Showing posts from August, 2014

Those times you realize you're on the wrong side of young

I realize I'm not really old old and that my mother and her friends will just laugh (go ahead, I know you will), but I'm not enjoying the more frequent moments I've been having of being reminded I am not in my 30's anymore.

First, there are those signs in the stores that announce, "We card anyone under 40." And I buy a bottle of wine and I'm never carded. Ever. I like to think it's because they just don't follow their own guidelines, because otherwise...

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was filling in for a good friend and being the stand-in mother for a catering taste test. M. was there as well and the caterer knew she was my daughter. In making chit chat it came out that I also had five year old children. Now, just a word to the wise, everyone. If someone says to you that they have five year olds, please don't goggle at them as if Methuselah suddenly appeared in your midst. It was really that bad. I even went and checked myself in the mirror j…


I just finished reading the gut-wrenching post at The Blessing of Verity. It is Susannah's first post after the accidental death of her son. It is raw and painful to read. It also confirms something I've been thinking a lot about recently. That would be the clash that happens when parenting bumps into God's grace. And believe me, it is a clash.

When you have children, you realize that you have suddenly become far more susceptible to pain than ever before in your life. You love this little person. You love this little person so much that if anything were to happen to this child, you are not sure you could go on. But it is not only that, you desperately want what's best for them. You are overwhelmed with the responsibility that parenting entails. If you are not going to ruin this precious child's life, you need to be the best parent you can possibly be. To fail in that mission means that you have not done your best for your child. It means there could very well be li…

The eye doctor and seeing

H. had another eye appointment today. The difference between now and two years ago is slightly astonishing. Two years ago, H. had no idea what we were doing or why and, despite having an interpreter present, we had no real way of explaining it all to her. It was baffling and frightening; just one more baffling and frightening experience that she endured in those first six months. Today, she understood why we were there, what eye drops were and why she needed to have them, the ability to express how much she didn't like them, and the self-control to allow them to be put in her eyes. It was also the very first time that the doctor was able to correct her eyesight in her good eye to 20/20. We have a new prescription and are just waiting for the new lenses for her glasses to be made.

I have also been thinking about the improvement in her eye sight since she has been home. Why should it be getting better? It's not like we are patching to strengthen the good eye. Aside from wearing …

When it's beautiful in Chicago...

you go out and take advantage of it. Because Chicago really is beautiful and quite enjoyable when it's not frigidly cold with grey skies that have overspent their welcome. We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and also enjoyed the formal gardens just outside the west side of the zoo. Did you know that this is one of the oldest parks in the city? That's OK, I didn't, either, until I read the sign.


First day of school

So, it would appear I lied in yesterday's post about the block party when I said no one in the house was starting school the next day. I realized much later that someone did start school. A. headed off to her first day of a real class ever... she is taking Spanish 1 at the university where J. teaches (and M. and B. attend). And I didn't get a picture. Can you believe it? A child goes to her first day of school at the tender age 16 and her mother doesn't take a picture? Actually, I can believe it, without any difficulty.

It sounds as though her first day of class went well, though I'm getting that information second hand as I haven't actually talked with her yet. You see, when she went down to school last week to buy her book, she also landed a job at the bookstore during their peak times. (That would be the first week of class when everyone is buying books and the last week of class when everyone is selling them back.) It worked out extremely well because we don…

Block party numbers

1 - Use of the Polarcare 300 which is an icing machine left-over from one of M.'s knee surgeries.

2 - Number of times the new bike jump was used before having to make use of the Polarcare 300. It is also the number of people it took to carry TM into the house after the second use of the bike jump.

D. went over it without incident, but he was not going as fast as he possibly could, like TM. When you go as fast as you possibly can, the bike goes a good three feet in the air. Then if you are strong, you can manage to hold onto the handle bars even if the rest of you goes flying up above the bike. But then what goes up must come down, first behind the the seat onto the wheel followed by a nice long skid along the pavement on your leg. It was spectacular and we all wish we had gotten a video of it... but only because there were no broken bones. We treated the wounds, iced his leg, he rested and within two hours he was back up and riding his bike again.

3 - Friends who unexpectedly drop…


The end of warmer weather marks the beginning of the seasonal migration of the animal known as collegium discipulo or as they are more commonly known, the college student. The first sign that the coming migration will be occurring is the frequent sightings of these not-so-rare animals at stores selling office supplies, cheap furniture, and clothing. Scientists seem to believe that this behavior stems from the widely held belief that the items sold in the these stores are unattainable in the migratory habitat.

Once the needed supplies are laid in, the next step of the seasonal ritual begins.. the one of packing all personal possessions into bags and boxes. It is one of science's most enigmatic mysteries as to how the physics of this process works. The quantities packed seem to take up such a mass as to not fit into the significantly smaller seasonal migratory dwellings. How the animal eventually stores their possessions away into such limited space has yet to be solved, though if i…

When life is overwhelming

It seems to be a difficult season of life for many of my friends, and I'm writing this post with each of you in mind. I know all too well what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from under your feet...and the panicky, breathless, nausea-inducing, blinding fear and sadness and anger that goes along with a major detour in a well-ordered life.  I also know when my life seems precarious, it can be difficult to function. I'm living in my head too much. Not only is there the thing that has upset me in the first place, but more than that, my own imagination is often the cause of much of my anxiety.

I've shared before that I can be a world-class worrier. I can jump into worst-case-scenario-mode in less time than it takes to reheat my cup of coffee. This is especially true when it is something involving my husband or children. I cannot tell you how often this happens to me. I'm slowly getting better, but it is a very conscious effort to not go down that path. You know, th…

Precocious readers

Precocious readers are those children who love to read and read at a very high level at a young age; they often start out as precocious listeners, listening to complex story after complex story. Having a precocious reader and sharing how difficult it is to keep them supplied with books is a little like complaining that your pants are too big and fall off or your house is so big it's hard to keep clean. It's not something that engenders much sympathy.

Yet, if you do have a precocious reader, it can be a real problem. It's not the volume of material that they read, but level at which they read it. There are many, many books that it's just not appropriate for a 9, 10, or 11 year old to read. My most current precocious reader is D. It is a perpetual challenge to keep him supplied with books. Like most 11 year olds, he does like series and they do keep him occupied most of the time.. sort of like me with mysteries. He reads them fast and because of their nature they become …

Adoption hot topic: visiting foster parents

It's been pretty light, content-wise, around here, so let's change that for today. There's been a discussion on one of the adoption pages that I read that has generated a lot of comments and some diametrically opposed opinions. The question that was originally posed was (in my own words), "I am in my child's country and have a chance to meet the foster parents. My child is grieving heavily and having a difficult transition, should I take my child to see the foster parents one more time?"

What follows is my personal opinion, and while I'm certainly not a therapist, it has been an educational past eight years. The two differing opinions seem to be: 1. Take the child to see the foster parents one more time, even though it might be hard, and 2. Go and see the foster parents by yourself, but do not take your child. It would just add trauma onto trauma and the child needs to start bonding to you and let go of the foster parent.

At various times in my life, I ha…

Short public service announcement

We interrupt this blog for a brief, but important message.

On a whim, I thought, "Oh, fall is coming. I'll just look to see when the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is." So I did. Ack! It's September 8th this year. It feels really early. Does it seem early to you?

I guess it's time to go find some moon cakes and see about lanterns. Do you need to make some lanterns? I wrote a tutorial for making your own paper lanterns. It's not too late... though it is getting really close.

Paper lantern tutorial

Now you may all go back to your regularly scheduled summer activities. At least those of you for whom this is still summer... like us. Not to rub it in or anything.

Madison Avenue would be proud

A friend dropped by a bag of coats for us the other day thinking we could use them. It was quite a jackpot since every single item in the bag worked. The two pieces A. (who was helping me) and I weren't quite sure about were the fleece ponchos. But they were so cute... and the same size... and in two different colors... they were perfect for two little girls we knew. Now. G. and L. are not always predictable (that is quite an understatement, by the way) and I never know what they will love or not love. A lot depends on presentation and little luck. So I sent A. out to the little girls with the ponchos and a plea to sell them well. 
So guess what my genius child came up with. "Hey, G. and L., look what I have for you. They are capes... superhero capes... that are special because they keep you warm!" It was the perfect spin and G. and L. decided the 'warm superhero capes' were pretty darn cool. 
Here's G. modelling hers...

and L. "modelling" hers... …

A pink and plump and perfect cake?

"Not so long ago, they say, a mother lived, just like today.." So begins the book, The Seven Silly Eaters by Maryann Hoberman. It is one of our favorite picture books. I have read it so often, I can quote great chunks of it from memory. One of my favorite bits, for obvious reasons, being, "'They really are a splendid crew,' sighed Mrs. Peters, pinning pins and diapering her brand new twins: little sisters, quick and smart, impossible to tell apart;"

Thus I was pretty darn excited when a friend posted on her blog about making Mrs. Peter's birthday cake. We needed to make this cake. (Mrs. Peter's birthday cake recipe link - I've included it because it has worked before, but Ms. Hoberman's whole site seems to be down currently so the link is broken. Maybe it will be fixed and working again in the future, thus the link.) I printed out the recipe and promptly forgot about it.

Until yesterday, that is, when TM needed, needed, to bake something. We…

Jogging your memory

It's been a while since I posted about these two little girls. You may have forgotten about them, but they are never far from my mind. 
First comes Grace. She is 7 years old and has a repaired heart defect and may have some other issues. We got to meet her when we were adopting H., though Grace is now back in her orphanage and not in the foster home where she had been living. She is a sweet, sweet little girl and followed A. around for the time we were there. 

And then there is Tina (or Ting Ting, depending on where you are looking). She is 9 years old and has the same syndrome that H. does. (I'm nearly 100% sure of this, though my disclaimer is that I'm not a doctor) She has had quite a few surgeries and I think her condition is well-managed at the moment.

Both these little girls need families. They need someone to hug them and love them and give them a secure future. Neither of their futures look terribly rosy if they hit the ripe old age of 14 and age out of ever havin…

What I did on my summer vacation -- a diary by Gretel

Day 1

There are suitcases out. I do not like suitcases, they make me nervous.
There is the leash. Now I will go for a walk and my people will leave.
Oh, wait. I am getting in the van. I do not like the van because it means I am getting a shot.
We are still riding in the van. This makes me nervous. And excited. And nervous. And I wonder when I will get the shot. I decide to sleep with my head under the bench so they ca not see me.
Now we are stopping. Everyone is getting out. I am getting out, too. I know I am going to get a shot.
Hey, wait! All my people are walking away! Hey, stop! What if they get lost? I must bark. I must bark very loudly and all the time so they do not get lost.
Everyone came back. My barking worked.
We ride some more. Maybe I am not getting a shot.
We stop again. Everyone gets out. I get out. They take off my leash. I can run! And sniff! And run! There are no cars here for me to run into. This is fun!
We go down to the lake. I get to swim! And run! And swim! And …


I knew there had to be a word for my condition,well, aside from acrophobia (fear of heights) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). And what does this wonderful word mean? It is the fear of running out of reading material. I was talking with a friend who is one of the few people I've met who reads as much as I do (we are constantly adding to each other's reading lists) and I asked her if she is ever bothered by the idea of finishing a book and not having a new one to immediately start. We had a moment of bonding when we realized that we both shared this little pathology... one that a few of my children share as well.

It is why I often check out 8 - 10 books at the library at a time, often of vastly different subject matter, because you just don't know what your going to feel like when you're ready to start a new book. In fact, when I get down to just two books on the shelf that I haven't read, I start getting a little nervous and begin wondering if I will be…

It's hard to be one of many

After a summer of my older children going hither and yon, everyone is back together again for a couple of weeks, then begins a new school year and once again moving older children back onto campus. So I'm enjoying the family togetherness while I can get it. In the midst of everyone catching up and enjoying each other's company, there have been some funny things that have come up. My children notice that there are some things about growing up in a large family that are different from many of their friend's experiences. Here is a short list of things they have come up with.

1. Every parent has trouble getting a child's name right the first time, but when you have multiple siblings, the list of potential names to try before the parent hits the correct one is quite long. And sometimes your parent does not even quite remember the order of ages and will accidentally call your younger brother your older brother multiple times within the same minute even while trying to correc…

On reading Vivian Gussin Paley

Having discovered Vivian Gussin Paley last year when I read The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter, I've been a little obsessed with her. When I came across her book, The Girl with the Brown Crayon, by chance at the library on our last visit I grabbed it off the shelf and have been waiting for a quiet moment to sit and read it. Yesterday afternoon delivered the quiet moment and I read the whole thing. (It's pretty short.) Once again, I am loving Ms. Paley.

It is Ms. Paley's ability to enter into the lives of the children in her classroom and accept them as the small human beings they are that I love the most. In order to do this well, it means a lot of sitting back and watching and listening. It means being willing to follow the child's lead instead of imposing an agenda on what happens. It means that you value what the child has to contribute and that you see what they are doing as important... even if it seems to be just play.

It is the listening, waiting aspect to all th…

Chasing the elusive clean

I spent nearly the entire day yesterday cleaning  digging out the youngests' rooms. (That would be G., L., and K.) Both rooms had gotten so bad that no one could walk across the, much less play in them. Well, you could walk across K.'s, but that's because he employs the bulldozer approach to room cleaning. If the center of the room is clean, then it's all good, thus, he just pushes everything in the center into all the corners and he's done. The little girls don't even bother with clearing the center. They seem to be oblivious to the mess on the floor and just walk right across it. Of course, they have no other choice as there was no way to clear a path.

It was time to do something. I needed to be able to look in both rooms without having my blood pressure rise. Plus B. comes home this evening from his summer on the farm (hooray!) and since he shares a room with K., something needed to be done so he could live comfortably in the room.

Now, usually, when I clean…


Nothing much is happening around here. It's summer. We read books, play outside, the little people make messes. Hardly anything blog-worthy. I did have an interesting dream last night. I dreamt that someone (and I'm still not really clear how this happened) gave us 10 million dollars. I then spent the rest of the dream putting $1000 bills (do they even make those?) into envelopes and anonymously giving them to all my friends. I think we redid the siding and paint of the house as well.

It was a very nice dream. And now all my friends can be a little disappointed along with me that it was only a dream.

How I do the homeschooling schedules

I had a question as to how I go about planning out our homeschool schedule and thought it might be of more general interest. I was asked if I planned things day by day or weekly or what. The short answer is yes... to all of these things. Here's how it all sorts itself out.

This year I was planning three high school schedules, two 6th grade schedules, and have four people who aren't ready for independent work. Plus, the 6th graders will join with the others to do our unit studies; the high schoolers are completely on their own.

For the high schoolers, I do weekly schedules. I talk to them about what they are interested in learning and I add in the things I know they need for a college transcript. I also ask if they want week-by-week or more detailed schedules. All three chose week-by-week. So, I go through each subject and assign what they need to do each week to finish by the end of the year. Sometimes the weeks are pretty detailed with chapter numbers assigned and other times…

The phone call I didn't want to make

I phoned the plastic surgeon's office yesterday to schedule more surgery for H. If you know H. in real life, please don't mention this as we haven't told her yet. No sense in worrying about something if you don't have to. She'll know at the appropriate time. This set of surgeries is for more expanders... pretty much the same as last time. It was so not enjoyable last time, I wasn't in a rush to put her through all that once again. On the other hand, I also don't want to drag it out, either. It's just not wonderful either way.

The first will be in November for the expander insertion. This time, the surgeon will also be removing some of the nevi on her lower cheek, so it will be fairly significant surgery. I have learned that inserting the expanders is the worse of the two surgeries and when you add more scope to it, she could be a pretty miserable little girl for a couple of weeks. I think about that and sometimes can't believe we putting her through…

Carl, the little red pencil sharpener

Once upon a time, there was a little red pencil sharpener named, Carl.

He was a happy little pencil sharpener, but he was lonely. He traveled around looking for a family he could help. He was also a very helpful little pencil sharpener. Where could he find a nice home to live.

His wanderings took him far and wide. Then one day he arrived at a house where all of the pencils looked like this. Here was a family who needed him!

Carl, the little red pencil sharpener got right to work. He held each pencil carefully and sharpened it until it was sharp enough to be a lethal weapon. Carl was also a very well behaved little pencil sharpener and never sharpened the pencils down to a nub.

The people in the house were happy. All of their pencils were sharp. Very, very sharp. The family loved Carl so much that there was not one single dull or broken pencil in the house.

Carl was happy. The family was happy. The pencils were sharp. And everyone looked forward to living happily ever after together.