Monday, December 9, 2013

What's Really Going On

Several months ago, BoyTwo was officially diagnosed with FAS.  Although I already knew that this was most likely what he was dealing with, I felt like I had been slapped in the face when I was told.  I was surprised at how sad I felt for him.  I know that he will continue to progress, at his own rate, I know that people with FAS can be successful, I know all of that.  I'm also aware of a lot of the statistics associated with FAS and those remain my concerns.  I'm scared for him.  It's tricky, you see.  BoyTwo is likely going to need assistance forever.  This may be in the form of someone helping him budget, grocery shopping with or for him, someone living with him.  He's going to need somebody to be his exterior brain.  This person will largely be responsible for helping him with his executive functioning (or lack there of).  He will need to be able to trust someone enough to rely on them.  Which gives us our next hurdle: teaching someone with attachment difficulties to trust.  The irony of it all.  It's just one giant circle of FAS causing other difficulties in his life. 

I was mad at his bio mom for a minute.  And then I just felt sad for her, too.  

This school year is going well for him.  He is in special ed/resource/whatever the current politically correct terminology for that class is at the moment for half of his day.  During the other half, he has pull outs for reading and his own personal aide comes in with him to do his work.  His behavior has come a long way.  His teacher has been great to work with and works so well with him.  I did my usual 'BoyTwo Training' for all those who would be working with him at the beginning of the year and that seems to have really helped.  

It's hard to watch the already large gap between him and his peers continue to widen.  I see little spurts of growth from time to time where something will click and that gives us all hope:)  My heart hurts for him because his peers are also getting old enough to see how different he is and while they are still very kind to him and extremely tolerant of his behaviors, this year there is a much different feeling between them all.  He doesn't really notice that he doesn't have any friends or that he is so different than others and I guess I'm grateful for that.  He does have one little friend.  Our neighbor who is four years his junior.  

I continue to spend much of my time at the school.  I started an art program and that has been really fun for me to do.  I  do a lesson for half the school one week and the other half of the school gets it the next week. We are learning about master artists, composers and authors.  I love introducing the students to these fascinating people, many of whom struggled with identity, learning disabilities and misfortune of their own.  I love the life lesson it provides to persevere, have faith in one's self, and to not be afraid to try.  I also come up with an art project to go along with each lesson and that has been... a huge learning curve.  I'm not at all artistic and as a child I hated art during school.  It caused me enormous stress to not be able to perfectly recreate the assigned project and to not be able to make my hands produce what my mind was envisioning.  One of my first lessons this year was about Picasso who has said that you cannot create a masterpiece without first making a mistake (or something along those lines.  I don't want to look up the actual quote).  I encourage the kids to not erase, but to make each seeming mistake into a work of art, to add interest to the piece and beauty and originality.  See how it's so much like real life?  

This semester I have homeschooled One part-time.  She comes home every day after lunch.  I have loved this time with her while she still likes me and thinks I know something:)  I love that we can personalize her curriculum and have one on one time together that we otherwise would not have.

Four has taken to reading like a whiz and this mama is so so so grateful.  After having four of my other kids with reading/learning disabilities, it is a blessing to see her take joy in reading and learning and to not struggle with it.  I love when she comes to me with a book in her hand and asks me to listen to her read.  It is the highlight of my day!

BoyOne is a sophomore in high school this year.  In our state this means it is also his first year at high school.  (Don't ask, I have no idea.  I didn't grow up here and I think it is so weird.  You're a freshman in high school but you don't actually go to high school.  Makes a ton of sense.)  Without getting to personal, it's not really working out for him for a lot of reasons.  As his parents, we are needing to adjust what our goals for his education are.  What was once a priority is not a realistic option without sacrificing an actual education.  We are in the process of making decisions that will be agreeable to both him and us.  I feel the added pressure of lack of time with him.  He turned 16 in September.  Shortly after his birthday he approached me and asked me where I thought he would be if he was still in Ukraine.  Then he told me about how different his life would have been had he remained.  It was good for me to hear because I've been feeling like the progress here has not been quite what I had hoped for and that perhaps we had failed him.    

Two and Three are doing well.  School is a challenge for them both and that weighs heavily on my mind constantly.  They work so hard at everything they do.  As I often tell them, they will be blessed by learning to work hard.

I am so grateful that I am their mother and that I get to be the one to journey through this life with them.  I'm immensely grateful that I have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom ( although whoever thought to call it that was smoking crack because what stay at home mom is actually ever home?!).  This gives me the opportunity to be ever present and available to them when they need help.  One of my biggest concerns this past year or so has been the lack of time I have with my kids before they leave my home.  I have tried to spend more time talking with them about eternal things, incorporating more heaven into our house than ever before.  I'm not magically more patient, we aren't magically getting along at all times and my kids haven't magically turned into scriptorians, but at the end of the day there is a feeling of love and peace that abides in our home.  Right now that is my number one goal.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Welcome to the Family!

This summer we welcomed a new kitten and puppy into our family.  At the same time.  Dog number three and cat number two.  It's been good.  Our older cat, Onyx was pretty unhappy with the newest additions to our family and was sure to let us know about it by refusing to be pet, refusing to come inside except to be fed and by hissing at the new pets and all of us.  Fortunately, into month four of having the new pets home, Onyx has either given up, realized nothing is going to change, or forgiven us and will actually acknowledge our existence once again.  It's a good thing because it's starting to get cold outside at night and we were really missing him.

This little kitten is super chill, was man-handled from birth, and is therefore completely unfazed by the utter chaos at our house and the continuous 'loving' she gets.  Her name is Daisy Blackish.  We're a democracy here at our house and as with any type of voting, you can get some bizarre outcomes when everyone gets to exercise their right to choose.  We're lucky she didn't end up as Darth Vader or something more... unique.

And here's our little puppy who is growing so fast!  Meet Zola.  Zola and Daisy and Riley (the white dog) all play together very well.  The kitten loves to camouflage herself on the top of our black couch, waiting for one of the dogs to walk past at which time she launches herself onto their back and begins attacking them.  She's a brave little thing.  

First day of school pictures:
 Four, first grade

 Three, third grade

 Two, fourth grade

 BoyTwo, third grade

 One, seventh grade, first year of junior high

 BoyOne, tenth grade, first year of high school.  Heaven help us all.

 When Four didn't come in from the first day of school with the other kids, I went outside and this is what I found.  She and her BFF had turned the sprinkler on and were having the time of their lives.

 Three turned eight.  When did she get so big????  With turning eight comes the option to be baptized.  Three wanted to get baptized so bad she could hardly stand it!  It was fun to see her so eager to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to want to covenant with Heavenly Father.  We studied scripture, had lessons and talked a lot about it in the months previous to help her get ready (well, as ready as an eight year old can be:)) and to make sure this was something she really wanted to do.  She did.  And so, I took her on a little date and we did a photo shoot down by the lake of her in the dress I wore for my baptism.  It's a fun little tradition we've done with my daughters.  As each one has decided to be baptized, they have worn the same dress I did when I was baptized.  Here are a few of my favorites from that day.

Love that kid and her smile!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spring and Early Summer In Pictures

Is it even possible to 'catch up' when you are this far behind?  I often think of posting.  It is a way for me to vent and journal, but most days (and nights) there just is not the time to do so.  But, tonight, the kids are mostly sleeping, the dishes are mostly done, and the laundry is going strong.  So, instead of doing more of the 'jobs' I need to be doing, I'm going to play catch up for a moment, with pictures.  

This spring we:

 went to visit my sister.  While she was at work, we took Huz to see the Red Rock Park that we love.  We ran the kids hard and they slept good that night:)


 They climbed everything.

 Three, Huz, BoyTwo, Two, Four, BoyOne, One

 My shadow.  That's all I have to prove that I was there.

 hahahaha.  Not the best picture of everyone!  My awesome sister took the kids swimming so I could watch Huz play in a tennis tournament without having to worry about potty breaks and keeping them quiet.

 My sister introduced us to pickle ball.

 It was super fun.  We froze.

 With my sis.  Minus BoyTwo.  

This is what the kids do in their free time: 

 Four giving herself a pedicure

 Painting their nails and each others.  Great team work.

 After they have painted all their nails and the neighbors, they move on to the dog's nails.

Let's not forget about Easter:

 We do something special every day for a week before Easter.  This is us acting out Jesus' Triumphal Entry.  Please notice the little colored pieces of paper hanging on the wall to the left of the door.  We hang one for each day of that Easter week and on the specific day add a picture and scripture and description of what happened on that day according to the Bible.  Yeah.  I just took those down a few weeks ago (as in during the month of June).  That is how awesome I am.

 We added a new element to decorating eggs this year.  Not only did we dye them, we painted them, too.  I think a new tradition was born.

 Our Easter Bunny comes on Saturday and this year, he really hooked the kids up.  Usually he leaves some candy in their basket and maybe a basketball for them to share or something along those lines.  This year he went all out and sent them on a scavenger hunt that ended on the back deck where kayaks and a pickle ball set were waiting.  The above picture is of them finding and reading a new clue.

 There were six clues so that each child had a turn to 'lead' the others to find the next clue.   Bunny is smart.  This eliminated a lot of potential problems (big kids figuring everything out before littles, one person dominating the whole hunt, '(s)he read it last time now it's my turn', etc.)

 Kayak number one

 Kayak number two.  The pickle ball set is in the background.

 Later that morning we hosted a neighborhood egg hunt and 'light' breakfast.  It was fun.

 More of the kayak

 More of the other kayak

 I figured out the 'perfect' paska recipe for the boys.  BoyOne got to help me prepare it so that he can carry on this tradition for his own family someday.

 Oooh.  Aaaah.  

More of what we do in our free time:
(notice the kids are all in their pajamas as this was a school night and this is Huz's idea of getting them ready for bed)

 Dodge ball on the tramp.  Huz shows no mercy.  It's one of their favorite things to do with their dad.

 'Rolling Pin'  This is probably their number one favorite thing to do with Huz.  He rolls around on the trampoline and they try to jump over him and not get smashed.  It really is a miracle that there have not been any serious injuries to Huz or the kids.

In May:

 My nephew found out where he would be serving his mission.  This was a super cool night that we got to be a part of.  Young men and young women in our church can choose to serve a 2 year (boys) or 18 month (girls) mission where they teach people about Jesus Christ and give a lot of service when they graduate from high school.  They apply to be a missionary through our church and then get a letter in the mail telling them where they get to go.  We all were invited to watch him open his letter and to hear him announce where he would be serving.  It's pretty exciting!  My sister-in-law had a big world map set out and we each got to guess where he would be going.  It was a fun night.

 Pinewood derby.  He lost.  Bigtime.  That's what happens when you paint your wheels (at least he did it himself!) and duct tape weights on at the very last minute because the weight requirement is actually a requirement and not a suggestion as Huz thought.  BoyTwo led the Pledge of Allegiance that night and did a fantastic job.

 There was a kindergarten end of year program,
(Four is on the middle row, on your right)

 last home baseball game,

 last dance competition,
(Sorry, bad pic.  She's not dancing next year.  She plans to go back the following year, but who knows.  It may really be the last comp.  Sad.)

 Four's kindergarten field trip to the fire station, park and library,
(when BoyTwo did this he turned the hose on everyone.  Shocking, I know)

 Two's Third Grade patriotic program,

 she did a great job, by the way,

 a dance recital for the three younger girls,
(look at that heel stretch!)

 (Four for her Miss Hannigan/Annie/It's a Hard Knock-or NOT as all the little girls thought-Life dance)

 (Three for her 'Trouble' by Tay.lor Swift dance where they acted out Red Riding Hood.  Three was grandmother.  It was darling)

 (Two with her best friend for their dance Carousel-I think that was what it was called.  They're clowns)

 BoyTwo had a birthday,

 Four had a birthday and a birthday party,

 One graduated from 6th grade, and then there was the most wonderful

 last day of school (holy freaking FINALLY!!!).  The teachers all lined up to wave good-bye to the students.  One teacher did cartwheels all the way down the side walk.  It's a long side walk.  I think she may have been as happy as I was:)

Whoever said that Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year clearly did not have six kids in school, five at the local elementary, four with learning disabilities, one a budding pyromaniac.  I am here to tell you that SUMMER is the most wonderful time of the year, hands down.  Bless you warm weather and sunshine for saving my life.  So far this summer, we have:

 been boating with friends, 

 kayaked a lot,
(don't panic, I make them wear life jackets.  In this pic they are headed back to shore to get them after taking off w/o)

 danced on the beach,

 went to Boise for my brother's wedding and visited with my best childhood friend and her kids,

 (this is my big little bro and his super awesome wife and all of us, including BoyOne with what he believes is his 'cool' look, until he sees it and is upset but we cannot talk him into not looking constipated in the moment.  sigh.)

and of course, hiked a lot.
(this is the waterfall hike with my friend Jodi and her kids)

This only takes us to the middle of June.  I hope that you're all enjoying summer.  More to come as soon as I upload my camera.