Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anyone want to send us all to France?

Yeah. I didn't think anyone did. D. really wanted me to ask. And why this sudden and pressing need to go to France... other than I really love Paris and it's been too long since I've been there? It's all for the study of history. Really.

Today we spent learning about cathedrals as part of our study of the Middle Ages. First we read David Macaulay's book, Cathedral: The Story of its Construction. We then watched a Nova episode, Building the Great Cathedrals, which I had ordered from Netflix for the occasion. We all found it very interesting. Well, not the five year olds so much, but the rest of it did. The cathedrals and their construction were really interesting, but what really caught our interest had nothing to do with cathedrals and jumped back to castles instead.

In the show, it mentioned and showed a building site in France where they are constructing a medieval castle using medieval building techniques and medieval materials. And it is a living history museum as well so YOU CAN GO AND SEE IT! Who wouldn't want to go and watch a medieval castle being built? If it were in the US, I would be making some major summer driving plans, but alas, it is in Treigny, France, southeast of Paris, and quite impossible to drive to. Some day... it is not anticipated to be done until 2020, so we still have some time. If you want to take a look at it, it's called Guedelon Castle.

It's still not too late to make an offer, though. I'd even blog about it for your reading entertainment.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ladybug Heaven

I have written before about L.'s pets... the dead bugs she carries around and cares for. The most popular of these pets are the ladybugs which fall into her clutches. Imagine L.'s excitement when the ladybugs started to swarm our house yesterday. (They do this every fall. We think the beetles are trying to find somewhere to hibernate and our house looks particularly appealing.) Much of the day was spent in ladybug collection. We even had to move up to a larger container.

This has led to some particularly funny quirky L. moments. We all now know a lot about ladybugs since at the last library visit she insisted we check out multiple books and have since read them. She likes to walk around expounding on ladybug knowledge. L. thinks she knows so much about them that I heard her tell G. that tomorrow there would be a class on the care, keeping, and most importantly catching of ladybugs.

This was not sufficient, though, to make the most of the bounty of ladybugs. They make great pets in L.'s opinion... alive or dead. She is concerned for the deprived people around her who do not have pets. Now think for a minute and I bet you can see what's coming. Many ladybugs + a needy audience + a child who really, really likes to sell things and is relentless at it = ????

You guessed it. Yes, L. has decided that a ladybug stand to sell ladybugs to people who don't have pets is the order of the day. It was one of the first things out of her mouth at bedtime and the first thing out of her mouth this morning. I'm not sure how long I can put her off. You can bet I will do my best. The idea of sitting with her outside trying to sell ladybugs and having her open her ladybug containers to check on them and then watching the ladybugs fly away does not sound like fun. If anyone out there thinks otherwise, I would be more than happy to let you handle ladybug stand supervision duty. That said, it is very difficult to not get sucked into the vortex of L.'s imagination.

Here are some girls with their ladybugs.

These are two that G. was carrying around in a toy treasure chest. (All small containers have suddenly become ladybug homes.) 


L. with her bucket. Notice the lid is off because it is easier to see the ladybugs. The trouble is, these are alive and can still fly. It's like living in one of those walk-in butterfly exhibits except with ladybugs.

Notice the amenities for the ladybugs: mountain, toys, leaf (even though L. can tell you they eat aphids.)

Monday, October 20, 2014


Nice mouth, huh? K. lost one of his front teeth the other day. (He also has a missing tooth on the bottom; you just can't see it.) But between the missing tooth and the cleft on the other side of his front tooth, it gives him a particularly holey grin.

A funny boy to brighten up your Monday.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The place where hotel furniture goes to die

J. and I didn't mean to go on this quest. In fact, we didn't even really care if we ever discovered the hotel furniture graveyard... or if it even really existed. But some adventures are thrust upon you and you have them whether you want to or not.

Yesterday started out normally enough. Children were fed. Weekly meal plans were made. I went grocery shopping. The only thing that was different was our revulsion at the state of the couches in our front living room had been raised to such a level that J. and I felt as though we needed to actually do something about it. The trouble is, we wanted to replace our decrepit and collapsing couches but we didn't want to spend very much money to do it. OK, we don't have any money to replace the couches, but yet we are tired of living with urban blight inside our own home.

This leads to searching terms such as, "cheap furniture in Chicago." J. found a place that looked promising. Big sale and photograph of a warehouse with dozens of couches stacked up. We (and by we I mean J., TM, and D.) took three benches out of the van in order to enable us to bring our plunder home and we set off in search of that elusive beast: cheap furniture.

The first leg of our journey involved Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon. It technically wasn't time for rush hour, but someone forgot to tell all the cars on the road. Our little venture was already taking longer than we anticipated. After 30 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Stevenson, we were hoping this was going to be worth it.

But we persevered in our quest and arrived at the warehouse. We walk in and find ourselves in a little room with no one there. Thinking that this can't be all of it, we see a door and wander through it. This leads to a slightly bigger room with more furniture, still no people, and not really the furniture we are looking for. We continue on, finding open doors and entering them. After another couple of rooms, we finally find the warehouse. The warehouse is big. Really big. It is also filled with a lot of furniture. Now, the thing is, while there are literally hundreds of pieces of furniture in the warehouse (at some really ridiculously low prices), there is not a lot of variety. For instance, they probably have close to five hundred couches... but in only two styles. It is the same couch over and over and over. Trust me when I say that they didn't start to look better the twelfth time we came across them. There were a lot of upholstered arm chairs (which we weren't looking for), but once again, the variety of chairs was slim. The whole things was a little odd. TM and D. had a ball wandering huge piles of furniture and playing hide-and-seek.

You see, the thing with the warehouse is that it buys furniture from hotel chains who are redecorating or closing and sells it off cheap. If you have ever had a hankering to own the framed art you come across in hotel rooms, I know where you can get some. (Or 100.) I can also tell you where to get bedside tables, conference and desk chairs and console tables. If you have multiple rooms you want to furnish exactly alike, this is the place for you. There was one lone pool table which J. and I thought we'd buy just to make the trip worthwhile, but it was sold. The large mirrors were a really great deal ($15), but J. and I couldn't think of a place where we needed one.

Thus, the end of the story finds our adventurers empty-handed... of furniture at least. We did stop to get donuts to appease the young boys who thought the warehouse was little compensation for the drive through traffic and removing and returning van benches. Just a hint. If'you happen to be visiting, only sit on the left side of the brown couch in our front living room, you will be less likely to get poked by a spring.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some plans don't work

This was to be one of the weeks that we did our five in a row style activities with a picture book. I had the book and the plans and I was ready. What I was unprepared for was the reaction. I had thought they would all be excited about setting our workbooks aside and reading a new book and doing activities. I had thought wrong. There were complaints right off the bat. The little girls in particular were rather upset that they didn't get to do their workbooks. Grudgingly, they sat down to listen to the new story. I thought for sure once we were reading the story they would become excited.

The book was, The Giraffe Who Walked to Paris, by Nancy Milton. I thought it was good. It is a retelling of a true story about a giraffe that is a gift from the pasha of Egypt to the King of France to promote goodwill between their countries. The giraffe then needs to get to Paris. After a voyage by ship across the Mediterranean, the Giraffe then walks from Marseilles to Paris. I thought for sure everyone would love it.

Well, I just wrong all across the board. They listened to it the first time, but were not entranced by it. They still complained that we hadn't done any workbooks even after we started the story. And no one wanted to listen to it a second day, even though I insisted. The activities were even less well received.

So on Wednesday, I threw in the towel and went back to workbooks. Everyone was happy. I was left wondering if I needed to rethink my bigger school plan. Here's what I've decided. My experiences from last year tell me that the success or failure of this venture is highly dependent on the book. Some books we read last year they loved and couldn't wait to read again. Others, they didn't love and it was not as successful. (Though I didn't have outright rebellion like I did this week. I think that's due to everyone being older and liking their current school work.) Since not every book worked for us last year, I'm going to try a couple more times. I think they will like the books I have planned. Of course, I thought they would like the giraffe book. We'll see if it is just a mismatch between book and children or if it is a style of learning that just doesn't fit anymore.

If it just doesn't fit, I will admit to being a little sad. I've loved sharing these books and doing projects. I think I just really like teaching the preschool age. This is the first time I've "run out" of them. It's good that they grow and mature; it's what they're supposed to do... but, still... It's right up there with noticing that G. does not always reverse her letters and write backwards all the time anymore. I told J. the other day that you can tell she is #10. In an earlier child, say #1 or #2, consistent backwards writing might have caused me concern, but in this one, I was just charmed and was 99.9% sure that it would straighten itself out. It is, and I will miss the backwards writing. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What's your purpose?

This question is the prompt for the Hearts at Home link-up today. As I've thought about it, the short, easy, obvious answer is, well, to raise and teach my children, of course. But for some reason, this didn't seem satisfying. It's not that I think raising children isn't important. I do. I spend a lot of time doing it. I spend a lot of time supporting others who do it. If you asked me what I spend the vast majority of my time doing, raising and teaching my children would be the answer. So why did I find it an unsatisfying way to respond to the question, "What's your purpose?"

I think there are a couple of reasons I've come up with as to why this is. First, when I think about the phrase, I can't get away from the idea that purpose and results are tied up together. To have a purpose implies that there is some end goal, some result. This becomes a little tricky when you add parenting to this. Of course, we all have dreams for our children. What parent doesn't want their child to be happy, successful, and following in their faith? The trouble is, despite what multitudes of parenting books would have you believe, you can influence your child but you don't have total control over how they turn out. There is no guaranteed formula that if you do A, B, and C that you well get the results you want. It doesn't work that way. To tie my purpose to my parenting implies that if my children do not turn out as I desire that I have failed.

Would I even want that power anyway... the power to mold my children into my own creations? There is a line from the musical, "Into the Woods", that goes, "How do you know what you want 'till you get what you want and you see if you like it?" This flits through my head more and more often. There are some things that I have really, really thought that I wanted. There are things that happen that I think, I would have chosen a much different path. There are those times that God has said no or take this path and not the other one. I have complained and railed and cried over my these things. Yet after time has passed and I look back, my way was not best and I am thankful that it really wasn't up to me. It is kind of a relief that, ultimately, the results of my parenting aren't up to me.

The second reason I'm uncomfortable with choosing parenting as my purpose is that despite the many hours I do devote to raising my children, it is not all I do. Like everyone else, I wear many different hats and just because I don't have each of them on all the time, that doesn't mean I don't see them as important or valuable. I am also a writer, piano teaching, homemaker (yes, that is different from parent), friend, wife, etc., etc. The trouble is, these are all things that I do. Is that the same thing as who I am? If having a purpose in life is important, than can a purpose only be something that someone does? What about people who for some reason or another cannot do things? Do they have no purpose? This is where we need to be careful. We can come perilously close to equating purpose with value, especially if we define purpose in terms of what we do. I don't think we want to go there.

So where does this leave us? We all still want, crave even, purpose in our lives. Since this is not a new problem, I think it is helpful to turn to some historic church writings. (Sometimes I think we forget that Christians have been trying to tackle these problems for centuries and have much to say to us.) Let's look at the first question from the Westminster Catechism. (A catechism is a series of questions and answers used to teach people about the Christian faith, in case this a new word for you.) The first question states: What is the chief end of man? (Man used in the unversal human sense, please don't get caught up on this.) Essentially, it is asking what is a person's purpose... the exact question we have been dealing with this whole purpose question. The answer is: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I think this sums it up so beautifully. My purpose is to glorify God; to point to Him and give Him the credit. It is to acknowledge that He is in control and to not usurp His authority. But this relationship is not just one way, I am also to enjoy Him. Enjoy means to take delight or pleasure in. If we are in right relationship with God, there is joy and delight. Jesus says Himself that His yoke is easy and His burden light. (Matthew 11:30) What a delightful purpose! To glorify our God and to enjoy Him. Everything else we do flows out of this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A girl and her family

Here are the promised pictures from H.'s birthday.

Here is the cake that D. and TM made. It says "Happy 12th Birthday" and has a butterfly.

This was a kit to make pom-pom dogs. I think she liked it.

I think you can see that we are seeing her personality is blooming. I don't claim to have any special abilities, but feeling safe and loved and challenged (in a good way) is good for a child. Institutional care, no matter how good, can never provide the same level of safety and love that being in a healthy family can. Remember these two girls?

Tina - If you go to the Twenty Less site, there are several new videos of Tina. Please go and look at them. 

Every child deserves a family. Every child deserves to be loved. Could you provide that love and safety for a child? For one of these children? They wait and wait and wait. I know Grace has been waiting for years because we met her when we brought H. home. I believe Tina has been waiting just as long. No one has chosen them. These children won't just be referred to a family, they will wait until they are chosen. 

And do you want to know what it's like to wait for a family to choose you? Go and read the my friend's daughter's blog, The Flower that Blooms. (She has written it in Mandarin, but there are translations after each post.) Just go read it.
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