Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween - 2014!

Two of our boys wanted to be villains for trick or treating this year, and you know what....?  We let them.  Pick your battles, pick your battles.  So we had a Cleopatra, Scarecrow (one of batman's nemeses), a hippie with a gas mask, Wanda (female version of Waldo from Where's Waldo?), a pirate, and the Joker (another one of batman's nemeses).

It was a cold, windy, rainy night for trick or treating, but they all went except Wanda, who handed out candy to the few brave souls who made it to our house!  (below is Little Man as the Joker, trying to look menacing)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Little Man

In the English class I teach at our home school co-op, we have been studying poetry.  Each of the students have had to write some short original poems (or long, as the case may be!) and I did it too.  Here is one that has been circulating in my heart for awhile and finally found it's way on to paper.  Any of my students could analyze this!  (and they have!)

Soft, smooth cheek
Quiet in sleep.
Scents mingled
Soap, sweat, and boy
lingering on still damp hair.

Breaths, even and deep
whisper a steady rhythm in his sleep.
Hidden dreams viewed
behind closed eyes.

My heart swells
as I gaze at my Little Man.
Growing so fast
yet still a boy.
Bridging the gap
between toddler and teen
as he sleeps.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday's Thankful Things

Today I am thankful for...

my cast being off!  Yippee!!!!!  Healing is not yet complete, but I have more mobility and I can WASH both my hands!  After a week of my cast being off, I could even fit my wedding ring on. :)

three of our teenagers each taking a turn cooking dinner this week.  Yes!

the beautiful fall colors and the bright sunshine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

To say or not to say, that is the question...

About a year ago I read a blog article written by an adoptive mom where she told about the challenges of knowing how much explanation to give to teachers, coaches, and other authority figures about her adoptive son's behavior and how she wanted them to interact with him.  If she spoke up she might allow others to define her son according to the information she shared with them, and treat him differently because of it.  If she said nothing she would have no understanding or support for how she wished to mitigate his manipulative behaviors.  I wish I could find that particular post again, but so far I have not been able to.  I could link it here and be done blogging! 

Adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing.  It also represents a life-altering loss, comes after some length of time living in trauma, and is itself a traumatic process.  The level of emotional manipulation adoptive children are capable of would hardly be believed by the rational, well-adjusted adult.  Nearly two years after our not-adoption of daughter H, it is still something we deal with regularly.  This fall it has centered around soccer.

We needed one season of soccer to fulfill her high school physical education requirement.  Just one season.  Daughter H is prone to anxiety and is easily overwhelmed if the schedule is full or if there is a lot of emotional stuff to process.  The anxiety she felt over all the unknowns related to soccer season ~ will I get a good coach?  Will the other girls like me?  Will I be any good?  What if I let my family down?  What if I'm not as good as my brothers?  What if, what if, what if??? ~ threatened to overwhelm her.  We made it as smooth as possible: let her pick out her own cleats, arranged for a good friend to be on the same team so she would already know one other person, showed excitement and eagerness at getting to watch her games, prayed with her over the unknowns, talked at length about what to expect, etc.  The one thing we did not do was prepare the coach.

Shortly into the first practice she had to sit down because her ankles hurt.  I have no doubt her ankles really did hurt.  She was not in the best of shape prior to starting practice, and soccer practice is hard physical work!  But she was sure she had plantar fasciitis.  She probably needed orthotics.  Maybe she even needed a cortisone shot.  I was 100% sure she did not have plantar fasciitis, nor did she need any special medical attention paid to her feet.  The sore ankles, while truly sore, gave her a reason to not play and have to deal with the possibility of not being "good enough" or "letting us down."  The anxiety was so high she had to find an out.  And in finding an out, she was manipulating the sympathies of others.

What to do?  If I showed too much sympathy I would be enabling her manipulation.  If I didn't, I would appear callous and un-caring.

I aimed for the middle - validated the pain she was feeling, while down playing the seriousness of it. 

During the second practice she very dramatically collapsed after a warm-up run and said she couldn't breath.  She stayed down for several minutes to catch her breath and eventually rejoined her team.  Later that evening I got an email from her coach asking if she'd had a physical recently and did I know of any physical conditions that would limit her ability to play?  I pondered how to respond, and ultimately decided that since our relationship with this coach was going to be so short-lived I would simply answer that yes, she has seen a Dr recently, and no, she did not have any physical conditions.  She was just new to soccer and not in the best of shape.

Since then she has not been able to make it through a single game this season without leaving the field for a while due to some physical symptom.  Invariably a teammate or another parent has rushed to her side to make sure she was okay.  I so appreciate their sincerity and desire to help.  I do not appreciate their unwitting participation in the emotional manipulation.  When she is stressed or anxious, there will *always* be a symptom of some kind.  A reason not to continue.  She needs so much reassurance, so much validation, and so much "push back" from the manipulation.  She needs us to see the manipulation for what it is, and speak to her underlying anxiety.  She needs us to love her unconditionally and give her umpteen million messages that she doesn't need to "be great" in soccer in order to please us.  She just needs to try!  Honestly and genuinely.  She needs to know that it's okay to ask for what she really needs, and that if she doesn't know how to NOT manipulate, we will love her anyway.

I am not sure I made the right call in not talking to her coach.  But I think I did.  And after this weekend, her one soccer season will be over.

And you know what?   She did GREAT. :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Our Week in Review

 In this post I told how we are doing a "math hour" and an "English hour" every morning.  I am loving this because it encourages the kids to "work ahead" (almost never does a day's scheduled math work take the full hour, except for the oldest two) and do subject-related games or activities for the rest of the allotted hour.  This means seldom used games are now being used!  Little Man and I play a math related game almost every day.  It's fun!

This year, thank the Lord!, I have been able to keep up with teaching writing to the younger two boys together three days a week.  At least so far!  I am spending roughly a month on each of the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style units.  In September we worked through units 1 and 2 (they go together) and are currently working through unit 3, which is story writing.  This week we made an outline together of the story, The Lion and the Shepherd, and each of the boys copied the outline onto notebook paper.  From this outline they later re-wrote the story in their own words.  Next week we will add "dress ups" and type the finished stories.

Our four high schoolers get most of their daily writing homework from their English class at our co-op (which I teach!).   We have been studying poetry, and have a test coming up next week.  Here daughter G is making flashcards of all the poetic device definitions that will be on the test (surrounded by piles of clean folded laundry!).

We spent four weeks learning about Ancient Egypt, the land Moses grew up in.  This week we went back to the beginning and read about creation through Noah's flood from the book of Genesis, which Moses is believed to have authored.  We are only half done with this creation poster, but each of us gets to illustrate one square.

And at the end of the day, story time with dad.  He is currently reading the first Harry Potter book out loud to the whole family.  He does all the different voices and is a delight to listen to.  Truly!  (again, surrounded by piles of clean folded laundry!  While you listen, you fold...)

There were hard moments during this week, even hard whole days, but I am choosing to be grateful for all that was accomplished in our minds and souls in spite of the hard times.  God is faithful!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Egyptian Paddle Dolls

Our senior asked me during the summer if I could please make history "fun" for her final year of high school.  I told her I would try!  The ancient world is her favorite period of history to study so she is thrilled to end her high school career learning about that time period, and she is so artsy/craftsy that I decided one of the ways we would make history fun was to do hands on projects a couple/few times a month.  Our first such project was making Egyptian paddle dolls.

Egyptian girls played with flat dolls made from wood.  We made ours from cardboard.  The girls made girl dolls, and the boys made boy ones. :)

We had beads and yarn available for hair, if desired.  We talked about how Egyptians created art ~ they painted heads in profile, because that was considered the most attractive view, bodies head on (again, most attractive view), and feet in profile.  It made for a very interesting and distinctive perspective!

Here are the finished dolls, from left to right....daughter G's, son G's, daughter H's, son L's, son C's, and Little Man's.  A fun afternoon of painting!

Monday, October 13, 2014

First Day of School ~ 2014

 Our traditional breakfast out on the first day of school!  Clockwise from left to right:  first day of 10th grade, first day of 7th grade, first day of 9th grade, first day of 12th grade, first day of 10th grade, and first day of 4th grade.

We came home from breakfast out and made our traditional cookie dough maps.  Because we are studying Year 1 of Tapestry of Grace this year (the Ancient World), we once again made maps in the shape of Egypt.  We used chocolate chips for the mountains and blue frosting for the Nile River, Mediterranean, and Red Sea.  Daughter G also used gold sprinkles for the desert.  Click here for detailed instructions on how to make cookie dough maps.

Son C's finished map.
Little man's.  

Daughter H's.

Son L's.

Daughter G's.

Son G's.

Hubby and I spent considerable time this summer evaluating last school year and praying about what we could do to put a framework in place that would be more conducive to success.  Attitudes of others we cannot control.  Routines and methods we can!  We made the "radical" decision to require all our children to work in the schoolroom during the morning, and to do their work in a specific order.  We expected some balking from our high schoolers since they were used to working in their bedrooms, but nearly everyone was surprisingly amenable to this idea!

Three of our children begin their day with math hour, and the other three with English hour.  I literally set a timer for an hour, and when it beeps the math students switch to English and the English students switch to math.  This degree of structure is something we've borrowed from brick and mortar schools, and it is working very well!  If math or English work is not completed during this time, it becomes "homework" for later in the afternoon/evening.  This is followed by science hour, and then it's lunchtime.  After lunch we have book time and history all together, and then the children are free to finish their work anywhere in the house where they feel they can get it done.

Little man has both his regular desk (behind him in this pic), and the old fashioned wooden school desk, where he likes to watch his math lessons on dvd.  We call this area under the stairs his cave!  He loves to spend time in it, and he's pretty much the only person who can comfortably fit there. :)

This is the view from my desk.  Little man and daughter H's desk is slightly behind me and to the right of this pic.

I am thankful for a dedicated place to work.  I'm thankful for children to teach, and for the privilege of learning together with them at home.  I'm thankful for the full support, encouragement, and wisdom of my husband.  I'm thankful this school year got off to a much better start than last year!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Senior Pictures!

Had a delightful time with daughter G this week, getting her senior pictures taken.  I can hardly believe that we have a SENIOR, yet at the same time I can because I get to see her maturing and blossoming right before my eyes every single day.  She is a treasure to my heart.  I am so excited for what God has in store for her!  And so thankful that she is having a fabulous senior year!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Vacation, Part 2 ~ Camping and Creation Museum!

It was a tight squeeze, but we fit everything in for a week of camping!

My husband had the brilliant idea to use pool floaties for double duty....floaties by day and air mattresses by night.  They were less than a dollar each, so we could afford some extras in case of breakage. ;)

There was a gaggle of girls at the campground swimming pool who were quite literally oohing and ahhing over our teen boys.  **Sigh!**

Fortunately, our boys had eyes only for the pool, or their books!


Breakfast in the rain.

Dinner at Steak 'n Shake!  A good plan to eat out on a rainy day. :)

At the Creation Museum!!

After labor day weekend we almost literally had the entire campground to ourselves.  It was wonderfully relaxing to not fight the crowds.

On our drive home, we detoured to the city and the actual apartment where I was living at the time that my future husband and I finally saw one another again after two years of letter writing and falling in love through the mail.  The lower apartment behind us was the scene of his declaration of love, the place where we first spoke of marriage, and the scene of our first kiss!

Thank you, Lord, for family and making precious memories with them.