Showing posts from October, 2014

Happy 12th Birthday, TM!

Today is TM's 12th birthday. He strongly dislikes the date his birthday falls on, so we will be celebrating this weekend. But today is the day he turns 12, so I'm writing my birthday post.

TM has come so far in the past year. He has worked hard and is so much better in control of the big emotions and feelings he has roiling around in him and is getting better able to identify and (sometimes) talk about those feelings. It has also not been an easy year as we have identified some past events that significantly alter how his therapist works with him. They are things that in the long run are good to know and address, but it's not easy.

This is all good stuff and it comes with ups and downs, but the best thing in my book is that we are more and more seeing the 'real' boy that has been buried in deep, deep pain and fear. We are seeing him smile more. We are seeing him able to laugh. We are seeing him able to help. We are seeing him slowly allow himself to become a part o…

With friends like these

We are blessed with some very good friends who take an active interest in us and our children. One friend came over once a week to watch little people while I took the older girls to their horseback riding lesson. Another friend has developed a great relationship with TM and D. and several times a year will take them out and do something fun. We are richly blessed to have friends like these in our lives and our children's lives. It makes our job a little bit easier.

Last Friday, was one of these boys' outings. Miss C. took TM and D. to Navy Pier. They had dinner. They rode the Ferris Wheel. They rode the carousel. They had a fantastic time. On top of it being a great time for our boys, it also allowed J. and I to go to that fancy dinner.

I think they had a really good time. What do you think? These are all from the Ferris Wheel.

It's even better that we have friends who will take my boys on the Ferris Wheel. I do not like them. (Ferris Wheels, not the boys.) I really have …


No, I wasn't in the bathtub and discover the theory of displacement, but it felt almost as momentous. Sometimes teaching children who have come from a different and deprived background is challenging. It stretches me in ways I didn't expect and sometimes it requires me to play detective. This morning was one of those mornings.

It is always a mystery to me when H. and I hit a road block in terms of school. We'll be going happily along and suddenly it's like a switch flips and we're not going happily along anymore. My first question is always: have we changed to a new seizure medicine?  As I've written before, that can play havoc with learning. But this time, no changes in medicine. I couldn't figure out where we stumbled. And the trouble with stumbling on one thing is that it sets in motion a chain reaction that then causes us to stumble on everything. With H., success causes more success and misunderstanding brings complete and total shutdown. I'll leav…

Not a nightgown... revisiting New Look S0595

Last weekend J. and I went to a family dinner downtown at a swanky club. It's a good thing I've been fooling around with a dress pattern so I had something to wear. Remember my first attempt at this pattern? The one where I accidentally made myself a new nightgown? Well, I was much happier with the second try. Happy enough to wear it out in public.

David and Goliath

I read Malcolm Gladwell's newest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, over the weekend. While I really liked his other books (Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers), I think this is my favorite one. While it is also more difficult than the others in terms of emotional content, I also think it is his most hopeful.

Like most of his books, the essential premise is that what we think we know is true, actually isn't. In this case, if we think the giants of our lives hold more power than the underdogs, we are wrong. Being the underdog carries certain advantages in itself and those advantages are not without strength. There are a lot of interesting topics in this book. Too much of a bad thing really is bad for you. Going to a very prestigious school is not always going to help you in the long wrong... and could actually hurt you. Being the underdog means you are going to have to expend more energy than those on top.

These topics alone would ha…

Do not forget these girls

I won't let these girls be forgotten and miss out on a chance to have a family. Don't forget, a family isn't just for the growing up years. As an adult can you imagine not having a family? (And for those adults who do not have family... my heart breaks for you.) As adults we rely on our families almost as much as we did as children, but in different ways. Imagine not having that. It is the plight of many, many children. Do not let these girls suffer that fate... to not have anyone. Are you her family?
Or hers?


Fun and Games

It's been quite a while since I've written about our game days. Three years ago to be exact. (Game Day, Oct. 2011) The idea of planning in game days to play those fun, yet educational games I have stashed away has continued. When I am planning our homeschool year I put one in every six to eight weeks or so.

Today was one of those scheduled days. Well, actually, Tuesday was one of those scheduled days, but we were all on auto-pilot and no one (including myself) bothered to open a folder to check what we were supposed to be doing. D. was the first to discover yesterday that we had missed it and the outrage was immense. I did some quick shuffling and changed it for today.

Once again, I started with the younger group first, though they are now all much more enjoyable to play games with. Everyone can move their own marker, they can count, and they will all stick around to the end of the game. We started out with the Dorling Kindersley game, Around the World. Someone had given it to…

Anyone want to send us all to France?

Yeah. I didn't think anyone did. D. really wanted me to ask. And why this sudden and pressing need to go to France... other than I really love Paris and it's been too long since I've been there? It's all for the study of history. Really.

Today we spent learning about cathedrals as part of our study of the Middle Ages. First we read David Macaulay's book, Cathedral: The Story of its Construction. We then watched a Nova episode, Building the Great Cathedrals, which I had ordered from Netflix for the occasion. We all found it very interesting. Well, not the five year olds so much, but the rest of it did. The cathedrals and their construction were really interesting, but what really caught our interest had nothing to do with cathedrals and jumped back to castles instead.

In the show, it mentioned and showed a building site in France where they are constructing a medieval castle using medieval building techniques and medieval materials. And it is a living history museum…

Ladybug Heaven

I have written before about L.'s pets... the dead bugs she carries around and cares for. The most popular of these pets are the ladybugs which fall into her clutches. Imagine L.'s excitement when the ladybugs started to swarm our house yesterday. (They do this every fall. We think the beetles are trying to find somewhere to hibernate and our house looks particularly appealing.) Much of the day was spent in ladybug collection. We even had to move up to a larger container.

This has led to some particularly funny quirky L. moments. We all now know a lot about ladybugs since at the last library visit she insisted we check out multiple books and have since read them. She likes to walk around expounding on ladybug knowledge. L. thinks she knows so much about them that I heard her tell G. that tomorrow there would be a class on the care, keeping, and most importantly catching of ladybugs.

This was not sufficient, though, to make the most of the bounty of ladybugs. They make great pet…


Nice mouth, huh? K. lost one of his front teeth the other day. (He also has a missing tooth on the bottom; you just can't see it.) But between the missing tooth and the cleft on the other side of his front tooth, it gives him a particularly holey grin.

A funny boy to brighten up your Monday.

The place where hotel furniture goes to die

J. and I didn't mean to go on this quest. In fact, we didn't even really care if we ever discovered the hotel furniture graveyard... or if it even really existed. But some adventures are thrust upon you and you have them whether you want to or not.

Yesterday started out normally enough. Children were fed. Weekly meal plans were made. I went grocery shopping. The only thing that was different was our revulsion at the state of the couches in our front living room had been raised to such a level that J. and I felt as though we needed to actually do something about it. The trouble is, we wanted to replace our decrepit and collapsing couches but we didn't want to spend very much money to do it. OK, we don't have any money to replace the couches, but yet we are tired of living with urban blight inside our own home.

This leads to searching terms such as, "cheap furniture in Chicago." J. found a place that looked promising. Big sale and photograph of a warehouse with…

Some plans don't work

This was to be one of the weeks that we did our five in a row style activities with a picture book. I had the book and the plans and I was ready. What I was unprepared for was the reaction. I had thought they would all be excited about setting our workbooks aside and reading a new book and doing activities. I had thought wrong. There were complaints right off the bat. The little girls in particular were rather upset that they didn't get to do their workbooks. Grudgingly, they sat down to listen to the new story. I thought for sure once we were reading the story they would become excited.

The book was, The Giraffe Who Walked to Paris, by Nancy Milton. I thought it was good. It is a retelling of a true story about a giraffe that is a gift from the pasha of Egypt to the King of France to promote goodwill between their countries. The giraffe then needs to get to Paris. After a voyage by ship across the Mediterranean, the Giraffe then walks from Marseilles to Paris. I thought for sure …

What's your purpose?

This question is the prompt for the Hearts at Home link-up today. As I've thought about it, the short, easy, obvious answer is, well, to raise and teach my children, of course. But for some reason, this didn't seem satisfying. It's not that I think raising children isn't important. I do. I spend a lot of time doing it. I spend a lot of time supporting others who do it. If you asked me what I spend the vast majority of my time doing, raising and teaching my children would be the answer. So why did I find it an unsatisfying way to respond to the question, "What's your purpose?"

I think there are a couple of reasons I've come up with as to why this is. First, when I think about the phrase, I can't get away from the idea that purpose and results are tied up together. To have a purpose implies that there is some end goal, some result. This becomes a little tricky when you add parenting to this. Of course, we all have dreams for our children. What paren…

A girl and her family

Here are the promised pictures from H.'s birthday.

Here is the cake that D. and TM made. It says "Happy 12th Birthday" and has a butterfly.

This was a kit to make pom-pom dogs. I think she liked it.
I think you can see that we are seeing her personality is blooming. I don't claim to have any special abilities, but feeling safe and loved and challenged (in a good way) is good for a child. Institutional care, no matter how good, can never provide the same level of safety and love that being in a healthy family can. Remember these two girls?
Tina - If you go to the Twenty Less site, there are several new videos of Tina. Please go and look at them. 
Every child deserves a family. Every child deserves to be loved. Could you provide that love and safety for a child? For one of these children? They wait and wait and wait. I know Grace has been waiting for years because we met her when we brought H. home. I believe Tina has been waiting just as long. No one has chosen t…

Happy 12th Birthday, H.!

Today is H.'s 12th birthday and we'll be celebrating tonight. (So that means no pictures until tomorrow.) It's quite the different child who is celebrating. H. still has challenges ahead of her, but we have seen such growth in the past year. I looked back at the post of her two last birthdays (10th and 11th) so I could refresh my memory. What strikes me in looking back is the difference in emotion. Her first birthday here made her so happy. And while I think she was genuinely happy with her celebration, to my eyes now, she has that 'deer in the headlights' look about her. Everything was so new and different. New family, new country, new language, new level of attention and care. I find the photo of her clutching all her new gifts to be particularly poignant. This is a child who is happy to have stuff, is clutching it to stop others from taking it from her, and while happy with it, doesn't really have any idea what to do with the things she has been given.

Fast …

Big weekend

This past weekend was one of those that is full of good things but leaves you feeling as though the arrival of Monday will be relaxing. There was the usual Saturday stuff... piano teaching, house cleaning, errand running, signing a contract to write for but we also had some extra events.

A. and P. rode in another horse show. Here's P.

And A.

Both girls placed 2nd and 3rd in their respective classes.

And then we celebrated HG's birthday. We're so happy to have this young woman in our lives.

Happy Birthday, HG! We love you.

I made a cardboard siege tower yesterday, what'd you do?

When M. and B. were very small and we were in our very first year of homeschooling, we learned about castles. One of the best things we did that year was to build cardboard castles. They were played with and added to (including a wooden royal family) over that entire year. Those good memories came back to me as I was planning this school year and I decided that we needed more cardboard castles. So it was added to the schedule.

Yesterday was the day. I had collected quite a bit or cardboard, stocked up on tape, and set people loose. It was helpful that I had done this once already, even if it was a few years ago, so I had a sense of what was going to work and what wasn't. I knew that the younger ones could never create a castle for themselves... at the very least the cardboard is just too hard for little hands to cut. For them, I decided I would cut a simple castle shape and let them add and/or decorate as they desired. The older two were on their own. I should also add that we spe…


D. and TM have joined Boy Scouts (the same troop that B. was in) and are loving it. They started in September and quickly earned the level of Scout so that last night at the Court of Honor, they received their advancement.

Some people don't like to smile for cameras.
But when you try to make them laugh, the camera shakes.
And scouts is even more fun when two of your best friends are in it as well. (Here are the H-S boys.)
Who knew that getting four boys to smile nice smiles all at the same time...
would be so difficult. They're having fun. Really.
Today's post and the corresponding lack of real content is brought to you by cardboard. Cardboard castles... cardboard seige towers... cardboard castles cum tree houses... cardboard bits, big and small, covering every bit of my kitchen.

Tim's Vermeer

I have a movie I want to recommend to you. That in itself is pretty unusual, I know. I don't watch a lot of movies and the need to recommend one happens even less. A friend suggested that J. and I might like this one, so we ordered it from Netflix and sat down and watched it last night. Really the only reason we sat down and watched it is that A. needs a movie to arrive that goes with her Economics class and it can't come until we send something back. We were told we had to watch it so this could happen. I'm glad we did.
The movie is Tim's Vermeer and is a production of Penn and Teller, with whom he (Tim of the movie) is friends. The premise is that there is a group of people who believe that Vermeer used optics of some sort or another to enable him to create his paintings. So Tim becomes fascinated with this idea and as he thinks about it, decides that the way Vermeer actually did it was a combination of a lens and a mirror, which makes the process one that just about…


As you know, we've been studying the human body. This week we are learning about bones. It took a while to cut out the many pieces of skeleton that took a while to print out.

And while the paper model is nice, but it is hardly a substitute for an actual skeleton. You know, to see how those joints fit together and move and all that. It kind of makes a homeschooling mother wish someone would drop a skeleton off on the doorstep.
Well, sometimes things work out. While we didn't have one dropped off, we had the next best thing. One of the bonuses of having a husband who works as a university is that universities sometimes build new buildings. New science buildings. And it seems that when you have a brand-new science building, you don't want to put old equipment in the shiny new building. Instead you leave it behind in the old rooms, waiting around for someone to decide what to do with it. Or, until another person comes walking by and notices that some useful equipment is just s…