Showing posts from July, 2016

Library love

We use our library a lot. I mean really a lot. Routinely we will have upwards of 80 books checked out at a time, and when I'm doing research on something it can be significantly more. As a result, many of the librarians at both our nearby branch library and the main library know us. (It also doesn't hurt that we are a very conspicuous family.) I love that since it just makes the library easier to navigate for everyone... and makes it easier to check out the 80-100 books that we do.

One of the great perks of our library system is that I can reserve any number of library books and have them sent down to our branch library, which is just two blocks away and an easy walk. I can even send a child to get them for me if I need to. I'm pretty spoiled in the that respect. It also means that the librarians are well aware of what we are currently studying or what topics I'm planning because they see the mountains of books which come in with my name on them.

But today, I have reac…

Assistance devices

Yesterday the bright pink forearm crutches arrived in the mail. A. was here and helped Y. get set-up with them. (I was with another child at another doctor's appointment. It's what I do.) When I got home, Y. was very excited to show them to me and how she could use them. Plus, they could also double as toy guns and as baseball bats. They seemed to her like a really cool toy. J. and I decided that the transition to using them was not going to be as bad as we were anticipating. Sometimes I love it when I'm wrong.

And then this morning came. As everyone was getting themselves ready to leave for VBS, I told Y. that she should remember to grab her new crutches. There was a pause as she stared at me and then said, "Why?"
"Because they are for you to use so you can keep your balance and move faster."
"I don't want to. There are stairs."
"Well, hold them while you go up the stairs and then use them again."

A pouting face and stink eye wa…

Take me out to the ballgame... and the Father of the Year

You may or may not be aware of L.'s current obsession with baseball. (And when L. has an obsession, it is so all-consuming, that everyone in the house is sucked into her obsession vortex.) She wears her Cubs hat, can tell you who the Chicago teams are and if they are doing well or not, and actually looks at the sports section on purpose (a section which around here usually stays in its pristine, just-delivered state.) Her goal this summer was to get to go to an actual real live ballgame.

J. enjoys watching a baseball game, so he was up for taking her. He looked into Cubs tickets and decided that a minor league game might be a better option. This is why he found himself driving 1 1/2 hours last night with five young ones in tow to watch a Kane County Cougers game. L. was more than a little excited, and H., K., G., and Y. all thought that it would fun to go along as well.

That would normally be a 1 1/2 hour drive, if it weren't for having to go during rush hour. From J.'s de…

Pick a card, any card

I've threatened to have this made into a t-shirt for D. to save him the energy of saying it repeatedly. This summer, D. has decided to renew his attempt at learning sleight of hand magic. I'm his mother and may be a bit biased, but I have to say, I'm impressed. When he first started out I could usually see what he was doing and how it did a trick. For the past few weeks... ? Well, more than once he has performed a trick and it was both surprising and baffling. At first, I could usually tell what the 'magic' part was going to be. Now, I just don't know half the time. Also at first, even if I didn't see how the trick worked, I could usually figure out how he did it, but there have been a couple of time now that he has completely stumped me. It's been fun to watch the self-teaching process.
It also takes a fairly thick skin, especially when you are practicing for siblings. Siblings, especially siblings who have gotten over the whole do-a-magic-trick-to-me…

The wonderful world of orthotics

Y. had an appointment with the people who are going to make her leg braces (AFO's -- ankle-foot orthotics) today. You would think, at least I did, that getting Y. sorted out was going to be fairly straight-forward. I learned long ago that seizure disorders and tissue and bone overgrowth are not so quickly sorted out, but R. and H.'s issues are part of a very rare syndrome. I figured from the outset things would be complicated and time- consuming. Cerebral palsy does not fit in the rare disease category and providers treat and manage it all the time.

Well, it turns out that would be true if Y. were a small child, in whom the CP was recently diagnosed, which is what would happen if she had been born in the US. It seems that seeing a nine year old with moderate CP and making a treatment plan is an anomaly and everyone is a little hesitant to be the one to start anything. It thought it made the most sense to get the AFO's and then starting therapy, since the orthopedic doctor …

Ooooo, look!

It's that time of year again... time for homeschool planning for the next school year. I am so excited in a totally nerdy sort of way. I get to make lists and do research and look at books and plan art projects and make schedules. I love this. I think I love it more than actually acting on the lists and schedules and plans. I decided to start this week, since the noisier half of the children are at Vacation Bible School every morning this week and I can get a jump start on the planning. 
In preparation, I headed out to the craft store yesterday to pick up a few things. I should not go to the craft store. I am not one to impulse buy except at just a few places and the craft store is one of them. But look! How could you pass this up? I've never seen anything like it before and I think you should be impressed that I stopped at purchasing just one.

It looks just like a cute little blank box. If this were all it was, then chances are I would have just walked past it. But it is not…

Yahtzee and the ZPD... and a happy H. update

When you do enough reading in early childhood education, child development, and play theory, there are certain names that you start to see over and over again. Lev Vygotsky is one of those names. He is the educational theorist who developed the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development, or ZPD. Essentially what this means is that all of us, and children in particular, have things we can do on our own, things we can do with help, and things we cannot do. The Zone of Proximal Development are the things a person can do with outside help, or mediation. In terms of child development and education, this means that the teacher (or parent or facilitator) is noticing what the child can do with help, and then providing that help until the child can do it on his own. As you can imagine, the ZPD for anyone is constantly moving and changing as the child develop new skills and abilities.

I'm in the middle of a fantastic book about children and executive function (I'll blog about it when I…

But how will I practice my mad kick boxing skills now?

Laundry is a perpetual issue for every family, and the more children you have, the more laundry you have. It's just something that can't be avoided. If I am on top of my game, as as long as I do laundry every day, I can keep it down to just one load a day, only having to do more than that if, a) a child has hoarded their laundry and an entire wardrobe comes down the laundry chute at one time, or b) we (or some portion of us) have been on vacation, or c) there have been particularly messy activities enjoyed. 
Or my life for the last year, your washing machine is breaking and you cannot afford to either get a new one or fix it. (From long experience, the computer brain of new washers is almost, if not more expensive than a new washer.) Our washer, a very generous gift from a friend when out last old washer wore out, has been teetering on the brink of exhaustion for a while and it's particular quirk was that there was a short in the electrical system (we think) and a good sw…

The beginnings of a fairy village


Timelines - how to do it

I had a couple of people ask me more about the how-to's of doing timelines. Not being one to miss a prompt, here are some of my thoughts.
First, how I marked off the years. For the BC era, in the books I use, there are five dark slash marks per page, so each of these is every forty years, which makes the space between them divide up into fourths, with each line being ten years. If you click on this picture in D.'s book, you'll see what I mean.

For the AD years, each dark slash is every five years, with the space between divided into fifths and each slash representing one year. Like this:

You'll also notice that I didn't always bother to pencil in the slashes between the dark lines unless we needed them. If I did write them in, I did not label the years as this would be too many numbers on a page.

What you'll also notice is that you can document the event or person any way you like. The items that were written were most likely from what we learned together as a…

Timeline notebooks

I have used timeline notebooks with my children for years. If you haven't heard of timeline notebooks before, essentially, it is a book (I've used everything from a binder to a specifically made spiral bound book) with the years of history marked and blank lines to write down events. I love them because it makes it so easy to see what else was going on in the world and also where in history the event happened. It makes it much easier to visualize one hundred years verses one thousand years.

While I am in love with adding the dates of the things we have learned about in the books (each child has their own), my children are not quite so in love. They dutifully write down what I ask them to, but I wouldn't say they were excited about it. And they certainly don't think to themselves, "Oh, this is interesting. I'll add it to my timeline."

They may never be in love with the concept of keeping a timeline notebook, but I realized I was. You know I read a bit, and…


You know that feeling when your toddler decides not to sleep and stays up all night, so you have to stay up, too, so other household members can sleep?

Yeah, we have that going on today. Except our toddler is 11 on paper and probably 14 in reality. The disconnect between the age you expect and the age you get is particularly discordant at 4am.

I am not at my best at 4am and it was not my best parenting moment. Is it dinner time yet?

Dear City of Evanston,

I woke up this morning to see someone posting the news that on July 11 the City Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate the potential sale of the parking lot next to the public library. This means that 74 outside parking spaces will be lost in a lot immediately next to the library. Once again, it seems, the city is putting financial gain above the quality of life of its citizens. How do I figure that? Well, the population of Evanston is currently 75,570. The number of parking spaces underneath the public library is 39, with five more handicapped spaces. That's not a whole lot of spaces compared to the possible patrons.

And for some of us, we don't even have access to those 39 spaces. You see, I have a few children. I have enough children that in order to cart them about safely, I must drive a 15-passenger van. Trust me when I say, if I had any other options I would take them as it's not much fun to have your personal vehicle be so large. But, since I happen to lik…

Hospitality 3.0

M. has moved back into an apartment and out of our guest room, the best residence of choice for being between leases. Today I decided to put it back together and do a bit of cleaning. (Ewww... does anyone else have children who don't believe in doorknobs and instead grime up door edges and door frames?) I try (emphasis on try, it doesn't always happen) to have it made up and ready in case of emergency guests.
As I was cleaning, I realized that having your life in upheaval, means that practicing hospitality definitely takes a backseat. There haven't been a lot of guests around here for a while, dinner or overnight. That makes me a bit sad because I do love inviting people for dinner and having house guests. One of the very best things about living in the Big Ugly House is that we have a dedicated guest room. It has allowed us to welcome a wide variety of guests for both short and longer term stays. 
I realize that this may be a room of the house I haven't really shared…

And then you really have to say your last good-bye

When one of your very best friends for the past 18 years is actually moving, you and other friends go and help as much as you are able.

But then the morning comes where you realize that the truck actually drives away this morning and you can't be in denial any longer.

Safe travels my friends. I hope we can manage to come out and visit some day.

Searching for Pokemon

You know a popular culture phenomenon is huge when it enters my field or awareness. Usually I remain somewhat blissfully unaware and my children amuse themselves by asking me questions such as, "Do you know _______?" When I reply no, I've never heard of them, they stare at me mystified and wonder how such a thing can happen. 
But back to Pokemon. That would be as in Pokemon Go, the new video game where you wander aimlessly and hopefully not into traffic, looking for little, imaginary Pokemon creatures. I'm still a little unclear about what happens to them once you catch them, but since my brain begins thinking about other things any time one of my children starts to explain it all to me, I will probably never know. I'm OK with that, really. I probably won't read any comments that try to explain it, either. 
The whole crew got a taste of Pokemon Go this past weekend because some of my older children had downloaded it and at rest stops and such, were busy sear…

Generations of information junkies

I'm deep cleaning the dining room today. When under stress, eating in the dining room seems to be the first to go, thus we have eaten nearly all our meals exclusively in the kitchen for the past six months or so. When you are not using a room, it is so easy to neglect it. And then you don't want to use it, because it is not a pleasant place to eat, so you tell your oldest child who is camping at home between leases, that yes, of course, you can turn the dining room into a props studio, and the spiral continues. Today was a free day, so I decided it was time to conquer the dining room. 
As I was working my way around the room with the dust cloth, I decided on a whim to open and look through the giant dictionary that was my great-grandfather's. See it down there on the bottom of the dictionary stand? (Here is a not complete tangent. The dictionary stand belonged to my grandmother. The large dictionary that is being used belonged to J.'s grandparents. Having a dictionary…

Pictures and good news

First the pictures from the weekend.

My children and my brother's children
My whole side of the family
Y. in the barn looking for...
kittens!! This activity took most of the girls' time. (That's L.)
K., at the pond down the road.
More pictures from the park down the road.

G. and L.
We buried my father's ashes under a new fruit tree that was planted on the farm. He always loved it there. It is a good choice.

Then, this morning, L. and I sat at the doctor's office. Last Wednesday, friends invited our whole family to dinner at their house. I really should have blogged about this earlier. It's not often we are all invited and we had a great time. (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) Plus our friends live right next to a small park, so children got to play and eat. That was when L., who was climbing on top of one of the play structures fell off.

On her arm.

Visions of ER's danced in my head as I took a look at it. But, it wasn't visibly broken and she had full…

Taking off

We're about to head out the door for the weekend. We're going to Iowa to bury my father's ashes. The animals all get to stay here with their very favorite person in the world, our wonderful pet sitter who dotes on them all. I won't be taking my computer to give myself more of a break. The news is all so awful, I'm not thinking I will miss it at all.

In the meantime, please take the time to read this article. It touches more upon the facts surrounding the misguidedness of color blindness... or color muteness as the article calls it and I think is a far better term.

How Silence can Breed Predjudice: A Child Development Expert Explains How and Why to Talk to Kids about Race

What adoption has taught me

It's no secret that adoption changes you and your family. Adding another child to one's family always changes things. That's not a surprise. I don't think I fully anticipated exactly how changed it would make me, though. How have I been changed?

1. I know 100% that I don't have all the answers. I used to be a good parent. I used to know exactly what to do in every situation. I used to have it all together. Now? Not so much. I know I get it wrong. I know that each child is different and that good parenting looks very different for different children. I know I do not have all the answers and I'm usually making it up as I go along. In fact, I know we are all just making it up, even if we realize it or not.

2. I am a much more humble person. This comes of not knowing what the heck I'm doing. And trust me, it's a much better place to be. Easier. Less image to maintain. Plus, it's more fun. If you are not always right, there is room to be wrong. There'…

The Boston Tea Party

This post could have also been titled, "Out of Desperation" or "If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them" or "Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures". You get the idea. The day after a holiday, especially one that involves a late night can be hard. On everyone. This is especially true when you have a child with a big imagination who is easily carried away with her current obsession and easily sucks multiple other children down her rabbit hole. It led at one point yesterday morning to L. crying on the couch because not enough people wanted to play Boston Tea Party with her. 
I had saved the large box that our new bookcases came in for such a time as this. Grabbing scissors and packing tape, I created a ship. One of the Boston Tea Party ships, to be exact. L. and G. later decided it would be the Dartmouth. (I can now tell you that there were three ships involved in the Boston Tea Party. The other two were the Beaver and the Eleanor.) Having a good prop w…

4th Pictures - 2016

Among our holiday festivities...

The parade...

Walking to the parade
G. (on left) and L. (you could tell by the Cubs hat, right?)
R., J., and Y. 
We didn't make it through the whole parade. I guess we saw the first quarter or so. Can I just kvetch a moment? It's been a couple of years since we've been to our own city's parade. We either skipped or headed to another city's. Now I remember why. I realize it's a little sacrilegious, but this particular parade is just darn boring. (And I don't use that word very often. Ask my children.) Aside from the infrequent band or dance group, the vast majority of participants are just groups of people of various sizes who walk along the parade route in a clump holding signs for their various cause or organization of choice. It doesn't make for terribly compelling viewing. It would far better if each cause or organization were required to make a float or something that would be interesting to look at. And there's…