Archive for September, 2010

Confessional Monday

A friend of mine posted a Confessional Friday, but I already had Food Friday, so I am doing mine on Monday.  It’s kind of fun.
-I had nachos and Pepsi for supper one day.
-I had chocolate and a Slurpee for breakfast another day.
-I don’t think it was the same day.
-I skipped teaching the kids their reading lessons one day so that we could watch the season premiere of “The Biggest Loser”.
-I went to WalMart to buy wax strips to wax my legs for the wedding we were going to Saturday and ended up buying a cartful of stuff, none of which were the wax strips.
-One of the things I bought was a kit to cover the grey in my hair.  Yes, I have plenty of grey!
-I am needing a baby fix.
-I got winded walking up six flights of stairs and think I may have to start exercising.
-I hate exercising!
-Last year, when we adjusting to adopting our two newest additions, I took a year off of having big birthday parties for all the kids.  This week marks the first time I will have to throw a party again and I’m wishing I had told the kids that I was taking two years off parties!
That’s all the recent confessions I can think of.  Oh and right now, I am choosing to type this instead of doing the photocopying that I need to do for homeschooling!

Weekly Wrap Up

A summary of what we did in our homeschool this week.  To read others, check out the list at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

We studied Amy Carmichael in Heroes for Young Readers and did all the associated activities, including learning her character quality of kindness and making these Kindness Crowns.  Then we marched around wearing the crowns while singing “We’ll Show Kindness” (the Amy Carmichael character song)

We started Story of the World Volume One and did some of the activities.  I like the curriculum and think it is going to be an easy one to modify to all the different age levels, but I found the opening chapter was actually difficult and I had to change some of the wording because it was about personal history and how if you don’t remember when you were born or what you ate on your first birthday, you can just ask your parents about it or look at pictures.  As the mother of five children who are adopted and not knowing anything about the birth of some of them, for two of them not even having a picture before they were four and seven years old, I needed to change the wording when reading aloud to be sensitive to their situations.  This was another thing that made me thankful that I was homeschooling.  If they were in regular school and had a similar lesson, they may have felt very upset and may not have been able to express that there.  But overall, I think we will enjoy this curriculum.

For memory, finished up on phone number, days of the week, Psalm 133:1, Mother Teresa quote and started learning the second verse of William Blake’s “The Tyger”.  The older four did a worksheet from the book “True of False”.  Jonah and Josiah did a page a day in Daily Grams.  Gracelyn worked in her Handwriting book.  Jonah wasn’t able to do any SOS Math as we were having computer issues and had to uninstall it.  Jonah read his usual three novels or so and also typed up a Reading Log of all the books he’s read in the past year or two…it was a very long list!  I read a few more chapters to the kids in “The Swamp Robbers” and read them a few other books.

We played with money this week.  I dumped out a large cup full of coins and we practised different ways of counting it, reviewed the names and values for each of the coins, and played little games such as “find me ten cents without picking up a dime”.  For some of the games, I let them keep their money.  Then, we set up a store and they were able to spend their money.  They took turns being the cashier and giving change.  It was a great, fun way to learn.  The three eight year olds then completed a few pages in their “Canadian Money” workbooks.

The kids collected pine cones and made them into pictures and collected leaves and made rubbings with them.  How I love fall!!!  Such beautiful colors!  They also picked apples off the neighbour’s tree (with permission from the neighbour of course!).

Eliana, Sedaya, Gracelyn, and Elijah attended a drama class called “Improv Arts”.  They all loved it!  The instructor was great at teaching them new vocabulary and actual techniques while still making it light and fun.

Josiah took photos and had them developed to bring with him to his Digital Photography Class, which he is really enjoying.

Jonah has gone with some of our relatives to a wedding and a funeral in another province, so he missed a few days of official homeschool, but having the opportunity to learn about a life well lived and to see the beginning of a couple’s life together is an education in itself.

I just love this picture that Gracelyn drew of she and her sisters!  All my girls love to draw and the boys are starting to draw more now as well.

All in all, we didn’t accomplish as much I would have liked because Grace still had a lot of appointments and Elijah had one as well, but Gracelyn not being in the hospital made for a much better week and she is doing so well that the appointments and even the week in the hospital were worth it.

A Culinary Celebration of Fall

Fall is here, my favourite season, and with it comes all the delicious food associated with this time.  This week, I tried to incorporate as much of the season as I could into my cooking, using the last of the vegetables from my garden and taking advantage of all the free apples I had been given.

This apple, zucchini, asparagus and feta pizza was absolutely delicious!  Even some of the kids liked it.

Our neighbours have apple trees and weren’t going to be using the fruit so they told our kids that they could pick as many as they wanted.  Thankfully, my kids love to apple pick, so between that and the apples given to me by my friend Glenda and my aunt, I had plenty.  Other than this pizza, I also made applesauce, apple filling, 4 Amish Friendship loaves with apple, and apple crisp.  I didn’t want to do any canning, so I just filled sandwich bags with applesauce, then put four sandwich bags into a large freezer bag and froze them.  I did applesauce this way last year too and loved how it worked out.  The smaller bags are a great size for pulling one or two out at a time for snacks or to add into a muffin recipe.  All the free apples sure saved us a lot of money too!

This super easy crock pot tortellini soup is such a great make-ahead.  Perfect for lunch on a homeschool day or with a hearty bread for a comfort meal supper.

It’s not the best picture, but these pouches of roasted root vegetables are one of my favourite things about fall.  Garden zucchini and carrots, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, yams, and purple onions with a tiny bit of butter and some seasoning…yum!

The rosemary roasted potatoes were actually a bit dry but still tasty enough.  The fish (basa) with sun dried tomato pesto sauce was a huge hit with two of our kids, but the rest of us didn’t care for it much.  I usually make this fish with salsa but wanted to try something different.

I made a delectable late night appetizer of mango salsa on brie to spread onto French bread slices…it was eaten too quickly for photos!  I also made muffins using a recipe my niece Amy gave me.  I have been enjoying Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Muffins every morning since!  This weekend, I am planning to continue to enjoy the tastes of autumn by making my sweet potato casserole and making a batch of pumpkin muffins and pumpkin cookies to freeze.  What are your favourite fall recipes?

Peel Monkey Giveaway and Discount!!!

It’s here!  The long awaited Peel Monkey giveaway!!!  The winner of this contest could receive this 28″ wide x 29″ high Peel Monkey wall graphic “Heart in Africa” or any graphic of their choice up to a $40 value.    This graphic is, of course, perfect for those who have a connection to Africa such as it being their birthplace, somewhere they have visited or would like to, or the birthplace of their children or children of their heart, or it can also be a great addition to a homeschool classroom, which is where I have a similar one.  If there is another graphic that catches your eye, the winner will have their choice up to a $40 value.

Not only do you have a chance to win a graphic, but Peel Monkey is offering a discount for any of their graphics to all of my readers.  When checking out, just enter the discount code thechange2010, and you will receive 15% off orders over $45!  This code is good until October 9,2010.

We love Peel Monkey’s wall graphics and have used them in many rooms in our house.  They are super easy to install and can instantly change the look of a room.  For an experienced decorator or a hopeless one like me, these are fantastic!  For a view of how we have used different Peel Monkey wall vinyl’s in our newly created homeschool classroom, click here.  They have some great stuff.  You’ll see why I love it so much.  (we have the Zebra Love in our bedroom, our kids have various decals in their rooms…in fact, the penguins were designed especially for our Eliana, who adores penguins)

The Rules:

-head over to Peel Monkey and take a look around.  Choose your favourite two graphics.  Come back here and in the comments section, tell me which two are your favourites and where you would put them in your home.  Easy as that, you will have one entry!  If you are interested in increasing your odds by getting additional entries, the following will get you one additional entry for each.

-like Peel Monkey on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

-post about the giveaway on your blog, linking here

-put a link to this post on Facebook

Winner will be drawn on October 7, 2010 at Midnight and announced on October 8, 2010.  Good luck!

Weekly Wrap Up

Last week’s homeschooling got off to a great start!  Here the kids are on the first day, excited and ready to learn.  The biggest thing I discovered that day was that I had put way too much into the lesson plan.  Because I have never used a lesson planner before to schedule out what we would do, I had no concept of how long things would take us.  I completed less than half of what I had down and it took five hours!  Over time, I will get better at judging the timing and will plan accordingly!

-Memory work:  Bible verse Psalm 133:1, first verse of William Blake’s “The Tiger”, a Mother Teresa quote, our phone number, and the days of the week

-Reading: I read to them one chapter from “The Swamp Robbers” and read them the book “Amy Carmichael”

-they made folding mini book called MY HOUSE for their All About Me lapbooks

-the little ones colored an Amy Carmichael coloring page

-three of them took Spelling Tests (I use the book “A Measurability Scale in Spelling”)

-the four early readers did ten minutes each with me in Reading Lessons

-taught Jonah more on homonyms

-Jonah and Josiah did Read and Think Skill sheets

-Gracelyn did handwriting practise

-Jonah did Data Management, SOS Math, Devotions, Summer Bridge Activitis, Map Book, and Daily Grams

-Josiah did Daily Grams

-Jonah did this science thing with the little ones…it’s supposed to be with food coloring but we didn’t have any so we used paint.  You put milk onto a plate, put some drops of food coloring (or paint in our case) in the center and add a drop of dish soap.  The fat in the milk reacts to the soap and pushes the color out.

That was Day One.  Unfortunately, later that day, Gracelyn was admitted to the Children’s Hospital where she spent the week.  The rest of homeschooling consisted of her doing coloring pages on echocardiograms and CT scans (yes, they give them coloring sheets for the procedures they are having!) and the rest of the kids being read one more chapter in “The Swamp Robbers” by Mandi and Mark having them draw pictures of things that started with different letters of the alphabet.  Josiah attended his first Digital Photography class.  The rest of the learning looked something like this:

Gracelyn is home now and her lungs are doing considerably better.  I will be taking her to her Pulmonary Specialist today and hopefully can slowly start decreasing some of her medication.

Let’s hope this week is a bit less eventful than last week was!

Adoption, loss, and openness

Lately, some of our kids have been wanting to talk a lot about their birth parents.  None of our adopted children have open adoptions because of the circumstances…three were adopted through foster-to-adopt scenarios and two were adopted from Ethiopia.  In our family, adoption is viewed as something to be celebrated and we have always discussed it openly with our kids and given them age appropriate information regarding their birth families.  To be honest, none of the five of them have histories that do not carry heartbreak or hardship and there will be parts of each of their stories that will be difficult to share with them when the time comes.  They also each have beautiful pieces in their stories and those are the ones that are of course much easier to share with them.

We’ve noticed over the years that because we have been so open with them and have validated their feelings of loss, our kids find it easy to be able to talk to us about their thoughts, ask questions, or bring up their adoptions.  This week, there have been a few times when Eliana, who is 5, has cried, missing her birth mom.  Eliana has lived with us since she was one day old, so some might assume that it is impossible for her to miss someone she has never really known, but I acknowledge that for her, the loss is very real.  Not only do I believe that she did form a bond with her birth mom in the nine months prior to her birth, I also think that there are some huge losses that come along with not being raised by her.  Many adopted children struggle with feeling rejected or feeling like they don’t quite know where they belong.  So when she cries for her birth mom, I hold her and say things like, “I’m sure you do miss R.”, “I think she probably misses you too.  I know that it makes her feel happy to know that you have a family who loves you very much but she will always love you too.”, “let’s pray for her”, or “I know you love R. a lot and it must make you feel sad not to be able to be with her”.  In the situation of Eliana’s adoption, there is very little chance that she would ever be able to have healthy contact with her birth mom.  I try to point out what a blessing it is that she is able to be in a family with her birth sister and that her birth mom is also glad that they are being raised together.  Knowing what to say in these circumstances is difficult, but I have enough friends who are adult adoptees to know that these feelings of loss are real and need to be validated.  Eliana (and all of my adopted kids) need to be able to know that it is normal for them to grieve and to have questions and that we are here to answer their questions and help them work through their loss.

Of our five adopted children, four of them make up two sibling sets, but all five of them unfortunately share something in common.  All of them have other siblings out there in the world who they are not being raised with.  This is another huge loss.  We would love for each of them to be raised with all of their biological siblings, but that cannot happen, so we have to accept what is and help them to accept it too.  Josiah has regular contact with his older biological brother and it is a relationship that we nurture and encourage.  He also has two biological sisters he has not seen since he was five months old and another he has never met.  Gracelyn and Eliana have a biological brother and sister they have not met, though we hope to someday have them meet their sister, as we have the names of her adoptive parents.  Elijah and Sedaya have a brother in Ethiopia who they have not seen in almost two years.  When Mark and our oldest son Mackenzie travel to Ethiopia later this winter, they are hoping to meet him, give him pictures of his siblings, and get pictures of him.  That is, unfortunately, the best we can do.  None of these scenarios are perfect.  In a perfect world, siblings get raised together, parents don’t get sick or die, and only parents capable of caring for kids give birth to them.  Therein lies the loss in adoption.

For me, when I think about adoption, the words that usually come to mind are “miracle”, “gift”, “blessing”, “God”, “beautiful”, “forever”, “love”, “claiming”, “family”, and “beginning”.  All of those can be true, but before they are spoken, other words like “orphan”, “abandon”, “loss”, “heartache”, “choice”, “broken”, “separate”, “give up”, “taken”, “empty”, “infertility”, “grieve”, “addiction”, “waiting”, or “end” need to be.

The truth about adoption is that, though it is beautiful and a miracle, it is, at its root, about loss.  It, by nature, is imperfect.  In God’s perfect plan, mothers can care for the children born to them and there is no infertility, no need for adoption to exist.  Yet, we live in an imperfect world and the need for it does exist and God is able to work that into His plan.  The families who are brought together through adoption are not done so by accident.

I don’t have all the answers.  I’m still working through the hard stuff, like what I’m going to do when my kids start asking me the really hard questions.  Most days, I wish that their adoption stories were simpler, where there was a wonderful birthmom who chose to lovingly give them to a family who could take care of them, a birthmom who they were still able to see and ask her some of their questions.  But I know that even those adoptions carry loss and are not easy, for the birthmom, the adoptive mom, or the kids.  I do believe though that in most cases, the more open you can be with your child about adoption, the healthier they will feel about it and the more secure they will grow up being.

Healthy Lentil Soup

Saute 1/2 a chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic in 1 Tbsp. olive oil for 5 minutes.

Stir in:

4 cups (or more) of vegetable stock

2 cups fresh or canned diced tomatoes

1/3 cup pearl barley

1/3 cup green lentils (known in the real world as split peas)

1/3 cup yellow lentils (known in the real world as split peas)

1 tsp. dried oregano (or more – I never measure spices)

1 tsp. dried basil

2 bay leaves

1 cup of chopped vegetables (whatever you have on hand…carrots, zucchini, celery…)

Simmer, covered for about 45 minutes.  Then add:

1/2 cup or more of sliced spinach leaves

2 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cook for another 15 minutes.  I like to add a bit of hot sauce into my personal bowl for some kick.  This recipe freezes well.