Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weird Science

Okay, I think it's neat that Danya is taking charge more and more of her education. She's learning all about chemistry in her "Properties of Matter" science book and doing the experiments mostly on her own. What I think is weird is that she needs to know the effects of certain chemicals on things that she would NEVER normally put them on. Yes, seeing a chemical reaction is good, but why give kids ideas like "putting household chemicals on your food is fun" when we spend most of their lives teaching them not to touch those things and never eat anything that might be contaminated by chemicals or cleaners?

Danya has become quite the little scientist lately. More often than not I have to read her science lesson before I can help by answering any questions she might have. Many times I have to do a little research online, too. Maybe she'll find a career in this direction. Clearly, I never will.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fire Safety 2011

We went to the fire safety day for foster families this year. Instead of the smoke house that the kids normally get to crawl through, they got to actually use the fire hose. They sprayed water onto wooden flame cut outs. Shane was so excited he couldn't even come up with the words to describe it. It just came out like "Oooh! And them and I and Mommy! Pwshhh! Yah."

The adults got to use a fire extinguisher to put out a gas fire on a portable stove. It looked fun, but it was hard to breath with all the white dusty chemicals in the air. I thought I did good when it was my turn, but the fire man said I should have aimed more at the base of the flame. Oh well. Hopefully I'll never need to test that skill in real life.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Family" Passes

I like the Children's Museum in Denver. The main reason is that they understand that a family does not consist of just two adults and two kids. They don't charge us extra for our larger family, and they also don't make our foster children feel like they aren't part of our family by charging extra for them. They just note it in our file that our number and ages of children will change.

They don't do that at the Aquarium or the Art Museum. Both of those places treat you like you are either A.) a freak or B.) a con artist trying to scam them. Are there really so many large families or foster families out there that the place would lose too much money if they actually included the whole family in their "family pass"?

We also used to go to Fazoli's every Tuesday night for Kids' Night because they gave discounted meals for kids with the purchase of an adult meal. Now they've changed it to be like every other restaurant and only allow two kids meals per adult meal. So we don't eat there any more. In America today there is a growing number of people who act like it's bad parenting to feed your kids McDonald's. There are even certain cities that don't allow new fast food places to be built in poor neighborhoods because they supposedly make poor people fat and unhealthy. That seems odd since I keep hearing that schools have to feed kids breakfast and lunch (and in some places dinner and weekend meals) because poor parents won't feed their children.

Anyway, I can't help but think that the reason McDonald's makes so much money is not because their food tastes the best, but because they provide a necessary commodity... cheap food in a family friendly environment. If you offer a dollar menu and a playland I'd eat almost anywhere. I wish that instead of demanding more regulations to stop fast food places from advertising to kids or selling Happy Meal toys or to change their menu, people with the money and imagination would create their own restaurants with play areas for the kids, inexpensive healthy food, and a fun educational toy in every box. We'd practically live there... as long as they don't sell tofu.

Double Respite

We had back to back respite placements at the end of August. We enjoyed having two brothers followed by two sisters. The girls were a handful, but the boys were non-stop mayhem. We really enjoyed the boys, but they were loud, constantly in motion, and loved to rough house. Their foster mom was a no-nonsense kind of lady, but that was probably just what they needed. We bumped into them again at the Fire Safety training class about a month later. The kids were all super excited to see each other. Sometimes I think that if we adopted every kid our family ever bonded with we'd look like we were running an orphanage.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Here I am to Worship

Since joining the praise team a few years ago, worship is very different experience for me. I used to lose myself in the music, with lots of pauses for prayer in between songs whether everyone else was still singing or not. It felt cathartic, releasing my cares to God, relaxing in His presence, renewing my spirit for the week ahead.

Now, instead, I'm counting measures and rests, trying to follow the drummer, and make sure that I'm in tune with the trumpet players sitting next to me. I still sing along when I can and really do enjoy the experience, but it's not the same. For awhile I felt the loss profoundly. Until I realized that church isn't about me getting my once a week connection with God. If I'm walking with God the way I should be, then I'm reading His word, praying, singing worship songs and working on our relationship all week long, not just on Sundays. Sunday is a day for learning and fellowship. Through my participation on the worship team I'm helping fellow believers to draw closer to God and also to each other. I'm creating an atmosphere of worship and lifting up a joyful sound unto the Lord.

Now that my daughter, Danya, is learning trombone, I'm hoping that she will join me on the praise team in a year or two. As for me, I will worship God with my life... not just on Sunday mornings.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

He Brings Me Flowers

When Daniel and I were younger I used to hate it if he brought me flowers. They died so quickly and then I had nothing to remember them by. When our first child, Danya, was born, Daniel remembered and brought me silk flowers. They were beautiful and I kept them for years.

As I got older I developed allergies to flowers with lots of pollen. It got to the point that I had to be careful where I walked in a grocery store, in order to avoid the flower department. The only flowers that consistently were safe for me to be around were roses. When we lived in Owasso, Oklahoma our house had rose bushes in the back yard. I first began to enjoy them there.

When I was a little girl I remember lots of years when it would be my parents' dating anniversary (they didn't marry until I was in my late 20s). My dad would usually forget until just before he walked in the front door. Then he'd stop and cut some roses off my mom's rose bushes in the front yard with his pocket knife. I can't imagine why, after the first time, he ever did it again. She hated them. It symbolized to her the fact that he didn't care enough to think about a gift ahead of time or to take the time to get her something special.

Daniel, however, has found my weak spot. Not only does he get roses in unique color combinations that spark my interest (this year the pink ones called to him) but he includes a card. He's figured out that a handwritten note, no matter how simple, as long as it's heart felt, melts me every time. He could tie a love note to a pencil and I'd be thrilled. I save them all. Some guys are really bad at gift giving. Maybe Daniel should tell my dad the secret of love notes?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Love you, too, Kev

Kevin is at such a strange stage right now. One minute he's hugging me and telling me that he loves me, making pictures for me and snuggling with me on the couch. The next he's slamming doors and raging, covering his ears so he doesn't have to listen to teachers and running out the door of the classroom.

He wants to be included with big kids and be allowed to ride further on his bike. He's doing third grade math and reading simple books. But at the same time, he's afraid to be in a classroom without his brother, Shane, by his side. He cries at night telling me that Shane wouldn't play with him on the playground. I know there are some people who would say, "See! This is how homeschooling makes a kid lack social skills."

Fortunately, I have plenty of other successful kids so that I can be sure that I'm raising well adjusted, confident kids. The truth is that some kids are just naturally shy and insecure and younger siblings in big families often become dependent on older siblings always being there. I can see a strong personality in Kevin, so it seems clear to me that in the future he will become a leader. His excellent speaking skills, compassion for others, and quick mind will serve him well. In the meantime, I like to say that Kevin is God's way of keeping me humble. I often get compliments on how great my kids are, so well behaved. Kevin gives me a reality check and reminds me that my heavenly Father is the reason for any good results I see in my children. And He will be the one that deals with Kevin's heart to turn him into the mighty man of God I know he will someday be.

15 Years and Still the One

(When I first saw you, I saw love.
And the first time you touched me, I felt love.
And after
all this time, you're still the one I love.)
Looks like we made it
Look how far we've come my baby
We mighta took the long way
We knew we'd get there someday

They said, "I bet they'll never make it"
But just look at us holding on
We're still together still going strong

(You're still the one)
You're still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You're still the one I want for life
(You're still the one)
You're still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You're still the one I kiss good night

Ain't nothin' better
We beat the odds together
I'm glad we didn't listen
Look at what we would be missin'

They said, "I bet they'll never make it"
But just look at us holding on
We're still together still going strong

- Shania Twain

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Imagination Welcome Here

One of the things I always hated about school when I was little was the way that they stifled my creativity. The teacher would present us with an art project and make all 25 of us do it exactly the same way. I'd get in trouble for coloring outside the lines or making the horse purple or gluing something in the wrong place. It was all about "learning to follow directions" which is valuable, but not at the expense of creativity. I saw this great book the other day "Eric Carle The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse" which is about the author and artist of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Very Busy Spider" and so many others of my all time favorite books. It talks about his discovery of a different kind of painting and learning that art isn't about following someone else's rules.

Through homeschooling, I hope to maintain my children's creativity, their imagination, and their enthusiasm for play no matter how old they get. I don't want them to ever feel like they must hide their uniqueness for fear of ridicule from other kids or that they are "too old" to dress up and imagine that they live in another time period. As Dr. Seuss said, "If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lake Beauty

We went back to Cherry Creek Lake, just our family, a couple of weeks later. This time we brought rafts and shovels and buckets so we could really play. The kids got filthy, covered in sand, half drowned from all the times they fell off a raft, and generally had a fantastic time.

We got Katie a new swimsuit, too, since her old one was getting pretty snug. I'm still amazed at how much she is growing up. She took off on potty training finally. I guess the M&Ms were a good motivator. She also loved the dances and silly songs I would do when she was successful. Even now, every time she comes out of the bathroom she sings at the top of her lungs, "I went pee pee in the potty!" She's got a rhythm to it and sort of a rap tone, too. She does the funniest accents some times. I know she gets it from me, but somehow it's even funnier when she does it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Passing on the Legacy

I don't know if she chose trombone because she knew how happy I'd be, or because it would mean we'd spend more time together, or because she really wanted to. Either way, I'm thrilled!

After calling three different local middle schools, I finally found one that would let a homeschooler into their 6th grade band program. We drop Danya off at 11am so she can have lunch and recess with her friends and then go to band. Then we pick her up at 12:25. It started out being five days a week, but after we finally got into the Brighton Options program, she now goes there on Tuesdays, so band is only four days a week for her. She's the best trombonist out of the 10 in her class. The only one with a private music teacher at home. She even comes with me on Sunday mornings to sit next to me during church band rehearsal so she can learn to follow the music and understand all the musical terms on the page. I'm so proud of her my face literally hurts from grinning so much!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meeting Batman

Shane and Kevin were invited to their friends' Batman birthday party this year. Batman himself was there! Apparently, my friend Ruth knows a guy who dresses up as Batman for parties in his free time. I have no idea what his day job is, but in this case, he could definitely stick with the Batman routine. Daniel took the boys to the party and says Batman was fantastic with the kids.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Down on the Farm

The boys were doing a unit study about farms and farm animals, learning the names of the mothers and babies. They were making a file folder display project and the older girls wanted to participate, too. Part of the fun of homeschooling is that you are never to old to join in on the fun. Not only do lessons get reinforced both directions as the older kids get to hear previously learned lessons again as I teach them to their younger siblings, but the younger ones also learn a lot before I even officially teach it to them because they hear me teaching the information to the oldest kids and then the middle ones. Kevin often can tell me all about a lesson before I teach it. He'll say, "I know, Mommy. I heard you tell Brianna (or Shane, Gloria, Danya).

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Limbo is the worst. That period when you know your foster kids, who you love dearly, will be leaving soon, but not quite yet. Wondering if there will be a last minute change in court, secretly hoping there will be. Nodding and smiling when the family member they are going to live with says they'd be happy to have you remain a part of the kids' lives, but knowing it might just be lip service.

We tried to do as many fun things with "Junie B." and "Boo" as we could before they left us to go live with their former uncle-in-law. It was heart breaking, knowing that we might never see them again after hoping so much that we would get to adopt them. They fit so beautifully into our family. One of the things we did was go to the Children's Museum again. They had some fun new exhibits and some beloved old ones. The kids especially loved the bubble room.

I felt like I needed to take tons of pictures of the girls because the phrase "this could be the last time" kept repeating in my head. But I was also trying to get their scrapbook albums caught up so they'd have a wonderful treasure to take with them. That's a little hard when you keep taking more pictures. We said goodbye to them the day after these photos were taken. Daniel left for work and the rest of our family just had a great big cry on the couch, holding each other and praying for the girls' safety. Some days, being a foster family is very very hard.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Love Hate Relationship

The Broomfield library is such a contradictory place. They have a huge selection of books, but the first thing you see as you walk in is a big room full of educational toys. Don't get me wrong, we love the toys. But my kids are not thrilled to be dragged away from them after 30 minutes to go look at books. Then, as you walk into the children's book area, the first obstacle is the row of computers loaded with kids' games.

It's just frustrating since the reason I go there is to give our kids a larger selection of books and to impress them with the wonder of an entire building full of books that we can read for free. I loved the Stillwater public library as a kid. When I was a young teen my mom or brother would drop me off there in the morning and I would stay until they closed, snuggled down deep between towering shelves with only a Jessica-sized space between them, the sun light barely filtering in through tiny windows.

I loved the smell and the quiet. My house was always so noisy with TVs blaring in every room and everyone shouting at each other all the time. The library was an oasis to me. Later, that library was sold several times. It's a beautiful old tan brick building. When I was 18 and just graduated from high school I got a job there with the computer software design company that owned it at that time. I was a tester, trying out all the buttons and drop down menus to see if they did what they were supposed to do. It wasn't the same sitting in a cubicle, but I could feel the bones of the place, and it felt good to be back. Hopefully, I'll be able to instill that same love for libraries in my children. It probably won't be at the Broomfield library, though.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Denver Art Museum

We took the kids to the Denver Art Museum in August for the first time ever. It was much better than I thought it would be. They have a lot of exhibits designed just for kids. We went as part of the "8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters" book that I'm doing with Danya, Gloria and "Junie B."

We were there to learn about the power of the female body and how a boy's mind will "finish the picture" when we show parts of our body. It really is an interesting book and worth doing with daughters ages 9 to 12.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Cherry Creek Friends

On Colorado Free Day we were invited by my friend, Kirsten, to go to Cherry Creek Lake. We had never heard of it. Turns out, it was exactly the kind of swimming spot we've been looking for these last four years or so.

It's a man made lake with a huge sandy beach and a swimming area that stays fairly shallow all the way out. There's even a changing room and bathrooms that are modern and clean. We had a great time together. Kirsten and I got to swap foster parenting stories and information. The kids just enjoyed getting to spend the day together. The weather was absolutely perfect. What a great day.