Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas From The It Feels Like Chaos Family

May the miracle that is Christmas surround you and bless you with His love.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Gifts that Require No Shopping!

As I finally finish my Christmas shopping just today, my children remind me of the heart of Christmas:

The handmade gifts they've carefully created and lined up under the tree.

"And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"  Matt 18:2-3

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Christmas Elves

My elves have been hard at work!

Adding address labels to Christmas cards:

Making wrapping paper:

A certain 6 year old boy learned how to make paper snowflakes:

The mess of little bits of paper all over the floor, chair, and table did not make me rue the day his first grade teacher taught him this skill, not at all!

And my furry elf was very busy this weekend, too:

Clearly the dog is exhausted from all the work unstuffing her new duck!  But we are enjoying the fake snow effect of the stuffing all over the house.  It adds to the holiday ambiance for sure!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A porch full of packages, an unstuffed duck and other random things

Remember on Monday when I said I had just that morning done most of my Christmas shopping on the Internet?  Well, guess what our front door looked like today:

I texted my husband the picture while he was at work with the message, "Santa came!"

Now, to wrap everything . . .


We celebrated a birthday here on Monday.  Madeline the goldendoodle turned 3 years old!  The new stuffed duck she got for her birthday:

That duck got excellent reviews on Amazon and truly it did survive longer than many stuffed toys Madeline has had, but tonight the duck lost a good amount of stuffing.  I daresay by the end of the weekend it will be just a carcass like all her other animals.

Poor Madeline needs a grooming terribly but when I called the groomer this week to schedule an appointment he politely told me that they were booked until the new year.  What?  Oh, I guess everyone wants a clean, freshly groomed dog for the holidays.

So, guess what we'll be doing this weekend?  Grooming our own dog.  And next year you can bet I'll be making that holiday grooming appointment earlier!


Because my kids might look back at this blog someday when they are grown, here is photographic proof that I was a nice mom.  Their after school snack last Friday:

Hot chocolate AND a homemade (okay home-baked) cookie!!!  That has to erase all the times I nagged you to hang up your coat already!  


And speaking of coats, WHY is it still cold?  We live in an area of the country where 70 degrees days are not uncommon in December and anytime we get really chilly temps, like in the 30s, then it only lasts a couple days and bam, we're back up into the 70s and wearing our flip-flops.

But, we have now had a full 8 days since we were able to wear shorts!  Yesterday before school I told one of my children to get their coat and they looked at me and asked incredulously, "It's STILL cold?!!"  See, it's unusual this cold snap that won't go away.  Of course, I realize my whining about 30 degrees is laughable to many of you who live in the frozen tundra and my winter hat really does go off to you.  I would not survive!


Happy Friday!  If you need me I'll be mailing Christmas cards, grooming my dog, watching the 6 year old's first basketball game, and wrapping presents -- maybe not all at the same time, but if anybody has an app for that, please share!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Prejudice in Preschool?

This happened over a month ago, but honestly I'm just now at a place where I can talk about it.  Please know that this is a very personal, delicate situation and I'm only sharing it with the hope that it will help someone else.

For anyone new to my blog, some backstory.  Our family adopted a 3 year old girl from Ethiopia nearly 2 years ago.  Here is a recent picture of my 4 children:

 We are a multiracial, multicultural family.  We knew/know there will be challenges.  But, for the most part people have been lovely and accepting.

We were not so naive to believe that our youngest daughter would never be discriminated against because of the color of her skin.  But, we didn't expect it to start in preschool!

Our Little Girl came home from preschool, one day saying that another child had told her, "I don't like people with brown skin."

That statement as we drove home from school instantly sucked all the air out of the car for me!

As a white person, you hear of discrimination against other races and it is horrifying and makes you sad.  But, you cannot really understand because you have not lived it.  You begin the process of adopting a black child and you read tons of books, talk to people from a variety of races, read blogs, buy baby dolls and Barbies from every shade, begin hunting for children's books where the main character is black, you learn to do kinky-curly hair, go to a black hair salon, cry over Trayvon's death, and you feel like maybe your eyes have been opened.  Then someone tells your child that they are somehow less than because of the color of their skin.  And it's like a sucker punch.  You realize you had NO IDEA!

So what do you do?

Well, we had some different opinions/emotions here at the It Feels Like Chaos household.  

Little Girl?  She was upset and loudly (because that is how she tells everything) retold the story several times that day. 

Me?  I was sad.  I didn't really think it was prejudice, I mean the kids are 5.  I teach 4 and 5 year olds at our church and I know that is the age, especially it seems in the girls, of the whole, "Yeah, well I'm not inviting you to my birthday party!"  Kids that age begin playing around with including and excluding.  I believe the child who made the comment was just doing that rather than expressing any deep-seated dislike of one particular race.  But, it made me sad that Little Girl now had a reason to think her brown skin was somehow bad.  And I worried she would internalize that feeling and it would stay with her through life.  I also may have told my husband I wanted to move.  We live in a pretty diverse area with people who are originally from China, India, Vietnam, Latin America, Africa, as well as all parts of the U.S., but there is not a high percentage of black people in our community.  And I worry about Little Girl growing up in the minority and sometimes think it would be easier if we moved to a community where my white children were in the minority.

My 10 year old son?  He heard Little Girl telling the story of what the child had said to her.  I asked him, "What would you tell your sister about someone saying that to her?"  His answer surprised me (and also made me a little proud of his protective big brother instincts).  He said, "Maybe I should go pay that child who said that a visit."  I was like, "What would you say to them?"  And he said, "I'd have a speech all written out."

My husband had a similar reaction.  He felt we should let the child's parents and the teachers know what had been said.

I really did not think the answer was to focus on the one child who made the comment because it was a symptom of something bigger.  And there would likely be others.  I thought we should focus on empowering our girl, maybe she could even label it when someone said something like that to her in the future and say, "That is not kind!  That is discrimination!"  And my girl has a big, strong personality so I thought she could handle those words.  And at the very least her words would alert a nearby teacher to what was going on.

Thankfully, we acted on nearly none of our instincts!

Instead, we contacted friends.  We are friends with a black couple who have adopted a white son, so we are sharing the journey of being multiracial families!  My husband has lunch with the man periodically so he emailed him right away and asked, "If it were your daughter, what would you do?"

His answer was, "tell the other kid, 'it's okay, I like everybody.  People with all skin colors are nice.' And walk away.  Tell your daughter that she doesn't have to play with the other kid if she didn't want to.  We'd also tell her that some people may not like her, but that's ok, and that she should like everyone regardless of how they look.  It's a tough conversation she won't fully comprehend for years, but she can understand enough to spare her feelings right now.  Just love on her and let her know she's beautiful and special."

I'm so thankful to have the wisdom of these friends!  And as we were reminded afresh with the eulogies to Nelson Mandela, forgiveness and reconciliation are the best answers.

So, we took our friends' advice and had a sweet conversation with our Little Girl.  But, also . . .

As God would have it (I don't believe in luck or chance), I was signed up to read to my Little Girl's preschool class the very next week!

Can you guess what kind of books I chose to read?


This one is my favorite:

The book describes people as being shades, not colors, things like creamy, ivory, sandy, peach, coffee, cocoa, copper, tan, pink, rose, almond, and bronze.  It has tons of beautiful pictures of children's faces.  The best line in the book is when it says, "Our skin is just our covering, like wrapping paper. And, you can't tell what someone is like from the color of their skin."

I emailed the teacher ahead of time to give her a heads up about what I was going to do and it also conveniently let her know about what had gone on in the classroom without pointing fingers (I didn't tell which child made the comment) and hopefully without seeming like the mom who is always complaining to the teacher about what goes on in the classroom.  The teachers were very supportive of my reading the book and I ended up donating it to the classroom and it is now a permanent fixture in their book corner.

I am also thankful that Little Girl has some great role models in her life who have brown skin.  Her fabulous dance teacher who recently quit teaching school to be a dance teacher full-time, also the owner of the dance studio is a black woman, Little Girl's swim teacher is a black man, and my 6 year old's first grade teacher is black, oh and the President of the United States of America!

Just a quick aside since many white people think it is a respectful term, from what I hear from black people, most don't really like the term "African American".  "Just call me black," one lady told a group of adoptive parents I am a part of.  Unlike my Ethiopian daughter, many black people have never lived in Africa and to say they are "African American" makes them feel somehow less "American" than if we just dropped the "African" part of that.

And now a month later?  My Little Girl considers the child who made the comment her friend.  They play together.

We're learning.  It's painful at times.  But, it is good and we are so grateful for the journey.  God is refining us!

Find more Thankful Thursday here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Display for Christmas Cards

Not that we've sent our Christmas cards out yet, but other people have.  So it's time for me to put up my Christmas card display.  I have been using the same card display system for the past 5 years and it still works great; the whole family likes seeing the photos of friends and family hanging in our house!  Here's what I do:

Repost from November 3, 2009:

I love displaying the Christmas cards that we get, especially since so many of our friends have little kids and send cards with pictures. It is really fun to have all the cards up in the house, marvel at how much all the kids have grown and changed, and just enjoy all the cute little faces!

But until last year I didn't have a system I really liked for displaying the cards. But then I figured out this system to hang the cards onto 2 doors we have between our living room and breakfast room that we leave open all the time. I bought cheap over-the-door plastic hooks, tied thick ribbon I had on hand around the hook, made a bow and left a long tail hanging down. Then as I got cards in the mail I simply stapled them down the length of the ribbons.

It was so easy to put up initially, easy to add to as more cards came in, not to mention cheap! And we enjoyed looking at it so much it was the last Christmas decoration to come down (possibly even waiting until early February)!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday tips here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Best Way To Christmas Shop

Today, after the hustle of getting the 3 big kids off to elementary school and Little Girl dropped off at preschool,  I finally had 3 whole hours with all 4 of my kids in school and no appointment or commitments of somewhere I had to be.  This happens rarely.

I had some, okay, a lot, honestly, ALL my Christmas shopping still to do.

So, did I spend the 3 hours driving all over town in the cold and the rain, fighting over parking spots perusing disheveled store shelves, and waiting in lines?  NO WAY!

I came home to my gloriously silent house, poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down on my couch with a cozy blanket, and did 90% of my Christmas shopping right there from my living room!

Oh how I do love the Internet!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Week in Review is too ambitious, how about The Last Two Days in Review?

Kids here were wearing shorts yesterday, it was 80 degrees, and now it is 41 degrees, definitely heavy winter coat weather for us!  I checked the weather last night and the cold front was supposed to come through this evening, but instead it came through around lunchtime.  So, at elementary school pick-up today I was in a group of several moms, all of us in our coats and still huddled against the cold, waiting for the schoolyard gate to open.  And I asked, "Anyone else have kids in there in short-sleeves?"  "Yes!" was the universal reply!


We found this guy smuggled in our house this week.  

The lizard gave my husband quite the surprise as he was perched on the laundry bag I use for cloth napkins and my husband stuck his hand up to put some dirty napkins in the hanging bag and instead touched the lizard!  My husband's scream woke the children we'd already put to bed!


I'm not sure why I assume the lizard is a guy rather than a girl, but it reminds me of a funny conversation I had with my 5 year old daughter this week.  She was talking about a roly-poly bug she found in the backyard and kept referring to it as "he" and "him".  So, I asked her how she knew it was a boy and she told me roly-polys just are boys.  "Really?" I asked, "Well, what about ladybugs?  Are they girls or boys?"  "Girls!"  she replied confidently.  "What about caterpillars?"  I asked.  "Boys," she said.  And trying to trip her up I said, "What about butterflies?"  She quickly said, "They're girls."  In an attempt to refute her logic I said, "But, caterpillars turn into butterflies."  Without missing a beat she gasped, "Ohhhh, the boys turn into girls!" 


Another picture from my camera this week:

I have tons and tons of this type of picture from my precious 3rd child over the years.  He's a builder.  I've often thought I should create a picture book for him with all the photos I have of his creations.  But, it's not yet happened.  Oh, how many projects I'd love to tackle if only I could find the time!


Happy Friday!  Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Free Toy To Entertain Your Kids For Hours!

This afternoon my 8 year old and 5 year old daughters entertained themselves for over an hour in the backyard making this:

A house out of leaves and dirt!

At least now I know what to get them for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How To Teach Your Child to Read

My 4th child is learning to read and I am trying a different method than I used with my older 3 children and it is working great!

I wish I'd used this program with my 3rd child as I think it would help him now reading harder books to be better at sounding out long, unfamiliar words he comes across.

The book is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I'm on lesson 40 right now with my 5 year old pre-kindergarten daughter who was adopted from Ethiopia at age 3 and began speaking English less than 2 years ago.  And get this, SHE IS READING!  Really, really reading! Sentences!  Words like "the" and "fast" and "she" and "feel"!

Honestly, I am truly amazed!  I began this book with Little Girl this year before she goes to kindergarten next year because I was worried reading would be a struggle for her only having been exposed to the English language for 2 years.  And I've watched public kindergarten get harder with more expectations even since my now 5th grader went through to what I saw expected of my son who was in kindergarten last year.  I don't completely agree with the rigor that has been added to kindergarten, but overall our local public school has been excellent for my older 3 kids so I do my best to help my kids rise to the expectations they'll have in kindergarten.  Also, it helps that I LOVE our kindergarten teacher.  The same teacher taught my older 3 kids and I love her teaching style and the way she interacts with the kids. 

Each lesson in this Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book only takes about 15-20 minutes and really it is a sweet one-on-one time with my Little Girl each afternoon after her preschool and while the big kids are still at school.  She enjoys the lessons and reminds me we need to "work on my reading!"  I got a bunch of those gold, silver, green, blue, and red foil stars and I let her pick a star after she finishes a lesson and put it on a chart we made to show her progress through the lessons.

The lessons can be a little monotonous for you as the parent because the book wants you to follow each step exactly and tells you word for word what to say as you walk your child through the activities.  But, it works and it takes all the thinking out of the deal for you, which is nice when you are frazzled on a busy day!

I like that the book focuses a lot on letter sounds and sounding out words, sight words only get you so far and understanding phonics helps with spelling later.  Also, I like that the book includes a reading comprehension section where the child sounds out words in a short story and then you ask them questions about what they just read.  And there is a writing aspect, too, at the end of each lesson where the child practices 2 different letters.

We are not through with this curriculum, but even if I stopped now at lesson 40, I am a happy customer and believe this is a wonderful method to teach your child to read!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

***I was not compensated in any way to endorse this book.  I am an affiliate and will earn a small percentage of the sale should you make a purchase using my link.  I only recommend products I have truly used and loved.***

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Race To Christmas

The race is on. 

Christmas is 23 days away!

Oh, the frenzy!

It ALL must be done and bought and opened and baked and eaten and experienced!

Until the big day is over, chopped down and hauled off, like our Christmas tree at the farm yesterday.

But, wait!

What is Christmas all about?

Matthew 1:21, "She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins."

God sent His Son into the world as a baby to suffer and die for our sins so that we might be saved!

Jesus, the King and Savior of the world was born in a stable and laid in a manger.  What a different scene from the glitz and gild of a department store display!

Each year we as a family are mindful to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas, but this year we're also slowing down, pulling more out of the race, declining some Christmas party invitations, so there will be more time for Christ to fill our Christmas.

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy."  Matthew 2:10