Monday, September 28, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#8)

I have slept so little this week, that our activities and accomplishments are a blur.

Dad was sick this week.  So was Little Brother.  The babies are getting it now.  Exhaustion is not unique to me.
 I do remember that we focused on history this week, completing lessons 7-12 which were about the Tower of Babel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and the founding of Egypt.

This lesson about the founding of Egypt had is walk a narrow path blindfolded while we followed the guidance of a trusted leader as its attention-getting-activity.  The LEGOs all over the floor were the painful consequence of stepping off the path.

I sent an email to the creators of the curriculum we're using because I'm displeased with the incongruities in their timeline.  They focus on Biblical time (which I approve of heartily), but include dates on their timeline cards that show obvious discrepancies between Biblical timelines and secular timelines, and they offer no help with explaining the discrepancies.  It is impossible to put the cards on the timeline in a sensible way, so I've asked for some clarification.

I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, we've been able to have some interesting discussions about faith and evidence and history.

We finished our read-aloud book The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo--the kids all said it was a book that started out boring but ended really, really well.  Pixie's comment was insightful, "It's hard to believe that a book with such a simple plot could say so much."

I agree.  This book spoke volumes in very few words, and it touched all of our hearts.

We're still actively engaged in reading George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking.  Rose Red read it some years ago, but she's sitting in on this re-read while the rest of the kids enjoy it for the first time.  There's some delightful science in this goofy story.

Rose Red is making progress through Math-U-See Epsilon.  She still needs lots of guidance, but she seems to be remembering more and more rules about working with fractions.

Pixie is slowly finishing up Saxon Math 8/7.  She's deep in pre-algebra at this point, and though it is new and difficult information for her, she seems to be "getting it."  She's grateful that her next book is Saxon Algebra 1/2--a sort of second pre-algebra book that will review and solidify the skills she's working on now.

Super Star is really enjoying Saxon Math 5/4.  Now that she's spent several weeks regaining the confidence that was shaken this summer, I've begun working her harder in this text to get her through more than one level this school year.  She's doing very well.

Belle continues to work through Saxon Math 7/6.  I'd speed her up because it is really too easy for her, but for the fact that Pixie is working in the next book right now.  Perhaps in November I'll encourage her to pick up the pace and shine in this subject that is obviously one of her gifts.

Nature Angel, Little Princess and I did our art/math lessons for numbers 9 and 10 this week.

The little ones and I did preschool with the MindUp curriculum.  We worked on counting to 10 when we're out of control, belly breathing for relaxation, and the vocabulary words mindful and unmindful.  We did a lot of role playing for problem solving, and it is gratifying to see Brother really trying to use the techniques we're learning when he's playing in real life.  I'm hoping that Mister Man and Little Brother will start to use the techniques soon, too.

The little boys also got to play with some sensory bins--pasta tubes and letter tiles.  They dug through the bins to find the letters in their names, using a printed name sheet to help them find the right tiles in the right order.  Mister Man had no problem, but Brother and Little Brother needed lots and lots of guidance.  Hooray for Super Star and Belle who stepped in to help.

We played in the water almost every afternoon.

We went to the park on Friday, then came home and had an art lesson during which we water-colored in  both blue and yellow to represent the separation of light and dark during the creation.

Ladybug's therapist is actively trying to help us bring Ladybug home full time.  That will be a treat when it finally happens.

The TPR trial (for termination of parental rights) has been continued.  This is disappointing but par for  the course as it has already been continued over and over again for a year so far.  If the continuance is denied then the parents have cause for appeal, and that takes a year to complete, so we're sitting tight and hoping the continuance is granted and a new date is set that is only a month or two out.  In the mean time, the Children's Division is hoping the parents will recognize their limitations and sign away their rights without a full trial.  Given the parents' histories and current situations, this is possible but not likely.

Belle loves on Little Sister . . . a treat for all of us.
Each day has been achingly hard.  There are not words to describe what the days hold and what we must do to survive.  I have to actively pray for perspective each day, otherwise I drift into despair that we will ever be a family or function in a healthy way.  School is completed in the midst of tantrums, phone calls with various state authorities and medical personnel, and a maelstrom of emotional and physical chaos.

We question every day if what we're doing is wise or good.

The answer is always yes.

So we keep putting one foot in front of other.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#7)

It has been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

It is the second of it's kind this week.

I'm seriously irritable, annoyed, and in no mood to be the mom.

My kids can feel it.

I see it in their eyes.

Something's gotta give, and it's going to have to be me.

What can I give?

While I think I'll remember the week as a whole.

Making pictures with the garden mulch . . .

"Painting" with water--probably my favorite toddler/preschool activity ever.

Little Sister is beginning to walk.  Every other hour someone calls, "Mom [Little Sister] just took a step!"  and picks her up to cover her with kisses and tell her she's marvelous.  What a blessing it is for our babies to have so many cheerleaders.

Baymax is more and more mobile each day.  His army crawl is alarmingly fast, and he's sure trying to get/keep his belly off the ground.  He's just waaaaay too chubby to hold that much weight up yet. :)

We had 3 days of preschool this week.  We sing a gathering song ("Here We Are Together"), sing some silly movement songs, have a MindUp lesson, and close by singing "I Am a Child of God."  The kids like it a lot.  This week we reviewed the functions of the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex; we practiced counting to 10 to have time to think before we explode; we used stick puppets to talk about emotions; we read Sometimes I'm Bombaloo as a springboard for talking about losing and finding our tempers.

The afternoons have been quite warm and summery, so we've spent as much time out of doors as possible.
 Nature Angel, Little Princess and I had one math/art session about the number 8 this week.

We had two whole family art sessions this week exploring color.  One day we played with two shades of yellow and another day we explored one shade of dark blue.  We tied them into our history and geography lessons by talking about the organization of light and dark during the creation.

We painted outside after an afternoon of water play . . .

Dad and the babies hung out together while the rest of us painted.

Next week we'll use both light and dark on the same page.

As for our Family School, it was a history week.  We began with the council in heaven and traveled through time to the dispensation of Noah.  My personal highlight of the week was listening to Little Princess tell the story of Noah.  Her older sisters were actually open-mouthed in wonder as they listened to the details she remembered from the Bible.

Little Princess's beeswax sculpture of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Nature Angel's tree--complete with Adam and Eve each holding a piece of the fruit.
The big girls all did 4 days of math assignments.

Rose Red worked her way through sections 2 and 3 of her LifePac science book 901.  She also worked hard at reading the 8 chapters her Communications 110 teacher assigned the class to read.  She finished 3 chapters (including written summaries) of her supplemental history reading.

That's about it for academics, but the life lessons have been grueling.  The kids had the opportunity to meet their biological grandmother and see her sister, their great-aunt, who lives in town.  Both women tried to get custody of these precious ones, and both were turned down by their respective state children's divisions.  I don't know why.  Those details are not for me to know.

I do know they are lovely, gracious women who treated our whole family with respect and consideration.  I hope I did the same in return.

Goodness knows I tried!

We have a picture of the children with these two fine family members, and someday it will be a tremendous blessing to them.

For now, though, it is a nightmare.

All 4 of them reacted badly after the fact--screaming, crying, tantruming, whining, breaking things, kicking, hitting, spitting, urinating, name calling, etc., etc., etc..

Though I know that regression is a normal part of healing, I am mentally and physically exhausted, and I'm struggling terribly to keep any sort of perspective.

(What I really want to do is curl up under the covers and not come out.)

I guess I'm kind of hiding while I write this post . . . what I ought to do is go get the Uno cards and play a game with the kids.

I'm off . . .

PS   We just found out that my sister's husband has cancer . . . he's a wonderful daddy of 6 and the love of my sister's life.  They have an appointment with an oncologist next week to find out what's what.  For now they're shell-shocked, and the rest of the family is wondering what on earth we can do to help.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding Joy

photo credit:  one of my kids--I'm not sure which one

I am compelled to write down what I am feeling and thinking . . .

Each day is so utterly overwhelming as to be impossible to describe . . .

I cannot think beyond any single hour . . .

Anything more leaves me breathless . . .

Though I do meal plan and grocery shop one week at a time.

I've felt sad and tight and angry and trapped for many, many days . . .

Then this post appeared about a week ago . . .

And I wanted to cry because I am struggling to love my family life--struggling to find the joy I once had.

I had no idea what to do . . .

Nor how to do it . . .

I just kept putting one foot in front of the other . . .

And I couldn't even pray about it . . .

My prayers have been utterly incoherent jumbles of gratitude for surviving the day and pleadings for the next day's survival . . .

But a loving Father knew the soreness of my heart and answered . . .

"Slow down."

Slow down?  I'm so slow as to be barely moving!


"Slow down."

The babies have refused to nap well, so I've been rocking them and singing to them for longer and longer periods of time . . .

That has slowed me down.

Ladybug's social worker has refused to make a decision about bringing her home, so we're indefinitely moving forward with school.  I have to wait for her bus to arrive each day.  There is a half hour window for drop off.  I need to be ready and waiting for her, so each day I pick up my unfinished knitted wash cloth, and one row at a time, while I wait, I've finished the wash cloth (made of melon-colored cotton) and have begun a winter scarf (of soft gray wool).

That has slowed me down.

Yesterday afternoon was summer warm.  The kids begged to fill the wading pools with water.  I said yes and sat on the porch while they played.  I packed away the chicken I'd cooked for dinner for another night, cut a watermelon from the vine on which it was growing in our garden, sliced some cheese, tore some bread in pieces, and served an impromptu picnic for dinner . . .

We skipped baths--after all, they'd been playing in water for 2 hours--and went straight to jammies when we came in all shivery and cold . . .

Later I made and served fresh oatmeal cookies for a bedtime snack . . .

That was a slow and lovely evening.

In the slowness I am finding peace . . .

I am finding joy . . .

Along the way I'm still getting the laundry done, the kids fed, the doctor's appointments kept, and having a bit of school each day . . .

I hope it is enough . . .

It will have to be enough . . .

Because I just have to have joy to live.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#6)

I uploaded 438 pictures this weekend, and of them I can share these 4:

Rose Red laughed at me one morning, grabbed the camera, and took this picture.  She said I should post what laundry folding looks like at our house.  I replied that most of the online families I "know" have lots of kids, and this won't impress anyone.

One afternoon the kids watched Signing Time.  The new kids really like it--especially Ladybug.

We ate "worms in dirt" one day just for fun to remember our worm science lesson the week before.

The babies had a jam session.
We had another geography week--learning about the atmosphere.  It felt more like science.  I guess that shows us how all subjects are related.

We had our dance practice outside at a really neat park.  Otherwise I didn't like having our meeting outside--too hot after an hour or so, and the little kids didn't want to practice singing and dancing because they wanted to play.  I'm co-teaching the 3-5 year olds.  Holy cow!  That's a job and a half!

Lots of appointments with various doctors.  Little Sister has infections in both ears; Brother's eczema is under control, according to the dermatologist.  She gave us kudos for our good care.

Rose Red had her first dual enrollment homeschool/college class on Thursday evening.  She's taking Communications 110 (a.k.a. speech-giving).  There are 12 kids from the local homeschool community enrolled.  It was a good first class--basic, and not too overwhelming.  I love that she gets some classroom experience and dual credit without the too-adult college atmosphere.  She loves having a class with friends.

We had one preschool lesson this week using the MindUp curriculum.  Ladybug's transition to home school is on hold while the social worker deals with the many upcoming court dates the children have, so we're not getting much preschool done.  That's okay--what the kids need is time to run and play and be kids.

The best boost of the week?  While speaking with Ladybug's preschool teacher she said, "Whatever you're doing at home is working.  Keep up the good work."

Oh, heaven!

We spent hours and hours outside--at least the kids did.  The weather is gently cooling down, and it is glorious to be out of doors.  Friday was our "Wild Day" which we spent with friends at a local nature center.  (I forgot the camera)

We're putting one foot in front of the other, so while our progress seems slow, we are making progress!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#5)

This week was science week at our house.  We completed lessons 1-4 of our science curriculum, and then we also did lesson 2 of our art curriculum.

We began Little Pear for our September Cousins' Book Club meeting.

We continued reading A Single Shard as part of our geography enrichment.

Nature Angel, Little Princess and I did absolutely zero math work together.  That was disappointing, but there's still so much sickness and so many calls to the nurse advice line and so many appointments with doctors that I had to let something go.

The good news is that the older 4 girls are all doing daily math now.  Rose Red has returned to trying to complete Math U See Epsilon; Pixie is finishing Saxon 8/7; Super Star has begun Saxon 5/4; and Belle has begun Saxon 7/6.  So far, all is well.

Rose Red does science with us, but she's also working on Alpha Omega LifePac Science 9 on her own.  Here she is simulating atomic motion in solids, liquids, and gases.

As an introduction to animal classification, we sorted buttons.  I thought it would be too young for the older kids, but they LOVED it, begging to be allowed to finish their sorts before we cleaned up. :)

Our street was repaved--watching the big machines was a major highlight of our week. 

We're studying invertebrates right now.  We got up close and personal with some sea sponges. 

Rose Red rigged up some shade and took her history essay outside.

Brother enjoyed some time at the piano.

I had my hands full with Little Sister, so Rose Red loved up Baymax one morning as she worked on science vocabulary.

Baymax pulled himself to a standing position all by himself.

We discussed "line" as an element of art.  Then we practiced form drawing.  The older kids found out that it is harder than it looks to draw evenly and precisely.

On Friday we examined worms from our compost pile, then we drew pictures as accurately as possible.  We could have dissected worms, but we opted to watch a video of someone else doing it instead. :)

Then on Friday evening, after Ladybug got home from school, we all headed out to the coolest park ever for a picnic dinner and some family play time!

The super-duper exciting news in our world is that the Children's Division is considering letting us bring Ladybug home full time instead of sending her to school each day.  She'll continue therapy on an out-patient basis. 

I hope they say yes!

We also hired an adoption attorney.  There's potential for the adoption process to last over 18 more months before finalization.


But there's also a chance it could be done in 6 months.

We'll see.