Thursday, November 27, 2008

Celebrating CrazyMom’s Birthday

Planning a birthday for a woman you know well enough to know that you don’t know exactly how she thinks can be challenging. I planned out a whole day that I thought would be fun for CrazyMom, but I got concerned early on in the day. The day started with CrazyMom sipping coffee and reading the paper in bed. When I fixed breakfast I gave each kid something to deliver to mom in bed – a fork, a tray, a glass, a plate, etc. The kids delivered the goods to mom and after they left I stuck my head in to the room to make sure everything was alright.

“Need anything else?” I asked confident the answer would be no since I had obviously provided everything CrazyMom could want right now.

“Yeah, a little company. It is lonely up here,” she replied.

Lonley?!?!? Is this the same woman who when I enter the house from work I find tired from the incessant bombardment of questions from her children? Now the over-stimulated mother declares herself “lonely” at 8:30 am in the morning. Well, I fixed that by sending the kids two at a time to talk to her for the next hour.

CrazyMom then had a day out on the town with a few activities planed for her (including lunch with a friend so she would not get too lonely) while the rest of us cleaned, cooked, shopped, baked, wrapped, and decorated to prepare for mom’s return. After a family birthday party, me cooking the dinner of her choice (umm, from my repertoire of one dish), we settled in for a family movie. When picking a family movie, I consider it a success if CrazyMom cries and the movie we watched was a great success. (It is actually easy to pick such a movie. Simply find a G rated movie where the review uses the word “heartwarming”. Kit Kittredge fit the bill.)

By the way, you may be wondering how old CrazyMom is now. In order to protect her privacy, I will only say that she turned 3 times the integral from 4 to 5 of the quantity of x squared minus seven. (Just think, my calculus students think that they will never have the opportunity to use their calc skills in their personal lives. I just showed them!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

K.D.'s School Story

Tuesday evening our family joined some other home-schooling families for a geography fair. Each family presented a country of their choice. Not surprisingly, we chose to present Ethiopia. In preparing for the event, we talked more about Ethiopia than we normally do. As a result, some new stories emerged from our children that we had not heard before. Here is one from K.D. about something that happened when he was in school in Ethiopia.

In case you can't follow K.D.'s story, here is a synopsis. The teacher gave the kids an opportunity to go the bathroom during the school day. K.D. was the first to the boys room, but as he was going to the bathroom another boy pushed into the bathroom. K.D. accidentally peed on the boy's pants. The teacher was not pleased and asked the students who would want to go and get the perfect stick. The teacher selected one of the many volunteers who went and retrieved a stick from a nearby tree, which the teacher promptly used to spank K.D.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Lucky Ones

The other night at the dinner table I announced that we would be having a family meeting that evening. This type of announcement always creates an air of excitement because the kids have learned that often things get “announced” at family meetings - the type of things that Mom and Dad talk about back in the office with the door closed.

They immediately started peppering me with questions, which was foolish since they know that I would never leak anything early. They then resorted to guessing what the agenda item might be, knowing that if they were close, my dead pan expression might waver and they could get a hint of what was to come.

“Are we adopting again?” asked F.G.

“No,” I said. You can’t just leave that question out there without putting an end to it. Not all were convinced, which quickly led to speculation, which quickly led to the girls lobbying for another girl and the boys lobbying for another boy.

CrazyMom chimed in since she is seen by the kids as the authority figure on the question of whether or not there will be more children joining our family. “While it is interesting to think about if we will adopt again, that is not what the family meeting is about tonight.” I noted that CrazyMom clearly put the final nail into the coffin on the issue of adopting again – for the evening.

Well, at the family meeting the announcement came – we are going to be sponsoring a child in Ethiopia who is at the AHOPE orphanage. CrazyMom had photos of the girl which the kids eagerly devoured. The kids were not aware that we could do such a thing and were excited about us being able to help out the friendly looking girl in the picture.

Now maybe you were not aware that you could do such a thing either. AHOPE (African HIV Orphans: Project Embrace) is one of the orphanages CrazyMom and I visited when we were in Ethiopia. It is the only one that we are aware of that is dedicated to caring for HIV positive children. I remember standing in the midst of around fifty kids at Big AHOPE – the compound for the older children. As the children swarmed around me the thought that was going through my head was, “These are the lucky ones. Of all of the HIV positive children in the country, these are the children who made it to AHOPE and who can get the medicine and support they need.”

Now you can help other children be a part of the “lucky ones” by sponsoring a child. If you are interested you can visit the AHOPE site and follow the "Sponsor a Child" link.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Just Never Know

You just never know what you might find in our house. The other evening the call went out to the kids to wash their hands and come to the table for supper. CrazyMom and I finished setting the last items on the table as the kids took their places. As I sat down, I noticed we were short a couple of kids. Feeling a little agitated since sufficient time had been allowed for hand washing, I headed for the half bath on the main floor to see what was taking so long. When I looked in upon the tardy table-comers my agitation vanished. Necessity is the mother of invention, but invention does takes time. Evidently the stool that is normally in the bathroom had been commandeered for another activity earlier in the day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Big Trouble

Anna is a perceptive little girl and she has picked up on how we call a child by their first name if we are happy with them, by their first and last name if they are in trouble, and by their first, middle, and last name if they are in big trouble.

The other day I was teasing CrazyMom a little and getting myself into trouble. Anna was there and knew I was in a little bit of trouble and so she said, “Daddy Smith!” with the perfect intonation that CrazyMom would use with a child in trouble. We all burst out laughing and Anna indignantly put her hands on her hips and playfully stomped off.

Anna on more than one occasion has heard us reprimand Little Foot using his full name – Little Foot Jacob Smith. The other day she was upset with her brother K.D. and exclaimed, “K.D. Jacob Smith!” using the middle name of Little Foot instead since it was more familiar to her.

Using Little Foot’s middle name whenever any of her brothers are in trouble would be funny enough, but she uses it with her sisters as well. Today she was upset with her sister Ed who she thought had cheated her out of some candy. “Ed Jacob Smith!” she exclaimed.

The only person who I have not heard her do this with is CrazyMom. Evidently she is under the incorrect perception that CrazyMom never gets into trouble.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wintertime Family Dinners

When we sat down to eat the other night, the early setting sun and the changing of the clocks reminded me that my favorite family dinners have now arrived – wintertime family dinners.

While I talk all day as a teacher, (occasionally) write for this blog, and run great family meetings, I am largely a non-vocal presence at our dinner table. At mealtimes I am either lost in thought or quietly observing the rich phenomena of seven children eating dinner. Of course there is a “Put your knees down” here, a “No bathroom talk at the table” there, and the times when the kids ask me to go around the table and give them a math or science question to answer, but my default behavior is non-vocal.

I find that during the part of the year when the sun is up at dinner, I am usually lost in thought and not observing the children. Sitting at the table and being able to see past my children to the uncut lawn often proves to be just too much of a distraction for me to stay engaged in their banter. In addition, the meals are more rushed in order to get to a soccer practice or to some yard work. This creates an atmosphere where my mind is often elsewhere.

How different the experience is for me when the dominant source of light is the fixture above the table and not the windows. The photographer side of me enjoys watching the warm glow of my children’s faces due to the incandescent lighting. I also love that the distracting background is dimmed due to the lack of ambient light. The interestingness of the texture, the color of their skin and their facial features standing out against a darker backdrop causes me to now spend more time observing my children rather than being lost in thought. It is also a time of year when the call to go outside to work or play is quieter and one can linger a few minutes longer at the table. It is a wonderful change of pace for me.

This change of lighting – from the ambient light from outside to the single light above our table – helping to create more focus and intimacy at our dinner table reminds me of my relationship with Christ. How easy it is to be distracted by the competing light of the world. When I change my life back to single source lighting, my perspective changes. It reminds me of a song I use to sing as a child:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

End of the Soccer Season

As I sit down and look at my calendar for the next week, it is remarkably clear. As I have mentioned before, we had six kids playing on five soccer teams this fall. The last game of the season wrapped up on Saturday ushering in a new era of couch potatoness (or at least no more 10 minute power suppers).

The kids did a great job and had a lot of fun. Miss Bookworm's team, which lost a lot of games during the season, ended on a high note winning the last two games they played both of which were on the same Saturday. Ed's team made it to their championship game, but lost 2-1 (see the special video clips at the end). F.G.'s team won their championship and Buddy's team lost 2-1 in his championship game.

Here is a photo of each kid from the season.

Here Ed scores a goal in her final game.

Ed missed this one, but it was a great effort.