Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reunited, if briefly

When one of your best friends now lives a 1 1/2 hours away from you, you have to grab the times you can get together. The P. Family mom and I had a little outing to IKEA yesterday, along with 14 of our children. (Though since one of hers is in her 20's, she doesn't really count as a child anymore.) You see, I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and so I needed a bookcase.

It makes sense, really, though it can also read like a mom-version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. As you know, my current dining room is a little bit smaller than we had before, so fitting 24 people in becomes a little more challenging. I figured out how to do it, but it involves putting the large coffee table under the piano to get it out of the way. The trouble is, I currently have quite a bit of piano music stored under the piano. Of course, the obvious solution is to finally buy the second bookcase for the rest of my piano music. (Actually, no, the thought of just moving my piano music somewhere else, didn't cross my mind until right now.) So, if you need a bookcase, you go to IKEA. And if you are going to IKEA, you need to invite one of your best friends who loves IKEA as much as you do.

We had a lovely time. Sure we had 13 dependents with us, but we were able to send the 6 high schoolers off on their own. That left us with my six younger types as well as the youngest P9. We've done this 'take everyone to IKEA -thing' before, but the last time, G. and L. (the youngest of our combined crews) were very, very little. I have to say, it is much easier shopping when your youngest is 8. We even had lunch together.

P. Family mom and I both agreed that it was a very refreshing 4 hours, which says something about our lives, because I'm pretty sure that we looked like a traveling circus wherever we went. Thankfully it wasn't crowded, and most people just tried to get by us, when they could, that is. It turns out some of our younger children are quite adept at blocking aisles.

I came home with nearly everything on my list... a bookcase, hangers for my tablecloths in my new china cupboard, a rack to hold pot lids. And a few things not on my list... two new dining room chairs to replaces the ones that try very hard at collapsing under people (it's what happens when you refuse to pay more than $25 per chair), some lovely red cushions for those chairs which match some of the art in the dining room (and which L. has taken a hearty dislike to and refuses to sit on), some candles so that I'm prepared for Advent (if only I could find that Advent wreath I so carefully packed away), and a few other assorted things.

My idea for storing my tablecloths has turned out quite well. Want to see?

And here's what the new cushions look like on the dining room chairs. (Photo taken in store to send to J. to discuss.)

I'm sure L. will come around to using them... someday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Awash in boxes again

With the holidays upon us, I was realizing that there were things packed away in boxes stored in our storage locker. Quite a few boxes had been living there because I couldn't figure out where it would all live, and had kind of resigned myself to waiting until we were finally able to build some more storage to get it all out.

This did not make me terribly happy, as I routinely used much of what was in those boxes, especially around the holidays. It also seemed a little silly to pay to store things which weren't being used, and that we had no room for. I was stymied.

On Friday, I had a brain storm. What if I used the closet under the stairs for china-type storage? (Yes, we actually have a closet under the stairs, and for a brief moment, D. thought it might make the perfect bedroom for him. Just for a moment, though. It is not terribly large.) The only problem with this idea was that I had already filled that closet up with boxes and boxes of old family pictures and things of that sort. We did have a crawl space they could go in, if I were to replace the cardboard boxes with something sturdier and more vermin-proof. So that is what I did.

Having pulled out all those boxes and transferred their contents to sturdier storage containers, I suddenly had a whole new space. J. built some shelves, and we were off to the storage locker to bring back a whole bunch of boxes.

This many boxes, to be precise.

I'm always amazed at how much less space things take up when they are not wrapped and packed to withstand the moving process. All of those boxes produced all of this paper.

And after having unwrapped everything, I then began to sort it out into new homes. Some of the things I found places for around the house, but a good portion of it went in my new china pantry.

I like that I can see everything all at once, and even though I have it pretty well crammed in there, I can still get to it all. In the bin on the floor are all our placemats. It's not ideal, but better than being in a box several miles away. On the other side, J. is putting up hanging rods.

This way, I can put the tablecloths on hangers and hang them against the wall. It will be a bit tight, but once again, better than being in a box in storage.

This gives us just the Christmas decorations, Easter baskets, and a few odds and ends in the locker. Once we bring the Christmas decorations back, we think we have found a place for them to be stored in the house. The Easter baskets will most likely fit there as well. Then we just need to finish bringing over the last few odds and ends that shouldn't be too difficult to find homes for, as much of it is gardening-related items and can live outside. It will be great to be able to let the storage locker go, and to not have to pay rent on it anymore.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Teaching hand sewing

Whenever I start to make things, I can be pretty sure that some smaller people are going to want to make things as well. This is great if they stick to their usual raid the recycling bin and tape mode, but something they feel as though they would rather do something 'real'. This type of craft usually everyone wanting to do it at the same time, but it (whatever craft they have landed on) is often just a wee bit above their ability level, and thus they all need me all at the same time.

L. has been on a kick to hand sew for quite some time now. I actually meant to teach people over the summer, and had invested in a bunch of new felt and new needle threaders to do so. But summer, well, it all escaped me. Yesterday, L. really, really, really needed to learn to sew. She was at the level of need that it was just easier to go ahead and teach her than to have to continue to fend her off. The trouble was, I have been down this path before and just couldn't face five frustrated children all clamoring for my attention all at the same time. Since L. was the child who was genuinely interested at the that moment, I made a new rule. I can only teach one person to sew at a time. Everyone will get a turn, but all on their own. In the moment, everyone was ok with this.

There a few tricks to hand sewing with children. The first is to get them able to immediately learn to thread and knot their own needle and thread. If you do not do this, you will be spending untold hours doing it for them. L. mastered it pretty quickly, and can now even thread her needle without the handy needle threader. The quilter's knot took just a little longer, but she can now do that as well. The next trick is to use felt for the first few projects. It is forgiving. It doesn't ravel. And it has some grip to it so the two pieces stay stuck together without a lot of bother. I decided that L. should make a bookmark first, so I cut out some shapes, showed her how to start, and let her go. She worked on it all afternoon yesterday, only needed a tiny bit of help. Today, I cut out a back and she sewed that on. Here is what she made.

Not bad for a first try, huh? But L. was not done. I have a book that I love, Feltcraft: Making Dolls, Gifts, and Toys by Petra Berger. I've used it for years with various children. In it, there are little patterns for making small felt animals. I had some traced out already, and sent L. to see if she could cut out one of the patterns. She chose a dog. So between today and yesterday, L. cut out her pattern, sewed it together, and stuffed it. The only thing I helped with was to show her how the different parts fit together and the order to sew them, and to embroider the face on. She did absolutely everything else. Here is her little dog.

Empowered by her new found sewing abilities, she then went on to make him a ball and pillow of her own design.

Of course, by this time, I had four other children clamoring to sew, too. I reminded them of the one-child-at-a-time policy, and that everyone would get a turn. With L. sewing independently, Y. was next in line, being the quickest on the draw to call dibs for the slot. She wanted to make a bookmark like L.'s, except for a pink flower. She, too, has mastered threading and knotting, and an unforeseen benefit of my completely unthought-out plan is that L. taught her how to finish the end of her thread, because I was busy cooking. Y. sewed the stem tonight and is ready to start on the flower and pedals tomorrow morning. She is pretty tenacious. I expect she will have completed her own felt animal by the end of the day. Here's the beginning of her bookmark.

At the rate people are learning and with the enthusiasm I am seeing, I have a feeling I will need to restock my felt supply fairly soon.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday bullets, Nov. 17, 17

We are now less than a week from Thanksgiving. I have no idea how that happened. I also have no idea if we will be ready. Oh, I know we probably will, but it sure doesn't feel like it at this moment.

  • In Thanksgiving-related news, look what I bought.

This is a turkey roaster. This is also a turkey roaster which will cook a 20+ pound turkey. I have been struggling with having only one oven. (I know, first world problem.) But when you have had two ovens for so very long, you get kind of used to it. I am still not used to having just one. And then when I try to figure out how to make Thanksgiving happen for 24 people, I couldn't. My parents always cooked a turkey in a roaster because of the one oven issue, so I decided that is what we will do as well. Plus, it can function as a very large slow-cooker, which is not a bad thing around here.
  • I also need to pull the turkeys out of the freezer today, and probably changing the setting on our second refrigerator should be in order as well. All last week, we had frozen poultry issues. The first time happened when I discovered right before dinner, that the chicken I thought was in the refrigerator had been put away by some helpful child in the freezer instead. It was rock hard. We ate late that night. Then the next night, when I went to get the whole chickens I had pulled out of the freezer to thaw four days earlier, I discovered that they were pretty well frozen as well. This makes me nervous about a 10 pound and a 21 pound turkey.
  • Olive turned six months old this past week. She is a very good puppy, though while she acts like a puppy, she is 60 pounds, so it is difficult to remember she is a puppy sometimes.
  • Nefertiti still loves boxes and seems to have some sort of box radar. The second there is a box lying around, she is in it.
  • One of my children's new favorite things is to joke about how they can now say, yes, indeed, they were raised in a barn. 
  • I love family dinners where people linger at the table because they are all enjoying an interesting discussion. The question being debated last night was, if you could pick any of the wonders of the world (ancient [assuming you could time-travel for some of them], modern, and natural], which seven would you pick? I decided on: The hanging gardens of Babylon, the pyramids, Petra, the Taj Mahal, the Christ the Redeemer stature in Rio de Jenero (and thus sneakily giving myself 8 since the Rio de Jenero bay is also on the list), Macchu Picchu, and Victoria Falls. I've already been to the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall, so didn't have to factor those in. What would yours be?
  • While I have cut out L.'s new dress, I haven't yet begun to put it together. This is because I was suddenly overcome with the need to make these:

They are little crocheted fall leaves. No, I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. If you go to Attic 24 (my all-time favorite crochet blog) you will see that she also has patterns for oak leaves and little acorns as well. I will be making these next. I'm now pretty speedy at the beech leaves you see in the picture. The first one took a while, because it had been two years since I had picked up a crochet hook, and kind of had to teach myself to crochet all over again.
  • I always feel ridiculously self-serving and odd to mention this, but the film-maker who is working on a documentary about our family is now in the fund-raising stage of things. You can go to the Facebook page (Hayden and Her Family Facebook) or you can view the trailer (Hayden and Her Family trailer) if you are curious.
  • I try to make it a point to tell my children things on a need-to-know basis. This usually works because first, I am not hounded to death with questions beforehand, and second, if something happens to be cancelled, we all avoid huge bouts of disappointment. This doesn't work so well, if you have trouble remembering things. The hounding questions to have the purpose of keeping things in the forefront of one's mind. Take yesterday for instance. I had dropped P. off at the stable, and had headed to the store for exciting purchases such as toothpaste and soap. I was planning what I would do when I got home. (Making little crocheted oak leaves was right up there at the top.) When I suddenly realized that I had signed up the four elementary people for a free five week art class at a local studio. There was a brief moment of panic as I thought through was time the class was and what time it currently was, and happily noted I had not missed it, but it certainly did change my plans. And boy, were the four going to the class surprised when I walked in and informed them that we needed to leave in less than an hour because they had a class I had forgotten to mention to them. They loved it, by the way.
  • D. has taken an interest in philosophy, theoretical physics, and astronomy. I'm afraid I am a disappointment to him, as the ideas pondered in theoretical physics make my head hurt to even begin to think about them, much less try to discuss them with a 14 year old. His reading list at the moment makes mine look as though I read tabloid magazines in comparison. 
  • Q. has not laid another egg so far. But every time she makes a noise even slightly different from what people are hearing, many children run to go and stare at her.
  • At the grocery store where I shop, they cater to a large Hispanic population. As a result, for the past several weeks, there have been the most wondrous super large pots on display. I thought at first they were just really big (as in 40 quarts big) soup pots. On closer examination, I realized, that while you could use them for soup, they had steamer inserts in the bottom to steam tamales. I could buy a pot that steams 120 tamales at once. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to come up with reasons why I do not need this pot. No, I have no idea where I would store it. Once I solve that little difficulty, well...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Saying yes.

Earlier today, I was thinking about the difference between my young mom parenting and my now older mom parenting. I want the same things for my children. I want secure, well-adjusted children who can practice self-control, think of others, and use their talents to the best of their abilities. What has changed is how I think they best get there.

There is a huge paradigm shift that happens as you change from parenting small children to teens and then to adults. What you thought was important turns out to be not nearly as important as you believed, plus you also realize that as much as you want the nurture half of the equation to be the bigger piece, you just cannot escape a child's nature, either. Pretty much my parenting method these days is pretty simple. Love them a lot, be a safe place to land, love them a lot, have reasonable expectations, and love them a lot. This is not to say that we are one step removed from being the modern version of Lord of the Flies, we do ask for common decent behavior, but I'm far more concerned about my relationship with my children than I am with knee jerk obedience. My young mom self would look at my old mom self with absolute horror, I promise you.

One of the ways that I know I have loosened up over the years is my willingness to say yes to things. My young mom self needed to be in control. If an idea didn't come from me, I just wasn't comfortable saying yes to it. I needed to think about it. I needed to figure out how big a mess it would make. I needed to be in control of it. Now? Eh, not so much. As we went through the afternoon I realized that I had made a habit of saying yes to my children more. I am more relaxed and I think my children are, too.

Some of the things I said yes to included, copying pages on the printer from coloring books so they could be colored; having snacks; using tape and glue; copying their show program (scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving... it seems to be some sort of Thanksgiving pageant) that they had carefully written out, but needed more copies; working on some hand sewing; having hot chocolate. I'm sure there were more, but you get the idea. None of these are huge things. None are particularly difficult or costly or messy. All of them brought joy to my children. But I can guarantee you, that 15 years ago, it would have been difficult for me to say yes to any, much less all, of them, unless the activity happened to be a part of my plan for the day.

Some of this is just the mellowing that happens with age. The other piece is that I've learned that our children really do need to hear yes, especially our children who come from hard backgrounds. For hurt children the no's they hear are hard. They, the no's, just confirm that the world is indeed out to get them; that nothing ever works out for them. Yes's are what happen for other people, but not them. No's play into their already extremely low feelings of self worth. Saying yes all the time is not going to fix this. I also realize that saying yes all the time isn't possible for a variety of reasons. But saying yes, a lot, can help to begin the healing. It can help to confirm to the child that you really are in their corner and want good things for them. Saying yes helps to create understanding and relationship.

So take a lesson from this old mom, especially if you are a young mom. Say yes. Take a deep breath and just say yes. You don't need to be in control of every single minute of your child's life. And I hate to break it to you, your control is just an illusion anyway. At some point, someone will think your a bad mom, whether or not you have done everything 'right'. Take a deep breath, and realize that it's okay. If you love your children, and are working in their interests, then you are a good mom. Saying yes more to your children will give them joy, and cut you some slack all at the same time.

Did you know...

that I have lots of lists of previous posts listed under the pages tab at the top of the blog? (I know, they're kind of hard to see, but they're there.) When a blog has so many words on it, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. The only reason I can is that I can see a nice list of previous posts with a handy search engine attached. Otherwise, I would never be able to find anything, either.

For instance, under 'About', you can see the faces which go with all the initials I use and confuse you with. (When I went to double-check what was there, I realized that they are some rather outdated photos as well. Add at least an inch to every person, and maybe 5 or 6 inches for D.) Under 'Homeschooling' is a handy list of every post which has to do with some sort of learning project we did, all nicely categorized for you. There are also some more general education posts there as well. What isn't there are the posts dealing specifically with education and adopting older children. I need to find them and add them to the list. 'Recipes' has a pretty complete list of all the of the recipes I've shared over the years, while 'Large Families' has a list of posts directly related to parenting a larger than usual number of children.

Go ahead and take a look. You might find a post or two that you missed.

No, I didn't really have anything to write today. Why do you ask?

I have a new article published. As always, I and my checkbook appreciate any and all clicking and sharing. Why It's Important You Complete Post-Placement Reports in International Adoption

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kwik Sew 3861

I am pretty excited about having my sewing area up and functioning. I really enjoy sewing, and it's nice to be able to do it again. Because of the 'L' shape, this is an even better arrangement than the one I had before. All I have to do is swivel my chair to change from sewing machine to serger. I like it.

It's also good, because I have some girls who keep growing up, but not really growing out. This, combined with being tall for their age, makes finding dresses for them, that they also like to be tricky. It's so much easier to let them look through my patterns and then choose the fabric. I can cut the dress to fit them, and everyone is happy.

G. was the first to get a new dress because she had nothing in her closet for colder weather. She chose Kwik Sew 3861. If you click on the link, you will see that the pattern envelope shows it is for a loose shirt, and not really a dress. I had made this before, so thought it would be pretty easy to lengthen it and make a loose dress. So, off to the fabric store she and I went, because while a have a lot of fabric in my stash, I don't have a lot of knits, and certainly not enough to cut out an entire dress. We found a blue material that she liked, so we headed home. To make it more interesting, we decided that it should have some contrasting parts, so G. decided that add some grey to the blue would be nice. And I think she was right. I added a grey band around the bottom of the dress as well, to tie the whole thing together a bit more.

Here's what we ended up with. I promise you, she is very happy with the dress, just not with having to pose for a picture when she really wanted to change and go outside to play.

But I tell you, taking nearly a full year off from sewing wrecks havoc with one's sewing skills. I am more than a little rusty, and there is so much about this dress that you won't be seeing close up. I need to brush up on my sewing skills. This will be pretty easy to manage since L. decided that none of her dresses fit, either. They actually fit fairly well, but what L. really meant was that she wanted a new dress, too. She ended up picking the same one as G., and decided that she wanted the reverse, mainly grey with blue trim. This made me very happy, as it is what I would have chosen. I can make the twinniness last just a little longer. After that dress is done, Y. realized that perhaps she should be getting a new dress, too. R. and H. are pretty well set for dresses, but we'll see if they decide that they, too, need an addition to their wardrobes.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The birds and the bees

On Saturday, quite a few of us were standing around the kitchen when K. yells, "Q. laid an egg!"
"Yeah, right," was pretty much everyone's response.
"No, really. Look!" K. insisted. So we did. And guess what we saw.

Yes, indeed, Q. really did lay an egg. "Well, that would explain that odd noises Q. was making earlier," J. added. Other questions quickly followed. "Are we going to have baby quails?" "Is Q. going to lay more eggs?" "When does the baby hatch?" It was a sad group of children who slowly understood that no, there would not be more baby quail. "Can we fry it?" H. then wanted to know, not one to let a good egg, even a small one, go to waste. "I'm never eating quail eggs ever again!" G. replied in protest.

We are all struggling to get used to referring to Q. as a she rather than a he.

Quail eggs, especially Bobwhite Quail eggs, are terribly tiny.

The fate of the egg was to eventually be thrown away. Too many curious little fingers picking it up and examining it, led to it getting cracked. I have no idea if we should expect more eggs in the future or not.
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