Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dino Tot Book

I read about this idea for mini lap books on a website where they call them "tot books" because they are designed for toddlers. My first one is extremely simple because I was really just trying to let the boys feel like they could participate while the girls were making the dinosaur lap book.

The idea is to cut a file folder in half and make all the projects inside teach simple basic pre-K skills like color and shape recognition, counting to 10, etc. I used my Sizzix die cut machine to make the dinosaurs and Danya put dots on them so the boys could practice counting the dots up to ten. I like these and hope to make more and better ones in the future.

Dinosaur Lapbook

Here we go again. I read through the Magic Tree House books with Danya and Gloria a year or so ago. At the time we didn't do much other than read them. This time, now that I've collected all but four of the books, I'm reading through them with Snow White (although all the girls are listening). I'm trying to do a lapbook or similar project with each book. The first book, "Dinosaurs Before Dark", led to the creation of this lapbook. I paid for a subscription to Enchanted Learning's website where I got some of the printables. All the girls helped, but it was mainly Snow White's project. She really liked the book, too.


We're slowly but surely weaning Katie. It's been different with all my kids. Danya went 9 months before the doctor said I had to quit because my pregnancy with Gloria was exhausting me. Gloria only made it about 6 months because she grew teeth. Kevin went a whole year. Katie will be done by 4 months because I don't want to be nursing her while we're at Disney. She may still be nursing at night, but not during the day. At least that's the plan.

We're trying to bottle feed her between 9 am and 5 pm currently. At first she was adamantly opposed to the idea. Then someone suggested we switch nipples. That did the trick and now she's willing to be bottle fed with only an occasional refusal. Hopefully we'll finish the transition in the next week because we're leaving in about 8 days.

Katie at Three Months

She's three months old and getting cuter every day. She laughs, she smiles, she plays peek-a-boo. She can even grab her toys and shake them. Of course, her favorite thing to grab is hair which is why I just got mine cut.

She likes baths, wasn't sure about her first time swimming in a pool, hates nap time, and loves to be the center of attention. The cutest thing is when she "talks" to us. She babbles and then we respond and then she says something else. She's definitely going to be a talker.

Early Birthday

We were trying hard to schedule Danya's party on a day when her closest friends could all attend. There were four that she was hoping could come. Three of them said they could probably come last Friday, the 22nd. Her best friend could only come that day. The week of the party, two of the girls' family made other plans and her best friend canceled that day. Her mom was sick so she couldn't come. Fortunately one friend came and Danya still had a really good time. She actually said it was her best birthday ever.

She got to make her own cake without any help from us. It was lemon with lemon icing. Everyone wore their new swimsuits. Even Katie got her first swimsuit. We went to the Margaret Carpenter rec center to swim. The only blip in the fun was that the girls only wore shorts over their suits and forgot to bring shirts to change into. So two of the girls ended up wearing Brother and Kevin's shirts and one wore Daniel's shirt. Kevin had a meltdown that Snow White had his shirt. We never let him go around shirtless, so this was traumatic to him. He cried all the way home. We ended the evening by letting the kids eat the last of the pizza and put rub-on Tinkerbell tattoos on. It was a good day. Danya's favorite gift? Wireless text messaging toys that let her and a friend send messages to each other.

This Kid

He's my son. He's two years old. He seriously wears me out.

His standard response when I tell him to do anything is "I really don't want to." His response when I tell him he can't do something is to throw himself down on the floor on his face and cry his heart out. He definitely has mastered the Toddler's Creed.

These glasses, by the way, were part of the items I put in the goody bags for Danya's birthday party.

Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings are always wild and crazy at our house, trying to get 10 people ready for church and out the door on time. I've missed quite a few Sundays over the past few months on days when I did not feel like my leg was up to making it around church for several hours and up and down the stairs to Sunday school. However, that didn't mean that I wasn't still responsible for making sure all the kids looked nice.

Daniel is content if they all have decent clothes on. I'm concerned about minor details like having their hair look nice and their clothes match. I also don't like the girls to wear sneakers with dresses. Katie is almost a relief because I don't have to fix her hair or find shoes that go with her outfit. I'm worried about starting playing in the band next Sunday because now I will have to have myself at church by 7:30 am an hour earlier than the rest of my family and still manage to have the kids look nice before I leave. It wasn't so hard before, but my leg slows me down so much now. We'll see how it goes.

Thumbelina's Fish Lapbook

This is the fish lapbook that Thumbelina made. She labeled the parts of the fish diagram that I drew, found pictures of fish in magazines, made a fish game and showed how fish use camofulage to hide. She's excited about getting to participate in Danya and Gloria's homeschooling this Summer.

Snow White's Flower Lapbook

They weren't amazing lapbooks, since I had about five minutes to figure out what we were going to do and under an hour to get the whole thing made and assembled, but they turned out nice. Snow White really loves hers.

She used flower die cuts to make a math game pocket. She labeled the basic parts of a flower. She especially enjoyed searching for pictures of leaves in my old fitness magazines to make a leaf flip book.

Lapbooks on Demand

We went back to having each of the five oldest kids get one special night a week where they get to stay up late and have "special time" with either Daniel or me. For months they've been sharing with another kid on nights that Daniel wasn't working. So they used their first week in a new way.

Since they saw Danya and Gloria's energy lapbooks, they each decided they wanted to make a lapbook, too. They expected me to come up with an instant idea for how to fill a lapbook on whatever topic they came up with that night. Miss Lady and Snow White both picked flowers, but of course they couldn't be the same. One had to be at a Kindergarten level and one at a seventh grade level. Here's some photos of Miss Lady's lapbook. I drew the flower diagram and she labeled it. She really enjoyed making it and now says she's looking forward to helping me with all the projects the younger kids will be making this Summer.

He's Sweet on Me

Daniel made my favorite peanut butter cookies the other night. When he brought me one I found this nice surprise. He shaped it into a "J" for Jessica. This guy is definitely a keeper.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Busy, Tired, Swollen, etc.

I'm going to try to get all the photos downloaded and updated tomorrow. We've got quite a few. We celebrated Danya's birthday early this week so that her best friend could come... and then she canceled the day of the party. I've been working like crazy to get things ready for our upcoming homeschooling year to begin. I plan to start on June 15th. I usually like to begin in May, but this year my leg and Katie's birth has pushed things back. I'm also having a hard time getting everything planned out for such a large number of kids. How do homeschooling mom's with more kids than I have do this?

In other news, my leg is pretty much in constant pain. I'm trying to walk on it as much as possible to stretch the tendons so that I'll be able to handle all the walking we'll be doing next week when we go to Disneyland. Every time I walk, however, my ankle and foot swell up to frightening proportions. When I wear my sandals the circulation gets cut off and I can see this weird dented line in my foot where the swelling stops and I have a normal foot from there down to the toes. Despite all my effort, I still can't get my foot to bend properly, so I'm starting physical therapy this coming Friday.

I'm looking forward to the end of school this week. Brother had his last day last week. He had a school carnival on the last day. They sent a note home saying that they expected us to attend and that we couldn't bring any of our other kids. So we got Sarah to babysit and took him right after his counseling session was over. When we got there they said they'd scheduled the carnival during the A.M. so all of the P.M. kids were supposed to have come in the morning. We'd missed the whole thing by about an hour. Brother was devastated and cried all the way home.

Sometimes it feels like we are completely overwhelmed with the number of appointments the kids have every week. It will be nice when we don't have to worry about school on top of that. Currently they have counseling sessions, speech therapy, and two of them have family visits. Starting the week that we get back from vacation six of them will also be attending gymnastics classes for the summer. That's everyone except Miss Lady and Katie. Add to that the fact that I'm attending band practice on Wednesday nights now and will have physical therapy on Fridays. Then there are the endless stream of dental, pediatric, allergist, and eye doctors that they have to see. Tack on the visits from caseworkers that occur in our home, plus court dates and foster care reviews, and mandatory foster parent training hours. I'm tired just typing it. Speaking of which, it's almost 10pm and Katie may actually sleep for a few more minutes, so I'm going to bed. Hopefully everyone can understand why I'm having trouble finding time to update my blog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mom's Day 2009

For Mother's Day this year my family gave me a new scrapbooking die cut alphabet and a digital photo key chain. They also took me out for McDonald's breakfast. While we were eating I heard the kids all whispering and then in unison, "one...two...three Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!" It was fun getting looks from the other moms around us. I definitely had the most kids and in my opinion, the sweetest.

Happy Mother's Day to all our friends and family who do such a great job of raising the next generation!

Energy Lapbooks

The girls and I have been working on making lapbooks about energy, forces, and motion. Even Miss Lady thought they were cool when she saw them. She said, "We should make these in my school!". I agree. They are fun.

Danya's lapbook has a neat slider on the top that she thought up. It's two atoms attached with brads that can slide back and forth to smash into each other and split apart. When they are together they hide the info underneath that talks about atomic energy.

Gloria's book has a car slider with a drawing of a gas can on one side to show that cars get energy from chemicals. She also made a flipbook about the different types of energy. Currently we're reading a book about forces and motion. The girls are studying the force of air. We've been doing experiments all day. We're playing with balloons and "empty" bottles that only have air in them but manage to keep things out. The girls are getting a kick out of it.

Spring Book Fair

Daniel took me to the CHEC Spring bookfair last Saturday. It was sort of a Mother's Day present since he got Sarah to babysit and I was able to really enjoy a solid three hours browsing through the book tables without kids underfoot. When does that ever happen?

I ended up finding some good science, grammar, and math books. I was happy to find an extra copy of the Horizons math book (part 2) that Danya and Gloria are about to start working on. This way they can each work in their own book. I found some really good deals, especially on some books that are normally over $20 each that were being sold for a buck a piece. Daniel would occasionally come back to wherever I was at and take my current bag full of books and swap it with an empty bag. It was pure bliss!

Afterwards we grabbed some lunch and he took me to see the new Star Trek movie. It was actually better than I had expected it to be. I've gotten to see two new movies recently, which must be a record for me. Two in one month! The other day Miss Lady and I went to see Wolverine, the new X-Men movie. It was at one of those theaters where you can order food and have it delivered to your seat. We had Oreo shakes and popcorn. Yum! My last hurrah, since Daniel and I are starting back on watching our food intake again so that hopefully we can lose a little weight before vacation.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Homeschool Day at Elitch's

Today was Homeschool Day at Elitch's. I took Danya and Gloria after my foot doctor appointment. I was worried about what the doctor would say since I haven't really been using my boot this week and I've been trying to walk on my foot bare footed or in sneakers a lot. He said it's been 8 weeks and I should keep doing exactly what I'm doing. He said I could still use the boot for doing stuff outside of my home this week, but otherwise, walk as much as possible barefooted. The tendon in the back of my leg is very tight and the only way to truly loosen it is to walk.

Elitch's was a lot of fun for the girls. As for me, my palms got deeply bruised from using my crutches so much. It was also embarrassing being so slow going through lines. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it. We rode a roller coaster, an endless stream of spinning rides, the giant dragon boat, some swings, and a bunch of other rides. We had a Dippin' Dots sundae and bought gummy octopus candy to share with the other kids as we left. We even ran into some fellow homeschool kids from our church. Danya and Gloria rode the boat a second time with them.

On the way out I accidentally left Danya's purse in the kids' play area that's filled with foam balls. We had to go all the way back to get it. That meant that Daniel and the kids, who had all come to pick us up, had to sit in front of Elitch's for an extra half hour. Did I mention I was slow and exhausted on my crutches? I'm determined to be done with crutches by the time we go to Disneyland.

Chair Love

Katie loves her car seat. She likes to sleep in it and hates to sleep flat on her back. Sometimes she'll be crying inconsolably and the minute I put her in her car seat she's happy. At church in the nursery she loves the swing. We've been considering buying her a swing but don't know where we'd put it.

Yesterday, while we were having our big important adoption meeting with the adoption worker and the assistant GAL (Guardian Ad Litem), we had the kids in the daycare room for Children and Family Services. They had a little vibrating seat that Katie was happy as a clam in. So Daniel went out last night and picked up this new seat for Katie.

She likes to kick it, and the kids have figured out that if they put her fingers on the pull string of the lion Katie will pull on it and make the music play. She's got a little heart that tinkles lightly when she bats at it attached to her car seat which she enjoys, but this new seat has made her very happy. Speaking of Katie being happy, last night, May 7th, Katie laughed for the first time. It was the cutest little giggle. She did it three more times and then I haven't gotten her to do it again since.

Thoughts of Home

Miss Lady and Thumbelina recently had a court hearing for their case. I waited in the hall for two hours for it to begin. Then I went down to the first floor for 10 minutes to get something to eat. By the time I got back up to the sixth floor the case had been called and was already over. The caseworker informed me that things were going fairly well.

The girls are going to have all day unsupervised visits with their parents starting tomorrow and continuing every Saturday from now on. In a related side note, the people who are paid to supervise the visits on Friday called me today to find out why we weren't there. The caseworker had failed to inform them of the change in visitation. Oops.

These new visits are a good sign. The caseworker says that the goal is currently to have the girls returning home by August. Their next court date is August 7th. She says we shouldn't even have to enroll them for school. The girls are very excited. We also got court approval to take them with us to Disneyland. I'm very excited about that part because the tickets are non-refundable.

On Wednesday, Daniel took Miss Lady back to her old school to visit. She had late start at her own school and really wanted to go see her old friends and teachers and tell them that she may be back next Fall. Daniel played photographer for her. She had a really good time. I hope everything continues to go well for her family.

The Big Test

When we began homeschooling in Oklahoma several people asked me if my kids would have to be tested to see if I'm doing a good job educating them. They were shocked that Oklahoma doesn't require testing for homeschoolers. When we moved to Colorado we learned that here we'd have to have our kids tested after they completed 3rd grade.

This year Danya was officially old enough to have finished 3rd grade, so we had her tested at our church's Christian school. They were taking the Stanford Achievement Test which took four days to administer. They also included a biblical knowledge and application test. Danya had a fun time, but was nervous about a couple of small areas. We just got the results back this week.

As a homeschooling parent there is always doubt in the back of your mind. You wonder if you're doing a good job educating your kids, whether they are on par with other kids their age, or if those days when you don't get anywhere near what you want to accomplished have added up to make them fall behind. Secretly, you hope that your kids are actually ahead of the curve, but wonder if you've helped them to advance in all the wrong areas. You hear what other kids are learning and wonder if you should have included some of that in your curriculum.

Getting Danya's test results back have officially calmed all our fears. On average, for all the subjects tested, Danya scored at an almost 10th grade level. She actually scored higher than the kids from the private Christian school who all scored higher than the national average. Most of her scores were in the 90th percentile. Her best score was in Mathematics Problem Solving where she scored "PHS" which means post high school. Her lowest score was in language which she still scored three grades ahead. So I guess I can relax now and enjoy the process more without worrying that I'm messing them up for life academically.

Let's Go to the HOP!

For the end of AWANA celebration this year, the Sparks got to go to a place called HOP which is full of giant inflatables and other toys. They were allowed to bring any siblings under the age of 9, so Daniel took the kids while Miss Lady, Katie, and I stayed home. Miss Lady and I finished up our three consecutive Wednesday movie nights. She'd never seen the original Star Wars movies, so I was filling in that gap in her education. She thought they were great.

The younger kids had a blast at HOP. There were inflatables for all different ability levels. There were even plastic ride on toys for Kevin and Shane to enjoy. Danya's AWANA group had a trip to a similar place called Jump Street the following week, but we didn't take her to that one because it cost almost three times as much and she couldn't bring siblings. She said that was fair since she got to enjoy HOP even though she's not in Sparks. I'm going to miss having Daniel take the kids out on Wednesday nights for AWANAs. That was becoming my scrapbooking and time with Miss Lady night.

Their Family History

This week we had the big pre-adoptive meeting where the adoption worker tells us all about Snow White and Brother's past. We learned everything they know about the parents' history. That was a bit more than we had originally been led to believe. We were a little shocked.

Then they told us about the kids' history and where they've been. They were in a lot more foster homes than we had been told about. I feel really bad for both of them and understand Brother's confusion about relationships a lot more. The way he hugs and kisses total strangers good-bye seemed strange until we learned that he's never really had enough time in any one home to understand that his affection should be mainly reserved for close family and friends.

The next step will be the adoption subsidy agreement. Daniel says we can't move forward with that part until after we get Brother evaluated for FAE (fetal alcohol effects) since that is going to affect Brother for life and is going to make a difference on the amount of special help he needs. That may mean that we end up pushing back the adoption date which is currently set for July 15th. I really don't want that to happen so we're going to work hard on getting Brother evaluated sooner.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Award Night at Awana

All four of our girls who are in AWANA got an award on the final night. They completed their books and memorized a phenomenal number of verses this year. After the awards ceremony there was a hotdog dinner at the church.

Now that AWANA is over for the year we're considering other options for the kids to participate in this summer. There will still be a Wednesday night kids' program. We're also checking out the schedule at the recreation center for dance and gymnastics. Then there is a homeschool co-op in the works. We're also looking at some "Friday school" groups for homeschoolers. I don't want to make the summer overly busy, but I also want the kids to have plenty of opportunities to see friends and do something away from home. Of course, we'll definitely participate in the summer reading program at the library. It'll be a fun summer!

I can do it myself!

"I'm a big boy!" He tells me daily. He's learning to change his own pull up, get himself dressed, buckle himself in the van, get his own snack, brush his own teeth and hair, and generally do all the things...

that he used to need me for. Waaah!

Working Man

Four nights a week he leaves a 7:30pm just after putting the boys to bed. He's got his laptop, cell phone, keys, work badge, and maybe a few Redbox DVDs to return. He knows that he'll likely get a phone call from me around midnight, in tears, telling him that Kevin won't stop playing in his bed, Brother had another accident in his bed, Katie won't stop screaming, one of the other girls has gotten out of bed yet again, or someone has a fever or just started throwing up and I'm in agony trying to deal with it all while hopping on one foot. And there's absolutely nothing he can do about it accept offer suggestions, tell me where something I need is, and let me vent my frustration. But without him to do those things I don't know how I'd make it through the night. I love this man.

Snow, snow, Go Away!

I'm so ready for summer. Even a good solid Spring would be nice.

Her Tooth

Snow White has lost another tooth. And can you believe it? The tooth fairy forgot to come AGAIN?! Why do we have this seeming inability to get this simple task right? Someone is going to revoke our parenting license over this eventually, I just know it.

As usual, we tell them that the tooth fairy definitely came. She just forgot to take the tooth with her. We tell them to go check again. By this time there is now money hidden somewhere near the pillow or maybe inside the pillowcase so that we can claim they just overlooked it the first time they searched. Do you think God forgives those kinds of fibs when we get to heaven? She'll be too old to believe in the tooth fairy soon. I just can't bear to break it to her yet that the tooth fairy is just an imperfect parent who loves her.

Cast in the Past

The cast is gone! I've got my walking boot finally. The only negative aspect has been that I'm still struggling to walk again. The doctor finally let me put some weight on it beginning last Friday. He's going to examine it again this coming Friday to see how I'm doing and decide if I can get rid of the walking boot.

This "learning to walk again" thing is a lot harder and hurts more than I thought it would. I can only practice hobbling in short jerky steps for a short while before I have to give it a rest. Yesterday I put my sneakers on and actually drove the van! It hurts to push the break pedal, but I made it. I'm getting some flexibility back in my ankle, but still having trouble getting it to bend towards me. That makes it very hard to walk, sit, or stand. I didn't realize how much an ankle bends for every little thing.

I've already hurt myself a few times. Today I slipped while trying to pull a frozen pizza out of the oven. I was wearing just a sock on my hurt foot and fell over backwards. It was pretty scary. More gross than scary is the way that my leg looks. The skin is peeling off all over and super skinny from muscle loss. I'm washing it and putting lotion on every day. I finally gritted my teeth and shaved off the hair. My leg was covered in painful in grown hairs that would jam in the razor and rip when I tried to shave. I was a bloody mess, and it took three days but it helped and my leg looks much better now. Ah, the things you don't anticipate when you think about what it means to have a broken leg. Just for fun, here's a photo of my leg x-rays. You can see the metal plate and screws.

Katie at 2 Months

Here's a picture of Katie at 2 months old. She's growing so fast. She babbles and smiles at us and even seems to laugh in her sleep sometimes. She's getting better at pushing her pacifier into her mouth with her fist. At the doctor's office last week she got her 2 month shots. If I'd been there I would have asked that they be spread out over a few months. They gave her about 6 different vaccinations! She had a fever and was extremely fussy all weekend.

Normally, she's a very happy contented baby. She likes to spend time up on someone's shoulder while they walk around the house. Sometimes when she's in her car seat and I'm next to her on my bed, we play footsies. That cracks her up. Lately she's been trying to reach up and pull her own hair. She also keeps accidentally scratching her face no matter how often I cut her nails. She's so adorable though, that everyone in the church nursery wants to be the one who holds her.

The Clever Rabbi

We've been reading about the "Diaspora" in our Story of the World books just recently. That's when the Romans scattered the Jews all across the known world at the time in order to keep them from constantly revolting. There was a cute story about "The Clever Rabbi" who lived in Spain and some puppets that went with it. The girls had a fun time making the puppets and performing the play for me and all the other kids.

I'm trying to incorporate more fun art projects and other crafts into our homeschooling in order to increase the kids' excitement about continuing school throughout the summer. We learn year round so that we are free to take breaks whenever we need to throughout the year. However, this is the first year that we'll have older school age kids with us over the summer. I'm hoping that they'll want to participate and not make the other kids feel like their brains should just be turned off for the summer simply because the public schools closed their doors. Snow White is already so excited about homeschooling that she's upset that I'm not ready for her to start working in her first grade math book, lol. That's the kind of attitude I'm hoping will spread!

Outsider's Perspective

Recently a new couple at our church who are interested in foster care stopped Daniel to speak to him after church. The man said that he gets a bunch of extra food every month from his mom who thinks they never eat, but there's no way he and his wife can eat that much food. He asked if we would take it because we have a large family and "You don't look rich".

Daniel told me about it, laughingly, when he got home. I thought about that all day long. Our teen foster daughter, Miss Lady, has said to me that compared to her family we would seem fairly well off financially because we aren't dreading bills every month and we can afford to do fun things when we want to in general. I know we're better off than either of our families were when we were kids. At the same time we certainly don't qualify for the President's version of "rich".

We don't buy clothes that cost more than about $10-15 at most and usually much less than that. An expensive pair of shoes for us is anything over $20. But we spend most of our money lately on fast food, which is driving us all crazy. As my foot heals I hope to be able to cook more. We've used the extra money we had from the foster care stipend, not to buy a newer vehicle, or other big ticket items, but instead to pay for a trip to Disneyland to hopefully make wonderful once-in-a-lifetime memories with the kids. My family never took vacations, so I know how much it means to a kid from a poor family. Miss Lady is excited to ride on an airplane and stay in a hotel for the first time. How funny that those are the things that really make the trip special to her.

I guess what really hit me was that the same day this man said that we aren't rich, another friend said that we definitely knew what was important in life. That's true. We'd rather spend time together than drive a big fancy car. We'd rather have a cheaper house with lots of bedrooms to be able to help more foster kids than a beautiful new house with fewer rooms. And I'd rather do dishes by hand because there's no room for a dishwasher because we've got a gigantic table that the whole family can eat around together. I guess if I'd been there when he was talking to Daniel I would have said, "My friend, you don't know what rich is. We are richly blessed."

Commotion in the Ocean

Snow White's class had a musical performance called "Commotion in the Ocean" They all did a really great job. You could even hear all the kids who had speaking parts. I'm very impressed with the teachers who organized it all. Each of the kids wore a little hat with an animal on it. Snow White's hat was a turtle.

After the performance we took the kids out to McDonald's for an icecream and a chance to play. Also, at the end of the show the teacher offered everyone the chance to buy the "Commotion in the Ocean" book for a dollar. That should hopefully arrive before school is out. Then again, we placed a book order for Thumbelina's class about six weeks ago and still haven't received it. So who knows?

Her Twin

No, I don't know why this photo is loading sideways. Yes, we did plan to put them in matching dresses. My friend, Deanna, bought these dresses for the girls shortly before her daughter, Elizabeth, was born. I was still in the hospital when she brought me the dress. It was a really nice surprise to have visitors other than my own kids.

We finally got the girls in their dresses so they could match at church the weekend after Easter. They were so cute. All morning long people who stopped by the nursery would ask if they were twins. Daniel would tell them, "No, just friends." I think the idea of being actual friends at this age is sort of a fantasy, but then again, maybe it's a prediction.