Friday, December 30, 2011

Books Read in 2011

Hubby inspired me to make a book list too. His is much more impressive in content than mine, since most of mine this year was fairly light reading.  I also read less by about 60% than I usually do, since I read more blogs and more audio books than formerly.

Books read in 2011

Anne's House of Dreams
The Hobbit
Hind's Feet on High Places
The Forgotten Garden
Borderlands of Blindness
Rainbow Valley
Land of Painted Caves
Knowledge of the Holy
Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane
Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children
Anne of the Island
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The Magician's Nephew
The Silmarillion
Letters of a Woman Homesteader
The Lost Symbol
On Fairy Stories
The Last Battle
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (in Braille)
Henry V
Anne of Green Gables
The Divide (partial)
Four Max Carrados Detective Stories
The Velveteen Rabbit
100 Cupboards
Dandelion Fire
The Secret Garden
The True Story of My Life (Hans Christian Andersen)
The Wind in the Willows
True Faced
The Duggars: 20 and Counting!


We got our approval today from the embassy in Addis! We can make travel plans now. We've been waiting for this day for a LONG time. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Toasting My Toes

For some reason, I couldn't seem to get warm today, so after dinner tonight, we pushed the table back and built a fire. Our firewood pile right now is full of recycled wood from Dad's work, which are cut into circles and look strangely like burning tires, along with all of the paper trash or cardboard that we separate and save.

I sat toasting my toes and sipping vanilla chamomile tea while Hubby quizzed us on Amharic vocabulary (score: 330 vocab words learned) and the kids played with their Webkinz or colored pictures. This is my favorite quiet family evening at home: all of us snug in our warm house contentedly pursuing our various diversions or learning something new.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Practice Follies

A couple of observations on tonight's music practice:

Playing to your stuffed Orca makes practice time go more smoothly.

No matter how sweet your sister's playing sounds, it's important to act like it's fingernails on a chalkboard, just on brotherly principle.

You might as well get comfortable.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Morning Webkinz

We gave Curly and Mister a special Christmas present early. Mister's current fascination with Orcas resulted in asking for a stuffed Orca for Christmas. I managed to find one better on Amazon: an Orca Webkinz.

In order to make this long week leading up to Christmas a little more fun, we let them unwrap these last night, so of course they asked to get online first thing this morning.

Curly's Ice Dragon and Mister's Orca soon had a virtual home. Although I'm aware that Webkinz is just a game, I see my kids learning vital technological skills, and constantly problem-solving. Some of the pictures Curly "paints" remind me of my own beginning efforts with virtual design, eventually leading to my learning PhotoShop and doing web design, which for years has been a fairly lucrative freelance job.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Snapshot: Out of the Tub

I took these pics with my iPod Touch, so the quality isn't great, but he was so cute, I couldn't resist. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Our electric Perkins brailler has been sitting on the shelf tempting the kids for several months.  Today, I gave in to their requests to "write braille," so I got out a slate and stylus, a stack of leftover braille paper, and the trusty, indestructible Perkins.

All three of them busily scribbled all day long with both markers and braille.  Between the noise of the stylus, and the loud braillewriter, it sounded like Stomp had visited our house.

I didn't worry about teaching them many letters, although Curly learned the letters in her name.  There will be plenty of time for that.  Today, I just let them play and enjoy the fun of making bumps and dots.

When Abi comes, I want braille to be just a normal item in our house.  It's the way some of us read in our family, so it's not sacred or special.  Approaching it playfully just fits right in to our unschooly ways.  :)

And the Oscar goes to...

Today was our annual Children's Christmas Program.  I LOVE our church because there are tons of families with kids, nobody minds fingerprints on the glass doors to the sanctuary, and the Christmas Program is a laid-back, enjoyable affair with minimal fuss and no striving for a polished performance.

Little Mister got to be an angel this year.  Here, he's waiting for time to go upstairs.

Curly got to be a donkey. She and the other "animals" had a ball crawling around while the "shepherds" attempted to herd them into line.  It looked much like herding cats.

Mister sang "Away in a Manger."

They got a little help from the congregation when they couldn't remember the words.  The cuteness factor more than made up for the singing!

For the Bible reading, this teen used his iPhone.  I just got a kick out of it.  Guess the Bible isn't a bad app to have on his iPhone. :)

The 1st-3rd graders were next.  Getting them onto the stage was barely short of chaos.

Curly, I mean Donkey, sang all the words to "O Come All Ye Faithful" with quite a bit of gusto.

She told me at home that she couldn't wait to sing "her song." Apparently the enthusiastic applause satisfied her, because she was all smiles afterward, as were her sheep and cow friends.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I think every mother in her third trimester of pregnancy goes through a moment or two of panic. I know I sure did. Well, adoption is no different. Except you have more time to worry.

I'm not a worrier by nature. Ususally, I leave that to my mom. Still, every once in a while, I find myself allowing fears to creep in and disrupt my otherwise iron-clad digestion.

This time, my adoption worries are completely irrational. I'm worried that Abi won't like me. Yep, That's what I am afraid of. There are several reasons for this particular little monster on my shoulder. For one thing, when you're adopting, it seems that everyone you talk to takes it upon themselves to tell you the most ghoulish horror story they can think of. Now that we're past the stage where the stories consist of the child dying of some dreadful disease before you can get her safely adopted, or the adoption process taking 32 years, we've moved on to the Attachment woes, with a capital A. I think the training we get, while useful later in the practical realm, now just makes me more freaked out now, because it describes every. possible. situation. that could go wrong. Books on attachment or toddler adoption begin by describing some poor family's worst-case-scenario, which later will be beautifully solved, as proof of why the book works and why you, as an unsuspecting adoptive parent, need to read it, so you don't get caught in just such a scenario. These stories tend to scare the crud out of me, as they describe the pain and stress and heartache these families endure on their journey to adoptive bliss.

Another reason my confidence is shaky is that previous to this, I have always begun with newborns. As far as I know, newborns don't have much of an opinion for the first few months. Feed them and snuggle them, and they are pretty cool with Mom. This gives some time to bond and establish yourself as a rockin' parent before they hid the harder stages. A 3.5 year old is a different kettle of fish entirely. Three-year-olds are opinionated, probably as opinionated as seventeen-year-olds and forty-year-olds. How am I going to successfully insert myself into her life at this age, disrupt it entirely and drag her to a new country with new smells and new food and three other kids who all demand my attention, and expect her to somehow like me?

I'm like any mother; I want my kids to like me! Love me, yes, but like me too. One of my biggest struggles as a mom is correcting and disciplining my kids because they don't like it. Heck, I don't like it either, but I do it, for their good and my sanity. Still, I struggle when my kids don't like me.

So far, loving Abi has not been a problem. Already, I adore her. She's pretty and smart and fun and girly. My worry right now is the reciprocation. What if she doesn't like me back? What if she doesn't want to leave her warm home in Africa and come live in chilly Idaho?

I'm probably being silly. In fact, I'm pretty sure I am. We mothers can be a paranoid bunch. Lately, though, that's the reality of what's in my head. Just keeping it real, folks.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Watchman's Song and Chords

Little Mister has been polishing Watchman's song, which is one of his first hands-together pieces.

He also wanted to make a "little chord video." Hubby has been teaching him major and minor triads, so he loves to make up chords, based mostly on interesting finger positions at the moment, rather than conventional sounds.

Brahms Waltz

Although Curly is working on the Lully Gavotte in Book 2, she chose to play the Brahms Waltz for the camera, because she felt like it was more polished.  She discovered, however, when she went to play it, that she hasn't reviewed it for a while!

Bean Dictionary

Chumpum- Ketchup
Bicket- Blanket
DUMM-a-Seep- Shaun the Sheep
Doosh- Juice
Yum-yum- Vitamin
Cock-it- Chocolate
Doat- Coat (Little Mister used to call his Football Coat: Bu-ball Doat too)
Puh-keem- Pumpkin
Ashoos- Excused?
Zah- Seth
Tat-oo! Thank you
Ah saiii- I'm sorry
Nah-nah- Knock-knock

We were trying to think of all the cute stuff he says, but he says a lot of things correctly already! This morning, hubby sneezed really loudly, and Bean said, "Whoa! Bless you!" It cracked me up.  :)

A few of the things he says correctly:

Change you!
Oh, wow...

That's just a small sampling that I can think of off the top of my head.  He chatters constantly, and is starting to correctly identify his colors and letters.  I love this stage when babies begin to talk.  Every day we hear new words, and we know more about what he is thinking and feeling.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Word Sketches From A Winter's Walk the color of raspberry sherbet, pushed back by the jagged shadows of quiet trees...

...long, gray strip of sidewalk, its edges furry with fallen leaves...

...conversational saw cutting firewood...

...Shadow snuffling through rusted oak leaves in search of an acorn to carry away...

...sore spot on the bottom of my foot which contemplated becoming a blister...

...meandering path, chummily accompanying the shivering creek... road ahead obliterated by the searchlights of an oncoming car...

...twilight like a lithe, gray cat...

...small, thoughtful stone gargoyle guarding its withered garden...

...power lines write a musical staff across the cold sky... a round, bare tree, the bump of a nest sits off-center...

...deceptive ice layering the still, murky water...

...warm water bubbling into an icy dog-bowl...

...colored lights in the still dimness...

Decorations of Red on a Green Christmas Tree

Red and white lights on our tree this year

The Magi, far away on the North window sill

Carved African nativity set

Red candle

Snowman advent calendar

Silver treble clef ornament

Curly's homemade baby Jesus ornament

Angel sitting on a present

African angel ornament

Patchwork caroling dog ornament

Little Mister hanging an ornament

Pheasant orament

Baby in a pea pod

Angel with blue dress

P.S. It was SO much fun to add a sixth stocking and paint Abi's name onto it!  She's coming so soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snapshot: Techie Kid

If you're going to rock out properly, it's important to have the right set-up.  And a plastic toy hammer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How do people with low vision see?

My friend Becca, whose job is to teach living skills to newly blinded adults, and I teamed up to write an informational photo journey through a few ways VI people see. We did this in an attempt to increase awareness and respect for those who navigate the world differently, not to inspire praise or pity. In general people who have a vision impairment are able to use alternate techniques to do just about anything they want to do, but it's helpful for sighted people to be aware of how a VI person sees and how hard he or she might be working to complete certain tasks, while other things that sighted people assume are impossible turn out to be quite easy.

But enough chattering! Here is our post:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Books for Children

Seldom does another writer sum up so eloquently why I read children's books, and why someday I'd like to write them.  While I find profound wisdom in the beautifully simple, that's not actually the point.

Spooky Elves

Tonight, Little Mister practiced "Watchman's Song" on the piano, my favorite song from the Green book.  Hearing it, I was suddenly ten years old again, and playing the whimsical little song for the first time.  I have no idea where the song or the poem came from, but the few simple words ignited my imagination as a child.

I walk around the castle, every night at twelve.
The shadows from my lantern look like spooky elves.

What stories those eighteen words built in my mind!  I pictured a medieval castle, chilly and drafty, and a young man, intent on his job responsibility.  He would begin his rounds, fear gripping his throat as he haltingly stepped through the darkness.  That kind of delicious terror that raises the hair on my arms would come over me as I thought of this frightened lad, creeping along a tall stone wall in the silent darkness, the flickering, dancing shadows following him and harassing him, catching at the corners of his gaze to tempt him to look at them.

Even at age ten, I loved the sound of those words in the second line, and the gentle cadence of the musical notes. Even now, hearing the song makes me want to write stories, to craft these musical words into tales that bring to life the scared, creeping little watchman and his flock of spooky elves.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


"Texture" has become the new coolest word at our house. When we shop, Curly runs around feeling things like Christmas ornaments with glitter on them, asking me, "Do you think Abi would like this texture, Mommy?" My thought is that Abi is three, so would probably like to see how far she can throw the ornament across the store.

Still, thinking about texture has its advantages. Yesterday, I decided to tackle the Candyland game, and make it accessible for play by all my kids, including Abi. What crafty-minded person wouldn't love such a project? I rounded up Hubby and the Goombas (aside: wouldn't that make a great name for a band?) and we all went to JoAnn's Fabrics. The shopkeepers watched in amusement as our family ran around the store feeling fabrics, and saying things like "how about this for a nice, smooth blue?" or "Look, this one is scratchy!"

Candyland cards with fabric textures glued on the colored squares

We ended up with green satin, red fleece, yellow cotton, purple velvet, orange burlap and blue corduroy.  Using my rotary cutter and quilting square, it was an easy matter to cut out 1" pieces for the cards and 1/2" pieces for the game board.

Wooden game pieces shaped like little people with different textured "clothes" are velcroed to the Candyland board.

Game pieces took a little more problem-solving, since constantly touching the board results in pieces that get knocked every which way, not to mention standing a game piece on top of a tiny square of fleece would never work.  We finally solved it by sticking pieces of square, transparent Velcro next to the colored squares.  A bit of Velcro on the bottom of the wooden playing pieces, and each texture-wrapped "person" will stand securely next to the playing spot.

Puff paint marks the short cuts.

Next, I worked on the Rainbow Trail, the Gumdrop Pass, and the Lose-a-Turn Licorice spots.  Marking the special squares and shortcut paths with puff paint made them easy to see and feel.

Braille labels show the special squares.

All of the special character squares received a braille label, which matches the braille on the corresponding character card.  I figured that matching the braille words would be a good pre-reading exercise, as well as giving me an excuse to pull out my braille slate and stylus.

Lolly and Jolly cards with clear Braille labels

I had thought that this project would take much longer, but it only took a couple of hours to glue everything in place.  Not only did I have a wonderful time inventing, problem-solving and crafting, but now we have a fully accessible board game to add to the family game night rotation.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sharing Bean Moments

I made a little video of Bean playing with his Daddy to share with Miss A (Bean's birth mom). She loves to get little videos and stories about him, and since she currently lives halfway across the country, and can't visit as often as she'd like, the videos are even more special.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


We had a lovely Thanksgiving Feast with Mom and Dad. Sis and BIL ended up going elsewhere (sending prayers to BIL's family) so we had WAY too much food, but that was ok. :)

Menu for the curious on the other side of the pond: All the traditionals- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, jellied cranberries, dinner rolls, apple-pecan green salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, candied yams, pumpkin pie, apple pie, various adult drinks, along with egg nog, juice, and (my favorite) good old ice water.

I do have a few funny kid stories from the trip down, and a few pieces of our lives to tack on for the memory books.


Mom had a towel hung on the kitchen drawer and Bean saw her wiping her hands on it. He really, really wanted to wipe his in the same way, and the only water easily available was in the dog's dish. So he rinsed his hands there (repeatedly) in order to use the towel like Mama. :)

Little Mister

While we were relaxing in the Living Room waiting for the turkey to be done, Little Mister decided that the toy hairbrush and comb qualified him for barber work, so he came to me with them and two toy cell phones.  I was to call him and request that he brush my hair for me, which I forthwith did.  He busily brushed and combed all of my hairspray out while I purred like a cat.  He was so pleased with my response, that he continued to do "favors" for me the rest of the evening.  He piled a bunch of books on my chair for me to read later; he followed me around with the popping push toy "vacuuming" for me, and wanted to sit by me at dinner.

He also insisted I take his picture when I took the picture of the family at the table.  So here he is!


After dinner, we went to the Locomotive Park.  I have to explain this unique place, so let me take a minute to do so.

This is a Google Image sampling of scenes from the Locomotive park. The community pulls together every year to fund and build a winter fairy-land of Christmas lights in a little downtown park.  They decorate the vintage steam engine, and over the years have added a huge outdoor fireplace, a dance floor, more walkways and figures and music.  We love to take the kids there. 

Anyway, Curly, as usual, took off at top speed as soon as she got there, without regard to the darkness, rain, or crowds of other people.  Mom headed off after her, and found that she'd tripped on something and took a tumble.  In spite of limping dramatically the rest of the evening, she managed to run around the entire park, enjoying the walk-in igloo, the dancing penguin figures and the real train bell that could be rung by pulling with all her might on a rope.

Hubby and I spent the drive back home in the rainy dark using the Flashcard app on my iPod to study our Amharic vocabulary.  The idea that Abi will come into our family not knowing any English, and that one of use will likely travel back to Ethiopia to get her made me determined to learn more words than "thank you."

I have an Amharic app that gives us pronunciations, and I wrote the flash cards as phonetically correct as I could, so we have been quizzing each other, and trying to make up weird mnemonic devices, such as using the actor David Wendham, who played a "brother" in LOTR to remember that "Wehn-Dihm" means "brother."  Hey, we go with whatever works in such cases of linguistic survival mode!

And as my friend Beth commented, "Next year, Thanksgiving with Abi." Yep, I'm thankful for my growing family.  :)