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Friday, December 29, 2006

Update

Our first homestudy visit is scheduled for January 11. I am excited, nervous, thrilled ... you name it!

My understanding is that these are totally normal emotions. We are half way through the process. The homestudy should be short (about a month) and then we are on to foster licensing. We will also be submitting our profile for birthmother adoptions, so it's possible that we could be selected that way. Praying that 2007 is the year we add new little hearts to our home!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Snow school

In honor of our most recent snowfall--and the fact that I find it too painful to do school when the sun is out and the ground is white--here is a brief list of things my children learned today:

1. Do not throw hard snow at one another. It is actually ice, and it really hurts.

2. Our family corresponds perfectly with the little "family" in Ereth's Birthday--the kits being a girl and two boys--as long as mom doesn't mind being the grumpy porcupine who barks orders now and then.

3. Mom tells you to cover your ears in cold weather for a reason. Ears left uncovered really do start to sting after a bit.

4. Digging a burrow is no fun in knit gloves. Note to self: purchase actual water-resistant ski gloves next year.

5. It is possible to see water in three states all at once. A brief look around our hill gave us views of it as a solid, liquid and even a gas as it evaporated off a fence post.

6. Sledding on icy snow is even better than sledding on powdery stuff, if you don't mind crashing into the blackberry bushes every once in a while.

7. German Shepherds love the snow. (Well, o.k., we already knew that one. But it was reconfirmed today as we saw our 120 lb. dog dance on his hind legs in an effort to catch the chunks of snow he was tossed!)

8. Frozen bird tracks are really, really cool!

Punch and Judy

I loathe violence. I don't like hearing about it, watching it or being near it.

I am one of those mothers who vowed that my sons would never play with guns. (This has, actually, come to pass so far, but only in a convoluted way: neither Atticus nor Logan owns toy guns per se, but they do have an armory of toy swords and an assortment of plastic soldiers and cowboys and indians.) I can't stand wrestling, and I spend at least twenty minutes out of every day trying to convince my boys that they are not actually puppies, so they really don't need to roll around on one another. And words, I hold, can be violent, too. We don't use any of the following toward one another in this house: kill, stupid, dumb, shoot or hate.

Obviously I am aware that I am swimming upstream in this battle. Our culture is steeped in violence as a way of life--not in the horrifyingly authentic sense that those living in war zones have, but in the glorified, "this is cool" casualness of a people who live with the knowledge that most of us will never be bombed in our beds. It's almost inescapable. Some days, that fact is very, very disheartening to me.

It's not that I don't understand a certain amount of rough-and-tumble in life. I do, after all, have two boys. There is plenty of role-playing that goes along with that; most of it centers by default on testosterone-fueled pursuits like nabbing the bad guys. What I'm talking about here is over-the-top, response-provoking eye gauging and the like. I just don't like it.

So imagine my horror when, at this morning's library puppet show, a "Punch and Judy" routine is announced. You know Punch and Judy--the Medieval husband and wife duo who bash each other on the head and call each other horrible names for laughs. In other words, the epitome of everything I really, really dislike.

For a split second, I thought about dragging my three kids out of there. Really. How lame am I? Very. And honestly, I probably would have left were it not for two things. First, my friend J. was there with her three little boys, one of whom she had just commenced to nurse. What was I going to do? Leave her there with her shirt up and her boys following me out the door like so many ducklings? No way.

But the second thing, the one that really gave me pause was this: we have entered that phase in our family. The one I always knew we would get to down the line: innoculation.

See, my theory has always been that our home is a boot camp of sorts. We are here to fortify our children, to reinforce in them godly character traits. My husband and I work hard to impart discernment and Scriptural wisdom in our kids, so that down the road, they will be able to spot poor choices ten miles ahead and think them through clearly.

I have thus far kept my children away from many things that I consider to be beyond what they need to know about. This doesn't mean we walk around with blinders on; on the contrary, we see good and glorious things all the time. And we see bad stuff, too. My children know about divorce, they know about murder, they know that there are poeple out there who hurt children, and they know that drugs and alcohol can be abused very badly. They don't live in a bubble.

But my husband and I have been seeing signs lately that we are ready to move into that innoculation phase--the phase where the children are exposed to little bits of the bad stuff so that they can compare it to the good stuff. I am in constant prayer over this because believe me, I would love for God to give me an out on this. This is not the timing I saw for this. But clearly, it's God's time.

So back to Punch and Judy. Yes, there was punching and name-calling and lying and stealing. There was mockery of a police officer (an ├╝ber no-no in our house) and even a great character that represented "the boogeyman." What a delight!

The children watched. All three of them giggled and found it mostly funny, although they enjoyed other bits of the presentation much more than the Punch and Judy skit. I noticed that Logan didn't laugh nearly as much as Atticus, who turned beet red from his ears to his toes. Later he told me that he didn't think it was that funny because they were "being naughty" (which tells me that we may be working on Jo and Atticus and leaving Logan to dance for a few more years in innocence). But it was the words Atticus spoke that were music to my ears:

"I knew it was bad stuff, mom. But it was just pretend. And they're puppets. If people acted that way, it wouldn't be funny at all."

Bravo, son. Keep that spirit.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Detaphobe

This is the post where I admit one of my deepest secrets. Are you ready?

I am a dentophobe.

Lest you think I am creating a phobia that I alone suffer from (and that, therefore, the fear is utterly invalid) I provide you with this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_phobia

If you are one of my brethren in the dentophobe category, then not only do I welcome you, but I invite you to pull up a chair. And I promise .... it does not recline, and no one will hand you sunglasses as the glaring light drops from overhead.

Yes, I am afraid of the dentist. Afraid of the actual person who performs the procedures, afraid of the place where the procedures take place, afraid of the little plastic-wrapped tray of pointy tools and, oh ... let's not even get into the procedures themselves.

Unfortunately for me, not only do I harbor an irrational fear of dentists, but I have awful teeth. Anyone who thinks that the Lord doesn't have a sense of humor is free to email me for details.

I inherited weak enamel from my father and bad gums from my mother. Couple that with a childhood literally drowning in Coke and Twinkies and you get the picture. I discovered healthy eating and meticulous oral care in college, but alas, the damage was done. I am now an adult woman with fillings in every single molar. Since I've got a full set, that comes up to 14 nuggets of silver leaching chemicals into my mouth and three porcelain bandaids doing who-knows-what to me in the name of arresting decay.

Yesterday I got to experience my second root canal. And while I happen to have a very good provider to perform such acts of horror on my mouth, I still approached the idea of having my root canal-ed with something akin to cold sweats and night terrors.

Enter my friendly, smiling dentist and his magical prescription pad. "You know," he said on Monday as he pronounced the sentence on my aching, swollen mouth, "there's no reason to put yourself through this. I can give you something to take the edge off."

Take the edge off? Oh, boy. Sign me up.

So yesterday morning I went in for a root canal looped on 5 mg of Valium. My understanding is that this is a very low does, which is appropriate because I don't tolerate most medications very well. I wasn't incoherent by any means, and I can't say I was relaxed when I slipped my headphones on and waited for the drilling to stop. But you know, it could have been much, much worse.

So I guess I'm a convert. "Sedation dentistry" is what they call it. Hey, I'm all for it. Three natural childbirths and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. One medicated root canal and ... well ... next time I'll probably ask for 10 mg.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Break?

For some reason, we have never taken a Christmas break. Now, before you call me un-American, un-Christian or both, hear me out. We do plenty of fun stuff in December. We also focus even more heavily on Christ than we do in the other months--mainly on the fact that God made a promise, and God kept a promise ...in His time. I like to point out that fact to my kiddos because I think as Christians is can be hard to hang in there for the month or two or twelve that we pray for something. Imagine how long the Jews were waiting! Boy, that measly year looks like a drop in the bucket, doesn't it? We've established that I am still very much a Christ-follower. I am also still a proud American citizen, though I will admit that I place that designation firmly behind my status as a Child of the Living God. This rankles some people, who see the two as one in the same. Sorry if you're one of them; we can agree to disagree. So why, why do we not take a Christmas break? Because we like school. We really do. No joke. My children will literally ask when we're going to do school if they see the sun creeping too high in the sky on any given day. They feel like they'v emissed something valuable in a day if they aren't read to over lunch. They also can't wait to listen to the pieces featured in "Story of the Orchestra." This is what we do. For them, it's life. Not school, but life. You don't actually take a break from that, do you? This mindset is totally foreign to most traditional schoolers. To tell the truth, it was totally foreign to me when I was a child. There would have been no way I'd have traded in my Christmas break. If someone had even suggested it, I'd have no doubt that that person insane. But here I am, on December 15, planning out next week's school. It looks like a good one. We're studying Benjamin Franklin, and reading "Johnny Tremaine" with SL. We're also doing some fun stuff with "Beautiful Girlhood," a unit study, and Atticus will be notebooking with WP. I've got a few educational videos planned, and Jo will keep flexing those math muscles with some QM Math drills. I've got a whole day planned for a craft party with homeschooling friends. That's Christmas-y ... but it still counts as school. So, who needs a break? Not us. We'll give it a rest Christmas Day, and probably the day after. But then we'll be back at it. Homeschooling is like breathing. It's just what you do.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Confessions of a box-checker's mother

Atticus is a by-the-book kind of man. He's a straight arrow. A good guy. Even-keel. Dependable. Steady. Mr. Nice Guy. A law-abiding citizen in the making. You tell this boy what to do, and nine times out of ten, he does it. Correction: he doesn't just do it. He fulfills the request to the letter. Then he waits (not always patiently) for you to check to make sure he has dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" before he considers himself excused. You can almost see the list behind his eyes when you give him the nod: Math ... check!

Some days, that's a little too much for me.

I am clearly not a box-checker. My style of everything is pretty free-form. Some people (usually those who don't know me very well) don't realize this about me simply because I somehow manage to get things done. What they don't know is that what drives me is not actually organization. It's habit, pure and simple. And habit, my friends, is not actually a personality trait. It's inertia.

But Atticus is not a creature of habit. He is a creature of rules. Everything is literal for this boy. Life--and it's circumstances--and categorically black or white for him. You see why I worry about this kid so much?

Sometimes this adherence to the rules is very, very good. When it comes to homeschooling, Atticus is a dream. You tell him what to do, and he does it--usually nose-to-the-grindstone-style--and he does it well. I know that he would absolutely thrive if I took the time to write out a weekly schedule for him. I know that down the road I will have to do that just to keep him sane; dealing with a mom who gives options is going to frustrate the tar out of him eventually. Typical dialogue: "What's next, mom?" "Well, you can do your journal. Or you can do your math. Or I put out the letter tiles for you practice spelling. What sounds good?" "Umm... I ... well ... which has to be done first?" "Doesn't matter to me. What do you want to do?" "Can't you just pick one, mom?" See where the schedule would help here? ;-) But for now, I figure, he's in 1st grade. He can humor me, just like I humor him, right? Plenty of time to be a box-checker later in his educational career.

Sometimes having all these boundaries--real or perceived--can really be a hindrance. The other day we were in the grocery store after church. It was well past lunch time, and everyone was on the verge of getting crabby. Desperate, I grabbed a big box of goldfish crackers and opened them, setting them in the back of the cart and telling the kids to snack as we shopped. Atticus was horrified. I told him that it was okay--I was going to pay for them, and eating them didn't change the price like it does with say, bananas. "Are you sure?" he asked, clearly calling my judgement into question. After all, we have a Rule about eating in the grocery store. Namely, we don't do it. If we did, I'd have to weigh Logan before going into the produce section and on the way out. But here I was ... the maker of The Rule ...wantonly disregarding the very rule I had laid down. Just to be safe, Atticus refused to eat any of the goldfish crackers. He wasn't wading into the grey area that the rest of us so gleefully embraced.

I do worry about Atticus. Someday the Lord is going to yank the rug out from under him. I hate to see that happen, but I know it's best for my son. He needs to learn that the Lord owns the rug. The Lord makes the rules about the rug. Being a box-checker can be a very, very good thing. Being honest and dependable and rock-steady ... all good things. But being pliable before the Lord is valued much higher than any human consistency we can applaud. Anything less is a Pharisee in the making.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Asking

I don't know which is worse: the constant asking, or the inherent defeatism in not being asked.

I've realized lately that people have quit looking at me sideways every time I say my stomach is feeling funky or that I have to run to the restroom. I don't know if they've tired of asking or what. Chances are good they're just not hardy enough to keep hearing the answer. I know I wouldn't want to hear it over and over again.


In other words, no, I am not pregnant.


Eleven months. Sometime in early summer I quit keeping track of the months as they slipped by. I was all too aware that I was costing myself a shred of sanity every 32 days or so. It just didn't seem worthwhile.


And I'm o.k. that the Lord has closed my womb for this season. I'm o.k. knowing that this doesn't mean He won't give us a biological child down the road. And I'm o.k. knowing that He may never grant us that blessing again.


Well ... except when I'm not.


Pursuing adoption has been a bit of a salve. It's a separate but equal kind of thing--one doesn't outweigh the other and one isn't more on my heart than the other. But I will admit that it takes my eyes off my own belly and keeps them on the Lord.


So no, I'm not pregnant. And it's o.k. to ask. Or not. Whatever works for you.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Teeth

Jo has too many teeth. Well, to be honest, the number of teeth in her mouth is exactly what everyone else has. It's just the space that she has to fit them all in that's lacking.

This news isn't surprising. Dh--who was born with a cleft palate--had extractions and braces and who knows what else, all in the name of lining those choppers up to do the most good. On one particularly rough day, he had 8 teeth pulled. He doesn't have especially good memories of all that dental intervention. I know you're shocked to hear that.

But back to Jo. She had her first orthodontic evaluation today. Not even ten years old and already sitting in the big chair and having teeth counted and x-rays examined and "care plans" formulated. The girl came through with more than flying colors--as usual, she charmed the socks off of the staff. This is the girl who asks if offices have anything they can donate to the poor and goes out of her way to invite folks to church. The girl is a born evangelist with the added gift of encouragement and mercy to go along with it. The orthodontist took an instant liking to her, which almost made it worse when he gave us his final conclusions. I think it would have been easier for him if he hadn't liked her so much.

Five baby teeth have to come out. Five. Can you hear me choking?

After those are out for a few months, Jo will go back in and they'll see if the added space has lessened any of the pressure of the adult teeth that they are surrounding. Regardless, when all of her adult teeth finally come in, they will "selectively remove" a handful to make room. Then they'll start with the braces to realign the rogue teeth that keep sprouting up where they oughtn't.

Even thinking about it hurts. And looking at my dear, sweet Jo in that big chair as the goofy orthodontist pronounced the sentence ... well, to be honest, I thought I was going to throw up. While I have only had one tooth pulled in my lifetime (and it was an abscessed wisdom tooth that I was ready to yank out on my own), it was an experience that I don't want to even imagin my baby going through. The orthodontist looked pained when he told me, and kept apologizing to us both. The boys stood at Jo's feet, each one holding on to the tip of one of her tall barn boots. We were all quiet. All but Jo.

"Well," my little Pollyanna piped up, "at least I get to wait a few years on braces. And by then, they'll have cooler colors for rubber bands, I bet." Jo gave me an inquisitive smile, and I knew what she was thinking. Perched on her little freckled nose are an exceptionally bright pair of glasses (offically, they are "cherry red") that suit her personality--if not my personal sense of style-- to a tee.

The hygenist piped in that our insurance coverage has a higher flat rate for that kind of braces. The good old-fashioned metal studs and wires are still standard.

I told her I didn't care. If my baby girl is going to have to go through that kind of extraction marathon, she can most certainly have whatever kind of braces she wants.

I wonder if rubber bands come in cherry red?