Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Father's Song

Tonight Daniel was having a great time reading to the kids. He was reading Kevin's new book A Father's Song that has lots of fun little things in it that the kids like to do with Daniel. When Daniel is reading the part about the Daddy flying his son through the air with his arms spread wide like an airplane all our kids act like airplanes, too, making "zoom!" sounds.

Speaking of bedtime books, it cracks me up when Kevin climbs into Daniel's lap, hands him a book, and says, "Talk at it, Daddy." I guess that is what reading would look like to a 2 year old.

Lapbooking at the Library

My friend Dawn invited us to join her and her three girls at the library to make lapbooks today. We haven't done this in a long time. Not since our brief foray into FIAR (Five in a Row) a couple of years ago. FIAR was a little too slow for us, but we did enjoy making lapbooks. It took me a whole day to find all the materials, templates, etc. that I wanted for the girls' books online and print them out. Then a couple of hours working with the girls to get everything prepared and cut out. We did the final assembly at the library.

Today Danya made a lapbook about the American Girl character "Kit Kittredge" who she has become very interested in lately. We researched what it was like to live in 1934 and came up with some fun elements for her book. We learned that Shirley Temple (who Danya adores) was in her first movie that year. Danya also made some comparisons between prices and technology in 1934 and today.

Gloria's lapbook is about the book we are currently reading out loud together for homeschool. The book is The Cabin Faced West and is based on the actual life story of the author's great grandmother. Since the main character is fascinated by George Washington, Gloria's lapbook has several elements about him including a mini book. Then there's some info about life as a pioneer girl and a hidden picture game where you look for tools used in that time period.

Snow White did a "letter Aa" lapbook. It's got a mini book that she made called "My A Book" and a word search in which she just circled all the letter "a's". We also included samples of her handwriting with capital "A" across the top and lowercase "a" on the bottom. She was so proud of her book. She wouldn't let me put it back in the bag to go home. It had to be with her in the car so she could rush right into the house to show it to Daniel and Brother. She did a good job and got lots of practice with writing and cutting skills.

Honoring Our Stars

Last night there was a special awards ceremony at our county foster parent support group meeting. They went all out decorating the meeting room with stars. It was a night to honor the biological kids in foster families that do so much for foster kids. What a great idea! The kids got to sit up front and talk about ways that they help their foster siblings. Then they each were called up by name to receive a special plaque thanking them for the important job they do.

It's true that Danya, Gloria, and Kevin are expected to do a lot and share all that they have with total strangers who walk into their home needing so much. I started thinking about it and realized that it's actually more difficult for my kids than for me. I don't have to share my room with a stranger or let them play with my things.

Today Danya spent time helping Snow White work on writing her name and was very patient with her even when Snow White was being a little obstinate. Gloria shares in the loss of privileges when the room she shares with Snow White is messy even if most of it is not her fault. She's really experiencing what it's like to finally be the big sister, the good and bad parts. Kevin is dealing with frustration and jealousy issues since Brother often wants to play with the toy that Kevin wants and can't speak well enough to communicate with Kevin.

Danya, Gloria, and Kevin also received gifts and candy which made them much more excited than the certificates of appreciation. The Girl Scouts even donated boxes of cookies as gifts! Then they got pizza, a movie, and crafts in the childcare area while the adults discussed how to help the kids deal with grief when foster children leave our homes. It was a good night.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

About the Bailout

I'm pretty unhappy about the whole bailout plan. I know I'm no economist, but I do know that you don't throw good money after bad. Here are two videos shared by a fellow Pea that I think are worth watching:

Obama received the 2nd highest amount of $$ from Fannie and Freddie

They Knew in 2004

25 Years Together!

My trombone buddy from church, Ron, and his wife, Sherry, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this weekend. Daniel and I went to their party along with about 35 other people. It was in their back yard, and was absolutely beautiful. Their arched patio roof had white linen drapes hanging down and tied back. There were white awning tents set up over the tables which were decorated with pale colored flowers and flickering white candles in gorgeous glass bowls. There was home made Italian food and finally a dinner show provided by Ron. He played "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole on his trombone and talked about how they met. He said that when he was in his high school marching, concert, jazz, and pep bands that there was always this pretty girl sitting in the audience which made him sit up straighter and play a little better. He took her to the prom and they've been together ever since.

Just for fun I've also included a photo of Ron with his twin brother. I finally got to meet him and must say that they don't look as much alike as I thought they would. Oh, and I told Daniel that after seeing Ron and Sherry's anniversary party, I expect on our 25th anniversary that Daniel will be prepared to sing to me. He just laughed. Oh well, a girl can hope.

Budding Artist

We recently discovered that Snow White cannot draw a person very well at all. She draws a couple of long lines sticking out of a skinny potato sort of like you'd expect a three year old to draw. We decided to remedy that this week. I've been having the girls line up and practice drawing people using basic shapes (circles, squares, rectangles). We also work on examining each other's faces to see how much space should be given for the forehead, where the nose actually begins, and how wide the mouth should be among other things. We've discussed proportion in body parts as well. She's already improving tremendously.

Danya and Gloria, of course, have heard all this from me before, but it helps for Snow White to see the girls doing it. Gloria has been improving by leaps and bounds in the last year. We've worked with a couple of different art books, studying line shading, shadows, and perspective. She drew this picture on the dry erase board last Thursday night. The work she's been doing with pencils is even better. I think, for a six year old, she's pretty good.

Banana Splits in the Dark

At AWANA last Wednesday it was banana split night. The kids all got to take their ice cream outside to the long row of playgrounds behind the church. They had so much fun eating ice cream and playing in the dark. Danya also completed her intro booklet for T&T (Truth & Training) which means she earned her uniform shirt and her book. She worked hard on that and was really proud. Now that she has her uniform she can officially be chosen to carry a flag during the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, I've misplaced my new uniform shirt (which makes me look like a blimp, so no big loss) and found out today that the first night of Christmas Concert band practice will be held during AWANA Wednesday night so I won't be able to attend or hear the CD of the music.

Kevin's Loft

About a week ago Daniel, Ron (the trombone player), and I drove to Parker, CO to pick up a bed and dresser that we found for sale on Craig's List. He was unhappy being moved out of his big boy bed and back into the fire truck toddler bed when Brother came to live with us. We also needed more room for clothing, so a new dresser was a must.

The bed is a loft bed with storage on one side and a desk on the other. The ladder has bars just like the ones at the playground that Kevin is already a master at climbing, so he isn't afraid of it. The bed itself has a sturdy wooden side that keeps him from possibly falling out at night. The dresser which has blue drawers to match the ones in the bed fits perfectly underneath the loft bed so that it doesn't take up any extra space in the room. In this photo Danya and Brother are making a fort. You can also see the boys' blue toy box that fit neatly into the bottom shelf on the left. Having a loft bed has really cleared up a lot of floor space in their room thanks to all the storage.

Buses: A Love Hate Relationship

Okay, so maybe it's a like/hate relationship. There's no real love there. The other day I threw my back out somehow while running to the bus to give Snow White her permission slip to check out books from the school library. Then in the afternoon, we found out that my older girls can't walk her home from the bus stop. There must be an adult present or the bus driver can't drop off a Kindergartner. Despite the fact that it's literally just a few doors down from our house. That'll be fun this winter.

This week one of the people from the school district called to set up an appointment to evaluate Brother to see how bad his speech needs are and if he has developmental delays as well. They said there would be a spot for him at their main pre-K center where he could get the speech help he needs. Unfortunately, I'd have to drive him there and back four days a week because a bus doesn't come to our house for that school. His pre-K would only be 2 1/2 hours each day and they only have afternoons available.

So I'd be pausing Danya and Gloria's school day to feed Snow White lunch and get her on the bus by 11:00 am. Then feed the other kids and get Brother to school by 12:30. Then go home, put Kevin down for a nap, and try to get a little more homeschooling done before it's time to pick up Snow White from the bus stop at 2:40 pm. Then go pick up Brother from school by 3:00. That would mean that Brother would no longer be getting a nap time so he'd be extra fun all evening.

Finally, I've also been teaching Snow White after school since she doesn't seem to be learning much at school other than getting practice writing her name repeatedly with terrible handwriting that they don't attempt to correct. There's nothing like enforcing bad habits. This past week I've worked with her on colors, shapes, and neat handwriting. She's doing really well and actually begs to do more. She loves to learn. I'm using an old Rod & Staff curriculum with her that I purchased back in 2006 for Gloria but decided it was too simple for her. It's just the right speed for Snow White. One final note, we're also enrolling our home school under our church's umbrella school program. We got the paper work finally this week. Yea!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Livin' La Vida Loca

Everything is going well for us. I'm very sleepy and promise to update the blog tomorrow. We've still got Snow White and Brother and even got some surprising good news this week regarding their case.

Yes, we know the gender of the baby. No, we're not announcing it on the blog until after we've made sure our immediate family members all know. Since we haven't managed to reach all of them yet, you'll have to wait a tiny bit longer. Maybe tomorrow.

Good night!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Person in Me

This is an ultrasound picture of an 18 week old baby in the womb. Mine is 19 weeks, so it looks approximately like this one. Daniel and I keep marveling over the idea that there is another human being inside of me right now. It's just such an amazing thought.

Today I researched info on Braxton Hicks contractions and pre-term labor because I was feeling nervous about having such strong uncomfortable contractions so early in my pregnancy. It turns out that the more kids you've had, the more likely it is that you'll have Braxton Hicks contractions earlier and stronger. Also, it can be brought on by dehydration, so I'm trying to drink more water. Although I have more energy than I did in my previous trimester, I still feel tired a lot and tend to compensate by drinking too much diet pop and tea. It's strange how one minute it feels like this pregnancy is dragging on interminably and the next it seems to be flying by. I can't wait to find out if it's a boy or a girl next week!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fun Filled Crazy Days

We've been so busy the past week. I don't know how much of it is due to having 2 extra kids in the house, but it's been fun and exhausting. They've had trips to the park with Daniel, colored with chalk and had popsicles outside, played lots of board games, watched plenty of kids' videos, participated in kids' church activities, and helped me keep the house clean for all the caseworkers, attorneys, and friends we were expecting to see this week.

One of the most challenging parts for me has been figuring out how to homeschool four different grade levels. I'm doing pre-K with the boys, Kindergarten with Snow White, and a mixed 3rd/4th grade with Gloria and Danya. The first day we tried it was a bit crazy. I've discovered that I cannot have them all working on different subjects at the exact same time. However, I can handle the three older girls working on three different things while the boys are napping in the afternoon. In the mornings I divide and conquer. Danya and Gloria take turns leading the younger ones in an activity that I've set up while I work with the two of them individually. It takes longer, but we're getting everything accomplished.

Yesterday I worked on doing an evaluation to see where exactly Snow White is at academically. She can count to 13 and recognize numbers up to 9, knows some of her shapes, and can write a few letters in her name. She has a Kindergarten workbook that her previous foster mom gave her to just color in so that she could feel like she was doing homework like the older kids. I'm actually showing her how to do the activities. Sadly, I read through Brother's IEP and checked both him and Kevin on the different skills like naming three items in a category (for example Animals: cat, dog, pig) and only Kevin was able to do them. We've got a lot of work to do!

Midnight Hospital Visit

Kevin is quite the little trooper. Monday night at bedtime he started crying uncontrollably when I laid him down. Daniel had just left for work and I was trying to do the "beauty night" I'd promised the girls. So I ran back and forth between giving Kevin Tylenol, sippy cups, and hugs and at the same time trying to paint the girls' nails hot pink.

Kevin fell asleep around 8:30 or so but only for an hour. I ended up calling Daniel at work when I realized that Kevin definitely had a horrible ear infection. He just kept clutching his right ear and crying. So he and I sat on the couch watching Blue's Clues until Daniel could get back from work around 10pm. Daniel scooped Kevin up and took him to the hospital since we didn't think any after hours clinics would be open that late. Upon arrival Kevin promptly threw up all over himself. That's why he's wearing a hospital gown in this photo. He wouldn't take it off until nap time later in the day. He's currently on antibiotics and doing well. Hopefully this clears it up.

No Apple Necessary

Snow White lost a tooth a couple of days ago. She just noticed it was loose and yanked it out. This is one tough little girl. She never complains when her hair is being brushed no matter how bad the tangle. She was very happy that the Tooth Fairy would be visiting even in this new home of hers.

She's doing so well with all the changes she's experiencing lately. Last night was her first night at AWANA. We were able to get her into the Sparks blue group so that during flag/announcement/music time she'd be sitting in the row directly behind Gloria and Daniel. Her leader, Ms. Dawn, said that Snow White did really well and even said the verses they were working on. She came out grinning from ear to ear and couldn't wait to show me her Sparky Gate paper.

We found out which school she'll be attending. The bus should stop right across the street at the park. (No more climbing the hill in the snow like we did with Penny!) Today we finish enrolling her and find out whether she'll be in morning or afternoon Kindergarten. I think she'll do fine. She's very social and a good kid. I hope her speech therapy will be more than once a week. We'll see!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Inside the Slide at Mickey D's

Here's a great photo that Shannon took of Danya from inside the tunnel slide Sunday after church at McDonald's. We found out Sunday that our pastor and a few others are boycotting McDonald's (not a church wide thing, just personal individual decisions) because of their enormous financial push for homosexual issues. I can understand their decision, but with five small kids McDonald's is a must. Cheap food and a playland on every corner can't be beat.

Not Quite Ready

Sunday went fairly well for Snow White and Brother's first day in Sunday school classes. We managed to get everyone up, groomed, and out the door in time to arrive just a little late for band practice before service started. Daniel had to manually wrestle Brother into his Sunday clothes, but other than that it worked out alright.

We attempted to let Brother join the four year olds group that goes to TruthQuest with the older kids and then on to a Sunday school lesson. His group, however, was short handed because three backup people called in sick. So there was only one leader for 16 (PreK/K) kids. Daniel volunteered to stay and help. Brother just can't sit still and listen for that long. When I finished playing in the band I went up to the classroom to check on them and ended up having to take Brother down to join the 3 year olds' class. He did really well there, so I think we'll just keep him in with the younger kids. They get to attend TruthQuest for the beginning and end so that they get to enjoy singing and puppets, but then they move on to play time and snacks back in the Threes' classroom.

Skills and Schools

Snow White and Brother have a strange mix of skills and gaps in their abilities that keep surprising us. This weekend Daniel taught Snow White how to make peanut butter cookies without crushing them. He says he has to remind himself to slow down with her and not expect that she knows the same things as our girls knew at almost six years old. For instance, we are trying to teach her to tie her shoes right now.

Today I took them to start the enrollment process for school. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be more complicated than I thought. We have to wait for a phone call to find out which school Snow White will be going to, and then call the bus barn to find out which bus she'll ride. Not a big deal, but she probably won't be starting tomorrow.

For Brother, however, there is a problem. The caseworker insisted that he needs to be in a Pre-K program, but in our area there are only so many free public Pre-K spots open at the schools. After that they are filled by those who can pay tuition. Currently, all the spots (even tuition ones) are filled and the best they can do is put his name on a lottery list. If spots open up and if his name is picked in the lottery, then I can call the director and ask if there is some way I can get him in despite not being able to pay tuition. I'm not sure what to do about this. I thought that since he has "special needs" due to severe speech delays they were required to help him. I'm going to ask the caseworker if there isn't some way that a speech therapist can be paid to just come to our home via Medicaid or the (limited) foster child discretionary fund that the county has.

Sunday Best

I love "church clothes". It's so much fun having everyone get dressed up special for the Lord's day. Don't get me wrong, it's nice going to a church that doesn't require anyone to wear dresses or ties, but it's also nice to have one day of the week that's special. Like most stay at home mom's I don't get that many opportunities to dress up. It used to be that we only bought one especially nice dress a year for the girls that had to be neutral enough to wear for their Christmas choir performance, Mother and Father's Days, and maybe as Easter dresses, too.

In the past couple of years, though, I've been acquiring some nicer things from yard sales, store clearances, and a few hand-me-downs from friends with older kids. The shirt that Kevin is wearing in this picture we took on Sunday was part of two large sacks of clothing passed down to us this past week from another homeschooling family at church. Kevin's nicer clothes that he has outgrown have been passed along to several foster sons we've had this past year who arrived with nothing. It's been great, too, that Danya and Gloria have been able to share so many of their clothes with the older girls we've had as well. "Brother" also fit into some of the things we've gotten for Kevin that are a bit too big for him.

19 Weeks - Halfway there

This little one is getting frisky. The baby surprises me by moving at moments that catch me off guard and make me laugh with the strange sensation that it's trying to cheer me up. At moments when I'm especially tired or frustrated this tiny person chooses to roll, kick, or push and it's such a happy little feeling that I can't help but smile. Sometimes it happens when I'm leaning over tying my shoes (awkwardly) and I wonder if I'm squishing him or her in there. We should be able to find out the gender at my next appointment here pretty soon.

In the "not so fun" category, I was sitting on stage this weekend at church during announcements before the next set of songs when the pastor's wife walked off stage and smiled at me quietly saying, "You're getting quite a little paunch there!" as she passed by. It was so unexpected that I turned, speechless, to my trombonist friend, Ron, who sits on my left. He said, "Don't worry. I'm sure she meant me."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Snow White and her Brother

This morning we met our new little ones. The big sister will be turning 6 in less than two months. I'm going to call her Snow White as her blog nickname because when the girls were playing dress up downstairs Daniel came up to tell me that in the Snow White costume she looked exactly like the real Snow White from the movie (just with longer hair). Her little brother looks exactly like my little brother, Ricky. I'm going to call him Brother on this blog because that's what his sister calls him. She doesn't use his name at all. He is four, exactly two years older than Kevin.

The two things that immediately surprised me about Brother is that he has stud earings and he barely speaks. He uses a few words, but mostly points and makes sounds. Both of them will be in speech therapy soon. I'm supposed to enroll them both in school next week. The caseworker told us that Brother will have to be in a half day pre-K program so that he can get the speech help he needs. Personally I think he'd do better here with less kids and Daniel and I to help him. Daniel says we should do it their way until Christmas break and then we'll be able to say whether the pre-K class is helping any. In his last foster home he was the only child there and I don't think he was required to speak much. He seems to be bright and able to understand us, so it may just be that he needs lots of encouragement to use words.

All the kids have been getting along well. I told Kevin it was almost his nap time and he patted Brother and said, "I play cars with him. Let's go! Run, run!" They've been playing together all afternoon. Brother and Snow White are so happy to be back together again. They hadn't seen each other in almost a month since they were in separate foster homes. They hold hands, hug, and kiss each other a lot. I'm glad we were able to help them be together.

Music and Games

Danya, in the pink dress in this photo, and Gloria had their King's Kids choir concert at AWANA Wednesday night. I hadn't found my camera yet, so all I have is this picture taken later in the evening. Danya and the other "Chums" girls were playing one of the games the youth group kids play. The idea is to get the fifth and sixth grade girls prepared to join the youth group soon.

The game was fun. Everyone had a milk jug with the bottom cut off and taped up for safety. There were four balls in play and each team tried to get them down to the other side to hit the goal. The difficulty is that you can only take three steps after catching the ball in your milk jug. It was interesting to say the least. I even scored a goal when we played kids against leaders.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

They're Coming Tomorrow!!!

Yippee! I've got lots of good news. Our two new kids are coming tomorrow! It's a 4 year old boy and his 5 1/2 year old sister. I just got off the phone with the caseworker who has let me know that they are placing these kids with us with the strong opinion that this will end up as a case of foster-to-adopt. They've been in and out of the system for two years now and it looks like we may end up being their final home.

In other good news, I found my camera last night. I'd accidentally left it at church. They also officially declared me the leader of the Blue Group for Chums at AWANA last night. Chums is the name for 3rd and 4th grade girls. My group has 6 girls in it, including Danya, and we had a couple of guests, too, that may come back.

Well, tonight is also my first night back with the Thornton Community Band. I'm thinking about only playing with them for the first concert which will be at the very end of October. That way I won't be almost 8 months pregnant in December trying to handle Sunday worship music plus music for both the church and TCB Christmas concerts. I've realized that I'm already having trouble maintaining air flow due to my expanding midsection. We'll learn the baby's gender in two more weeks! Meanwhile, Kevin had his 2 year old check up today and impressed the doctor who said he seemed to be more like a 3 year old.

Photos to come soon!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Regarding Foster Care

We've had an interesting week regarding foster care. The two sisters we got on Monday went to a new home in a different county on Wednesday. They were such a joy to have. It was like one long sleepover party with all four girls having such a good time together. I wish they could have stayed longer. I've misplaced my camera again, so I can't upload all the great photos we took yet. I'm attributing it to "pregnancy brain".

Thursday night was the day of the big foster parenting information meeting that we put together at our church. We hoped for a larger turn out, but were happy to have a few families that seemed very interested and took home application packets. Our county is in dire need of more foster families, especially those that are willing to take in babies.

Friday we went shopping at the Broomfield mall to get some maternity clothes. I accidentally left my cell phone at home. While we were out we got a call from the county placement person saying they had a sibling group, currently living in separate foster homes, who they are hoping to place together in our home. Unfortunately, I didn't get the message until business hours were over. They are supposed to call us again on Monday and set up a transition to our home, which will be a nice change from all the middle of the night emergency placements that give you an hour's notice if you're lucky. The kids are a 4 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. The boy shares a name with a couple of my close family members, which is fun (and if you know me well, that gives it away). This would be a longer term placement theoretically. We're also waiting to hear if the sibling group we were hoping to be chosen as an adoptive family for ends up with us or not. The decision will be made by the end of this month.

Finally, in non-foster related news, the first night of AWANA went well. I got a promotion. I'm going to be the leader in charge of Danya's group because they were short one. That will end at the Christmas break as they'll have another leader available to take over in the Spring. Good thing, since I plan to be busy having a baby in February. I've got about 3 more weeks until I find out the gender. I'm still open to name suggestions!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Early Morning Delivery!

This morning I was woken up to a 4 am phone call from our county asking if we'd take two sisters ages 8 and 9! Of course I agreed and then rushed around to get clean sheets on the beds and everything straightened up. Then I suddenly remembered it might be a good idea to call Daniel at work and let him know that there'd be extra girls in the house when he got off work at six.

They'll only be here a short time since they're from a different county, but we're happy to have them. So far they've been excellent little guests and all four girls feel like it's a big sleepover party with friends. They may even get to be here for the first night of AWANA at our church this Wednesday. I'll try to get a photo taken soon!