Sunday, June 26, 2011

This Week in Pictures

  Our sweet Lydia turned 10!

  Earlier in the day, Naomi made, and decorated, the cake (with a little help from her younger sisters.)
 Naomi is getting to be quite an accomplished "cake chef".

  We decided to keep the tiger kitten along with Shadow, who was purchased for Lydia's birthday a few weeks earlier.  Fortunately, the kittens love each other.  And the children love the kittens!

  Sometimes the kids just have to share a blanket :-).

  We visited some friends who live out in the country, like we do, but who have more animals. I think they are braver than we are :-).  Here are their 2 delightful nanny goats.

  And here is a mama hen with a few of her babies.  Our friends have chickens like we do, but they have roosters, and we don't.  So...this little hen got it into her head that she wanted chicks, so she snuck off and started laying eggs away from the crowd.  Our friends eventually found the nest, but decided to let her hatch the chicks.  12 eggs were sat on, 12 eggs hatched, and all 12 chicks are running around enthusiastically.  Our children were delighted with the chicks and asked if we could hav chicks someday. Well, maybe.  They were awfully cute.

 They were also mellow about being carried around, which was nice.

  We have interesting creatures too.  Joseph found this snail yesterday and carried it around proudly for a while.  I lost track of it and asked today, with some anxiety, what he did with it when he was done admiring it.  He said he put it in a tree outside.  Whew!  I was afraid it was still in the house somewhere!

  I think she looks adorable, Daddy thinks she looks silly. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cat Magnets

A friend recently called us "cat magnets".  Indeed we are.  Check out these charmers.

Here is Mama.  The kids have named her Sparkle

  Here is Baby #1 (also known as Sunshine).

  And here is Baby #2 (Moonbeam).

  They are all very nice, friendly cats.  They showed up in our yard last week.  I called around to the neighbors and no one knows anything about them, which leads me to believe some unkind person dumped them here in the country. The mama was almost certainly a housecat as she keeps trying to come in.

  We are going to try to find homes for them, and we believe the kittens will probably be placed as they are very cute and at the perfect age for adoption.

"Follow Your Dreams..."

The children watched "Tangled" for the first time this week.  It is based on the story of Rapunzel, but lengthened and complicated so that it lasts for the requisite hour and a half.

Mostly, I like the movie. The main character, Rapunzel, is a sweet girl.  Her parents (who lost her when she was kidnapped as an infant) never give up hoping for her return.  Her dashing "prince" is in reality a thief, but he mends his ways and sacrifices himself for Rapunzel's best interests.  And unlike many a modern movie, she and he get married in the end.

One main focus on the movie has me a little concerned, and that is the theme of "following your dreams".  HOW many times have we heard that in movies and popular culture and from the podiums at graduation ceremonies?

"Follow your dreams!"
"You can be anything you want to be!"
"You can do anything you want to do!"
"Aim for the stars!"

  My short response to those phrases is, "Hogwash."

As one of my pastor friends points out, none of us can really be anything we want to be.  None of us can, for example, be the Queen of England.  There is a queen of England, and when she dies the next person to be queen is already lined up for that honor.

Very few of us also have the physical capability of being professional athletes, either. I remember as an 8th grader looking askance at a fellow student who said when he grew up that he was going to be a professional football player. He was a small guy and it seemed very unlikely that he would be able to be a pro.

  Now, there are positive aspects to the "live your dreams" idea.  One is that it enlarges our minds to possibilities.  We do live in an amazing culture where we have MANY options.  In most cultures in the past, the job of a person was largely dictated by his ancestry or caste.  If you were born a serf, you didn't have much chance of doing something else.  If your father was a farmer, you were almost stuck being a farmer.  If you wanted to be an important politician, you'd better have a powerful, aristocratic family at your back.

  We live in an era where the most powerful man in our country (and arguably, the world) can be a man with dark skin and whose father was from Kenya.  I am not a supporter of our current president, but I am very glad that a non-Caucasian can be president. That is entirely right, that a person is not limited by his looks or his family background.

  So given that, what is the harm of the message to young people that they should "live their dreams"?

There are a couple of concerns I have.

One is that it may give young people an inaccurate view of the way the world works.  A lot of work in this world is just hard.  It is tiring, it is boring, it is not exciting.  I think many young people don't really understand this, and struggle in entry level jobs because it isn't "fun" or "their dream job."   The world doesn't hand things to us on silver platters, including dream jobs.  We may never attain our dream job. We may have to work 30 years to get our dream job.  The more young people accept that life is hard sometimes, the better they can handle the disappointments.  Of course, we don't want them to be confirmed pessimists either.  We want them to be realists -- not always assuming the worst, but also not assuming everything will work out beautifully in this world.

A bigger concern I have is that sometimes "following a dream" results in a person abandoning his or her responsibilities to other people.  This one really scares me.  The idea that life should be happy and fulfilling for a person all the time has led to some people abandoning spouses and aging parents or even dependent children in pursuit of "their dream" or their desire to be "happy". 

I remember what was to me a shocking conversation with a fellow graduate student back in my single days.  She was married and the mother of a young daughter, but spent little time with her child because her graduate student work was so demanding. She stated calmly, "I love my daughter, but I would never let her get in the way of my career."

I wasn't married, as I said, and I didn't have children yet but even back then I was grieved by that response.  Part of being a parent is setting aside your desires and yes, dreams, for the sake of your children.  I am not saying that a parent shouldn't go to college, but the children must be high high high on the priority list.  There are a number of things I would rather like to do (not dreams, but desires) that I've set aside because my family takes so much time.  And I don't regret that.  I can lay aside my desire to learn to play the piano for this season, and maybe when I'm older I can learn. Or maybe I'll learn in Heaven and not before.  If there are pianos in Heaven, that is.

Which brings me to my last point, and that is of course, GOD.

I don't think we should follow our dreams.  I think we should follow God's dreams for us.  Now, those may well be the same thing.  I think usually God gifts us with abilities that dovetail nicely with His plans for us.  I can't imagine God ever directing me to be a worship dancer.  That is just SO not me, and I don't have a dancing bone in my body.  He HAS gifted me with academic excellence, which makes it (relatively) easy for me to teach my children.  He has gifted me with organizational abilities so our family of 9 doesn't succumb completely to entropy. 

If you are a follower of Jesus, you should be asking God to guide your dreams.  Sometimes He will shock you with what He plans. Sometimes His dreams are so much more than you can imagine. Sometimes, He will allow life circumstances to break your heart. That is painful, but it is reality.  Jesus, Who died on the cross for us, deserves our commitment to His cause, not our own.

Follow God's dreams...


We live in Ohio, where all homeschooled students must be assessed in one of three ways. The most common options are to have the child take a standardized test or to have the child's work (in the form of a portfolio) assessed by a certified Ohio State teacher.

 We've always gone the assessment route. I have no doubt our big girls would do great on a standardized test, but getting children to and from a testing facility for a few days is NOT trivial with 7 children, one of whom is a baby in need of nursing and naps at regular intervals.

  Last night I met with my assessor for this year.  We had not met before, but had a great time going through the children's work.  I was proud of what we accomplished this year.  It was a "crazy" year with a new baby and I wondered back in August how much progress we would make.  The answer was, a lot.  We had a good year.

Naomi made great progress in writing.  She is, I believe, naturally gifted.  Lydia came on in math.  Isaac's reading skills continued to improve rapidly this year.  We also identified his amblyopia, which will help in the long run with anything involving vision (and most schoolwork is partially dependent on vision.)  Joseph learned phonics and is reading a little. 

I had a good discussion with our assessor about our boys.  Both have BAD handwriting and I believe have some glitches. Both are mixed dominant in terms of their eye and hand dominance. 

  She agreed the midline exercises are a good idea, but also encouraged me that they are SO young. And they are.  Isaac may really come on with writing in the next few years just because he is maturing.  Lydia's handwriting improved a lot this year, I think because she got older and stronger.

  So, another year of homeschooling comes to an end.  I am thankful for God's guidance this year, His great love for us, His encouragement when I've felt I was failing my children.  I am thankful that homeschooling is legal and that we have the privilege of teaching them.  Thank you, Lord

Leaves of Three...

You have to love impromptu botany lessons.  Our dear Lydia broke out in a rash on Sunday, and it has spread the last 2 days.  This morning, I finally took her into the doctor along with Naomi (who had an unrelated eye problem) and the doctor took about 0.2 seconds to identify Lydia's rash as poison ivy.  We do have poison ivy on our property and some people take as much as a week to break out from contact, so we're not sure when she was exposed. One exciting possibility is that one of our outdoor cats got into it and the oil was spread to Lydia while she was petting it. 

I called Kevin from the pediatrician, and when we got home he took me, Lydia, and Naomi out to see some real live poison ivy.  I know "leaves of three, let them be" but many innocuous plants have 3 leaves, so that's not enough.  There are more defining characteristics to poison ivy and I hope I'll remember them.  The outer leaf is bigger.  The 2 smaller leaves are right next to each other, and the big leaf is farther out on a stem.  I think we'll have "poison ivy" identification practice a few times in the next few weeks.  As Kevin says, he needs all of us to know what to look for so he can go out and kill it.

Nasty stuff.  However, Lydia is on a steroid now and we hope the rash (which is impressive) will subside quickly.

  Here is some poison ivy in our back yard.  We hope it is dying after Kevin sprayed it, but it still looks dangerously healthy. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ambyopia Update: The Good News...and the Bad News

So, Isaac had his 2 month checkup today to assess how his left eye is doing.  He has amblyopia ("lazy eye") and has been patching his good eye 6 to 8 hours a day for 2 months to encourage his left eye to start working. 

Results were phenomenol.  The eye doc was hoping that he would improve 4 lines on the eye chart (to about 20/100) and he moved SIX lines. So his left eye, with glasses, now reads at 20/60.  He started at 20/150 so that is incredible improvement.

I am SO proud of Isaac.  It is not easy to wear a patch most of his waking hours but he is doing it like a champ.  And it is paying off.

The bad news (though in some ways it is good news) has to do with our sweet Angela, age almost 4.  The doctor strongly encouraged that we check our young ones for ambylopia because it runs in families.  And you guessed it, she has a problem. She has what is called bilateral amblyopia, which means both eyes are not focusing correctly.  She needs glasses and will need to wear them very consistently. 

We would have preferred that she not have a vision problem, but are SO glad we caught it now.  She doesn't see particularly well either near or far and glasses will help when she learns her letters, watches videos, runs around, everything!

We are so thankful that the Lord led us to figure out Isaac's problem and now we know about Angela as well.  We'll check Sarah in 2 months.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Our Annual Trip to an Amusement Park

Yesterday, was a Big Day for our family.  It was King's Island Day.

I work one day a week, and my company provides free tickets to KI on a Sunday in the summer. 

We've been going for several years and always pray for decent weather. So far, we've never had a totally disastrous weather day.  This year, the weather was perfect -- sunny and highs in the mid 70's.

  Here we are, suited up with hats and sunglasses and sunscreen and strollers.  We're ready to GO!  Kevin's mother kindly came along to help and took the picture.

  Lovely fountains

  That's a 1/3rd scale replica of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  It is 300 feet high and quite high enough for me!  We split up quite often (more on that later) and the Eiffel Tower was a convenient meeting point throughout the day.

  Sarah had a great day.  She didn't ride any rides and spent much of her time in the stroller, but she had an exciting time looking at all the people and being pushed around.  King's Island has a "baby and child" area and I was able to go and nurse her in comfort and privacy a couple of times.  It worked out very well.

   As I mentioned earlier, this year we split up often.  Our older 4 children are tall enough to ride many of the "big rides" and Miriam and Angela are still relegated to the younger rides.  It turned out that Joseph was more comfortable and still thoroughly enjoyed the smaller rides, so part of the time he stayed with Miriam and Angela, and a couple of times he rode big rides.  Kevin took the big 3 off to ride roller coasters a few times.  It worked out fairly well, though the 3 adults kept busy as one of us had to stay with the baby all the time, and that sometimes left an adult with 3 kids to watch.  When those 3 kids were ages 6, 5, and 3, attentiveness was required!

   Looking at our pictures, I see we have relatively few of the bigger children. I regret not getting a picture of the "big boat" ride.  I took the older 3 children on a giant boat that swings back and forth.  Riders start in a normal seated positiion, and at the extreme position their bodies are perpendicular to the starting position.  It is hard to describe.  Suffice it to say that Naomi and Isaac LOVED it,  Lydia sort of liked it, and I ... well, I was nervous.  There was a lurching feeling at the end of each swing when I got a very peculiar feeling in my tummy.  I'm also not fond of heights.  Ok, true confessions, I kept my eyes shut through the entire thing :-).  This particular ride had very short lines, so after Isaac announced that it was the best ride in the entire park, we went on it again!  Where is my medal?  I am truly a heroic Mom sometimes.

  My company pays for lunch and for the presence of a "Charlie Brown" character.  (The Kids Area at KI has a Snoopy theme.)  The baby thought 'Linus' was interesting and fun.  The other small children were nervous and wouldn't go near him.  I think people dressed in costumes like that are a bit nervewracking for the average small child.  They are very tall, plush, and don't talk. That's weird.

  They have a lovely caraousal and we went on it many times.  Short lines, lots of fun.  What more could you ask?

  This is one of those dinosaurs that moves and roars at you; KI just added a big Dinosaur Park but it costs extra so we didn't go.  But we enjoyed the one dinosaur at the entrance that is supposed to entice you to go to the Dinosaur Park.

  We had a great day but by 7:15 p.m., more than one of us was close to melting down so we headed home.  It was a very successful day.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

All a Matter of Perspective

  The last couple of weeks have been a little tough for me, in that I've been feeling "burned out" or "overwhelmed" or SOMETHING.

  There has been a great deal on my mind.  My semi-annual decluttering frenzy has hit. I've been trying to work through tubs of clothes and am getting rid of some things. We have many, many clothes.  It makes sense to give away those things we can't use or have too many of.

   I also want to wash all the floors, wash some walls, organize cupboards, and so on.  The children can help with these tasks somewhat, but I need to make the decision of when to do what.

  Washing floors is interesting, especially "high traffic" floors. I don't want a little one slipping on a floor, obviously, so it is best to wash floors when the littles are busy.  The best time to do that kind of work is really after bed, but I'm usually too tired by bedtime to tackle washing floors.

   I'm also reading up on learning disabilities and trying to determine how best to meet the needs of our boys. Both have handwriting "glitches".

  So, lots going on.  But then this morning, I came across the following blog:

   Jessica writes it.  Jessica and her husband have 2 children. The elder, a sweet little girl named Eithene Rose is almost 5 and is entering hospice care.  Eithene was born with many medical issues and has spent most of her life in the hospital. Her parents have decided that it is time to stop the fight and let their sweet girl slip into the arms of Jesus.

  As a mom, I can't imagine the agony of making such a decision. As a mom, it breaks my heart to think of this other mom and dad watching their little girl die.  When I think about Eithene Rose, I realize how blessed we are with healthy children. 
  So for me, the perspective helps and today I've been calmer.  I definitely have many important things on my plate.  But in most ways, all is well.  Our children are growing and maturing.  Our children are learning about Jesus, their Savior and Redeemer.  Yes, we're struggling with some academic challenges and minor medical issues.  Yes, our kids are sinners and they have tantrums and fusses and generally wear me out some of  the time.  But from an eternal perspective, this is all part of a GOOD process.  We are all learning to depend on God to overcome the challenges of life, and we're not even battling the really tough "Job" like stuff.

And I am thankful.  

A New Blog Site

  I have been feeling unhappy for some weeks about my old blog because of the new policy of adding advertisements to the bottom of each blog post.  I don't like ads in general, and I especially don't like "random" ads about whatever strikes the fancy of the engine that is inserting the ads.

   Sarah kindly woke me up extra early this morning, so I decided to look into changing over to a new blog site.  And here it is.  I have figured out how to add pictures.  Hooray!  I am not sure I need a whole lot more, so will plan to write on this blog from here on out.
  P.S.  For those who have just "found me" and want to look at several years of previous posts, please go to