Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's All Good

The weekend is over.  It ended on the nicest note-- dinner with our small group.  I'm not sure how we got so lucky but we seriously have the greatest group of friends.  What a blessing!  

Oliver is starting to push up with his hands when he is on his belly as if he is getting ready to crawl.  And he played with Caleb our friend's little one year old boy.  This was so cute because it was the first time he seemed to notice another little boy his size. :)

I participated in Paul's IEP meeting and it went great.  He will continue to receive help in the areas that he needs it and I didn't even have to fight or raise my voice.  Since we began homeschooling a month ago he has made so much progress.  I am so thrilled just thinking about all he will learn by the end of the year.

We have two more October birthdays coming up-- Nolan and then Anastasia's.

Today I bought stain, knobs, and pretty fabric to decoupage on an old dresser.  I am hoping to turn something from shabby to chic.

Are your kids dressing up for Halloween?  If so, what are they going to be?  Did you sew the costumes?  What are some good ideas for teens?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jonny's Day!

You're invited to an eheronni izza inata arty at the ool so bring your P!  
Get it?  I didn't at first.  But John and the boys thought it up and I found it funny so of course I said I would be posting it.

Caleb and Dennis filled the pinata with candy this morning.
After Jonny's friend came we all went over the clubhouse for the swim party.  Here are the guys getting the rope ready for the pinata.
The water was very refreshing.  Dennis and Nolan had a blast swimming.
Oliver forgot how much he enjoyed the water.  At first he cried but was soon splashing around.

John always helps the kids do flips.
Here is the birthday boy doing a brave flip!
We had pizza delivered poolside.  No mess at home-- can't be beat!

Alex told me, "Look Mom. A fly is eating my food.  It's okay.  I share."
John always comes up with the coolest games to play with the kids.
Happy 9th birthday Jonny!  You are growing up so fast!
Pinata time!
Jonny went first.
Nolan had fun hitting his very first pinata.
Dennis whacked it but good!
So did Alex!
With just a few more kids to go, the pinata was on the ground and busted open.  John picked it up and threw all the candy up in the air.  The kids loved sweeping it up!
Soon it was present time.
Jonny was blessed with all kinds of great gifts...
including a pogo stick!
Happy birthday to our amazing son!  He makes us smile and brightens up a room.  I can't believe he has grown up so much that he won't sing for me anymore like he did here.   I wish he would stop growing up so fast!

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Friday

An end to a busy week.  Yay!
The van had to be towed to the dealership.  I'm dreading the estimate that probably won't come till Monday.  It is going to be a fun day taking multiple trips to the clubhouse for Jonny's birthday party just to transport everyone.
After lots of research, Caleb let me bible thump his cyst just a little while ago.  One thump and it's gone!  Only time will tell...
Oliver is eating more and more table food.  He finally likes mashed potatoes.
Alex has had his third good week in a row at school except for the one day he told a girl he was going to kill her because she didn't want to play with him.  :(  I wonder when he will be able to understand that just because you can say something like that playing sword fighting or good vs. bad guy doesn't make it okay to say in real life.  The vice principal handled it very well I think.
Dennis informed me this evening that he is a good citizen.  His teacher said so.
Grandma and Grandpa are here for a visit.

A few other tidits from our week.

Three of the girls had me cut their bangs.
I burned a pot of squash.
I ran out of cream of wheat for Oliver and have forgotten to buy it on three different grocery trips even with it  written on the list.  (How did I manage that?)
We got legos from two friends.  Thanks Chenning and Pam!  You guys rock!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Always Something

I made yogurt last night.  It sat out all night like the recipe calls for and this morning I thought it looked pretty good.  I felt like such an awesome Mom that I could feed my family something as wholesome as homemade yogurt.  Fast forward a few hours so it is nice and chilled and it reminds me of glue.  Not even worthy of a picture.  It tastes alright and it is perfect to mix in Oliver's oatmeal and applesauce but certainly not what I had in mind.  What did I do wrong?  I used the easiest recipe and I still thought it was time consuming.  I guess I'm not cut out to make everything I try my hands at.

Another child tested positive for H. Pylori.  Yay for me the medicine dispensing queen.   At least this time the child is older so all of their meds are in pill form.  Alex and Dennis just finished their meds and I will have them retested in 6 weeks.   Thankfully another child tested negative too so they don't need meds as well.

I took Nolan for his pre-op today.  Unfortunately I didn't get the message that I needn't come in since the surgery was canceled at the one hospital.  Even though they will admit patients as young as four, since this is Nolan's first surgery here in the states, the hospital still said no.  So Nolan gets to have his cleft palate surgery at the hospital I was trying to avoid.  And though I made it to this appointment and the doctor saw Nolan and cleared him for surgery, we get to go to two more pre-op appointments because that is this particular hospital's policy.  I'm just thrilled because I have nothing better to do with my time than go to three pre-op appointments.  Who knows when Nolan's surgery will be now.  It could be next week or in three weeks.  Nothing like a good ol' surprise! :)

Tomorrow Nolan is being evaluated by the school district.  I requested that he be tested back in August but they wanted to wait till after his cleft was fixed.  At first that was going to be in late August so I agreed to that.  Even though his surgery is moved to October the school district still wanted to wait till he was healed before they evaluate him which would delay the testing till mid November at the earliest.  With that being the case, he would not start receiving services until the first week of January.  Since this is out of the time frame allowed, of course they wanted me to write a letter stating that I was okay with the delay.  But I wasn't okay with it.  And I told them my reasoning.  And really, I wasn't about to back down.  So like I said-- testing is tomorrow.  I don't think they will do much with speech evaluation but at least they can see that he qualifies.  As of now I still do not know what hand he prefers to write with and I have no clue as to how to help him pick a hand and stick with it.  He needs OT and I am curious to see what they say about pre-k since the cut off date for kindergarten has been moved up.

When I was driving with Paul in the van the other day, we passed a train. "Mom, is there elephants and lions in those trains?  And unicorns?  You know the ones with the horns that can poke you?"  I had to chuckle.

I just finished reading the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book while waiting for the girls during voice lessons.  It was so funny!  And crazy as it sounds, I could totally relate to the parents.  Have you read the book?  I ask because William especially adores these books and pretty much won't read anything else.  I'm wondering if there are other books out there like them.  I know of a few but it would be great to learn of a few others.

Thanks for sharing all of your favorite books.  I've made a list of them to check out next time I am at the resource center.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Four LIttle Boys

Every Tuesday evening it is just me and my four littlest boys.  The first week is was a bit of a challenge. Entertaining them all by myself when they are used to having lots of brothers and sisters around took some getting used to for them too.  But now it is a piece of cake for the most part.  
Oliver loves mirrors.  He loves to look at himself for as long as I'll let him.  He enjoys watching himself play with toys.  He loves kissing himself.  He enjoys banging on the mirrors.  And just tonight he began rolling from one mirror to the other.  Absolutely precious to watch him explore new things.
Tonight I tried to get some pictures of the boys.  I'm hardly the photographer but thankfully the boys are photogenic!
Oliver eats up being the center of attention.  He thinks he is a big boy too.
He tries his darnedest to carry on a conversation with his big brothers.
This picture is priceless.  Nolan was trying to tell Oliver to stop acting so crazy.
And now Oliver is talking to Alex.
Sweet brothers just hanging out before their bedtime story.  Tonight I read them Danny and the Dinosaur one of my all time favorite childhood books.
What is your favorite childhood book?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why Grace?

I have so much flowing through my mind but what to share, I do not know.  As time goes on and the kids get older and more and more people seem to come here to read just waiting for the chance to pounce on what I write, I am in a dilemma of what to share.  I want to be honest.  I want to share the trials as much as the smiles but at what cost?   I'd like to think that my sharing helps someone.  I'd like to think that I am discreet enough in what I share as to not embarrass anyone in our family.   Here goes.  Hope it comes out right.

I slept fairly well last night so I don't know why I did not want to get out of bed this morning.  6am. came way too soon.  It was still dark as I rolled the little boys out of bed and helped them to get dressed in the dimly lit hallway so that Nolan could sleep in.  Had I not had trouble getting up myself I probably would have been less tolerant of Dennis and Alex's morning crankiness.  As usual I checked the temperature outside and was thankful to keep the door open and let the cold air in.  A little later in the morning John called to see how we were all doing... something I appreciate so much.

William is doing better with school right now.  He is showing his work in math and what do you know-- his grades have gone up.  He struggles with creative writing but for the life of me I can't figure out why.  He can come up with the most outrageous ideas, poems, songs, you name it.  Right now he likes to memorize his bible verses forward and backward.  He even says them with a little tune.  If I wasn't one to make up silly songs and dances myself I am sure he would have driven me batty by now. :)

Paul is making great strides this year.  I hope it all sticks.  Nouns, pronouns, verbs, contractions, subjects, predicates, cause and effects-- I wonder if he really needs to learn this stuff right now or if we should be focusing more on reading, writing, and math.  Just in case, I am having him read all the directions to me, all the little stories in the workbooks, and all the word problems in math.  Just today I picked up Wrap-ups for division and multiplication so he doesn't have to keep doing the same math fact sheets over and over.

At dinner he came up and gave me the biggest hug for no real reason.  If he is going to do this, it is usually when I am in the kitchen cooking for our family.  I can't help but think it is a big deal to him to have a Mom who day after day cooks for her family.  It is a sweet show of love towards me and I eat it up.  I think he knows this too because I always flirt with him to rub noses or wink at me.  I just want him to know how much he is loved and how proud I am of him.

As some of you may know, two of our daughters adopted through dissolutions have biological siblings still living with their previous family.  It has not been easy staying in touch with them but John and I have always encouraged it since we feel it is part of their healing.  Recently, one of our daughters found her brother on Instagram and asked to follow him.  She was sure he would ignore her request and was pleasantly surprised when he approved her.  Baby steps, but nonetheless, baby steps.  It has been over five years and just now they have connected in this small way.  Of course I am thrilled for my daughter, but I ask her to be cautious and to take things slow.  I know she wants to make up for lost time, and I really do trust that one day they will, but  I remind her that maybe he is not in the same place that she is in.  I remind her that he did friend her and that is huge progress for him.  She smiles and I let her be on cloud 9.  Baby steps.

I got an email asking how I am able to clean slate my children everyday.  To the person who wrote me, I hope you don't mind me answering here.  I think the concept stems from my own insecurity that I might mess up big enough one time that I won't be deserving of love and forgiveness. A lot has happened in my past that I had to learn to forgive myself and I could only do that through Christ's love for me.  I can't stand the idea of  going to bed on angry terms with John or one of the kids.  Even if a situation is not fully resolved we do hug and say goodnight till the next day.  Nothing bothers me more than to pass along the cold shoulder.  I think it sends the wrong message-- I can't stand to look at you.  I think you are nothing but a screw up.
I praise God that John feels the same way and is there to prompt me when I am sinful and need his gentle prodding to do what I know is right and go in and tell them goodnight and hug them.

Kids are going to make poor choices in their lives.  They are going to sin.  They are going to do things to push our buttons.  They will be sneaky at some point.  They will be mean.  I am no different even as an adult.    I remind myself of that all the time.

Just recently I found out one of my boys was hiding towels in the laundry room cupboards so he didn't have to fold them.

A few days before that one of my boys opened up their favorite sweet cereal and hid it so no one else could enjoy it.  By the time I found out, it was gone.

Last week I found out one of my daughters was cheating on her schoolwork by writing down the answers from the solutions manual and then marking some wrong to make it look like she had done them herself.

No matter how much I have addressed the wrapper issue, I found four gum wrappers on the floor in the kitchen and living room. Again.  Seriously-- our house is not a trash can.  You'd think that the older kids would know this by now.

All of these things were poor choices and as a parent I had to address them.

Fold the towels and promise not to do it again.  Thankfully nothing else since he was honest about it when I asked him. 
No more sweet cereal for a while.  Period.
No more privilege of checking your own work.  Struggle in math till you actually go back and learn what you should have learned in the first place.   Get tutoring from Dad.  Stay close to me so I can keep an eye on you.  Early bedtime till I can see that you are acting your age.
All gum confiscated till further notice.

And in the midst of addressing them I found out about three or four more even poorer choices.  And consequences followed and I am pretty certain that my kids are not happy about those consequences, but there is no love lost.   It is not always easy especially when one of the kids are on a roll, but that is when I am reminded of Christ.  How patient is He with me?  How bathed in grace am I?

I can liken it to a bridge.  The kids can do something and do something else and so on and eventually burn that bridge.  I can choose to keep that distance between us or I can choose to rebuild the bridge they burnt one slat at a time by clean slating them with each offense and each new day.  If we are ever going to have a real chance at a loving mother/child relationship then at least one of us has to work at rebuilding the bridge and since I am the adult I think it should be me.   It's called grace.  It's lavished on each and every one of us every single second of our lives.  And yet there are days when I sin and enjoy that distance because of my own anger and frustration, but how wrong am I then?  It is not always easy.  But when I do clean slate them, it builds more than a bridge.  It builds trust, it builds intimacy, it builds our relationship.

Doing this at times seems to yield little fruit, but I trust God that things are going on in the hearts and minds of my children that I cannot see.   Now after many many years, I can see a difference.  It is a blessing to see the  changes.  It is a bigger blessing when our children notice the difference in themselves.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's That Season

Pomegranate season-- enough said. :)
The arials from our tree fruit are very translucent in color.  They were sweet but not very tart.  I did break down and buy a pomegranate at the store so the girls peeled that one and mixed the two.  
What a nice treat!

Annalyn says this is method acting.  She wrote up a contract and had me sign it.  It holds her accountable to this dressing up.  To show my confusion I signed it, "Me the Mom."
Tomorrow she is supposed to be a cow girl and then Michael Jackson.
I am not sure I know who this strange girl is.  :)

Mr. Happy Oliver had just moments before barfed spit up in my hair.  Though Julia try as she might she only succeeded in mashing it in my hair.  I need a shower.
Still, he is absolutely scrumptious.
I. am. in. love.
Baby in the house and we are all loving it!
Look at him stand!
Oliver is finally able to differentiate between us and people outside our family.  He prefers us and is beginning to show it by pushing away someone else's hand or turning around to ignore them.  He used to go to anyone happily and now he doesn't.
This is so awesome.  It is a great sign.
Speaking of sign-- Oliver definitely signs "more."
And he plays ball with us.
And he is trying to verbalize with us more by using a particular whine when he is not happy.
It is amazing to see the progress he is making everyday.
If I don't jot them down as I remember them, I will surely forget as he keeps learning new things.
Our compost pile in our new planter box is growing cucumber and potato plants.  It's pretty cool that we didn't have to do anything and we have these sprawling plants.  Julia harvested enough green beans for us to have them for dinner tonight.  They were so tasty.
Galina and a few of the other girls set pavers on the side of the house.  They did an awesome job!
John took a load of old metal chairs to the dump in an effort to get our yard ready for small group to start tomorrow.   Jonny, Rachel, and John all came home sporting bright orange vests.
We will be starting Growing Kids God's Way.
Three October birthdays are coming up.
Is it horrible of me to feel a little burned out on birthdays at the moment?
I love my kids and enjoy doing something special for them, but just thinking about three birthdays in the next month is a little overwhelming at the moment.
I think that is why I keep dreaming of doing one big party a month.
Now that I can do. :)
I am so open to suggestions that will help make birthdays easier.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Almost Grown

Time to brag a little.  I just can't express how proud I am of our oldest child Adam.  It seems like just yesterday that I was looking into his eyes for the very first time thinking how amazing this little bundle of joy is.  Since that day over seventeen years have passed and fast forward to today and he is senior applying for colleges.  Where has the time gone?
Adam has always had above a 4.0 grade point average taking his academics very seriously.  He strives for excellence and feels proud of a job well done.  He has recently been accepted into the National Honors Society and has been accepted to UC Riverside.  I am so very excited to see what his future holds and I am so very thankful that he walks his journey with Christ.
The boys are still going strong with legos, coming up with all kinds of new things they have built.
Dennis asked me to bring down the tubs of costumes to play dress up with.  He is not the only one who enjoys doing this.
Oliver wasn't too thrilled when Sveta hid him in her pumpkin.
It has been a hard week of parenting.
We chose home school for our middle schoolers initially as an alternative to some of the negative influences of regular junior high they were in the midst of everyday.  Our girls were just not happy and John and I were thankful that the charter school we are now a part of offered a new path.  We have seen so many good things come from home school and honestly I think it has been a wonderful thing for our kids.  With that said, there is just no way to guarantee that they will always make good choices even at home where the temptation to sin is minimal but still exists.  I'm talking about choosing not to do every assignment, talking back to the teacher, and cheating.  Yes, it has been a hard week.

Though I do get discouraged at times, I am in this for the long haul.  But home school is only successful when I keep my eyes fixed on Him and lean on Him for my strength and patience.  Trust me, on my own, I am always running short. I never have enough time and something is always coming up.  Yet we manage to put in a full day only by the grace of God.  The kids are now doing voice and piano and that adds just one more thing to our busy schedule that I have to stop and evaluate, "Is it worth it?"
The kids are only half-heartedly enjoying it, but if we don't take the lessons then the money goes unused.  It seems so wasteful and I imagine my children singing and playing piano and so it feels like something I need to keep encouraging them to do.
I think we will stick with it till at least the end of this semester, but I will keep our options open after that.  
When we adopted our children, I really never felt there was honeymoon period.  John and I dove into parenting as real as possible, as hard as it was, as quickly as possible.  It helped us all transition as a family quicker than had we danced around each other on our best behaviors.
And yet now after having adopted 11 children I can see how there was a honeymoon period with a few of them.  It just wasn't super obvious. 
Slowly, just ever so slowly the truth has been revealed.
There is some leftover baggage.  Some past hurts.  Unresolved feelings of not being good enough.
We are definitely not in the honeymoon period anymore with any of our children.
It is real life we are doing with our kids, and it is not always easy.
If I sat down to blog in the midst of a difficult moment, it would not be pretty.
But I have learned over time too, that it would not be an accurate portrayal of our lives.
Our troubled times are but a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of things.
God says so.
If we stay focused on Him through it all, somehow we will make it through.
And when we do, I can sit down like I am now and blog about it.
And it doesn't seem so hard anymore.
It's like a breath of fresh air.
A new day.
A clean slate.
It is crucial to the success of our family.
 It is not easy.  Trust me, it's not.
But the utter and complete joy John and I get when we see a breakthrough with one of our children makes everything worth it.
Please be encouraged today.  Tomorrow is a new day.
 And there is joy to be had.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nolan and Oliver

Our little Oliver is showing us what he can do more and more each day.  We have been working on signing "more" for the last three days and finally.... finally.... I think Oliver is catching on.  He signed it all by himself today!  Isn't that awesome?  After three days of showing Oliver the sign for "more" after each bite of food, I was beginning to wonder if his stubbornness was going to keep him from learning it.  Then all of a sudden he surprised us!  Now in all fairness I must admit that it isn't the actual sign for "more" but rather him just putting his hands together-- but still!  This is a huge milestone for him!

And guess what else?  He is army crawling all over the place without any prompting!  And not just a little ways-- I am talking across the living room!  All this for a little guy who has only been home 2 1/2 months.  The progress he has made in such a short time just blows me away!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Nolan has croup I think.  He went to the doctor today and his chest sounds clear but he has this hoarse like seal cough that scares him.  :(  At least he is better during the day.  He didn't need any immunizations which is a good thing because the nurse didn't want to make little Nolan cry from the shots like Oliver did the other day.  They both stole the hearts of the nurses at the doctor's office we are going to which is a huge blessing and neither of them like to give precious little ones shots. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Glorious Day

The weather was nice this past weekend-- perfect for a baptism up in the mountains.  Our beautiful daughter Anastasia expressed the desire to commit her life to the Lord and be baptized.  After talking with her, we knew that she was ready.
But first we all gathered as a church and had some fun!
Julia was blobbed by Adam.
Our friends (Caleb's girlfriend's parents) Danny and Trisha with Dennis, Nolan, and Alex.
Caleb with Oliver on the beach.
Waiting in line to ride the canoes.
Off goes Annalyn with Dennis.  It is wonderful to see how much Annalyn is caring for her younger brothers.  We just had a talk about what an amazing wife and mother she will make someday.
More of Caleb and Oliver.
Off goes Alex with Daddy.
Anastasia loved riding the canoes all by herself.  The whole time before and after the baptism she had a beautiful glow about her.
John asked if he could help baptize Anastasia.
The whole time I thought I was filming the baptism.  After uploading the videos I found out I only have these pictures.  A little disappointed that I can't show her and she can't show her future kids the video, but it was still a wonderful day and we will always have the memory.

When we were eating dinner, a yellow jacket stung Dennis on the thumb.  I'm pretty sure everyone heard.  Thankfully someone had an emergency ice pack in their car.
Here are the boys watching all the baptisms.
Rachel and Julia were Adam's chair.  But not for long.
Alex is doing great on his new medication.  I am told that it is too early to notice a difference but Alex has had 3 great days at school and it seems like reading and spelling have finally clicked with him.

I took Oliver and Caleb to the doctor today.  Caleb had his sports physical.  I was not thrilled to hear that while he was being checked for hernias they asked him privately if he was sexually active and wanted to be vaccinated with Gardasil.  I was very proud of his answer-- "Not until marriage."  I am not about to change doctors over this as I know this is standard procedure if not law now here in California-- but really?

They looked at his ganglion cyst on his wrist and referred him to a hand orthopaedic surgeon.  As I left they told me that the referral was already faxed over.  From prior experience with doctor offices I doubted the office would be able to make the appointment right when we got home.  I was wrong.  He has an appointment on Monday. :)

As for Oliver, he has only gained a half a pound in two months.  His reflux comes and goes.  He is being tested for H. Pylori.  This doctor would not refer us for an EKG either.   Four different doctors now, one being a neonatologist,  have said no to my request repeatedly telling me that Oliver doesn't need one.  So okay-- he doesn't need one.  But I would still like one so I will keep asking.  
Poor little guy got four shots right before we left.  He was a trooper though.
Gosh I could eat him up.