Showing posts from September, 2016


I've got nothin'. You probably already guessed this from yesterday's post. Life is feeling as though it is back on keel. The doctor's appointments have slowed to a slow trickle. School is going quite well and the schedule is working far better than I had hoped. Life is looking pretty normal and average and everyday-ish. I really don't think it is that different from other families.

While crises, new children, new pets, disasters, and dramatic breakthroughs are excellent blog fodder, it's nice (really, really nice) to be in a more average moment in life. It does make it a little more difficult to come up with things to write about, though. I've been mentally planning a huge post about why I think computer-based education is a mistake and why it seems as though it is the educational equivalent of snake oil. I'm not ready to write it yet, though. G. and L. are perpetually giving me good material, but I'm also aware that ones children are far more inter…

Cozy Fall

I have lived with changing seasons for over thirty years now, but I spent my childhood in Arizona, growing up in the desert. I've decided that early imprinting does something to a brain. Even after 30 years, I still think the weather should warm up at the beginning February. I still miss the sun in vaguely depressive ways when it has been absent for several weeks. I still don't quite expect to see masses of leafy green trees out of my windows. And I am still surprised by the arrival cooler weather. Pleasantly surprised that is.

I adore fall. I love the cooler weather. I love sweaters and flannel. I love the whole atmosphere. It makes me want to curl up in a blanket with a good book in front of a fire, with a cup of tea. OK, in truth, I'm not sure what doesn't make me want to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, but during the summer I don't need the blanket and fire.

Because fall coincides with the beginning of the school year, I also have an overwhelming urg…

Birds in the mail

The mail doesn't always bring bills and junk. Sometimes it bring birds. Today we received not one, but two bird-related items. The first was our packet of material from Project Feederwatch.

Here we have our bird identification poster, a tally sheet (for counting birds), and the instruction manual. Have you ever done this? It's actually pretty cool. When M. and B. were little, we did it for a couple of years. Essentially, you hang birdfeeders where you can see them, and then on designated days you keep track of what and how many birds you see at your feeders. You then submit your numbers to Cornell University, where they use the data to track all sorts of things regarding bird populations. It's not often that children have a chance to do real and valuable science, but this is one way they can.

The other thing that arrived in the mail was a gift from J.'s aunt and uncle. It is a Bird Bingo game and it is beautiful and perfect.

Everyone was clamoring to play it right away…

It's the little things

Take a look at this.

That would be my desk. Notice how you can see actual desk surface there on either side of the computer. Notice that there are not ridiculous amounts of papers and books of all kinds piled in not-so-neat piles across the entire thing. You probably can't notice, but that file holder on the left is holding only paperwork that is current and needed, as opposed to things such as financial aid paperwork for children who graduated from college nearly two years ago. Notice the file folder on the right. That is my working to do list, where I write the things I need to take care of and which holds the papers I need to do those things. You can also see the checkbook next to the computer which is currently up-to-date.

And that noise you hear is my happy deep breathing every time I look at it.

It was starting to feel as though my desk represented what my brain looked like. It wasn't pretty. And it really wasn't functional. Every time I looked at my desk, or though…

Our new world of abbreviations

Y. and I have had a big day driving hither and yon to get her set with her new AFO's. For those of you who are familiar with this particular term, you can move along because this will be old hat. But I also know that I have many readers who do not live in the assistive devices world, and it's always good to learn something new. It is also a bit self-serving in that at some point those of you who know us will see Y. wearing her new AFO's and it will perhaps save us from answering repeated questions. (Not that I mind answering questions, particularly when my children are not present, but I will admit the same question over and over does sometimes grow old.)

AFO stands for Ankle Foot Orthosis, or foot and ankle brace. Here is what a pair looks like.

These are the pair which were made for Y. and which we picked up this morning.... bright and early at 8 am. ("You know I'm not a morning person," Y. reminded me.) They seem to fit pretty well, though they are not mak…

The blessings of hard

I just wrote to a friend that I believed that every family should be blessed with a child that struggles, whether because of physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges. I know that sounds crazy in a world that strives for perfection and ease; a world that is so focused on outward appearances. Where does the idea of being blessed by something hard fit in?

I've been thinking about this idea a lot recently. I've written before about how certain parenting challenges have changed me. In the words of E. Nesbit, these challenges have rubbed off some of my rough edges. They have made me a nicer, more understanding, more accepting person. (I fully realize that there are more rough edges that need to go.) I thought I was compassionate and understanding when life was easy. I was wrong.

Here is the root of the so called Mommy Wars. Too many people think they're compassionate and understanding, but they are wrong because they haven't lived through hard. One of the most compassion…

Autodidacts you should know

I have a soft spot for autodidacts. Those somewhat compulsive learners (and in my experience compulsive learning is a definite trait) who cannot be defined by degrees or schools attended. This could be because I count myself among their number, but also because to my mind, autodidacts exhibit the best of human learning and education. It is self-directed, done for the sheer knowledge gained and not for grades, and is egalitarian. You don't need an exclusive school, a library card will suffice.

Unbeknownst to me, I included two pretty amazing autodidacts in our school schedule for the year. I'm not sure how fascinated my children were with them, but I am. I've already found one adult biography on one, and would love to find one for the other. Because I really need to know more about both of them.

Who are they?

Well, the first is Margaret Morse Nice. Bonus points to any blog readers who know who she is before you read the rest of the post. It's a shame that she is not bet…

In which P. gets some high school credit hours... or why it's always a good thing to read your car manual

P. and I had a little adventure yesterday. I headed out to pick her up at the stable after her riding lesson, thinking we would easily have enough time to stop by the store and pick up some cat food before I needed to teach a piano lesson. And we would have, if the temperature gauge on the van would have behaved itself. I'm tootling down the road when I notice the gauge is heading toward the red. Even I know this is not good, so have the internal discussion of what to do about this. Stop and not get P.? Then how would I let her know to take the bus. (She had my phone, which meant I didn't have my phone. But it turns out it wouldn't have mattered since it was out of money. Yes, we live in the dark ages over here.) Do I keep going? Am I going to wreck the engine? Of course, I'm still driving as I ponder all these possibilities, so in the end I decided to continue on the stable and revisit the problem then. (I know, all you car people out there are just smacking your head…

Let's talk about the Migratory Bird Act

I know, it's an odd thing to write a blog post about. It's also an Act that I never anticipated bumping up against. I don't go out and collect wild birds or their nests or their feathers, so why should I even think about it, right?

Let's back up and take a look at that osprey that is currently living in our front hall.

He's pretty cool, huh? Many of the children are completely enraptured with him. He also happens to be one of the few birds who is not covered under the Migratory Bird Act, and is why he is allowed to come to visit our house temporarily. I wonder how he feels about being one of the few birds left out? I don't know the actual number of birds not included in the treaty, but going by the exhibit birds available for check-out through the Harris Loan Box program (256 birds, by the way), there are exactly 12 which we can check out. We can check them out because they are not covered under the Migratory Bird Act. Evidently, unless an institution is public…

Fear and Learning

You would think things like this wouldn't surprise me anymore, but either it's just surprising, or I have significant short-term memory loss. Let's just go with surprising because the other doesn't sound fun.

Today, H. and R. had an appointment with the neurologist to go over the results from their EEG's and MRI's. A brief digression. The short explanation of their appointment: their brain's are very weird. I saw the pictures. They're weird. The doctor was actually amazed at what they can both do having seen the pictures of their weird brains. But that's neither surprising nor what I'm going to write about. I want to write about something that happened before we even left for the doctor's appointment.

We had told the girls the night before that they had doctor's appointments today. In my adult brain, this was hardly news. It was the neurologist which is a sit-and-talk appointment. The only reason I even gave it a second thought was that …

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2016... a little late

The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was last Thursday, to coincide with the full moon. Thursday just didn't work, so we postponed it to Saturday. It also meant we could invite another adoptive family who had brought home their child this past year to join us. 
We had a lot of food, and then made lanterns. Because I never made it to the dollar store, we used real votive candles instead of the battery ones that we've used before. Real candles do put out more light.

Y. and R. - Y. is complaining about the brightness of the flash.

There was one lantern casualty,
but it was over the sidewalk, so no large neighborhood fires were started.
The moon was still pretty full and cooperatively rose as we walked around the block with our lanterns.
Of course there were moon cakes. These were all gone within minutes. All of my children have developed a real liking for the ones filled with bean paste.
K., enjoying his moon cake.


Here's some things I'll be blogging about next week. You just get pictures today, because that's all I have time for.

There's some pretty paper and some string.

See the cool pattern?

And there is also this guy who is visiting for a month.

He's an osprey. Doesn't everyone have an osprey in their front hall?

It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how

"What is the link between neural growth and play? Why do play activities seem to go hand in hand with brain development? What difference does play make? the truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create himself.

Why do I say this? Consider the fact that there is no exact blueprint for creating the brain. The information in our DNA is far too sparse to define exactly how all the neurons should connect up with each other. Instead, the brain wires itself up. It does this by creating far too many neurons, which in turn make far too many connections with other neurons throughout the brain. Following rules of interaction laid down in the DNA, the neurons send signals through the circuits, strengthening those that work and weakening those that don't. ...

Play, which is more prevalent during the periods of most rapid brain development after birth (childhood), seems to continue the process of neural evolution [af…

Animal tales

I need to write about something funny.

A week or so ago, the children noticed that Kenzie was particularly obsessed with an old drain pipe that was lying underneath our back porch. He would bark and bark at one end of it and didn't want to leave it. Kenzie also feels that every squirrel in the world in personally insulting him, and as a result h needs to be ever vigilant and bark at any squirrel that happens to set foot in our yard. (My personal theory is that is it solely because of  the large barking dog that squirrels enter our yard. It is a form of squirrel entertainment to hang on the side of a tree, just out of reach of the frenzied barking dog. If squirrels could stick their tongues out and chant, "Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya-nya," I would think this is what their doing.)

When you put those two things together, it seemed like a simple logic problem to figure out that Kenzie had trapped a squirrel in the drain pipe. So, J. and TM go out to the back yard to see if they can …

New skills

Over the weekend we had some people learn some new things.

First, L. learned to ride a bike! She had been getting closer and closer, and then on Sunday she spent a long time pushing herself along as she finally figured out the whole balance-thing. Once she had that it was a very small step to actually pedaling. It made school yesterday a little difficult for her, because having learned her new skill it was very difficult to wait to practice it some more. Yes, I know I could have just let her go ride her bike outside, but what she really wanted to do was to go a couple of blocks away to the elementary school which has a lovely track just made for bike riding. It was hard to wait.

Next, R. learned to really, really ride the training wheel bike. A while back I might have mentioned that R. really wanted to ride a bike, but for the life of her could not figure out how to pedal. The round and round motion that her feet had to make to go forward baffled her. She would push half-way around an…

Birthday fun... or where I officially cement my title as the cool mom

Remember how I mentioned that P. had a mohawk, but didn't wear it up? Well, since my children's goal is life is to constantly make me eat my words, here is what she did yesterday.

Impressive, huh? It used a lot of hairspray and took a lot of time. It won't become a daily hair-do. She left it in to celebrate her birthday. There was a candle, but we didn't sing, as she requested.

The gifts looked a little on the thin side because they weren't exactly things that could be wrapped up.

If you're going to buy your child a new instrument, it probably makes sense to take them along so you can get the one that fits them, in both style and sound. So that is what we did today. Here's the not-wrapped birthday gift.

She's pretty happy with it, and I think she sounds darn good, considering that she's only had about six months of lessons.

Happy 16th Birthday, P.!

Today is P.'s 16th birthday. One of those big milestone birthdays she has been looking forward to. It means as soon as she gets enough practice hours she can get her driver's license and it also means she can look into volunteering at our local animal shelter. Both are things that she has been waiting a long time to do.

P. is my child is who always doing the unexpected. At least it is unexpected to me, but probably not to her. She adores muscle cars and horses, alternative music and acoustic guitar lessons, and animals of all sorts. She is quiet and thoughtful and has the driest sense of humor around. She is also a fantastic writer (though I have yet to convince her of that), and a great critical mind. There is so much going on inside that head of hers. The head with the mohawk, I might add, though it is long, so not necessarily noticeable at first.

We'll celebrate tonight. Whether we get to sign Happy Birthday to her  is yet to be decided. Did I mention she doesn't li…

Schedules, Chores, and Homeschooling

Life is starting to feel on an even keel. After the craziness of the past eight months, it is a great relief to everyone. Let's just say, having a parent die, adopting two children with vastly different needs, losing two pets and gaining two new pets, a 2000-mile car trip, dealing with the fall-out from having been out of the country for three weeks, some post-adoption baby blues, some house remodeling, and one of your very best friends for the past 18 years moving away all happen in an 8 month or so time period is not recommended and difficult to navigate. You can see why any sort of schedule or routine fell by the wayside.

The trouble is most of us need a routine to function well. It's how our brains are wired. When you do things regularly, you stop having to consciously think about them. The brain power used to do these tasks get moved to a different part of the brain and that part of the brain just takes care of them without any effort. It's why doing things outside of…

Budding artist

G. in the past two days has been drawing pictures that I am totally in love with. Here are a couple.

You may need to click on this to make it bigger in order to see it. 
G. wanted to be in the picture, too.

Why I'm not always giving warm and fuzzy adoption support

We all survived our first day of school. It was relatively calm and peaceful and drama-free. My incredibly detailed and convoluted schedule looks as though it is going to work, since we got through it today, even with having to do explanations every twenty minutes. I can't even begin to tell you what a huge hurdle this was, especially after the school nuttiness of last spring.

While that was going to be the bulk of today's post, I realize that it isn't what I want to write about at all. Today, I feel as though I need to explain something, whether the intended audience ever actually reads it or not. Facebook groups are often a breeding ground for taking self-offense whether the intent was there or not. They are also a poor way to explain oneself afterwards. Thus...

Dear New Adoptive Mom,

I'm so sorry if you took I wrote to you the wrong way. I do mean to be supportive. I do know that the early days of adoption can be difficult. I do know that our new adopted children ca…

In which we don't go back to school

As is our tradition, we don't start back to school on the day after Labor Day. Instead we take advantage of enjoying the near emptiness of a local museum. We decided on Museum of Science and Industry today, and we had a rare treat that J. was able to rearrange his schedule at the last moment and join us. He very, very rarely gets to come along on our outings, so this was a treat for everyone. Our visit became a sort of highlights tour, as the children showed J. some of their very favorite things.
Up on the second floor is what my children all call the giant hamster wheel, and it is probably their single favorite thing in the entire museum. But before you get to the wheel, you get to pass a bunch of other fun stuff. Such as... Mindball.
TM and D.
And a machine that delivers very mild electric shocks.

And a table where you play some sort of game all together. I see the table taken up by my family, so I ask, "What are you doing?" Without pausing, they all say, "We …