Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Westminster Splash Park

I took the kids to a new splash park that I've been meaning to check out all summer. We didn't stay long, but they got to climb on everything and wade in the water and play in the sprinklers. Katie really liked the log tunnel. We played peek-a-boo through the holes. There were so many kids there that it was a bit overwhelming. All I want to know is, where were these kind of parks when I was a kid?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

He's Shaping Up Fine

Kevin is enjoying his first official year of homeschooling. He's a pre-K/Kindergartner this year, learning his ABC's, reading, handwriting, spelling color words, and doing simple math. This picture is of a shape man he drew. I try to let Kevin and Shane draw on the white boards when it seems like they're getting tired of writing with a pencil. They get more practice holding the thin markers correctly, but it seems like fun to them.

Next year I plan to let Kevin start in the Options program as a first grader along with Shane. I'm hoping they'll be able to support each other, although there is the possibility that they'll just rile each other up. We'll have to see. I've also been giving them opportunities to work separately some this year, so that Kevin doesn't become too dependent on having another kid working beside him. I have them take turns, with one playing educational computer games in the guest bedroom while the other does workbook pages in our homeschool room. It motivates them to complete their work quickly and lets them work somewhat independently as well.

Options: Year 2

This is our second year sending our four oldest kids to the Broomfield Options program for homeschooled kids. This year they attend on Thursdays. They all seemed excited to go back and see their friends, but it turns out that a lot of their friends are going on Fridays and not Thursdays. So, it's been a bit of an adjustment, trying to make new friends and get used to new teachers.

Fortunately Shane has the same Kindergarten teacher that he had last year. We decided to have him repeated Kindergarten since he has such a late birthday to begin with and because he just didn't seem ready for first grade yet. This year he is more mature and has a little more self control. He's also picking up a lot of the material better. He still struggles with letter recognition and their sounds, but he's learned his colors and can even recognize the words. He's got his basic shapes down and is doing simple math. Even his handwriting is improving.

Danya and Gloria are a little bit bored with their classes and say there aren't enough girls in them. But they like learning to play the piano and their history class is fun since it's in the form of a musical that they will perform at the end of the school year. Brianna is struggling in some of her classes, but she's trying hard. She's also taking piano. Bri and Glory are both taking P.E. and having fun keeping track of how many reps they can do lifting soup cans and of course sit ups and push ups. Danya is taking a writing class. She thinks there is too much writing required, but I think it's pushing her in a good way. She's the youngest in her class, so it's a challenge for her.

The challenge for me is allowing them time to work on their Options homework while still having enough time to complete all of the homeschool work I've scheduled. I had the girls sit down and figure out a schedule with me and that's really seemed to help. We'll see if it works out over time.

Married... with Children

When I was a kid I remember watching a t.v. show called "Married... with Children" with my mom. She loved that show, and thought it was so funny. The whole family treated each other horribly. The mom seemed to only communicate with her husband by whining and manipulation and the dad always joked about wishing he were dead instead of stuck in that family. Her other favorite family sitcom was "Roseann" which was only marginally better.

I remember wishing that my family could be more like the one on "Family Ties" where the family, although occasionally exasperated with each other, clearly loved one another. The dad was full of wisdom and the mom was self confident but loving. But then, I was looking at it all with a child's eyes and didn't catch most of the issues being discussed. Now here I am, 14 years into a marriage with Daniel, and I realize that no t.v. show character really captures how individuals truly are. They aren't static, either always wise or always foolish, always loving or always cruel.

We have days where Daniel and I feel like silly young teenagers in love, holding hands and snuggling, and other days where we have trouble speaking to each other without sarcasm or annoyance. So many of our disagreements happen because of pride, both of us thinking that our time is more valuable, our to-do list is more time sensitive, our grievances more important, our view of a situation is the only correct one. But in spite of frustrating days, underneath it all lies a bedrock of unshakable love and commitment to one another and to God that brings us back together with "I'm sorry's" and "I love you's" and openhearted discussions where we both try to see each others' viewpoint. That's my favorite thing about our marriage, the willingness to compromise and change.

This year for our 14th anniversary I surprised Daniel with a special day. He didn't find out until we were on the way that we were going hiking at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It was beautiful and awe inspiring. Daniel loves outdoorsy stuff, and this was just tame enough for me and adventurous enough for him. Afterwords we played together at Chuck E. Cheese and used the tickets we won to get prizes to bring home to the kids.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We Picked Them!

Celebrating the one year anniversary of the day we adopted Brianna and Shane was so much fun. We took the kids strawberry picking. We left Katie and "Diego" at home with our babysitter and "Spaceman Spiff" was at school because it was a Friday. It was a beautiful day in August and the kids had a great time. Each of them got to pick an entire carton of strawberries. The berries were a bit picked over, but we found plenty of good ones. At home we made strawberry shortcake and strawberry smoothies. I'd love to go again sometime.

This past year I've seen both Bri and Shane grow and change so much. They've matured in many ways and, although they still have bad days now and then like all kids, they really feel like they've always been ours. We're trying hard to strengthen the bond between us because we know we missed out on those crucial early years. Sometimes it seems like we have to treat them more like we treat Katie, then the way we'd treat kids their age normally. They need those times of snuggling and rocking, singing and tickling, all the things that we do with a baby that shows them that they are ours and we are their source of affection, protection, and love.

I also forget sometimes that they learned most of their language skills after they arrived in our home. Today I was working on reading with Brianna when I heard her say "beebee" instead of "baby". She had learned how to say the word by hearing Katie say it. We thought it was cute, so we'd call her dolls her "beebees", too. So that's how Bri thought the word was pronounced. Daily we are reminded that we need to be proud of them and encourage them for doing well at the level they are at and not where we think they should be because of their age. There's a real difference in kids who come from neglect between "chronological age" and "developmental age". I have hope, though, that they will continue to improve and grow. Most importantly, I hope they grow closer to the Lord and deeper in their knowledge and understanding of Him.

Friday, August 13, 2010

YM Party

Our Sunday school class, called the "Young Marrieds" class, had a family party where we all brought our kids and played games. There were toilet seat races using plungers and seats with wheels on them. Even some of the adults raced! It was tough when they paired up two of my kids at a time because I didn't know who to cheer for.

There was also a cake walk at the end. We brought several desserts since we had 8 kids participating. All of our kids won something and were very happy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Public School Again

This year we enrolled two of our foster sons in a school we had first tried out a couple of years ago. The school we'd been enrolling kids in got relocated to a new building farther away from us, so we returned to this one. It's a good school with supportive office staff. We were going to have two boys in one second grade class together, but two days before class started, one of the boys "Music Man" was moved to a pre-adoptive home.

"Spaceman Spiff" liked his class and his teacher, but we had some issues with him hiding his homework and pretending he didn't have any. The teacher and I had to stay in close contact. Then there was a substitute one day who ignored "Spiff's" requests to use the bathroom and made him wait until the designated break time. Of course, due to physical issues, he was a stinky mess by then, but she failed to notice and he was too embarrassed to tell her. He ended up finishing out the day and riding the bus home like that. I admit I wasn't exactly even tempered when I called to explain the situation to the school secretary. I'd taken the time before school began to explain all his problems and how to prevent them with his teachers and school support staff, but no one had bothered to leave a note for the sub.

I've never had a kid with as severe issues as Spaceman Spiff and I hope to avoid that level of special needs in the future. However, we did miss him when he was moved to a therapeutic home. He had a good heart and a sweet nature. We've also never had 3 boys, unrelated to each other, all with special needs at the same time. It was quite a challenge.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Adams County Fair 2010

"Spaceman Spiff" arrived at the same time we planned to go to the Adams County Fair, so he got to join us. He said it was his first time going to any kind of amusement park or fair. We could see in his face that it was really a struggle for him. He was having fun, but at the same time he was still very torn up about being placed in foster care. He didn't really know us yet, but he was quickly developing a friendship with the girls.

The thing that broke my heart the most was when he was on one of the rides and started making silly faces for the camera. I laughed when I finished taking the photo and I could see that he expected a mad reaction and was excited that he'd made me laugh. He kept telling Gloria, "Look! I made her laugh!" "Spiff" wanted my approval so badly. I think he has a very complicated relationship with his mom.

One bad moment of the night was when I realized that I'd accidentally dropped all the food coupons. We'd been given $50 worth of free food coupons from the county. Someone must have found the envelope because we retraced our steps and it was gone. I felt so bad. Daniel bought everyone a snow cone and we went home shortly after that. Overall it was a good night, though.

Spaceman Spiff

We've got a 7 yr old foster son (he'll be 8 next month) currently who is generally a very easy kid to have. Most boys we've had before have been very high energy. This one seems to keep his energy tightly leashed most of the time. However, when our former foster son "Music Man" was here for a while, "Spaceman Spiff" (as I call him online), let loose for the first time.

It's so much fun to see him come out of his shell and really relax into our family's crazy life. I call him Spaceman Spiff, or Spiff for short, because he has such a great imagination and talks a mile a minute when he's excited about something. If you're familiar with my favorite comic strip than you know where the name comes from.