Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Out of practice

As I was writing my post yesterday, I was extremely aware of how much work it was to get the words out. And I was also aware that it was hardly my finest piece of writing even as I was typing. For various reasons, things have been pretty quiet on the blog for the past few weeks and my writing skills are slipping. It doesn't seem to take very long.

When I am with other homeschoolers... homeschool meetings, conferences, and the like... one of the things that often comes up is how to teach writing. Which writing program is the best? What kind of assignments should one give? That kind of thing. And I've bought some of those programs and wondered those type of questions myself. We sometimes get the idea that the ability to write is a formula to memorize and master and check-off.

This is certainly how I thought about writing before I inexplicably became a writer. I still do a mental double-take when I think of myself in that way. Yet, I must be one because I update this blog pretty regularly, plus I get a paycheck, albeit a small one, once a month for my writing. I never set out to be a writer, and in school I had more than a few teachers do a really fantastic job of convincing me I couldn't write. It was not an area that I ever felt myself excel at, and thus my perfectionist self felt no desire to pursue it.

Yet here I am writing. How on earth did that happen?

Well, I think it is one of the many consequences of adopting TM. We decided to start a blog when we began the adoption process to keep family and friends in the loop with what was happening. We updated it sporadically, and one day I made the conscious decision to update it every day because it was such a great way to keep my parents involved in the lives of their grandchildren since we live so far away.

That was the turning point. Writing every day. Something. Whether I felt like it or not. Whether I had anything to say or not. (Though I'm sure some readers wished I would skip those days.) I know it's been said before, but if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Just write. Every day. Whether you like it or not, whether you will ever have anyone read it or not. Writing is a skill that takes practice. You can't learn it by reading about, only by doing it.

Oh, and reading. You also need to be a reader. A reader of good books so that you can hear the rhythm and melody of the language you are writing in your ear. If you are attuned to how good writing sounds, you will know if your own writing is off. Reading and writing. The recipe couldn't be more simple or more difficult.

Not only have I seen this played out in my own writing, but I have had the chance to watch it unfold before my eyes over the past month as I have watched D. participate in the NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. He set himself the goal of writing 20,000 words during the month of November and on the way home from Thanksgiving, we heard a shout from the back of the van, when D., counting his words, realized he had met his goal.

He has been diligent in writing every single day. There were some moments of frustration when he hit a road block, but learning that everything you write is not going to end up in the final product is part of the process. He reads voraciously and knows what sounds good. He has realized that the more he wrote, the more fluid the process became. D. now has a multi-year plan for his writing, taking a page from Stephen King's way of working. He wants to finish the novel he started this past month, then he plans on putting it away and beginning on a new story, the outline of which he has mapped out already. Then he wants to revisit that first book. And so on and so on.

All of this is to finally get me to a place where I can say, CONGRATULATIONS, D.! I am very proud of you for taking on and meeting this goal. It was no small thing and you succeeded beautifully.
In case you missed the fundraising post and video for Y.'s adoption, you can find it here: Boy, This Makes Me Uncomfortable

Monday, November 30, 2015

So very thankful

We are back from our Thanksgiving vacation and unpacked and the laundry is even under control. It was wonderful having everyone together for several days. It was also pretty darn blissful completely ignoring the computer for four days. Well, blissful that is until I finally did turn it back on only to have to slog through over 200 emails. But, I digress. As usual.

I'm always interested to know how other people celebrate holidays, so I thought I would share a bit of what our Thanksgiving is often like. We often travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where J.'s aunt and uncle live and we were joined by two of J.'s sisters and their families. We were a crowd of 25 for the holiday. We all departed on Wednesday, well, all of us that is except B. We did a little car trading before we left and 11 of us rode in the van and B. stuck around for another day and drove himself on Thursday morning. It's tough when you have a Wednesday night class that was not cancelled.

Thursday morning was spent as most Thanksgiving days are spent... alternating cooking with throwing logs on a huge bonfire. There is also a creek which runs through the property and at least two boys went in the water when there were various raft failures. Because of my lack of photographic equipment, the few pictures I have are from A., the only child to actually take a photograph. Here is G. in front of the bonfire.

Later in the afternoon, it was time to head back to the hotel to change for dinner. We went back a bit earlier so that children could swim in the pool first. Then it was into nice clothes for dinner. G. and L. had new dresses to wear for the occasion. This seemed like a grand idea a few weeks ago, and a really bad idea on Wednesday morning when I was sewing at 6 am putting in the sleeves right before we left. But I finished them. I asked A. to take some pictures and she ended up with this nice little series. G. is on the left and L. on the right. Notice the pre-dinner melt-down by G. while L. continues to stand nicely and cooperate. (They like to keep us on our toes by switching roles every so often.)

G. recovered and we ate dinner. On the menu? Turkey, of course, as well as stuffing, mashed potatoes, red curry sweet potatoes, creamed onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, cranberry-orange relish, and homemade rolls. For dessert... pie. Pumpkin, pecan, apple, and chocolate.

Following dinner, we always gather to watch the movie A Child's Christmas in Wales. If you haven't ever seen it, you should try to find it. It is a charming live version of Dylan Thomas' Christmas memoir of the same name. There is also a sometimes tradition of J. writing and telling a light ghost story, often involving John Howland who was the family's Mayflower descendant. (He was the one who fell off the boat.) Finally, we load up overly tired children and head back to the hotel.

We had a lovely time. It is the increasingly rare time when I have all my children together and I appreciate it all the more. Plus, cousins, aunts, uncles, and plenty of unstructured time to visit, and play games, and burn things up, equals a great holiday.

Now, it's back to reality and the need to create a giant to-do list in order to be ready for Christmas and international travel back-to-back.

Deep breath.




Monday, November 23, 2015

Boy, this makes me uncomfortable

If you know me in real life, then you know I really do not care to be the center of attention. You also may know that watching myself on video is something I just don't do. My children's choir appeared on TV one year and I had to be part of an interview that was part of it. To this day I still have not watched it. I just can't. This is all to preface the extreme level of discomfort I have in the rest of this post. The only thing that is allowing me to push past my reticence is a need to bring my daughter home.

As you know, R. has a grant that is paying for her adoption. Since we were already able to get to China, it has allowed us to bring Y. home as well. God is good, and every time we have needed to come up with funds for the next set of expenses, money has been there. (Thank you to my dear friends. You know who you are.) Since we should be hearing that we have Travel Approval some time in early December, and plan on travelling in January, I need to be honest. There are still some expenses we have coming up that R.'s grant are not going to cover. People always seem to want real numbers. Well, when I add up the needed orphanage donations, visa/medical processing fees, passport fees, and travel fees, the number I reach is about $7000. It is not an insignificant chunk of change. We would also love to be able to take P. with us. We have found that having another child is extremely helpful for the new child, plus, if both girls are having a hard time, then we also have another set of hands to help with things such as luggage. Adding her to our trip would mean adding all of her airfare... US to China, three internal flights, and a flight home.

I will practice my slow and calm breathing now. We have managed three other adoptions and it has worked so far, I have to remember that.

The other thing that has been going on around here for the past year or so, and that I haven't mentioned, is that a film maker has been working on a film that involves us. (Cue more uncomfortableness on my part.) It feels a little weird, but I was also interested in showing that we are just a regular family. What we do is nothing all that special. Adoption is a feasible option.

So, with that very long prelude... here is the trailer our film maker friend made and gave us permission to use for fundraising purposes. To watch it, you'll need to type in the password: CURRY (Yes, case sensitive.)

If you feel led to donate some money (you cannot see my grimacing face as I type that), please contact me through the blog email (ordinarytimeblog (at) gmail (dot) com). We have worked out an avenue for receiving a tax deduction and I can give you the specific information. And do feel free to share this with others. (Grimacing again.)

Thanks for putting up with all of this. Here are the reasons I am putting you (and me) through this.



Friday, November 20, 2015

So really what you are telling me is that large families are not welcome here

Going to doctor's appointments is just a normal part of our week, and because of the various needs of various children, we see a lot of different doctors. I have it pretty much down to a science of where to park and what vehicle I need to park there. Some offices have a great parking situation and others not so much. Some involve low ceiling-ed parking garages that our little sedan barely seems to fit in and others have wide open parking lots. I've learned which car I need to drive to which appointment and J. and I plan ahead accordingly, constantly switching cars. As much as I like to drive the little sedan, it also means that it will be a day where we cannot all go together as a group since we don't fit. It's pretty much a first world problem and not one I spend thinking too much time about.

Well, until this morning.

H. and head out to her quarterly eye doctor appointment in the van. This office is in a suburb and has no parking garage. I have never thought twice about taking the van here and it has never been an issue in the past two years we have been going to this particular office. I do a quick trip around the parking lot to see if there are any open spaces because then I do not have to wait around for the valet guy to bring me the van. As usual, no open spaces, so we head to the free valet parking. So far, nothing about this visit has been unusual. We do this little dance every three months.

I pull up to the curb, turn off the van, hop out, and prepare to give the key to the valet guy, when suddenly, I feel as though I have fallen down the rabbit hole. "We can't park that," Mr. Valet Guy helpfully tells me.
"There's a spot right over there," I say, pointing to the valet area, thinking he didn't think he had an open spot.
"No, the van. We can't park it there," he tries to clarify.
"Um, it will fit. Trust me," I reply, thinking to myself of the hilarity involved when the short almost-50 mother-type can park the giant van better than the very large, macho-type valet guy.
"No. We aren't allowed to park that here. It is too long. You can't drive that here." The light dawns. It is not that he can't park the van, it's that he won't.

At this point, I will draw a veil over the next little bit of conversation where I strongly pointed out that a) if this is the vehicle I had available to drive, what exactly did he expect me to arrive in? b) I have been coming here for many years and this van has never been an issue (besides 'no vans' is not even on the sign) and c) the van most certainly will fit in just about every spot in the lot. I may or may not have raised by voice, and by the time the attention of everyone at the curb was caught, another valet guy hustled over, took my key, and said it would be fine.

But I'm still annoyed. So, NorthShore University Health System, let's really stop and think about what your valet guy was telling me. When there is no physical reason why I can't park my van (a too short parking garage, for instance), it makes me wonder why your representative tells me I can't drive my van. It's not as though I look at the multiple vehicles in my driveway and say, "Gee, I love driving 15-passenger vans. I'll leave the Mini Cooper or the Maserati at home and drive the fun car." No one chooses to drive a 15-passenger van for the fun of it. We who do, drive them because we have to. We either have too many children to fit in a more acceptable vehicle or it is because a family member has a mobility issue and the larger vans work well for a wheelchair. If we are to travel together, it must be in a big van. To say my van is unacceptable is to say my family (and its need for a larger vehicle) is unacceptable. Do you really want to go there? (And for the record, I could have easily parked my van in the open spots available in the valet area. They were exactly the size of parking spot I park in all the time.)

OK, vent over. Here is the good news from H.'s eye doctor appointment. First, she is stable enough that we now only need to back once a year from now on. Hooray! I'm always thankful for fewer doctor's appointments. Second, the astigmatism, which was significant, is now nearly gone from her eyes. This is pretty amazing. Third, oddly, her prescription has now moved from a near-sighted prescription (in the -2 range), to a far-sighted one (+2). The doctor agrees that this is more than a little odd, but not something to be alarmed about.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

It's that time of year again when I feel as though I have entered my own special version of The Monster at the End of the Book. I'm sure you know this book, it stars loveable, furry, old Grover and my children love it just as much as I did as a child. (Usually I don't go so much for licensed character "books", but this is an exception.)

In this version, though, Christmas is at the end of the book. It's not a bad thing in and of itself, but my problem is with the speed with which we speed towards it. So here I am, doing my lovable, furry, old Grover imitation and am pleading with you to please, please, please, do not turn another page.

If you do turn another page, please, please, please do it very, very slowly.

And then I look at my to-do list for the rest of the this week and realize, not only did you turn a page, you turned it quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I am a bit worried that you tore it right out of the book. We don't do that here. We should pause here for a while, for a long while, and I will fix it. First I have to find the packing tape...


Not only did you not let me fix the page you just tore, you also turned another page. You see, while I was looking for that packing tape, I realized that I had bought a new roll at the Dollar Store when we were filling our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Shoeboxes we still need to put together and deliver to the drop-off point. I need time to do this people! You really need to stop turning pages.

Because really, if this continues, how will I ever get by to-do list done before Thanksgiving, much less Christmas? How I ask you?

It doesn't help that on all the regular holiday craziness, we have follow-up vet appointments for the dog who didn't bother to look at the calendar before coming down with some crazy infection. Or that even though I had over an entire year to get ready for traveling to bring home two new children, I hadn't done a thing and am now scrambling to be ready to travel after the holidays. Or that D. has a tech week thrown in there with a weekend's worth of shows to go to. So please, won't you stop turning pages?


I can see that begging isn't helping since,



Why must we speed through this time of year?

Why can't we all just take our time and able through it and enjoy it all?

I don't know, either.

But, please? Let's take this packing tape I just found... can't we just tape the rest of this book shut for a while? Maybe when all of us are ready, we can cut the tape off. Otherwise, I'm afraid that when I wake up in the morning, it will be Christmas and I won't be ready. Or it will be time to fly to China and I won't be ready.

Pretty much, if you keep turning pages with such speed, I can't be responsible for the consequences.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


A rare moment when Gretel is not trying to pester Midnight and Midnight is not swiping a claw at Gretel's nose. I'm happy to report that Gretel continues to be on the mend and the anti-biotics seem to be working. Each day she is bouncier and bouncier.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How about some good news?

And it's really, really good news.

So, you remember Peter, right? Well, I am beyond excited to tell you he has a family working to bring him home! Even better, I know the family and think it is a fantastic match. I love God. But, as you should also know, adoption is expensive. Here is a great chance to help this family bring Peter home in a timely manner. Even a small amount will help.

If I have done it right, if you click on the image, it should take you to his You Caring site. But because I don't trust my computer abilities, use this link if it doesn't work.

That is one less child to find a permanent family, which is terrific. Really, really terrific. Yet there are so many more children waiting and waiting for someone to see their humanity through their list of diagnoses. Please don't forget little Gracie.

Isn't she a sweetheart? This little peanut is already 10 years old. She has cerebral palsy which affects her legs. You do all know that cerebral palsy is a static disease, right? That means what you see is what you get; it doesn't get worse. It also means that it can only get better with appropriate therapy and love. The kind of love only a family can give. She even has a $1500 grant that will go towards her adoption. Please, let's avoid the panic-filled, she's going to age out and she needs a family now push when she is 13. Let's help her find her family now.

Let's not stop at advocating for one child. The Baobei Foundation, that wonderful foundation which has been caring so beautifully for R. and who raised the money to make her adoption possible, has asked me to advocate for Timmy.

Timmy is 12 years old and has overcome some huge obstacles. Earlier this year, a tumor was discovered that was compromising his ability to walk and function. He was shunted and the tumor removed. Since then, he has regained his abilities, including being able to read and write, and subsequent tests have shown that the tumor was benign and no further growth has been found. There are so many people who know and care about this sweet boy, you should just go and read about him from them. First there is his Twenty Less description and from there you can go to China Special Treasures for more about him.

But wait, there's more. Currently Timmy has a combined $7000 grant towards his adoption. This could significantly help a family to bring him home. Please take a look at everything written about him and share... or maybe this little boy is your son. The clock is ticking, he has less than two years to find a family.


And, if you want to read about why we all need family, here's my latest article:  We Never Outgrow the Need for Family Please feel free to share (and share and share...).
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