Welcome! I blog about adoption, adopting from China, special needs, clubfoot, limb differences, developmental delays, homeschooling, large families, large family life, sewing, crafting, book reviews, curriculum reviews, parenting, and more.
So, when the kids all went to school a couple years back, I started volunteering, right?
Yummy volunteer brunch at Book Den.
And the vast majority of the Book Den volunteers.
I even got a little pin and a volunteer service award.
I decided to take the summer off from volunteering. (At least the regularly scheduled, every Tuesday, every Wednesday, gone from the house stuff.)
And I sort of stumbled into a new thing. Walking. I saw an ad for Yes.Fit and was intrigued with the idea of virtual races. I decided to try one, and I picked Zeus on Mount Olympus because one of my kids actually saw Mount Olympus not too long ago.
If you're new to Yes.Fit, use the Promo Code wI3IOsHM during check-out, and you get a discount and I get a gift card! This is win-win for us. Don't forget to use this code when you purchase your first race, otherwise we both lose out. This one-time discount can be applied to any race, as long as it's your first.
Eli and I did Walk For Veterans on Veterans Day.
I was having some foot pain, so Paul took me to Fleet Feet and got me "real" shoes.
Eli has been great.
We walk together many nights after the weather cools down a bit, and eventually, we worked our way up to my first 5k. Which, I'll be honest, I thought I was dying by the end, but in my defense, it was 94* out.
Paul and I took the girls to Walk For Love again this year. (We missed last year, but here's 2017.)
After the walk, there's all sorts of fun stuff for the kids. They even came home with Legos and water bottles this year.
Lunch is always a highlight.
Katie went back and forth from one jumper to another.
Hannah's not much of one for bounce houses, so she went to do the stuffed animal hospital.
Then Katie did, too.
Love supporting Shriners. They've done so much for our girls.
I got tired of walking around our neighborhood. So I drove a bit and walked a trail instead.
Happy in the great outdoors.
The geese have goslings, so this was a clear indicator that it was time for me to turn and head back.
So, you remember the Yes.Fit thing? Well, I finished my virtual race, and my award came in the mail. (I'm all about giving myself a carrot for doing things I don't want to do.) Grumman lost his mind and started attacking the motivational card that came in the package. But now I'm totally hooked. I've finished my second race, Sherlock Holmes, and I'm currently working on Mark Twain. I've also lost 10 pounds, which is just a drop in the bucket, I know, but it feels good.
I know I said I wasn't going to do any volunteer work this summer. But... This is Milo. We fostered him briefly while waiting for space to open up for him at Petco. You can read about this sweet bunny here.
When Milo left, Puff and Blackberry arrived. They're babies, so they'll likely be here until they're old enough to be neutered.
Then yesterday we added a foster kitten, Purrcilla, to our family farm.
So, to summarize, I'm good. Summer is about more walking and more animals for the moment.
It's summer! Huzzah! May is always such a crazy month with all that goes into wrapping up a school year. It's nice to be past all that.
So this happened. Although I can't predict the future, Eli is probably our last graduate from BCS. The younger kids fit much better in a smaller school.
Eli and Miss Adorable, aka the graduates!
Grammy and Annaliese came up for the big event.
The obligatory graduate and parents photo.
Graduate and family! Only missing Brianna, Sam, and Heather.
Jack had an awards ceremony. He received perfect attendance, certificates for woodshop and trap shooting, and a pin for drama.
The elementary play this year was For The Love of a Good Book.
I kind of like that they do play t-shirts each year. Gives the girls something to wear to camp, lol.
Hannah, friend, and a "book" from the set, made from a cardboard box.
My lil thespians. Love the library backdrop.
Elementary awards night.
Miss Hannah really cleaned up in awards this year.
And Katie bagged a few, too, of course.
Katie and her teacher for the last 2 years. Miss N will be taking a year off to write, and Katie's aged out of her class, anyway, so she'll be moving up to Hannah's former teacher next year.
Hannah and her teacher for the past 2 years. Hannah finished 6th grade, so she's bumping up to Jr High, where the kids actually change classes. Hard to believe my tiny 12 year old is ready for that.
Katie brought home 3 certificates and 2 trophies this year. (She missed perfect attendance during asthma season.)
Hannah brought home 7 certificates, 2 trophies, and a pin! Probably the most impressive being the President's Outstanding Academic Excellence award, which is one of the certificates and the little round pin Hannah is wearing.
Thrilled to have school out for the summer. We've been hitting the library regularly, and just enjoying the down time.
Time off from school! Almost summery weather! A trip to the dentist! Wait, what? Most of spring break was fun, but there was still a couple of "have to" things that needed to happen.
Spring break inspired the great clothing switcheroo. I had Jack pull down the bucket of warm weather clothes and I purged all the outgrown (and holey) stuff. My girls are super hard on pants and shorts, and sometime even their dresses end up with holes from their prosthetics.
We stocked up at the library so they'd have plenty to read during quiet afternoon rest.
Jack helped me prep for the egg hunt by sorting eggs by color. Grumman is not to sure about these plastic eggs and buckets.
My last day of work for this school year was during the kids' spring break, but since we were having a party at the park, I was able to bring Hannah and Katie with me.
The theme was "things that fly." You can barely see bubbles floating down behind Hannah here. We did gliders and kites and there were dot to dots and coloring pages of hot air balloons and planes. We made Frisbees. It was so nice to be at a park for the first time in ages.
We're going to call this a STEM engineering challenge. No, wait, I'm not homeschooling any more. I can just call it playtime now.
Grumman is getting used to the harness. He likes to go outside, and now that we've got windows open more often, he likes to perch on the sills and sniff the breeze.
This was actually kind of sad to me. We're down to 4 hunters this year. Eli and Josiah decided they're too old now.
While they were dressed up, I decided to get a picture or two. This is probably what they're wearing for spring school picture next week.
Hmm, I wonder if I have enough motivation to make Hannah a gumball necklace by then? Probably not.
My Dad & Step Mom came for Easter lunch. Katie is selecting her piece to perform on the piano for them.
Hannah played a song...
...and then Katie played a song.
My Dad just retired. They look pretty happy about that!
I think Brayden is taller than Katie now (even though he's a year younger). I'm guessing he'll pass Hannah up, too, one of these days.
So, we're missing Heather, Annaliese, Sam, and Brianna. I realized the last family picture with less than 4 people missing was taken in 2015, while Annaliese was Down Under. The last picture with "everybody" (or at least everybody at the time) was 2013, before Heather and Brayden joined the family. With all the grown kids scattered about, who knows how long it will be until we get everybody in the same place at the same time again.
I always find it amusing to see eggs the kids have walked right past in these pictures.
After lunch, a board game was played involving pooping farm animals. Much hilarity ensued.
I know. I've sort of disappeared. I'm not at my desk as much as I was when we homeschooled, and with the kids growing up, I share less of the everyday details of their lives.
Eli's cat Grumman is quite a character. He'll be 1 year old in May.
I don't think I mentioned here that I got a job. Although, it's almost over. I work for a charter school one day a week at their "enrichment academy," which is a program for homeschoolers.
They're not sure yet whether or not I'll be needed next school year. I'm okay, either way. I like having regular deposits show up in my vacation account, but I won't be crushed if I'm not there in the fall.
The girls are doing well. We started piano lessons at Shriners. Katie reads while Hannah plays, and then Hannah reads while Katie plays.
Tuzi the bunny is happy that we've had some nice days to go outside lately. I don't know if I'm projecting or not, but it seems that life in a cage would be really boring, so I'm always glad when he can be out in his playpen or outside on the leash.
Sam is currently deployed on a ship. I've been sending holiday theme care packages. I like themes, so that's fun for me. I print "lunchbox jokes" for the flaps, and he gets a chuckle out of those. He's always been very punny.
Jack is in his second season of trap shooting. It has been a great experience for him.
We continue to enjoy our library. I've already read 26 books this year.
I try to take the kids to get books more often now that the girls each have 45 minutes where all they can really do is read while waiting for each other at piano.
I taught another art lesson to Katie's class at school.
We did one of the projects from our homeschool days, root vegetables done in oil pastel and watercolor to learn resist techniques.
I got to scratch another state off my travel map, with the hope of scratching off one or two more later this year.
Brianna turned 19!
She was home for a visit...
...and now she's off on new adventures.
Playing air hockey at Shriners while we wait for adjustments to be finished on Hannah's prosthetic leg.
Prom happened. Eli's senior prom. Which, honestly, probably means my last prom as mom, since the tiny school my younger kids go to doesn't have dances. (Although, I think Shriners has a formal event similar to prom. We'll see if that's still around when Hannah gets older.)
Jack turned 15. Paul made his cake and decorated it with a shotgun.
He got his first cell phone.
Thankfully, he has built in, older sibling, in house tech support.
Katie and friend, waiting at the regional spelling bee.
Hannah (purple dress) competing with other 6th graders at the spelling bee.
It warmed my heart to realize we'd had adult children visit 4 out of 5 of the past months. Sam and Annaliese were home in November, Brianna was home in December and February, and Annaliese visited again in March.
While Ese was here, we took a field trip to Nimbus Fish Hatchery. The kids hadn't been in about a decade, and Hannah and Katie not at all.
Watching the kids grow up is bittersweet. I love how capable and interesting they are. But I miss being super important in their worlds. All too soon, Eli will be graduating and stretching his wings.
Representation matters. While my girls don't see themselves when they look at me, I can do my best to surround them with others who look like them. That includes buying Asian dolls and having an abundance of books with Asian characters in them. Which is why I was eager to participate in Multicultural Children's Book Day again.
We received Mela and the Elephant, by Dow Phumiruk this year. This hardcover book is beautifully illustrated by Ziyue Chen. It's 32 pages, and designed for kids 5-8, or K-3rd grades. Katie is 8, so this was perfect for her.
This book was timely for us, since Annaliese visited Thailand just a few months ago, and she got to get up close and personal with elephants while she was there.
Mela has an adventure in which she learns a couple of lessons. In the end, she chooses to be kind to her younger brother, who she rebuffed in the beginning of the story. The girls enjoyed the story, and I like this book, too.
If you'd like to see the books we reviewed as part of MCBD in prior years, click here.
We had some special days around here last month! Sam came home for the first time in a year.
It was so good to have my boy at home!
We hung out together, played darts in the back yard,
took a drive to Apple Hill for pies, cider, apples, and more, for our Thanksgiving meal (which happened the week prior to everyone else's Tday because of Sam and Paul's schedule).
Apple Hill was exhausting.
Annaliese came up for 2 days while Sam was here. Eli talked me into letting him stay home from school one day, and we went bowling. Sam won, and I came in second! We went out to lunch afterwards. I really enjoyed spending time with my adult (and almost adult) children.
It was so good to have Sam home for a time of rest and re-connection.
And it was great to have Annaliese here for Thanksgiving this year!
Long time blog readers may recognize Snake Oil, a game we reviewed 4 years ago, and it's still one of our favorites.
It was so fun to sit and laugh together and see the younger kids building memories with the older ones.
It's pretty rare to get 7 of our 9 kids all in the same room, so we did a family picture.
After Annaliese left, we got to see Zach for the first time in 6 months, as he's freshly home from a deployment to the Middle East.
So incredibly proud of my boys who've chosen to serve our country. Even when it means they're gone for months at a time.
All too soon, it was time to take Sam back to the airport.
Our whole batch has been adopted! Even Mama Kitty. I was trying to take a picture of sweet Pluto napping, but...
Neptune totally photo bombed. "Pet me instead!" she insisted. I was only too happy to comply. She's a great cat.
Fortunately, there were many, many opportunities to take pictures of sleeping kittens.
And playing kittens, and groggy kittens...
Fostering kittens during the summer was perfect for us, because there was usually someone at home during the day, so they rarely had to be in their crate, except at night.
It was a good experience for the whole family, and I'd be open to fostering another batch next summer.
I did, however, come up with a new definition for the word futile: winding a ball of yarn in the kitten room.
Sitting in the kitten room, was slightly dangerous. In this picture, I'm trapped, and I cannot get up. I might disturb a sleeping floof ball.
Seriously. Kitten therapy should totally be a thing.
"Cup holder? I thought you said 'cat holder'!"
All this adorableness was too cute to keep to myself, so I posted pictures online, and one of my friends and one of her friends came over for a kitten meet and greet.
My friend ended up adopting two of the kittens.
Her friend ended up adopting one, too.
When the kittens all weighed 2#, it was time for them all to get spayed, including mama kitty. Ordinarily, they'd go from Spay & Neuter clinic to the adoption floor, but since 3 of the 5 had homes already, I brought those guys home to recover for a day or two before going off to their new families.
It was interesting to have dopey cats at home. I've worked recovery at the feral S&N clinic, so I know cats are silly coming out of anesthesia, but I didn't realize how long it lasted.
Probably my favorite picture ever of Pluto. Those pupils!
Soon, they were back to their playful selves, and then it was time for them to leave. One kitten got picked up here. The other two were handed off at SPCA.
While I was there, I checked in on Neptune and the remaining kitten, who were doing well, and they were both adopted within a week.
If you've ever thought about fostering kittens or puppies, I'd encourage you to give it a try. It ended up being a great experience for our family. And we decided to adopt a kitten, ourselves!
This is Grumman, Eli's kitten. We call him Grummy. You may have noticed him in the background of my recent Art Journals review. He has added so much to our lives! I really adore him.
I received a real treat in the mail recently. Worthy Publishing sent me 3 lovely art journals to review.
Two of them, Illuminate Your Story, and Faith & Lettering, have handy dandy pen holder elastics built into the spine! All 3 have a fabulous "lay flat" design, which means no cracking the spine, and no pages flopping shut when you let go.
First, let's talk about the Faith & Lettering Journal (affiliate link). This book contains some really beautiful pages that inspired me, both spiritually and artistically.
Using the techniques one can learn in the Faith & Lettering Journal, this is the sort of artwork you can create.
Honestly, I kinda want to frame some of them.
This journal has a variety of page types. Above is an example of how you can trace and practice as much as needed. There are also pages for learning different letter fonts.
Some pages offer a dot grid, which makes it easier to copy a complex design. It's also nice to keep your writing from "falling off," or looking like it's sloping down a hillside.
Some pages offer lines for journaling, and nice, wide, side margins for drawing.
Next, let's discuss the Illuminate Your Story Journal (affiliate link). When we were homeschooling, we learned about the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Gold paint was used to decorate images that seemed to glow within the pages of Bibles and other very important texts.
Elaborate lettering styles are taught in this journal. There are also step by step instructions for drawing animals, foliage, and other flourishes to accent your lettering.
There are also pages for simply writing one's thoughts.
Illuminate Your Story comes with an attached ribbon bookmark, an elastic loop to hold the book closed, and a pleated pouch to hold keepsakes.
Finally, I'd like to share about The Illustrated Word (affiliate link). If you're familiar with the "adult coloring books" trend (which I prefer to think of as "grown up coloring books"), imagine that, combined with a traditional journal. Pages for recording your thoughts, feelings, experiences, prayers, hopes, goals, etc. are interspersed with detailed coloring pages.
I've got my mug of hot cider, and classical music playing in the background, as I sit down with The Illustrated Word and my Tombow brush pens (affiliate link).
As I colored, I kept thinking, "This is probably bleeding through the page." I was really surprised that the brush pens didn't bleed through at all!
I tried using bronze Sharpie to give the flourishes a metallic effect, and the Sharpie did bleed through. I have a set of metallic brush pens on my Christmas wish list that I'm hoping will be a better option.
The Ellie Claire art journals can be used with just about any writing implements. I really like my brush pens, but gel pens are great, too, as are colored pencils.
As we head into winter doldrums, and the darker days, I look forward to brushing up on a new artistic skill. Journaling is known to combat depression, and being creative helps me in the struggle against seasonal affective disorder.
This was a really cute movie. Without giving too much away, it's the story of a widowed dad with 7 kids, meeting a divorced mom with 7 kids. It's a tale of adoption, and the huge capacity to love that adoptive families have.
Watch the trailer and see for yourself:
Bennett's Song - Trailer - YouTube
Bennett's Song made me laugh and cry (I cry at everything!). I recognized some of the struggles of large family life and some of the biases against adoptive families from my own experiences.
This sweet rom-com movie is available on DVD and VOD (affiliate links). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!