Whack-A-Mole

Yikes…! Where does the time go?

I have had so many good blog posts formulating in my head. So many.

Posts about our holiday break, raising a big family, helping kids overcome and thrive, setbacks…you get the picture.

BUT, I am a mom. A mom of 6 children from toddlerhood to adulthood and all in between.

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To be honest, this year started like last year ended…full of emotions. We have had every type going on here. And me, I am trying to keep myself in control and reset my mind. Some days we are just surviving, barely hanging on. Playing Whack-a-mole as the kids take turns having issues. You never know who or what is going to happen.

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There are the boys. These boys…LOVE them to pieces, but they can really twist and turn the tides of the household dynamics. Let’s see we have one who was doing SOOO good only to go back to what we call foster mode (total emotional chaos, absent-mindedness, etc.), one doing super good, maturing and functioning on all cylinders (which doesn’t always happen). So good I called my mom. This one even gave me a hug! Another got tripped and broke his leg. (another post for later). We have lost wallets, tensions on high, sometimes overly aggressive boy behavior and Hubby and I trying to navigate our way through it all without losing it ourselves (which as humans we have). Can I repeat when one (just a certain one) of ours goes into the foster mode it really throws us all.

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Then there are our girls. One is preteen and still trying to find her way and place in our family. She finds it and then I think becomes uncomfortable. Our oldest, well, is great but for me learning how to have our, sort of still new, the adult relationship can leave me wondering if I am doing too much or too little. Overall the girls have been more help than not.

So this year is slowing coming together and slowing down I am trying to readjust some of my thinking patterns. Trying not to be so reactive. Trying not to change (fix) those in my immediate life. I am giving them to God and trying to let Him do the work I can’t. Letting God make up for all of these times I fall so very short. And learning grace again.

Okay, off to do laundry, dishes, my hair, laundry, make an appointment, oh did I mention laundry?

This December

I have, to be honest.  December loomed big on our mental calendars this year. With foster kids or kids who have experienced trauma in their short lives holidays, birthdays, celebrations and/or big events can be triggers.  For us, November is our wedding anniversary and Thanksgiving.  December started right off with us adopting our four ninos at 8:30 in the morning (yes, get seven of us courtroom ready and there by that time!!!), next day was one of their birthdays, throw in all of the regular Christmas time activities, sprinkle in house hunting, top it all of with a child who got triggered by all of the aforementioned and BAM! you have the December from hell.  Seriously, it was the hardest December for us ever.

You see our now nine-year-old son suffered the most trauma and came with the most pressing behaviors of the bunch.  Tantrums, shutting down, self-harm, every emotion in the book, lying, pooping in his pants (he has no physical problems), screaming, hurting others, failing school, totally absent-mindedness, unable to focus, forgetful, hurting our littlest dog, major fears, calls from school…it goes on, was what we were dealing with, not all on a daily basis but very much more than one per day, everyday.  Then came December!!  We had been warned about triggers, but getting a warning and living it are two completely different animals.  It ALL happened in a huge way in December.  After ten poopy pairs of underwear in under three weeks, we gave up counting.  No amount of time outs, time ins, very early bedtimes seemed to help.  No amount of hugs, reassurance seemed to help either.  No one had answers for us.  We kept praying and stayed steading on our course.

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This December, this year, has been so different.  NO, I repeat, NO poopy underwear!!!!!  I cannot tell you how much that upended our home and lives.  Most of the above behaviors are all but down to normal levels.  He has come so very far this year.  I wish I would’ve had a crystal ball to see where we, where he, is right now. It is so nice to be able to get to know him, who he really is without all of the trauma induced baggage that was slapping us all in the face.

Our Mr. Bubblewrap is so sweet, a true gentleman, a quiet leader, a very perceptive young man.  He is funny, sensitive, smart and a pleasure to be around.  The house is quieter when he is not around.  This young man is going to have a second Christmas (gifts) in January if he keeps it up!

While It’s Easy

This post was prompted by two conversations I had today.  One with my eldest, 18yo, son and then our 12yo son’s PE teacher.

18yo son and I were talking about a convo he had with our church’s youth group about being a martyr.  How many of us really know what we would do if we were faced with real persecution and/or martyrdom?  Probably none of honestly know what we’d really do.  I am sure as christians we have a scenario in our head of how it would all go down.  However, humbly, we just won’t know until we get there.  Which I pray we never arrive at that terrible juncture.

Could I still defend my faith, my belief in my savior Jesus while seeing any one of my kids tortured or faced with the threat of death?  My 18yo and talked about the horrible reality of what christians before us and even today in other parts of the world go through for their faith in a very graphic, grown up format, one not suited for this blog.  We left the sobering conversation with the choices we make today, the little ones, prepare us for bigger ones.  The ability to make huge stands starts with taking small ones, at school, at work, with friends, family, neighbors and sometimes even church people.  The little ones won’t seem so big once you do it a few times.  Then the bigger ones won’t look so big.

As an American, I take for granted my religious freedom and it has made me weak and not sure footed when pressed to defend my convictions.  That saddens and frightens me.  I know that many martyred christians were given a tremendous amount of courage, faith, peace and grace at their time of martyrdom.  I believe He still does and will continue to do so.

I also know that while I have time and the freedoms, I need to make the stands here, no matter how small they are, no matter how big they may feel.  12yo son is taking dance in P.E. right now and asked if he could be excused.  No problem.  We don’t really think it’s appropriate for middle schoolers to dance with each other anyway. So I wrote him an excuse note.  Then I got a call.  The P.E. teacher wanted to know why we wanted him excused.  I didn’t pull the religion card, though I could’ve.  Admittedly, while I knew exactly why we excused him, defending our stance was tougher than I thought.  The words for my case didn’t just flow out with confidence as I would’ve liked.  Though the teacher was understanding and I got my wish, it really brought to mind the convo 18yo and I had just hours earlier.  It really wasn’t a big deal to say no he couldn’t dance and that the school had to provide an alternative (which they had none, but came up with one) in light of what others go through.  Yet, I feel a bit stronger, a bit more prepared to defend my faith and my convictions the next time around.

The way things are going in the school system, (and America) I think I may need to gear up for more such stands, while it’s easy.  Before it gets real.

Our Silly Names

Chief Potato

Mr. Bubblewrap, or Donkey from Shrek

Little Man aka Little General

Nana

What’s up with these and what do they mean?

Chief Potato: second oldest son, oldest is our adopted sib group.  He also is a self-proclaiming lazy person, hence the potato=couch potato reference.  Chief just fits.

Mr. Bubblewrap: third son and third in our adopted group, needs bubble wrap as he is constantly getting hurt.  Donkey: a Shrek reference…just think about how much Donkey talks and how he acts in the movie…you get the picture.

Little Man/Little General: the youngest in all categories, just an affectionate name I gave him after I bought him a onesie with “Mom’s Little Man” on it.  It makes it easier to refer to him instead of going through the mental list of boys in our family as well.  He just acquired a new nickname that fits even better; Little General/The General as he so thinks he is the boss of all his siblings, even our adult ones.

Nana: our second daughter and right behind Chief in the birth order of our adopted ninos, it’s what The General calls her.

Ninos: a simple reference to our adopted children.

 

 

Read to Me

Read to me and I will grow.

Read to me about the things I should know.

Read to me right by my side.

Read to me and these things I will apply.

(by me)

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“Read to them”, “Have them read to you”, read, read and read.  This was the most common advice for all of our ninos, who came to us behind on various levels.  The advice came from their teachers, therapist (OT, Speech, etc.), everyone at their IEPs. Yet books, when the kids first came, were foreign, something they just didn’t “do”.

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The first summer reading program was like pulling teeth just to earn their T-shirts.  This was a blow to my mom ego, as I had been bringing my bios to story time and the summer reading program since they were in diapers.  Literally.

But we pressed on and this past summer reading program the children’s librarian commented, “You have some good readers.”  Boost to the ego for sure.  Mine and theirs.  The general is our bookworm.  Nana is reading big books.  Still working on the comprehension part of reading, but we’ll get there.

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Here Mr. B is reading to the library’s cockroach. Mr. B really struggled with reading.  Could not sound out words to save his life.  It was such an emotional time having him read to us. I had to give it up for awhile.  Hubby stepped in and yet the little wires in Mr. B’s brain seemed to be having such a hard time clicking and connecting.  Fast forward to the most recent report card…Mr. B is ON level in reading!!  This guy has accomplished so much already.

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We read everywhere.  In just about every room in the house.  We read labels, cooking instructions, homework, the Bible, street signs, etc.  It helps them realize why they need to read and understand what they are reading.  Mac-n-cheese doesn’t taste too good if you can’t read and/or follow the directions.

There are also some good online sites that read the book to the kids. Storytime Online, Storyline Online.  Also, if you have kids from birth to 5, be sure to sign them up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  The kids just love getting the books in the mail with their name on the postal label.  These are all free!

 

How reading helps kids:

*Sitting still.  Can’t say enough about sitting still.  For all kids but especially kids who don’t know what still means, what safe means, being still means you have not been on alert, not worry about what’s going on around you.

*Focus.  Focus on what the pictures are telling you, what the words are saying.  Again, focus on the story and not fear what’s going on around you.

*Comprehension.  When you can put words to the pictures you see you can get a better understanding of what’s going on in the story.

*Vocabulary.  Reading alone won’t build vocabulary, but alongside comprehension, it will.  It a child can figure out what a certain word means by deciphering the context of the sentence then they have pretty good problem-solving skills and can figure out just about any word.  If you don’t now the words you’re reading, reading won’t be any fun.  Chief Potato and Nana don’t really enjoy reading out loud to me.  I stop them often from seeing of they understand certain words, if they comprehend what they are reading.

*Problem-solving skills, relational skills.  When you read how the main character solved the conflict in the story you gain the knowledge you may need to get out of a jam in the future.  You learn how not to be a bully and what to do about bullies, and so on and so on.

*Increases the imagination. Do I even need to explain this one?  You can go anywhere, be anyone when you read books.

 

Tell me your favorite kid books, book sites, or tips on how to get kids to read.

Is Spelling Really That Important?

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Flashback to when our oldest daughter was in elementary school.  We would drill that week’s list of spelling words, over and over until she could spell her list.  Then forward a bit to homeschooling our oldest son.  Spelling was not his strong point and we had special ways to learn and practice his spelling words.  (I just did a quick web search and golly, there’s a wealth of info of teaching the right-brained child that wasn’t available then.)  All the while giving them grammatical tips that help to spell words.  Today, they are good spellers.  Fast forward to this week.  I am sitting at the bar, kitchen bar, with Mr. Bubblewrap going over his spelling words for the week.  This time I am teaching a bit different.  With technology, spell checks, etc. even bad spellers can write a decent letter, report, etc.

However, I am more concerned if they know what the words mean.  All of our ninos came to us behind on so many varying levels.  A biggie was their vocabulary and comprehension or a lack thereof.  Sure the older ones could read chapter books, BUT seriously only understood 50% of what they were reading.  A lot of life will pass then right on by at that rate.  Chief Potato found reading out loud to me quite a chore.  However, we do see the positive results in most of the kids.

My point?  Sure, knowing how to spell is good, but knowing what the words you’re spelling mean is so much more important.  We still go over the how-to-spell and the grammar side of spelling, but with less emphasis on those and more on their meanings.

 

Grateful for Sippy Cups

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Little Man is four and still uses a sippy cup.  Yes, I hear you, I hear you.  It is bad for his teeth.  We are all too aware of that, especially the way he drinks them (more on that later, maybe).  He can and does drink from a regular cup.  However, he doesn’t eat fruits or veggies (except for bananas) and this is the only way to get them in him.  We don’t know why this is.  Sensory issues?  Something with a possible problem with his cleft pallet?  Or just plain old picky eater syndrome?  For now, we are fine with him drinking his fruits and veggies and getting him to “try” some that I serve on his plates.  (Bribing anyone?)

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Just a side note.  I tried making my own smoothies for him, awhile ago (see the top photo).  However, that was a one-time event.  He wasn’t having any of the others I made.

Water-lemon and Sasquatch

Today was one of those roller coaster days.  We are coming off of a weekend of revelations and breakthroughs, looking forward to a new week.  Chief Potato and I had a good time doing our Life Skills part of homeschooling this morning.   As we were walking out I asked him what he learned.  He named off a few things and added, “how to drop things.”  (This boy makes me laugh.)  Let me tell you we (I) dropped way too many things throughout the store.

Little Man’s bus was about 20 minutes late.  After he had nibbled at his lunch, he opted out of taking a nap.  Which leads to him being Mr. Emo in the evening.  Very early bedtime tonight for this little man.

Then there were the afternoon calls that led my mind and emotions spiral out of control. The other two kids came home from school, thankfully in good moods.  They made me laugh, which I totally needed.  They also gave me about a five-minute window to get ahold of God. Let me tell you, chains were broken and I was set free!

So onto dinner.  I serve Zucchini Pizza.  Chief Potato asked “What’s this? Sasquatch?”  When he is on he is a riot.  He was thinking squash.  From here on out squash is now sasquatch.  We also had watermelon which Mr. Bubblewrap calls water-lemon.  Mr. Bubblewrap has cute names for various things.