Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Week, Briefly (Christmas)



We baked and baked and baked on Saturday.  Eventually Dad helped the girls deliver the treats to friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve.  I stayed home to help J11 finish her Christmas presents because her projects had met with one too many crises.

And E14 built this super cool fort out of chairs and blankets.

We couldn't get a picture of the whole thing--believe me, we tried!  Here is E14 standing next to the very edge of her structure. 

On Sunday we had our church Christmas observance. 

There was much dancing and making merry all week long.

We baked sugar cookies.


Lots of 'em.

There were sweet quiet moments.

I finally finished the ornaments for the kids commemorating the move to our new house last Christmas.

We decorated the sugar cookies.

The kids spent a lot of time putting each sprinkle in just the right place.

We had our traditional reenactment of The First Christmas.  E14 played the innkeeper, a shepherd, and a wise man.  M12 and J11 were wise men.  S12 played wicked King Herod.  A7 was Mary and I3 was Joseph.  H5 was the angel of the Lord.  Dad was the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem.  I was narrator and picture-taker.  I cried as I read the sacred words . . . even though I read them many times each year.

Christmas Day held more joy than ever.  My favorite moments were the ones where the kids shared themselves, rather than things, with us and with each other.  One of my favorite gifts was this one from A7.

And another favorite was this one from J11.  Can you see my pregnant belly? :)

After the Christmas hullaballoo was over, we settled into game playing (we got a few new family board games), beautifying (the older girls got jewelry, make up, and hair accessories), and talent-developing.  Here are A7 and H5 holding their new dollies and the pillows they made themselves with their new sewing kits. 

The week has been truly joyful. 

I wish the same for all.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Week, Briefly (Christmas, Week 1)

I feel as though I spent the whole week shopping.  When I look back at the actual hours I spent away from my family I realize that I was actually home quite a bit.  But it feels as though I spent the whole week away, and now I'm glad to look forward to a week at home.

E14 still had a bit of school work to complete before taking her break.   She did it.

*She finished her Alpha Omega Lifepac High School Health course with an 89% average.
*She finished her Rod and Staff spelling level 4.
*She finished her most recent literature book--Bulfinch's Greek and Roman Mythology.

And seminary concluded for the term, too.  So she's got quite the break from school.

The conclusion of this seminary term was stressful because for the first time ever, passing a brief exam is part of the curriculum.  As the exam drew near, E14 began to fall apart.  The stress of taking her first-ever classroom exam was overwhelming.  I spoke to the teacher about our suspicions of dyslexia and E14's particular learning abilities.  She was wonderful!  Completely willing to accomodate E14's needs in an unobtrusive way.  In the end we decided that E14 would take the exam with no special accomodations whatsoever just to see what she could do.  If it proved too difficult, we had some back up plans in place (e.g.  If E14 couldn't concentrate in a room full of people, she had permission to quietly move to another classroom to work alone.).

The students needed to score a 27.  E14 got 29!  She came home triumphant!  What made the triumph even greater was the fact that some of her peers who have been in public school all along (a fact of which E14 is quite envious) and who E14 considers perfectly brilliant did not pass.  They had to take an alternate exam the next day.    E14 did not revel in their failure--only in the proof that she is not a failure.

The sweetest part of her experience to me was in her explanation of why she missed some points, "I wrote the essay, and I did a pretty good job, but I didn't write about one of the things the instructions said to write about.  I looked at the directions again when we graded the test, and I could see that I hadn't understood them at first.  So I had to mark off for that.  But I got all the rest of it right!"

(The students graded their own work.  I'm so curious about the rubric they must have used for grading their own essays.)

My heart is so full of gratitude for this success for my girl!

M12 has been sewing, sewing, sewing.  She's making these cute headbands for all of the girls in our family for our Santa Game.  We lucked out on finding some sparkly chiffon on sale, so she got 4 different colors for only $.75 each. We already had a 5th pattern and some lovely twill in our fabric stash, so she's mixing and matching away.

Yesterday she got Dad to take her to the dollar store to pick up other presents for each family member.  She spent the afternoon wrapping, wrapping, wrapping.

S12 finished her Santa Game crafts last week.   She used this idea to inspire her own creations.  I can't wait to see them. 

She has spent the rest of the week reading library books.  We discovered Jessica Day George books, quite by accident, and my girls have been devouring them.  Every day I hear, "I'm done with mine.  Anyone ready to trade?"

J10 went to work on the craft (picture 3 if the link only takes you to page 1) she chose for our Santa Game, but it's a complete bust.  The cork we bought is too fragile and even though we've had it pressed flat (it came in a roll) for 3 days, it still has too much roll to work with.   It is a rather expensive failure, but at least I have some pretty elastic being shipped to the house, and I picked up some pretty wooden beads, so she'll be able to make some hair ties for her sisters.  Then she'll join M12 in making felt road pieces for I3's Santa Game present. 

A7 has reveled in hours and hours of creative play with her younger sister and brother.  She also got to spend all of Friday afternoon using the sewing machine to make fabric treat bags for her Santa Game gift.  She stood in front of me at the sewing machine and learned to raise and lower the presser foot, how to line up the fabric for a correct seam allowance, and how to sew back and forth at the start and end of each seam.

She was glowing with happiness and success by the time we finished. 

She says she misses her daily violin lessons with M12.  I hope to convince M12 to give her one or two lessons this week ahead.

H5 spent the week losing teeth.

Barely 5, and already missing her two front teeth.  (Yes, we've been singing the song around here every day!)
The first one came out when she was accidentally elbowed in the face at our church Christmas social Saturday night.  It was already loose, but not really loose enough to come out.  That elbow knocked it badly askew, and it bled copiously.  Dad pulled it out, but not without great pain and rather a lot of emotional trauma for our H5. Oddly enough that first tooth led the way for 2 more to suddenly become loose, and they came out only 3 days later--within 2 hours of each other!

The tooth fairy has been hopping at our house!

Now 3 teeth are gone!  She stuck all of her tooth fairy quarters on a piece of tape and then wore them for the day.
Each day H5 and I sit together for a few minutes to make another pom-pom bookmark for her contribution to the Santa Game.  I'm irritated because ours aren't quite as fluffy and perfect as the ones in the picture (is it the yarn we're using?--ours is 100% cotton), but H5 loves them and is proud of the ones we are making, so I'm practicing the art of contentment.  They're sure pretty colors, and they will definitely be used around here!!

I found a comprehensive preschool workbook for I3 one day when I was out.  I snuck it onto the school shelf, and it took the kids less than 3 minutes to notice it was there.  I3 pulls that book out every single day and asks for help to do some school. 

Here he is doing school with Dad while I made dinner.  Dad deserves a prize for practicing patience as he worked with I3. (Dad's always been glad that Mom runs school each day.)
In addition, I3 is helping me Modge-Podge some pretty paper to some plain clipboards so that each kid gets a custom clipboard for the Santa Game.  We learned the hard way to be sparing with the first layer of glue.  I'm glad paper was on sale for $.25 each this week, so our mistakes were inexpensive to fix.


Daily events:
Sunday we missed most of church because H5 woke up with pink eye.  I gave her super doses of probiotics, and it healed up nicely in only 3 days.

We also found out that a friend of ours in our church congregation was brutally beaten by a drunk man.  She'd left her apartment to get the mail, and the man attacked.  As soon as he began punching her, she dropped to the ground to protect her 7 month's pregnant belly and screamed for her husband, who couldn't hear her because he was in the apartment getting their two little daughters ready for bed.  The attacker kicked her repeatedly while she was down, not caring that she yelled, "I'm pregnant!  Please stop!" over and over.

I spent much of my Sunday afternoon assisting our Relief Society president in organizing meals, child care, and other support for this woman.

She'll heal.  She's terribly hurt.  But she will heal.

The baby is fine.

All I could do was cry with her on the phone (she wasn't ready for visitors).  I did most of the organizing with her sister and husband.  The members of our congregation rose to the challenge.  This family's needs have been and continue to be generously met.

Monday morning I took a couple of kids grocery shopping with me.  Their eyes just about fell out of their heads when they saw all of the supplies I bought for making Christmas Jars as gifts for friends and neighbors.

Later that afternoon was my OB visit.  My blood pressure was lower, less protein in my urine, and I still feel fine (for being 8 months pregnant).  Looks like all is well.  I did some Christmas shopping while I was out.  The kids watched holiday movies while I was gone.

Tuesday was the day we made ornaments for our upcoming Explorer's Club ornament exchange.

I also had a Relief Society luncheon to attend, so I got some more Christmas shopping done while I was out.

Wednesday was our final Explorer's Club meeting for the semester.  The older kids did Christmas-y Chemistry experiments while the little ones explored the properties of solids, liquids, and gases.  We had our ornament exchange, shared some treats, and had a generally happy time with our friends.

Afterwards I dropped 6 of the kids off at the local library (we were up north, near our old house) with M12 in charge while I took E14 with me to the dollar store to run even more Christmas errands.  We checked out another 3 dozen books before heading home.

By the time I got home it was time to make dinner, and my energy levels were dangerously low.  Ice and snow were predicted for the evening, so I was very uncomfortable with taking the kids to the church for their weekly activity night.  I asked if they were willing to skip it for one night, especially because the 3 little ones were clearly exhibiting signs of developing colds.  They were willing, but obviously disappointed.

Dad was off work, but he was scheduled to attend a session and then help clean the temple that night.  As my voice dissolved into tears that I could not hold back, he offered to take the older girls to the church so I could stay home with the littles.  It meant he'd have to skip the temple session, but he'd still be able to get to the temple in time to clean.  I felt terrible about having him miss the session, but when I looked at the bleary eyes of our 3 little ones I knew it was the best decision.

The tire blew out on the car on the way to the church!  It could have been dreadful, but Dad's cool head and skilled hands kept everyone safe.  Kind church members got the girls to and from their activity, and AAA got dad home and the car to a tire shop for repairs.

Dad never made it to the temple at all, but the whole family was safe.  My evening prayers were full of gratitude for the watchful care of our Heavenly Father that night.

Thursday the kids played in the snow that eventually fell Wednesday night.  It didn't last long, but they made the most of it while they could.

Dad got a Christmas card from one of the colleges he attended while pursuing his nursing degree.  It included parody lyrics to a Christmas song.  He was in a silly mood, so he started singing it, and then E14 came in the room and sang, too.


I laughed and laughed at this father/daughter duet.

Friday I finished the last of the Christmas shopping.

Whew!

The kids and I filled the Christmas Jars, but only after we realized that the recipe I'd planned to use was for a larger jar than the quart jars I'd purchased.  (Naughty me for not reading the directions closely enough!).  The kids practiced astonishing patience while I looked up alternate recipes.  Eventually we filled a dozen jars--6 with an M&M cookie mix and 6 with a chunky brownie mix.






Dad took the older girls out shopping while I stayed home to read to I3, sew with A7, make a pom pom with H5, and cook up a batch of homemade pizza.  I also worked for a few minutes on the pin cushions I'm making for the sewing kits that A7 and H5 are getting for Christmas.

I started fighting a headache, and then I remembered that I'd had some fuzzy vision moments earlier, so after dinner and baths, I asked Dad to check my blood pressure.  The little guys all gathered around first to watch, then to ask for a turn, then to actually use Dad's stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.

(I'm perfectly fine.)

We tucked the three littlest ones into bed early as they're still fighting colds, but then Dad popped popcorn for the rest of us to munch on while we watched Elf together.  (I gave up 45 minutes into the movie--I was too tired!)   Before the movie we finished reading The Forgotten Carols; we've been listening to the music during our morning devotionals. 

Today is Saturday.  Dad has to go back to work, and he'll work straight through to Christmas Eve.  I'm moving our usual Saturday chores to Tuesday so the house will be ready for Christmas, and we've got so much crafting to do between now and then that there's not much point in cleaning it up now.  :)

I3 has already spent nearly an hour at my side while I've written this post doing his preschool workbook.  The other kids are slowly waking, munching on left over pizza and popcorn for breakfast.  I owe Dad a haircut; we'll do a bit of Christmas baking.  I'm hoping that before Dad has to head to back to bed to be ready to work all night, he and the kids can deliver some Christmas jars while I lie down to give the ache in my back a rest.

(It's kind of hard work to be 8 months pregnant at Christmas time!  But I have not forgotten that it is an even more tremendous blessing!)


Monday, December 15, 2014

A Week, Briefly (#16)

I am struggling to write about this week--I  kind of don't want to go back and think over the days, remembering how hard they were and why.

I shall start with the hard parts to get them over with and end with what I'm thankful for--gratitude always helps.

This week I got an email letting us know that we were not chosen for the sibling group of 5 children we were hoping to adopt.  Someone else was.  I neither carried nor birthed them.  I've never met them.  I've never served or cared for them.  But for months now I've been praying for them--daily, hourly--and the loss was as real as any other loss I've experienced.  It was not as severe as some losses, but it was real.

And I grieved.

I'm grieving still.

In addition I found out the same day (because I checked) that our inquiries about 2 other sibling groups in need of adoption were on hold pending other placements.  That means that we aren't needed.

Why?  Why aren't we needed?  Why can't we be foster parents?  Why are we being blocked in our efforts to do something that God has so clearly called us to do (believe me we've checked and double-checked--the answer from Him remains clear and consistent)?  Where are the children He would have us raise?

And my grief grew.

The kids struggled, too.

I reacted to the news by spending hours searching out sibling groups in need of adoption and filling out "interest" forms for social workers.  We have run into the same problem we had at the start--our licensing worker is very uncommunicative.

We had some tough days around here.  Days in which we had little emotional strength to be kind or patient with one another because we were nursing our own hurting hearts.  It took real effort to reach out and love one another.

In the mean time, we lived life, pressing forward as best we could.

Sunday night J10 chose gingerbread houses for our Family Night activity and treat.  We just used graham crackers instead of gingerbread, but we had candy and frosting galore, so no one was disappointed.  We learned that it is far wiser to make and decorate the house before putting on the roof, and it is also wiser to decorate the roof pieces before putting the roof on.

A little lesson in engineering. :)














Monday we dove into our final week of school before our Christmas work begins.  It was a regular sort of day except for the fact that I had my 34 week check with my midwife, and she said that there's protein in my urine all of a sudden.  My blood pressure is still very good, I'm having a break from the headaches that plagued me a few weeks ago, my swelling is minimal and normal for this stage of pregnancy.  The midwife says she's not worried, but that she feels more comfortable being more watchful than usual.  She switched me to weekly checkups (they were supposed to start in 2 weeks anyway) and asked me to have my husband check my blood pressure a few times this week (he's an RN) and to call her if it went up 20 points or more.

Tuesday was our homeschool group Holiday party.  I ran off to Michael's first thing in the morning to take advantage of their art kit sale ($2.50 for a 100 piece art set), so we'd have some inexpensive-but-cool-gender-and-age-neutral gifts to take for the gift exchange.  The kids got ready to go while I was out.  We packed up some toys to take for the quiet-play area I'd volunteered to run at the party, packed up the peppermint-candy-cane brownies we'd made on Monday afternoon, wrapped and packed up the art kits, and headed off to play.

The teens/tweens quickly found an area to call their own and they talked excitedly the whole two hours.  The younger kids did crafts, ate snacks, and enjoyed the gift exchange.  I visited with other moms and helped my littles do what they wanted to do.  It was a good social time.

As we drove home E14 sighed in satisfaction from the back seat and said, "That was just what I needed.  Thanks, Mom."

Wednesday was a day of school.

I3 begs and begs for worksheets.  When I try to do crafts, games, or activities for his "little kid school" he's happy as a clam until it is over.  "I didn't do school!!" he wails.  As soon as I print out a worksheet he's happy again.  I don't know where this need has come from, but I suppose that if the purpose of preschool is to spend time with my little fellow in a way that fills his bucket, the worksheets are here to stay.

That night was the church youth white elephant gift exchange--held not at the church, but at a youth leader's home--and the younger girls' group activity of making gingerbread houses (more treats!) at the church.  I also had a Relief Society Presidency meeting.  All three activities were scheduled to begin and end at the same time.

Dad was at work.

It was a busy, busy, busy night of schedule juggling and driving.

Before he left for work he checked my blood pressure.  It was 30 points higher than normal.  Oops.  I called the midwife's office.  Because I'm feeling fine, we're not worrying, but I was assigned to check again the next day and call in a report.

Thursday was another day of school.  The cloudy, rainy skies and barely-above-freezing temperatures made it easy to curl up under blankets with books, paper, and pencils.

My blood pressure was down 15 points.  That's good.

Friday the rain stopped, the sun peeped out from behind the clouds, and the temperature got to 50 (or nearly so).  At noon, as kids wound down the last of their schoolwork for the season, I called for jackets, shoes, and socks, and we headed to a park.  The park was near the zoo, so we ended up at the zoo.  At the zoo we ran into 4 other homeschooling families we know.  That was fun!  We picked up take-and-bake pizzas on the way home and ended our week having pizza with Dad.

That's a good way to end a week.

Today is Saturday--chores, grocery shopping, and the church Christmas party tonight.  

We're leaving our schoolwork here:

E14
*Next week E14 will finish her Alpha Omega LifePac High School Health course.  She has 2 assignments and the final exam to take.  We couldn't quite get it done this week, so it has to spill over.
*Next week E14 will also finish her Rod and Staff spelling book 5.
*She finished her first semester's reading of The Doctrine and Covenants.  She'll pick up with another semester's reading when the new seminary term begins in January.  She'll continue with Book of Mormon reading even over the break because daily scripture reading is part of what we do no matter what.
*She's going to take a break from all other subjects--just pausing where she is right now.

M12
*She hit no natural stopping places in any of her subjects except geography (she finished her report) and penmanship (she finished last week), so she's just pausing where she is in all other subjects (except daily scripture reading).  She's been reading Redwall for her literature journal, and it will be due back at the library (we've already maxed out our renewals) before January, so she's going to finish reading it just for fun while giving her daily journaling a rest. 

S12
*She finished typing up her novel this week--over 10,500 words.
*She finished her geography report.
*She finished her penmanship book.
*She finished her Alpha Omega LifePac Math level 3.  Level 4 arrived in the mail last week--all ready to start after the holiday break
*She'll pause where she is in all other subjects (except daily scripture reading) until January.

J10
*She finished her geography report.
*Like M12 she's not at any other natural stopping places in any other subjects (she started Saxon Math 6/5 in early December), so she'll pause (except daily scripture reading) until January.

A7, H5, I3
I'm not sure what we'll keep doing and what we'll stop doing in the coming days.  It is likely that we'll pull out "school" some days because they'll ask for it, but we won't follow a formal schedule like we usually do.  I'll just keep pulling out random worksheets to satisfy I3, and H5 will continue with reading practice because that's the stage she's at and is alive with discovery.  I found a Learn-to-Read  Bible at a thrift store for $2, and couldn't resist it.  H5 loves, loves, loves it, so we've put away her Sonlight readers for a little while.  If this little Bible stays our main vehicle for H5's learning to read journey, I'll be perfectly happy.  So will she.

A7 only has 100 pages left in her Math book, and because we usually do 3 pages a day, she doesn't have enough left to keep her going for long.  I've been thinking of having A7 do some online addition/subtraction drills during this break and through January both for fun and for mastery because the math book she's in focuses far more on higher-level critical thinking than on basic skills, and she's moving too fast (in my opinion) into higher level math.

We're going to keep doing daily devotionals each morning--for December that means singing Christmas hymn and watching inspiring Christmas videos.  We'll also keep up our daily family prayer and scripture reading each night over dinner.

The countdown-to-Christmas chains the 3 littles made used to reach from ceiling to floor.  Now they barely hang halfway down the wall.  It is time to get serious about preparing for the big day.

Let the secrets and planning and creating begin!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Week, Briefly (#15)

We borrowed a whole bunch of Elephant and Piggie books from the library this week.  Every single day this week has been punctuated by giggling groups of children in my living room.  They read them morning, noon, and night over and over again--bigger kids reading to littler kids--laughing, laughing, laughing. 

Every day they've laughed together.

To me, that's a foretaste of heaven, and it's what I want to remember about this first week of December.

*************
I chronicled Sunday for our "A Homeschool Day in the Life--November" post.  But here are a couple of pictures of our game night:

Right behind Dad you can see S12's very bored, very peeved face.  She'd hurt her toe the day before at the park and felt left out of the Twister game.  That was my plan, however, so that everyone would feel happier when I pulled out the Uno cards.

33 weeks . . .

Dad's Twister victory dance.

Waiting for Dad to deal the Uno cards.

This is how I3 holds his cards!  We thought it was hilarious!!
Monday
It was back to school for all of us.  I held individual conferences with each of the older girls to determine what goals to set for this holiday month.  We put some books/subjects away for later and put extra effort into others to just get them done before Christmas and the arrival of the baby. 

It was a hard day--no one liked being back at the grindstone except the littles--until I got back from the library.

After dinner that night we decorated the Christmas tree:












Tuesday
Everyone woke up in far better moods and were better prepared to get to work today than they were on Monday.  It was a cheerful, focused day--the kind of day that we love to have.

We'd abandoned our usual preschool schedule of one alphabet letter a week in favor of random Christmas-themed preschool activities.  By chance I happened upon a blog that included this recipe for dish soap "dough."  It seemed snowy and wintery and Christmasy to me, so that's what we did.





It was a major hit with the two littlest.  I3 stuck with it for well over an hour, and he got the most satisfaction out of seeing me revitalize the "dough" with the mixer.  Every time it started to get watery and weak, I'd just plunk the mixer back in, and the bubbles would froth higher, lighter, and more fabulous than they were the time before. 

Even though it was dish soap, clean up was a pain because that much soap requires A LOT of rinsing!  I think I spent more than half an hour just getting the table, chairs, floor, and kids soap free.  But it was worth it. 

We might even do it again.

I started having contractions that afternoon.  They were irregular, but they wouldn't go away no matter what I did.  Even though Dad had spent the whole day stringing up our Christmas lights in anticipation of our lighting ceremony that night, I put myself to bed and let him take over the popcorn and hot chocolate preparation as well (I'd at least made the dry hot chocolate mix before lying down). 

Grabbing snacks before the big event . . . because Dad is patient with things like that. :)



I got up for the actual lighting of the lights.  We drank hot chocolate, ate popcorn, ooohed and aahhhed, and sang Christmas carols. 





I think this is my favorite of our holiday traditions. 

I went back to bed with a huge jug of water and some dinner because I was still contracting, while Dad handled dinner and a movie with the kids that night. 

The contractions did stop, and at the end of the week I am still safely pregnant with a very active baby boy.

Wednesday
It was my turn to lead the lesson for our Explorer's Club meeting, but because of my uncertain Tuesday night I'd asked for someone to cover for me.  I'm ever so thankful for the wonderful families in our group because there was an immediate outpouring of concern, advice, and volunteer hard work to take over at the last minute. 

I could have gone ahead and led the meeting because my lesson was all ready, but I was exhausted, sore, and emotionally vulnerable.  It was a joy for me to just have to show up and then sit in a corner while other dynamic, delightful mothers led the show.  We did our winter service project of making winter decorations for a local nursing home: snowman scenes on construction paper backgrounds, snowflake ornaments, paper
plate snowmen, sparkly blue and silver ornaments, etc.  They'll be delivered in time for the nursing home to put them up after Christmas so that the halls won't seem so empty once the Christmas decorations are taken down.

We hit the grocery store after the meeting, stocking up on easy-to-fix meal supplies just in case Tuesday night was a warm up for things to come.  All of the kids were super-duper helpful.  At one point M12 looked at me and said, "Shouldn't you be sitting down?  We can handle this." 

I did sit down, almost in tears with relief and gratitude.

That night we headed off to the church for youth activities.  The older girls designed modest and darling "formal gowns" out of tin foil, plastic garbage sacks, and duct tape.  Then they did a fashion show for any family/friends who were also in the church that night.  They even had a lighted runway.  It was a lot of fun, and the girls were really creative.

The younger kids played in the gym with toy cars.  When some of the older boy scouts finished with their meetings they came into the gym and played with my little guys.  Those boys won their way into my heart with their patient, loving play.

We were all so tired when we got home (2 late nights in a row!) that there were some pretty wild meltdowns.  I was so thankful that E14 stepped in to help in a very gentle, very soothing way with I3.  She was so good with him that even when I was free to take over his stories and tucking in, he chose E14 to stay with him.

Thursday was dark and chilly.  There was nothing better to do than to light a fire in the stove and hunker down with school books.  The highlight of this day was this game that the 3 littles and I played for preschool.  We're going to play it again soon!

When school was over for the day, kids with time on their hands got to work crafting presents for one another.  Whatever they've made has been created with "found" materials, and I have had absolutely no hand in any of it.  They pulled down the gift-wrapping box and filled gift bags with their homemade presents.  The tree is surrounded by well over a dozen gifts. 

And the kids are all very proud of themselves.

We had poetry night Thursday night.  I knew the little guys had worked on their poems, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most of the older girls had poems ready, too.  I hadn't seen any evidence of their efforts, so I'd thought they'd let it slide.

Sometimes I like being wrong. :)

We dumped our current read-aloud of Anna and the King of Siam because it isn't a good read-aloud.  All of us want to read it, but we want to curl up with it individually.  We pulled out our much-loved copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever instead.  Suddenly our evening reading is exciting!  All 4 older girls have heard it many times over, but this is the first time A7 is hearing it.  Her eyes are wide with anticipation, shock, and amusement with every page we share.

H5 is listening to Ramona the Pest for the first time.  She fought it at first, but by the time I'd read a few pages, she was hooked.  What I enjoy is how the older kids creep into the room, pretending not to listen, but actually loving hearing the familiar adventures of one of our favorite literary heroines. 

Friday was dark and chilly and rainy.  It was something of a repeat of Thursday except that I felt better, so I had the energy to make homemade bread for lunch--what a treat with butter melting all over it and spread thickly with homemade strawberry freezer jam!

J10, M12, and E14 all finished their penmanship books. 
J10 finished her current reading log.
J10, S12, and M12 finished typing up their geography reports.
S12 has entered 5,000 words of her NaNoWriMo novel into the computer--only 5,000+ to go!

Lately M12's scripture journal has gotten quite lively:


I so enjoy opening it up each day to see what she's added.

E14 and I have settled on a routine of her reading her history text aloud to me so we can talk about it--on Friday night she read while I cleaned I3's room.  She talks out short essays quite beautifully when there's no pen and paper involved. 

Dad and I had quite the conversation about what to do for/about our girl--what is she capable of?  What is  beyond her?  How much guidance does she still need?  We didn't arrive at any answers, but it felt good to talk things over.  We have a better focus for our prayers and pondering.

We got a call about a potential adoptive placement--4 little ones 5 and under.  We're not sure if this is the "right" placement for us as the oldest one has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (though he sounds only mildly affected) and we feel our calling is more with kids with behavioral problems than developmental challenges.  The adoption worker told us it will be several months before a decision is made, so we've left our names on the list of interested families because there's plenty of time for consideration and prayer. 

Our hearts really still lie with the family of 5 in Oklahoma about whom we inquired in September, but we've heard nothing in weeks, and  my most recent efforts at contacting the adoption worker there have been fruitless.  The last I heard was that the agency was waiting on the final tribal recommendation (these kids are registered under Arapaho protection). 

It's hard to wait.

Today is Saturday.  We have a baptism to attend at the church this morning, and then we have a list of chores on the whiteboard to knock off.  After that we'll deliver dinner to a friend who had a baby this week.

I'm not sure what else the day has in store, but it's been a good week.