Friday, September 04, 2015

That moment when you wonder how you will fit it in the car

The seven children at home and I took a little trip to IKEA today. It seemed easy enough. J. and I figured out how we could swing some new loft beds for TM and D. that will give them each their own desk and their own delineated space. (Anyone with multiple boys ages 12+ in the house will understand the need to keep the young bucks from knocking their antlers together all the time.) In order to get everything sorted out and ready to use at the beginning of our school year, today was the day I needed to go get them. I also hoped to get a small shelf unit for K. so that he can store things in a drawer rather than scattered across his floor (a pipe dream, I know) and a couple more kitchen chairs so that R. and T. have somewhere to sit when they come home. We already had a bench out of the van and it is a big van, so I figured we were good.

It was a lovely day. My intentional nurturing of the little girls is paying off and everyone remained pleasant and regulated. We even managed lunch. When it was time to go, we head down to the self-serve aisles and pick-up everything we need minus the beds which are at the pick-up counter. I'm still feeling pretty darn confident about getting it all in the van. It's big, IKEA stuff comes flat, no problem.

After a rather longish wait, our number is called and they wheel out not one, but two carts each with filled with six very long boxes. I will admit to my confidence going down a notch or two, but kept assuring TM (whose visual-spacial skills are really quite excellent and who was immediately skeptical about our success) that of course it will fit. 

Here is the pile we needed to load in. Yes, all of it. All four carts. Note how very loooooong some of those boxes are.


Entertaining little people while I went to get the van.



Well, it took a while. And some of the boxes were put in and taken out more than once. We eventually had to rearrange seating and make the non-loading group get in so we could pile boxes around them, but we did it. I have to give a huge amount of credit to P., TM, and D. who worked their tails off and were extremely helpful and good-natured. It was also mildly amusing to watch the process, especially at the end when D. had to climb through (somehow) to hold up the boxes tipping upwards so that the back door could be closed without the boxes sliding back down and out. I kind of wish the people loading next to us stuck around to see it all go in, because it seemed the general feeling was we weren't going to be able to do it. Heck, at one point I didn't think we were going to be able to do it and was trying to estimate how much the home delivery option would be.

The van going home:


The ride home was uneventful and made more pleasant by the addition of Swedish fish as a snack. And more kudos to my older people for completely unloading the van immediately upon arriving home without me even having to ask them.

Guess what we'll be doing tomorrow? Yes, J. will be getting to pursue his very favorite occupation of assembling large IKEA furniture. I know he can't wait.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Why are we so afraid of spoiling our children?

Life with L. has been rather loud for the past few days. She is a particularly explosive child and dealing with frustration or delay is a developing skill. On some days we aren't even reaching the benchmark of development, it just isn't there. And frustrated children are loud. And unpleasant. And loud. It gives you a sense of how life has been here for a couple of days. We are all feeling a little frazzled.

As I have thought about it, I realized that I should have expected this and been more proactive. Last weekend, B. and A., two of her special people moved to school. While she seemed to be okay. I don't think she really was. Then when you combine that with my virtual absence while I worked diligently to get school planned in time, you have a recipe for a major meltdown. She was feeling scared and sad and missing her people... including me. Life has been a little quieter today since I have finally connected the dots and figured out what was up. It also explains why instead of running this morning, I spent an hour and a half sitting with L. in a chair, reading stories and just snuggling. It also explains why I took both girls with me when we drove to TM's appointment this afternoon, an hour and fifteen minutes away. They just need me right now and leaving them home with older siblings wasn't going to help their general functioning.

Learning to parent my children who need more external support for emotional functioning has gotten me thinking about some things and I realize my parenting philosophy has changed pretty dramatically from when I started writing this blog. If you were to go back and read posts about parenting in order, I bet you could see this gradual shift. What has changed the most, I think, are my ideas about what constitutes a spoiled child.

In modern terms, it seems that the accusation of raising a brat is about the worst thing you can say about a parent. And in parenting, there is always the fear that if your child misbehaves that someone will come along and criticize your parenting or point out how you are spoiling your child. In some more conservative parenting circles there is the not-so-unspoken rule that if you are truly a Godly parent, your child will always be "under control" and if they are not, well then, you are not so Godly as you would have people to believe. (Oh, I have so much more to say on this particular theme, but it will have to wait for another day.) It seems that parenting is all about the product, even if the child is not yet grown, and not at all about the process.

But we need to be all about the process. And what every parent deep in their heart knows, even if they are not willing to admit to it out loud, is that the process is messy and loud and imperfect and full of failure. God has not given us little automatons to raise. Instead He has given us perfectly imperfect human beings who He created. Just as we the parents rarely get everything perfect, we shouldn't expect our children to get it perfect, either. God extends all of us His grace and we need to do the same thing for our children.

In the law-and-order, but what if I raise a brat, fearful parenting mindset, a child who is melting down is one who just needs to be punished more. Clearly, nothing good can happen to this child or it will just reinforce that this kind of behavior works. Sterner parenting is called for. This type of parenting does not take into consideration what is actually going on with the child. What if the child genuinely cannot get themselves under control? What if the child is communicating, although imperfectly, a deep fear or unhappiness and they don't have the ability to show these feelings in another way? How does firmer parenting help this child feel safe and loved?

While sometimes you just can't win as a parent, for instance the overly tired or hungry child crying for a candy bar at the check out counter, there are certainly things we parents can do that put us on the same team as our child and not on the opposing team. Here are some of the ways I have come up with, feel free to add your own.

  1. Don't try to over schedule. The younger the child, the less that child will be able to tolerate. One errand, one class, one event. Keep in mind your child's ability to manage and don't set them up for failure.
  2. Focus on relationship first. Have you spent time interacting with your child in a positive manner before criticizing or correcting? Have you snuggled with your little one and read some stories before starting to tackle your to-do list? Have you stopped to think about why your child is behaving like he is and addressed that underlying need?
  3. It's OK to give treats. Really. Giving a child what they ask for is a way of showing that child that you care for them and hear them. You don't have to do it every single time, but I can tell you when one of my children has asked for something and I've said yes, it goes along way towards making them feel loved and cared for.
  4. Have fun together. Let the jobs go, let the to-do go and just enjoy each other every so often. This is what your children will remember... those times where you showed them that they were most important.
I find a good way to clarify all of this is to think in terms of husband and wife relationships. A way of telling people how much your spouse cares for you is to say, "He (or She) spoils me," and we mean this in a good way. It is a way of saying that our spouse goes above and beyond in making an effort to making us feel loved and cared for. Can you imagine what kind of marriage it would be if one party expected the other to always do what they were told... immediately.. and with a good spirit? Can you imagine what kind of marriage it would be if when one party was hurt or scared and not acting in a terrific way as a result that the spouse would get angry in return? Can you imagine what kind of marriage it would be if nice things were never done for one another, just because? Yet this is exactly what some of our parent-child relationships look like. 

A child cannot be spoiled with care, attention, love, or any other good thing. A child who experiences these things will be much more likely to be the kind of child someone wants to be around. The only spoiled child is the child who is not listened to, not cared for in a way that communicates love, not made to feel valuable for who they are. So stop caring about what other people think and start caring for how your children feel. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Linking instead of writing

The day has escaped me and I can't even tell you what I did. Certainly not put those piles of books away that I showed you yesterday, that's for sure. So enjoy these instead.

First, two articles that I had published recently which I can't remember if I shared here or not.

5 Things You Should Know about how Orphanage Life Affects Children

and

How to Help Someone Who Doesn't Want Help with Adoption Challenges

Then there were these articles I came across that I thought were interesting.

One about reading and brains: Bedtime Stories for Young Brains

And one about music and brains: Science Shows How Piano Players' Brains are Actually Different From Everybody Elses'

A somewhat snarky article about large families: The Ultimate Status Symbol for Millionaire Moms on New York's Upper East Side is not What You'd Expect

And finally a brief and not so wonderful update on the current status of adoption from Vietnam: Warning Regarding Partner Agencies Working in Vietnam

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Nearly finished

My whirlwind, last minute, obsessive bout of school planning is nearly done. Once it is, and I've caught up with everything I've been neglecting, I'm going to update my homeschooling page. It is woefully out of date and I know some of you may be interested in what we are studying this year and what resources we will be using. (And by putting it all there, I will spare the rest of you tedious information that you really don't care about.) I'll let you know when it is done.

And I do have a lot of resources to list. Here is the stack of books (minus a few yet to arrive from the library and the regular texts that everyone uses for math and English) that made the cut.


When D. saw the pile of books we would be reading this year, he was a little concerned. His first question was, "Do you think we have enough?" Yep, that's my boy.

To show you the number of books I've slogged through over the past week or so, here is the stack that didn't make the cut and will be going back to the library today.


Now, to put all of this away, put the finishing touches on each child's printed schedule, and make a couple learning activities and quiet time bags.

Almost done...

Monday, August 31, 2015

Milestone

I wanted to share a little personal achievement with all of you, but first you need some backstory to fully appreciate it.

I have never been terribly athletic. It was the combination of not being able to do something well the first time and little natural interest. (Equestrian sports aside, of course. For those I have both aptitude and interest.) I was the child who hated PE. The child who was always one of the last to finish that dang 600 m. run. (Oh, how I loathed the 600.) The child who preferred sitting and reading to just about anything else. It was a good thing I was also blessed with a fairly high metabolism to make up for my sedentary preferences.

Fast forward to a body who gave birth to a set of large and full-term twins combined with heading rapidly towards age 50. (For those of you a little ahead of me, you know exactly what's coming, don't you?) You see, it seems that as we age our metabolism can slow down a bit. Okay, a lot. It also seems that at the same time our metabolism is slowing down, hormone levels are deciding to kick it up a notch, or ten. It makes for a rather toxic cocktail.

All this is to say why last summer, I decided that I had to something to if not reverse, at least stem the affects a bit. I really felt as though God was nudging me to run. I would have this little voice say to me, "You should start running." My reply to that little voice was always, "What are you insane (and since I was seeming to talk to myself, that was a valid question.) I don't run." And that statement was true. I didn't run. Ever. This conversation played itself out more than a few times until one day I found myself in the store buying running shoes.

Well, having spent money on those shoes, I felt as though I needed to use them... at least a little bit. So, without telling anyone what I was doing, I started. As I've already told you, I've never been in great shape. When I started I could only (barely) run one block and then had to walk the next. Over time I could run two blocks, walking the next, and so on and so on.

So I find it nothing short of amazing that last week I discovered that I could run the entire mile and a quarter.

Other than the fact that I am pretty amazed, why I am sharing this with you? Mainly it's because the difference this regular exercise has made in my mental health. I can't say that I have noticed a significant change in dress size (which, truly is why I do this), but I keep going because of the change in my outlook on life. There really is something to this exercise-thing. I feel better about myself and that spills over into all sorts of things. I notice a huge difference in the days where I run and the days where I don't. I just cope better.

And now I come to the real point of this post. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try getting out and starting some sort of exercise. I don't have anything to sell you, it just has made a pretty significant difference in my being able to deal with life. For the record, I still don't like it. I am never going to be a marathon runner. I find it dreadfully dull and cannot wait to be done. I make it marginally more bearable by putting language CD's on my iPod and listening to that. But I keep doing it because of how I feel afterwards. The running may be boring, but it certainly makes the day go better.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Poor little girls

G. and L. (and K. and H. to some extent) have had a hard day. This morning, J. (along with some littles) helped B. move into the house he is sharing for the school year. At one point, J. looks and sees G. sitting on a tree root, looking extremely glum. B. spent some time holding her before J. took everyone home.

Life has been hard and things have not been good today for people. Life has also been loud since little people are having difficulty regulating their emotions. The low point came when J. headed up to the little girls' room to sort out the aftermath of a World War III scale battle between the two of them over doll clothes. When he gets there, he sees G. sitting on her bed with her little bottom lip quivering and L. curled up in a fetal position on the floor. When he says, "It's really hard to say good-bye to A. and B., isn't it?" The flood gates open and he has sobbing girls on his hands.

So it turns out to be a very good thing that we are not trying to start school in Monday. We need a week to recover from saying good-by and to do some fun stuff. The down side of a large family is that older brothers and sisters head off to school and the little people who adore them are left behind. It's not all bad, though, because it shows how much love there is between all of them.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Moving In

Today was move-in day for freshmen and so we piled into the van along with all of A.'s stuff (which wasn't a whole lot) and took her to school. We will miss her a lot, but she is oh, so ready for this next new adventure.

Her dorm

Unloading the van

Does she look a little excited?

With all the stuff piled in the little, bitty room, before any organizing or sorting took place.

B. with L., G., and K. standing in the hallway. (No room inside the room for everyone.)

Bunking the beds. (B. is handy to have around and M. is on the other side, you just can't see her.)

Roommates

Really, they knew each other before this. (Both also have parents who teach at the university.)

See? 

The requisite family picture. We're missing M. She stopped by a couple of times to see the progress, but had to go back to work before we organized a picture. (It's really handy when you're entire family all works at or attends the same university.)

This is what the room looked like when we left to feed the masses. I'm sure it is all organized by now. Some of us will be returning for the new student family dinner this evening.

It seems a bit odd to have a third child entering college. It will take a while for everyone to sort themselves out a bit to fill in the void that our energetic, bouncy, and funny A. will leave while she is gone. 

Sniff.

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