Thursday, January 31, 2013

Deja Vu

It's fun to come upon something the kids did and have a sudden, vivid flash back to myself as a child playing the exact same thing.

In this case, Curly made baskets for her horse out of paper and tape, doubtless inspired by reading Little House at school.

Beautiful Diversities

Over and over, I marvel at the beautiful diversity with my four very different children. Curly is an artist. She loves beauty and creating and expressing through music or drawing what's beautiful in her soul. Mister delights in math and science. Discovering how the world around him fits together and works like an intricate puzzle keeps him absorbed. Abi is a lover, a nurturer, a nurse. Making someone else happy and comfortable is her great joy. Bean is an athlete. To push his body to its limits and be moving through space, fast, is what he was made to do.

 It's amazing how I love each one of them so much and want to nurture the amazing potential within each of them. I pray that my children learn not to compare themselves with others and focus on ways that someone else is better than they are, but look instead at the amazing person God created them to be. I pray that they can admire and delight in each other's abilities without putting one skill above another as superior, but knowing that each one has a perfect place.

Along these lines, Curly showed up and science suddenly turned into art!

Man of Science

Mister's new school has him doing specific science lessons rather than learning measuring skills by helping us cook or repair the house. While the resultant learning is similar, he thinks these science lessons are tons of fun! Who doesn't love pouring colored water into stuff?

This is his "smile for the camera" face. ;)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Under the Weather

Last week Curly brought home a high fever from school. I'm told a large number of her classmates were also sick. She got well in a few days, but Bean caught it and has been miserable for five days.

We took him in to the doctor, who confirmed that he didn't have pneumonia or strep throat, thank goodness. So, treatment has been alternating Motrin and Tylenol and watch a lot of Kipper the Dog.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New 'Do

I'm so proud of how well Abi's hair has grown! Since October of last year, when they shaved her head, she's had a full six inches of growth! Now, it's back into protective braids for cuteness, ease of care, and more growth.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Important Matters of Hair

My Littles have been taking very seriously the combing of their own hair. At least they think it's serious!

(Note: After posting a few days ago about my indecision in the matter of cutting Bean's adorable curls, I ended up just going for it the other morning after unsuccessfully attempting to brush his hair while he howled. Short is better, I guess.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sisters and Brothers

I have a dream that one day... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

One year ago today, I stepped off a plane onto crispy snow, my sleeping daughter in my arms, and placed her into the waiting arms of her new family. We did not know the year we had ahead, as our transplanted flower struggled to bloom again, but even in hindsight, I would not trade it.

This weekend, on the great Ethiopian feast day of Timkat, we held our own feast. I invited some friends who come from a family of missionaries and are familiar with Ethiopian food and traditions, so that our feast, rather than being a novelty, would be a comfortable, joyful celebration. I did a coffee ceremony, and even the children tasted a little of the sweet, black "boona" (coffee).

Abi, for her part, enjoyed her friends and played with toys. We did not do a lot of outward reflection, as I know it would just upset her. She isn't old enough to want to ask questions and work through what has happened to her. We did talk about our airplane ride the other day when she was sad and snuggling on my lap. Our feast, though, was a happy day. A milestone.

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Morning Sad

She's tired after a late night last night. She still has a bit of a cold, and we missed two doses of her eye medicine.

Those may have contributed, but mostly she was just sad. Her little heart was grieving far beyond what her four-year-old mind could process. We've told her that this weekend is an anniversary. She remembers the terrifying airplane ride away from everything she had ever known to a place with cold snow and sweet food where no one understood the words that she spoke.

Her heart misses those women who cared for her, misses the songs she used to sing. She doesn't even really remember what she misses, but she knows that her heart was broken over and over and over.

And so, I hold her. I put aside my day's chores, and homeschool and work. I sit on the couch as the morning melts away, and just hold her on my lap. I tell her that it's okay to cry. I hold her and weep with her and thank God that she will let me hold her and offer what comfort and healing I can give by knowing what grief feels like. Time is a friend, and healing will come, for both of us. But for now, we share tears.

Bean's Hair

It's getting long. It's so curly and cute, I can't bring myself to cut it. Then, I brush it, and he whines and says, "ouch, Mommy, you're hurting me!" And I resolve to cut it. Then, when the time comes, I can't do it.

Moms are so weird.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Table Manners

When Abi came home, almost a year ago (!), she had mostly eaten with her fingers out of a bowl. She understood a spoon, but had never used a fork.

Added to that, she chose food as a power struggle, and for months either refused to eat or ate extremely slowly. In addition, she was learning an entirely new palette.

So, it's only been the last few weeks that I have seen any progress in the table manners that I've tried to teach. While she would use a spoon or fork, she still looked like she was laying on her plate, in order to get close enough to see it, and gobbling bite after bite.

It finally occurred to me that there are a whole group of unwritten table manners that most kids learn by observation. If you can see the other diners, you can copy their movements and posture to a large extent.

I thought about what I wanted her to do while she ate, and decided that the reason she looked as though she gobbled her food is that she loaded her fork while she chewed and held it ready in front of her mouth. I told her to set her fork or finger food down between each bite. Suddenly, the problem was fixed! She simply hadn't realized that people did that.

I've heard from several sources that blind kids won't learn good table manners. They can't see their food, poor things, so of course they'll lay on the table, stick their fingers in their food, gobble, and make a mess. Nonsense! Manners are merely a result of training and expectation. They're a social nicety that is necessary for certain occasions, and useful every day.

Teaching Abi to sit up straight, use her utensil to locate a bite of food, eat it neatly, and then set the utensil down while she chews is no more than that: breaking it down into achievable steps, practicing them and expecting her to do them.

Scott MacIntyre, of American Idol fame, writes in his biography that his mom insisted that he and his brother and sister learn table manners, telling them, "someday you're going to need these when you eat at the White House." Interestingly, he did attend an honors banquet at the White House, and I'll bet he was glad he could be confident in his table etiquette!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Unschooling Too Well

This fall, I've become aware of a completely unforeseen result of unschooling. With Little Mister, my goal was to encourage curiosity and help him enjoy learning. I wanted to set him free to explore a variety of resources and learn about different subjects.

What I did not count on was that it would work this well.

This kid has an academic mind. He inhales schoolwork and begs for more. He reminds me of myself when I was his age. 

The trouble is, I can't keep up with him! He blew through two second grade math workbooks this fall, and dove into a third grade one. He begs to practice reading with me, and wants me to make harder and harder puzzles and worksheets to tickle his brain.

I'm not complaining, really! I just thought that homeschooling would give me an opportunity to feed his educational appetite, and I find that with Abi's needs, Bean's busyness, my small job (which I love) and all of life in general, I can't give him enough resources, and he's only in Kindergarten!

After talking with a good friend whose son is in high school, and discussing extensively with Hubby, we decided to enroll him in the online virtual academy in first grade. I never thought I'd want to do that, as the idea of a teacher looking over my shoulder and choosing my curriculum makes me feel a bit green. Now, though, the fact that they send us a computer and several boxes of learning materials sounds fantastic! Little Mister can get on the computer, which he adores, and learn a whole bunch of new stuff.

When I told him that he would get his own computer and do lots of learning exercises during the day, he lit up like a Christmas tree. 

Now, I'm trying to decide, are we still unschoolers with two kids in school? *wink*

**Note: I'm joking about the unschooling. I couldn't care less about labels and fitting into boxes. I'm interested in finding a good fit for each kid and still helping them to enjoy learning. I'm open to trying just about any method if it works toward that end, and I don't see it interfering with my basic philosophy of learning at all. I'll let you know how this new adventure goes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Palouse Divide Lodge

This gorgeous lodge hosted our church's annual women's retreat this weekend. I truly enjoyed the time to get away, talk with other adults and enjoy the beautiful venue.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Funny Kids

My kids are so funny and sweet sometimes, especially the Littles! I want to write down some of the things that they say to look back on years from now. So here's a few from recently.

Curly: She and I have been playing games together and she's so cute! At school, she was having trouble with spelling, but she's worked really hard over the Christmas break and she got an A on her last test! We were so proud of her. She is still my social butterfly and goes to school primarily to see her friends, of which she has many.

After watching the Prince of Egypt on Christmas Eve, she's been enamored with the story, the songs (she's learned most of the words, and makes up the rest), and the Egyptian culture. She draws Pharaohs and Sphinxes, and dug the camels out of the Playmobil box.

Mister: He is an absolute joy to teach every day. He's an eager learner; He's really taking off in his reading, and he just finished another second grade math workbook. I'm going to have to get him a third grade one.

This morning, he was busy copying constellations out of a star chart, drawing and labeling ones that I'd never even heard of. He still loves maps and charts and trains.

Princess Abi: When she had a fever yesterday, and had to stay home from preschool, she wept! I was only able to comfort her by reminding her that other kids have been sick and missed a day, but they come back the next time.

She has come so far in the past six weeks. When she first came to us, a cold and fever would have been cause for going into complete turtle mode, ignoring us, or even pushing us away. This week, although she was still a miserable lump on the couch, she talked to me and let me hug her and comfort her.

There was a sweet poem on Facebook the other day that really touched me:

Our skin doesn't match.
You don't have my eyes or mouth,
And our faces aren't the same shape.
I don't know what it's like to look at you and catch a glimpse of myself as a child.
What I see in you is far more beautiful than that.
I see the hand of God in my life.
I see into the windows of heaven, and you, sweet angel, are by my side every single day.
Our skin may not match, but we match hearts."

Bean: At the store the other day, he talked Daddy into buying him a lemon! The next day, he wanted a lime, but he called it a green lemon.

He makes me laugh at the intensity with which he lives life. He can't just eat a lemon drop; he gets it stuck in his hair. He never walks anywhere. He runs!

I took a couple of little videos of him yesterday to mail to Miss A in Tennessee because she hasn't seen him for a while.

Video 1
Video 2

When I tried to take a picture, though, he hid. Silly Bean. :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ten Year Anniversary

Ten years ago today I married my wonderful Hubby.

Since then, we've collected four kids, gone through five cats, six dogs, four birds, six moves and seven job changes. We've driven across the United States and flown to Africa. We've faced debt and grief and depression, but we've shared magical moments and great joy. We've lost dreams and gained new dreams.

He loves the city; I love camping. He likes to sit and talk; I'd rather play games. He's a night owl; I'm a morning person. He jiggles the bed; I steal blankets. He's an introvert; I'm an extrovert.

Yet, somehow, we're even closer than the day we got married. We've learned to be a team. We've faced storms together and come through them. When one of us cries, we hold each other. When one of us is happy, we laugh together.

We've learned surprising lessons. For instance, it works better to argue via email. I'm better at home repairs and budgeting; he's better at managing our social calendar and teaching violin. If there's a room to be organized, or a rock wall to be built, surgeries to be endured or a glass window to be replaced or music to be performed, we've learned that we're better working together.

We've learned that we need each other, and that love runs deeper than we ever realized.

To celebrate our Anniversary, we couldn't really go somewhere, as it's too soon to leave Abi. Still, we wanted to do something special. We wanted to do something different than the ho-hum every day routine. Something with lots of snacks and something interesting to do.

So, we chose what any good geek family would choose.

A Star Wars marathon. :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013


It's been chilly, chilly, chilly here this week. So, while Hubby's back at work, the rest of us kind of hunkered down trying to stay warm. We've had a fire in the fireplace, and the heaters turned up (this year, we're not using the pellet stove as it was expensive, messy and high maintenance).

It's actually kind of cozy, playing in front of the fire, sipping warm drinks and snuggling in our jammies. :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I hope this year brings peace, healing, contentment, and a settled-ness to our family, after the past couple of years of transition and upheavals.

I'm delighted to report that last night, we spent several hours at some friends' house, and Abi did super! She wasn't even unduly upset by their dog.

If I'm reporting on her progress, I might as well report on my own as well. I enjoyed our time with friends, and didn't have undue anxiety. I'm also doing a new Bible study with a friend that seems to be helping with the depression too. Accepting my role as a housewife that God has me in right now seems to be a key to finding contentment and peace. I know that sounds strange to say after seven years, but parenting an especially needy child when I'd rather be doing something else during my days has been more taxing than it needs to be. I've always envied those women who are delighted to stay home with their kids, and keep house, since that is my role right now. If I can let my grasp on the future go, and embrace my life right now, I have a feeling that new joy is waiting to be discovered. :)