Other …

Adoptive families in the church... or admitting you need help

A week ago I wrote a post about how churches can support the adoptive families in their midst. It seems only fair to discuss the other side of the coin. All relationships work two ways and effort needs to come from both sides. If adoptive families want to be supported there are a couple of things that are expected of them as well.

[As I wrote this I realized that it is actually broader than just an adoption issue. This is really for anyone whose life is not perfect and wishes they didn't feel quite so alone in their problems.]

Learn to be transparent.

If you ask my children, one of the phrases they will probably carve on my tombstone is, "People can't read your mind." The idea that if someone really knows you and loves you then they will just know what you want and need is a lot of piffle. It is an unrealistic expectation and an unfair test to apply to anyone. This is true for not only spouses and friends, but our church families as well. People do not know you need h…

Ocean boxes

We have finished our study of sea creatures and as a final project each child made an ocean box and filled it with some of the animals we learned about. I thought you might be interested in seeing them.

By G.
L. (Who really liked just taping her animals to the walls. Actually, she just likes tape.)
K. (See the dolphin leaping out of the box?)
A close-up of D.'s coral reef...
and his walrus and ice berg on top.
TM (See his ice berg hanging down into the ocean?)
He made his jelly fish out of plastic.
A close-up of his 3-D coral reef