Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Costumes

This year, we have a couple of karate kids, a ninja, Princess Presto and Super Why. I didn't have to sew anything new this year, which was nice.

Discombobulated

With immense anticipation, Curly invited us to her school's Fall Carnival. Tonight, after a violin recital where both Curly and Mister played, we all excitedly piled into the van and drove to her school, only to find the door locked. Upon further investigation, we discovered we'd had the date wrong, and we missed it.

Curly cried.

Abi and Bean both tried to comfort her, and when that did not work, they wept along with her.

To raise everyone's spirits, we headed to the Tree Slide, where we held running races around the play place (still in costumes). A little exercise soon had the kids feeling happy again.

Someday, I might get our schedule sorted out, but I'm not really holding my breath.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Costume Party

Last weekend, in order to have a "friends and family" party for the kids, we held a big, combined, all-out birthday bash for everyone at once. I figured Abi could just deal with it for one day, and she ended up doing all right and not getting too weird. The other kids had a ball, and I think our friends did too. :)














Friday, October 26, 2012

Poor Willy


Wandering into the bathroom this afternoon, I saw the above scene: Willy, the Cutest Whale looking dolefully out the window at the back yard where he had been banned from playing, and joining his children.


This afternoon, it snowed for about 20 minutes, and amazingly, enough snow stuck to the ground to send the kids into a frenzy of delight. They dug out the snow pants, boots, hats, gloves and coats.


Patient Alyssa helped all of them get dressed, and go outside, where there was almost enough snow to see.


Curly built a snowman that was three or four inches high. Bean didn't know what to make of the new clothes and all the hubbub, and started whining. Abi chattered on and on about the "stompy boots" while Little Mister tried on snow pants that were several sizes too small.


All the while, from the bathroom window, Willy the Cutest Whale watched them play, forever barred from playing in the snow by reason of being only a stuffed toy.

Poor Willy.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Punkins

Hubby tackled the pumpkin carving with the crew the other day. Abi, who hadn't done this before, had a great time, and the older two carved their own designs this year.






Monday, October 22, 2012

Six Pictures of a Boy Turning Six

Sunday was Little Mister's sixth birthday. Again, we did a very small celebration with just our family, and it was just right. :)







Curly's First Day of School

In keeping with our usual method of not doing anything conventionally, Curly had her first day of school today, in October. I spent the weekend getting the uniform guidelines figured out and completing paperwork. She spent the weekend jumping out of her skin with excitement.


Like most moms on the first day of school, I have mixed feelings. I'm happy for Curly, and I'm fairly certain she'll do well. I doubt she'll be a superstar student, but I think she'll enjoy herself, will learn what she needs, and will make a lot of friends.

This morning, I felt really sad, though, and I missed her. Then, it occurred to me that the sadness I felt was so minor compared to the grief of leaving Abi in Addis Abeba last October, I cheered right up again.

Little Mister, her constant companion, is wandering around like a lost puppy today. I've tried to play with him quite a bit, but he still acts a little bereft. I did notice that the morning and lunch time went so much smoother and quieter! Curly may be helpful and happy, but she also initiates a lot of the wild activity that fills our house on any given day. I'm enjoying the peacefulness, although I'm still looking forward to her returning home this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Curly Whirly


This fall, things for Curly changed subtly, but they changed nonetheless. Almost all of her friends and acquaintances were going to the private school in town; only two still homeschooled, and we did not see them much.

I started doing some formal teaching with her, and realized that she was no longer miles ahead academically. The year of transition has been rough on all of us, and has taken its toll on our learning.

Then, I watched her on days when we were at Preschool for Abi. She grieved that it wasn't her doing classes, having a teacher, going to recess. She did not complain, but I could tell from her hungry looks that she wanted to be in school.

Hubby and I talked about it and crunched numbers in our budget. We both had mixed feelings about putting her in school. Many of the reasons we homeschool have not departed--family bonding especially. Still, having one child in school would allow me to focus on the others, especially Abi when she's needy. I think that tipped the scales, and we enrolled her.

Today, we met with the Principal and Curly took a placement test. I was allowed to be in the room, and as I watched her sit down with the test, I nearly had a panic attack! First of all, ever since my horrible experience teaching public school, a principal's office gives me the willies. Then, it wasn't just Curly being evaluated, but as her teacher, I was on the hot seat too. Thirdly, she has never taken a test before in her life. I had no idea how she would perform or whether she would freeze up, or if they would ask questions about material we've never covered.

The test turned out to be fairly basic. Curly did about average, and her stronger areas really shone. She read well, did addition well, and plowed through some of the weaker areas, like writing and subtraction.  Throughout the 30 minutes, she was calm and cool. I was so proud of her!

She starts school on Monday. I think it'll be a bit of culture shock, going from very relaxed unschooling where she is pretty much free to do what she likes throughout the day to the strictest, most rigid school in town. Hopefully, since all of her classmates are trained in the rules of behavior, she'll follow along.

I'm still a little conflicted. While it's a good school, I'll miss her during the days. I worry too about schooly problems like cliques and bullies and fundraising and grades. This is a new adventure for us for sure.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Beds!

Second bunk bed set up! We finally have a girls' room and boys' room. Plus the Littles are out of toddler beds! Quite the milestone. :)

This was my bunk bed as a child. I felt quite sentimental setting it up.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pennies and Popcorn

We had a bit of excitement this morning. The kids had requested popcorn, so I started a pan on the stove, with oil and a pile of kernels (but no lid). Just as I got this going, Curly decided she wanted to roll the loose change that filled our change cup to the brim. Of course, she needed help finding the rolls and being reminded how many of each coin to roll. As I was writing "40 nickels" we all heard a series of small, muffled explosions in the kitchen!

"Oh no!" I shouted, and raced back into the kitchen, where it was snowing.

With a lid as my shield, I approached the dragon of spitting oil, and snuffed it.

Luckily, most of the popcorn ended up where it was supposed to, and the kitchen floor needed sweeping anyway.

I think I've grown in character, because I had a laugh at my absentminded self, and moved on to painting fingernails.

Never a dull moment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bitter Bunch!


Today was another tough day. Family and financial stuff this time (see? it's not always Abi's fault!) It made me wish I was back in the woods listening to the silence and feeding tortilla chips to the chipmunks.

Hubby and I have some tough decisions to make. Tough numbers to crunch. And on top of it all I have to figure out what to make for dinner every day! Sheesh!

I know I'm not alone. Quite a few of the mom-blogs I read report moms feeling like drowning. Yeah, I can relate. But I guess that's what I signed up for when I agreed to grow up. Wait! I never agreed to that! I call foul on something somewhere. I don't want to be a grown-up.

Huh. Well, I'll pray for you, and you can pray for us, as we all drown together, okay?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Blindsided

Another rough day came out of nowhere to smack me in the face today. Coming off a four-day migraine this weekend, and doing the sound board at church without actually being able to see the sound board, I was ready for some good days. I felt better, and I expected that the sunny, crisp, mellow fall days would be reflected in my children.

Instead, Abi ignored me at Preschool, demanding attention from Teacher Marnie. Bean whined. Little Mister dragged his feet getting ready to go. Curly spent four times as long on her math as she needed to. Abi refused to eat her lunch, taking minuscule bites instead of eating in her old passive-aggressive habits that I'd hoped she'd left behind.

By the time naptime came along, I was in tears, not helped by my mom trying to tell me about a lovely vacation they had just finished. I ended up just closing my computer and going to bed. Reading a book, I fell asleep, and felt better when I got up.

Mister and Curly headed off to karate, thanks to our wonderful friends who pick them up and give them a ride. My two little martial artists have taken to it with surprising enthusiasm. After they left, though, Abi was up from her nap and back to combining her four-year-old bossiness with needy demandingness, and I thought I might strangle her!

I was a happy Mommy when the time came to exit the house, climb into the Ford Explorer that belonged to some musical church friends, and go to worship practice. The hour went by too quickly, and I wished it would go for another. My friends teased me about dropping me off downtown rather than home. They didn't realize how seriously tempting that sounded.

They dropped me off at my front yard, told me they were praying for me, and I went back into the house. We did story reading; Hubby supervised violin practicing. I ate the baked Chinese chicken I'd made for dinner. We tucked the kids all into bed with their CD of lullabies, and almost immediately I disciplined Bean for getting up out of bed to go into the other room hunting for LEGOs.

Whoever said "The days are long, but the years are short" got it right. Today, I'd hoped for good things and got smacked with hard things instead. I'd had to give more than I had to give, teach when I felt like screaming, kiss children that I would rather have smacked. It's not fun to record that days like today are more common than not, but it's my reality right now, with four little kids, chronic pain, and a child still in adoption transition.

A lot of days are really hard. This is a tough gig. I know it's worth it, but but sometimes it's really a struggle. Days like today when the kids are tough, days when I have a lot of pain, or days when it feels like it's been eleventy years since I had a moment to myself make things a lot harder. I try to remind myself that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I tell myself that love is a choice, even the love that I give when it seems that there is nothing left of me to give. I tell myself that the work I do matters, even though it feels as though I accomplish very little during the day.

Some days, like today, the best I can do is breathe a thankful sigh that today is over, and try not to dread tomorrow too much.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Snapshot: Dancing

This little girl LOVES to dance! Sometimes, she imitates the vigorous shoulder movements of the traditional Ethiopian dances; sometimes she tries out the ballet moves or jazzy freestyle dances she sees on Sesame Street or Super Why. Whichever style she chooses, moving her body to the music gives her great joy.




Friday, October 5, 2012

Christianness

The word "Christian" comes with so much baggage these days, it makes me hesitant even to use it. I don't want to identify with an institution, a dogma, a culture. Mainstream evangelicalism has lost much of its meaning to me, although I was raised steeped in it. Even now, I think of a "Christian" as a clean-cut, conservative, happy, shiny person who always makes the right decision, marries a happy, shiny person, raises their happy, shiny kids, and gets family photos taken by LifeTouch.

But, when life doesn't make sense, when people are hurting, when choices aren't black and white, when pain and disability and abuse show up, that picture isn't enough any more. Little, snappy one-liner Bible verses written over a background of a pretty sunset aren't enough.

I chose Jesus when I was four. I knew what I was doing, and I have never changed my mind. He's a real person, a friend. I've studied the Bible and other writings extensively, and I know what He taught and did. That's the Jesus I claim as mine, and I am his. Jesus loved everyone and gravitated toward those who were honest, those who were needy. He had strong words for the overly religious who looked down on others not deemed as pure and worthy as themselves.

Rather than condemning those who were hurting, Jesus continually taught people that the important thing was the heart. That's the thing we people can't really see in each other. We don't know one another's motivations; we don't know the deep inner thoughts of another person. The best we can do is assume the best of others and never judge. The more I live this crazy life, the less apt I am to say that someone else is wrong, since it's simply not for me to decide.

I do believe in right and wrong and I believe that there is Truth. What I don't believe is a dogma of Truth, since even one "Bible-believing Christian" can't seem to agree with another on what the Bible says is true. Instead, I believe that Truth came in the form of a Person 2,000 years ago, a person who loved us enough to give his life for all of us fallen and hurting people. Truth spoken in love brings healing, not pain and separation.

That's the Truth that I want to live in my life. Although I know Jesus and follow him, I'd rather that people did not look to me to represent him. Too often Christians' failings are used as the reason to reject God. When Christians do something hideous, then God must not be good, if his followers can't do good. Deep down, I think people know better, but still, if people are looking for Jesus in me and they're disappointed, I wouldn't be surprised. Jesus is about a million times cooler than I am. It's the reason I don't like being preachy, or trying to evangelize. So many of the people that I love have been wounded by those identifying as "Christian" who might have good intentions but messed up, as we all do. I have been terribly wounded too.

I'm tired of Christians thinking we're right all the time, and overlooking the fact that we hurt each other. I'm tired of others looking at me as the "perfect good little Christian girl." I'm not perfect. I'm not even good. I hurt and struggle and I hurt others, even when my intentions are good. To anyone who has been hurt by Christians or by the Church, I'm sorry. It's not God's fault. Still, I can see how it feels like it is. A happy, shiny, perfect Christian is supposed to forgive any offense and move on with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, but reality doesn't work that way. Life is much more messy. People are much more complicated. I'm pretty sure God knows that and isn't too threatened by it.

Rather, I'll just report that I'm still madly, deeply in love with Jesus. As far as "Christian" means "little Christ," I'll use the term. I'm done with bending over backward to live by the rules that will make other Christians think I'm ok or will try to "help point the way to Jesus." I can't do that. The burden is too great. I can't represent Jesus and I can't pretend that I'm good enough. When I do that, I merely look stuck up and cold. Following a religion becomes oppressive; following Jesus is freeing. I'm ready to quit trying to please those who will never be pleased with me anyway and just live. I desperately need Jesus to fill my heart with his love, with his healing. I desperately need his grace. The happy, shiny Christian picture may not be enough, but Jesus is enough. I follow him because I love him. I believe what he taught because he loves me, and I'm convinced that he is worth listening to.

And that's about all I have to say about being a Christian.

Girls' Surprise Breakfast

There happens to be a fairly large group of girls who are about the same age at church. One of the moms had the idea of doing a "kidnap breakfast" like she had done in girl scouts as a child. With the coordination of the moms, the group went around "kidnapping" girls out of bed and took them all to a local restaurant for breakfast last Saturday. (We moms tagged along too...yummy!)


We all managed to keep it a surprise for our girls, and we have a lot of cute pictures of confused girls still in bed as a group of their friends came trooping into their bedrooms! I'm sure Curly will remember this for a long time!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Scared

An honest confession from an adoptive mom here: I'm scared. I'm really, truly utterly terrified.

Maybe I read too many blogs. I mean, connecting with other moms and getting information and encouragement is great. But I also run across blogs of honest moms who are still struggling with their adopted children one, two, six years down the road. I read about attachment problems and the ongoing pain caused by early trauma and neglect. I read books about children who are hurting.

And then we have a day like today, when Abi is SO needy and so difficult.

And I think to myself, what if this is what I accidentally signed up for and it's never going to get better?

And I feel really scared.

I know I'm not supposed to admit this. Rescuing a wounded child is supposed to be so rosy and wonderful, isn't it? Or conversely, I open the door to the doom-and-gloom naysayers who pounce on the opportunity to say "I told you so."

Okay, I know that God's got this. I know He's supposedly not given us anything we can't handle. I know I just wrote a post on Monday about what a nice day we had.

I also know that parenting a child who's mentally and emotionally unstable scares me a bazillion times more than parenting a blind child. Stories about siblings whose lives were ruined by a child with a mental illness or attachment disorders nag at the back of my mind. Not that I'm saying Abi has these things but... What if? What if these bad days aren't just a temporary transitional thing? What if they last on and on? What if our other kids get hurt? What if I can never help Abi face her monsters? That's what is scary.

Tomorrow, maybe, I'll feel brave again.

Changing Seasons

October means fires in the fireplace again. It means hot chocolate and sweaters and jumping in piles of crackling leaves. October is a time for birthdays and planning costumes. I love October!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Firetruck!

Today, the firefighters visited Preschool. The kids had such a blast, and I shamelessly did the Obnoxious-Mom-With-The-iPhone thing. So, I got some great pictures! Grandmas and Grandpas, this will totally make your day. :)

One of the firefighters came in full uniform. Who was he?

He was this little boy's dad! The little guy was so
surprised, and all of the adults got teary.

Firefighters aren't frightening! They like hugs. :)

This is how you crawl out underneath the smoke.

Big sister helps little sister try on the
heavy firefighter's hat.

Bean got to try one on too.

The Fire Chief talked about safety.

We practiced Stop, Drop and Roll.

Singing a song about firemen.
Teacher Marnie really gets into the motions!

The Preschoolers and the homeschoolers all pose
in front of the big ladder truck

Learning about the truck

Teacher Marnie made sure that Abi got to get
up close and learn all about the hoses. Yay!

Everyone took a turn sitting in the big truck.

We got hats to take home.

Waving as the firemen drove away.
They honked their loud horn!