Thankfulness: Part 2

In no particular order (because, let’s face it, I’m coming up with all of these right now!)

Day 6: Homeschooling.  This is shaping up to be such a nice year for our homeschool.  The kids are loving choir.  I am enjoying rereading some old favorite books to a fresh new set of little ears.  Pippa is so independent and motivated.  Trevor is home just enough to make everything fit.  I feel like my kids are all getting more of me than they have for a while somehow, even the ones who go to school.

A friend hosted a wool-felting workshop in her home last week that we were able to enjoy.  I just love the freedom we have being home together all day.

Day 7: School-schooling. I am so very happy with how all three of our schoolies are doing.  I love their teachers.  I love all the things they are experiencing that they wouldn’t have at home.  I even love being a school mom and getting to have this different role in their education.  I feel as though our whole family is getting the best of both worlds this year.

Also, this boy is just absolutely rocking it.

 

Day 8: Three-year-olds.  Well, okay. This one in particular.  She is spicy and funny and wants to be big so badly, but is still so adorably not big. Annis-Banannis is one of the chief suppliers of much-needed comic relief in our family.

Day 9: My mom.  My mom makes up a good 75% of my support network, and she’s a busy lady herself.  Whether I need someone to drop everything and come watch my gang for a few hours or just let me have a good cry on the phone, my mom is always there.  She is my greatest cheerleader and an unchanging constant in my life.  Her latest feat of motherly superhero-ness was hosting a slumber party for four of our girls and three friends (plus me!) at her house, so that Pippa could finally have a proper 13th birthday celebration.  It was such a great night. And I didn’t even have to clean. 

Day 10: Names.  I realize this is frivolous, but I am actually super thankful for names.  I enjoy them so much that when I have a week like last week when I discover two new-to-me names that are not only beautiful, but full of history and substance, it actually makes me a little bit giddy.

Oh, what? You want to know what they were?  Well, okay.  Since you asked. Some friends gave their daughter the middle name Idelette after John Calvin’s wife, and we watched a documentary on the life of Richard Wurmbrand, whose wife’s name was Sabina.  I’m thinking wives of heroes of the Christian faith must be an untapped treasure trove of fabulous names!

Day 11: Our church family.  This has been a difficult year in the life of our church, and it had also been increasingly challenging for me to get everyone to church by myself as Trevor has been stuck working Sundays for a number of months.  But each time I flop my frazzled self into the pew and think, “That’s it.  I’m not doing this without Trevor again,” God shows me that I am exactly where I need to be.  Friends come and sit behind me to help keep the kids settled during worship.  Others have stepped up to help in children’s church so that I can stay in the service and be fed.  Our small group continues to find a way to accommodate our unwieldy gang each week for dinner and Bible study.  We are so very blessed.

Day 12: The Bible.  I have started copying out verses, just a few a night, into a little notebook.  I hope it becomes a lifelong habit.  I am always amazed at how God’s Word, no matter how familiar, always yields surprises and fresh insights.  Wasn’t God so gracious to reveal Himself to His creation in such a thorough and personal way?

Day 13: My big girls. Yes, this is the best recent picture I have of them.

These girls stay up late way too often, but that’s because they have reached the delightful stage of actually being enjoyable and easy to be around.  They are smart and funny and best friends (still!). They have, each in their own way, learned to do things that I didn’t teach them and don’t know how to do.  They amaze me every day.

Day 14: Cool weather. I think my six years in Scotland ruined me forever for hot weather.  I am thankful for every single day that I am not sweaty.

Day 15: Laughter. Life in our family has been pretty intense lately (did you know we have added one new child per calendar year for seven straight years?!), but I think we are all relearning how to relax together and just have fun.  Our kids are characters.  Every one of them has a side to them that makes us laugh (even Teddy, who ends most evenings with a lengthy imprecatory prayer about Niko: “Chico, bad! No, Chico!  Bad. Owwy!  No, Chico, no!”)

And now, on Day 16, I am very thankful that I have finished catching up my list so that I can go to bed!  Good night, friends 🙂

Fall Highlights

We are in the midst of our Summer/Fall birthday season right now and these three dear ones have had birthdays since the last time I updated:

Happy 11th birthday to Teddy, 13th to Pippa (a teenager!) and 1st to our sweet little Verity Laine!  Isn’t it nice that even the big ones still indulge me and let me take their annual teddy bear photo?  Here is Pippa at about Verity’s age, for 1. size comparison (13-year-olds are huge!), 2. likeness to Verity (twinsies!) and 3. just for nostalgia (because how on earth is my baby thirteen already?!)

Aww!  Wasn’t she sweet?

But probably what you really want to hear about is how school is going, right?

It is going so, so well!

I will admit that I spent the first week saying, “What have we done?” as I spent every evening signing dozens of forms and reading up on all the rules and regulations and getting to know each teacher’s little preferences and idiosyncrasies.  But now we have found our groove, and it’s a good groove!

As a homeschooling mom, I held my breath for the first couple weeks to see how the girls would fare academically, and they are both doing very well: at or above grade level in all major subjects. Whew!  Romilly’s teacher told me at back-to-school night that she is engaged and participating valuably in class, which is a huge part of what she wanted to get out of this year.  Bea is in student council and plans to run for treasurer, and she’s also joined an afterschool singing club.  Ro goes to an after school fitness class on the same day.  Both are learning instruments and playing in the band.  They have made friends and are finding acceptance.  I could not have asked for a better first month for them!

Lewis is also thriving!  I have to work a little harder to know how he’s doing, but here is what I do know: 1. He loves going. 2. His take home note each day has consistently informed me that he had a “Great” day every single day except for one in the first week that was only “Good”. 3. His ability to accurately copy letters has improved more in the past month than in our whole year of homeschooling.  At home, Lewis has had some behavioral challenges, so we are working through those, but overall, this is such a good fit for him.

As for the “homies” we are having some new adventures of our own this year.  Pippa, Niko and Junie have joined a homeschool choir, the Keystone Youth Choir.  The are learning much and being stretched there as well as making new friends.  (Bonus: the littles and I have a built-in playdate each week during choir with a friend from AWANA whose big brother is also in the choir.)  Also, when Delia (and soon Teddy) go to Theraplay for speech and OT each week, Pippa, Niko, Junie and Cora are still going to the Weavers’ home for what is now officially called Family Science Club.

Pippa, in 8th grade this year, is almost completely independent with her schoolwork.  I give occasional guidance in grammar and math, and we grade her tests, but otherwise, she runs her own show.  I am amazed at her self-motivation and determination this year.  She designed a weekly checklist of all the work that needs to be done, and she is a tough taskmaster!

Delia with her new communication device!

 

I am finding with three at school and Pippa working largely on her own, that my teaching load at home feels much more manageable.  I carve out time to work with the littler kids in the morning while Niko and Junie do some independent work.  Then I can help them until lunchtime.  After lunch we read together or do science.  At 3:30, when the schoolies get off the bus, our homeschool day ends, too.  Wherever we get to, there we stop. This shift in our day provides a nice change of pace for everyone.  The homies get to have some fixed free time (which never used to happen!), and I get to debrief with the schoolies and help with homework.  Life is feeling more doable than it has in a long time.

Coraline making a rainbow

 

Another unexpected side effect of having a few kids leave each day is that we have so much to talk about at dinner!  The schoolies tell us about their adventures, and we tell them about ours.  The best part is that it is so balanced, with neither side generally feeling that they’ve missed out on anything, but everyone, having had a full and fun day, happily sharing and being excited for each other (disclaimer: it is also very noisy!)

 

A New Adventure

Our summer has continued to be full and busy.  Delia celebrated her 11th birthday.  Happy birthday, beautiful!

Teddy went to his first VBS, his first (and second!) baseball games…

 

As well as his first camping trip!  This trip to the familiar haven of our friends’ parents’ home in central PA was our practice trip for a longer camping adventure later this summer.  Teddy did really well.  Our biggest fear was that he would escape from the tent and get into mischief in the early morning, but in fact, he loved the tent so much that a few times he escaped INTO it to hang out and look at books during the day!

But the biggest first of all will be happening for our family in just over three weeks, when THREE of our children will be going to public school!

It all began back in the Spring with the thought of sending Lewis.  I have enjoyed teaching him, and he has done well at home, but at this point, he can really only be doing schoolwork when I am directly working with him.  He has a good attention span and is a hard worker, and I just felt like he could benefit from more direct instruction time than I could give him.  So we began the IEP process with our local school.

Over dinner one evening, the other kids began to realize that this was a thing that was really going to be happening, and immediately, Beatrix and Romilly spoke up to say that they wanted to go to school, too!

I’ll admit, I was a bit dismissive at first. We have always said that if any of our children ever wanted to go to school, we would hear them out.  So far, whenever anyone has voiced a desire to go to school, it has been followed by, “…so I can ride the bus/have recess/have snow days,” so I wasn’t expecting this conversation to go far, but my girls surprised me.

Romilly, our highly sensitive, tender-hearted introvert, shared that she felt she would never overcome her shyness if she wasn’t pushed outside her comfort zone.  After hearing her out, I found (surprisingly) that I agreed with her.

Bea, our bubbly, tomboyish chatterbox, had completely different reasons, but excellent ones.  She feels that going to school is part of our shared cultural experience, and she wants to experience school for herself so she is better able to relate to others.  (I’ll admit I have been teasing them that Ro needs to go to school so that she can learn to talk to other humans, and Bea needs to go so she can learn to let other humans talk!)

They had gotten past me, but I was fairly certain that Trevor, the die-hard homeschooler of the family, would veto this crazy idea.  But you know what?  He heard the same thoughtful maturity in our girls that I heard, and gradually, a “we’ll see” turned into a “maybe” and blossomed into a “yes!”

Both of us have a peace with this decision that I never could have imagined I would ever have even six months ago.  The girls have never wavered in their resolve.  And Lewis loses his mind with excitement every time he sees a school bus, anticipating his big adventure this year.  We are all excited.  The ones who are staying home are excited for their year, too, though it will look very different without our three public-school adventurers in the mix at home.

And this mama, who in nearly thirteen years of parenting has never sent a child to school, is learning whole new lessons about trusting God and letting go.  Not to mention back-to-school shopping!

Winter Haps

Trevor asked me a couple nights ago if I still had a blog.  I’m not sure how kidding he was, but this is for him and anyone else who checks in once in a while despite my gross neglect.

As usual there has been much busy-ness, and most of it has been very good.

Most recently, just this morning in fact, we received the hard copy of our Letter of Acceptance from China!  This means our dossier has been approved and all that remains is the final step of his US immigration paperwork.  It also I can now share with you the boy that will soon be our son.  (I could also share his name with you, but what would be the fun in that?  Names deserve their own posts.  Don’t you think?  Stay tuned!)

Isn’t he delightful?  We can’t wait!

We’ve had two birthdays this month, with four more in the next two weeks!

Romilly is now 11…

And Juniper, the baby of our “Original Four”, is 8.

 

Happy birthday, girls!

This little one, like her sisters before her, has refused to stay tiny and new.  Sigh.  In a fit of rebellion she even went and sprouted two teeth at just four months old!

But oh, how we all adore her.

School is moving along.  We are just about two-thirds through our year.  People are learning things.  We’re in a pretty good groove.

Coraline is reading beginner books thanks in large part to the efforts of her biggest sister.  Pippa is learning algebra and loving it, which just fills my math-minor heart with the greatest joy.  Delia has made some strides with independence getting dressed, and she will be trying out a tablet-based communication device in the next couple months. Lewis wrote his name by himself for the first time a couple weeks ago.  I think the whole neighborhood heard our cheers!

One of the greatest blessings of this school year has been our dear friends, the Weavers, volunteering to have our five “readers” at their home each time I take Lewis and Delia to Theraplay.

 

These days are not just free childcare for me, but amazing, enriching, educational experiences for our kids.  They do art  and photography lessons, science experiments that I have neither the equipment nor the time to do at home (they actually looked at broccoli DNA under a microscope!) and sometimes just play educational board games.  It has transformed what felt like wasted time each week for our big kids into one of the highlights of their week.

Not to mention it gives me some much-needed downtime hanging out at Theraplay with my little girls.

Trevor is working 12-hour shifts again (with long weekends) after several brutal months of Monday to Friday weeks (how do people live like that?!), and life is feeling manageable.  That can only mean we are in the calm before the storm as we prepare to bring home our newest member.  I will take the calm wherever I can get it!

 

 

 

 

Catching Up: More Summer Adventures

The rest of this summer has absolutely flown by.  While I am thankful for September and God’s great mercy in switching on the outdoor AC, I do wonder how time keeps getting away from me like this!

Early August saw these two young ladies off to their first ever overnight camp experience with Hopewell Camps at Tel Hai.  I think I was far more nervous than they were.  They both took all the new experiences in their stride, even my book-loving introvert Romilly!

image

This little man had to get in on the photo op action while we were saying our goodbyes:

image

On the heels of their week at camp we had a long-overdue weekend visit from Megan, of whom I regretfully took not one picture while she was here.  (You know you’re family when I don’t even get the camera out anymore!) I did take pictures of this amazing ever-growing family of dolls she has made for our kids over the years.

image

Lewis’s doll was a new addition this trip (a belated birthday present), and each of the old dolls is receiving a new outfit themed around the flag of their birth country.  I cannot even tell you how much joy these little dolls have given the kids (okay, and me!) over the years.  Aren’t they wonderful?  (Please pardon Niko doll’s lack of pants.  They always turn up eventually, just not in time for the photo shoot this time.)

image

Thank you, Megan, for your friendship, for spoiling us, and for another wonderful-but-way-too-short visit.

We celebrated our summer and fall birthday girls in late August with a grand party at pop-pop’s house.  (And do you know, my beautiful firstborn is 12 today?!  Happy, birthday, Pippa!)

image image image

(Loch Ness monster and galaxy cupcakes by Pippa, even though it was her birthday party.)

And then, just like that, we found ourselves starting school again!

image

With a baby coming in October and a couple of other adventures on the horizon that I will share about in future posts, we thought it would be good to get an early start.  So far, things have been going remarkably smoothly, as long as we manage to stay at home enough.

image

We’ve had a busy season of appointments, which has finally started to settle down, but one permanent feature of our Fall semester at least will be speech therapy for Lewis and Delia and OT for Delia at Theraplay.  It has been over two years since we have tried traditional therapies with Delia, and we finally feel like she is ready to try again.  Lewis, I believe, will take to speech therapy like duck to water, since he wants to speak so badly and is very motivated to work at it.  He just struggles with articulation in a way that I don’t feel I have the tools to help with yet.  I was thrilled to find that both speech therapists who met with them know ASL and are very happy to use that as a stepping stone for spoken language, since both Lewis and Delia currently use more sign than speech.  Watch this space!

In the meatime, we are still chugging along with Delia’s NeuroDevelopmental Program at home, and seeing some encouraging progress.  She contiues to be more willing to attempt to copy speech (when she’s in the mood!) and has even recently added “water” to her list of words she will use meaningfully.  This is one of our daily flash card exercises.  (If the video works?)

IMG_2088

We are coming down the home stretch to baby time (less than six weeks to my due date!). I *think* we finally have our girl name nailed down.  And that’s probably all we’re going to need, right?  Right?!  (Any boy name suggestions are welcome.  He’s really not going to have a name if he’s a he!)

As always, thanks for hanging in there with my sporadic posting.  We are still here.  We are doing well.  We are just busy in all the best possible ways!

 

Summer’s End Megan Weekend

Although we may yet squeeze in some more fun, there’s no denying the summer is winding down.  The window fan has been taking the place of the AC for the past week or so, our curriculum “box” is due to arrive tomorrow and I will have to force my kids not to start school right then and there, and I am beginning to lose sleep over the *three* science classes I’ve agreed to teach at the co-op we’ve joined for this coming semester.  Fall is definitely in the air.

But it’s still summer!  And a visit from Megan means…

Endless craftiness…

 

IMG_9019

Birthday catch-up…

IMG_2981 IMG_9041

Traditional selfies…

IMG_3005 IMG_9031

And a beautiful new family portrait!

IMG_2974

Thanks, Meg, for another super-fun weekend!

(I was also going to share about everyone’s new haircuts, but Pippa beat me to it on her own blog.  You can check it out here http://theyoungpages.com/pippas_blog/?p=121 !)

Mid-Year (ish) School Update

The Young Christian Academy just celebrated the 100th day of the school year with this fun (if somewhat so incredibly tedious!) craft (shamelessly lifted from Pinterest) on Friday.  I have no confidence at all that any of them actually has exactly 100 gumballs, which was the idea.  In fact, I’d say my confidence that there are exactly 100 gumballs is inversely proportional to how much I had to help the child count them.  Pippa’s and Ro’s might very well be perfect, as I had nothing to do with them.  Delia’s and Coraline’s most certainly are not.  You can count them all if you’d like and let me know how we did in the comments.

IMG_7657 IMG_7659

I thought this milestone might make a good time to give a little update on our school year, which is really ticking along much more smoothly than I expected it to.  My biggest concerns were for how Delia’s school day would look, since we still find so few things that she will engage in willingly.  I worried at the beginning of the year that I’d have nothing to show for her year and put in her portfolio, but she’s really making good progress.  She and Cora are working through a big all-in-one preschool workbook as their main curriculum. This usually happens each day between lunch and Coraline’s naptime.  At the start of our year Delia hated “school time”, and it was a struggle just to get her to stay at the table.  Now she comes willingly (sometimes even signing “school” to initiate if I’m not quick enough to get us started!) and stays on task throughout our time, even if her ability to do the activities is still limited.  She still shows some resistance to coloring, but will now draw vertical lines down her coloring page and get a chocolate chip for her efforts.  She will attempt to place a sticker on a spot that I point to, but is still unable to find the hidden letters without my help.

IMG_7660 IMG_7661 

We are supplementing the workbook curriculum for Delia with hands-on letter-building activities, counting activities, beading, flash cards, water-color painting and whatever else we find that interests her (or doesn’t but that we make her try anyway!).  We watch Signing Time and Super Simple Songs with her, which often does more to draw her out and get her verbalizing than anything else we can think to try with her.  She is increasingly interested in books and willing to sit and be read to, and continues to love to sing along to nursery rhyme books and the like.  I am reading and learning what I can about using ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis, a strategy recommended for children with autism) principles to plan new activities to engage her better.  Her attitude toward schooltime has improved a hundredfold since we started the school year, but in practice I am still doing a lot of hand-over-hand and wondering how much she is taking in.  In the meantime, Coraline may end up being the youngest Young ever to know all her letters and numbers, so my efforts are not going to be wasted.

IMG_7662 IMG_7663 

The rest of the kids are divided into two “grades” for the more teacher-intensive subjects (history,science and read-alouds).  I tend to work mostly with Pippa and Ro on 5th grade reading materials while Trevor works with Niko, Bea and Junie on 2nd grade material.  We switch it up sometimes to keep it interesting, and I teach both of the science curricula since Trevor has a real job to fit in, too.  We have to tuck in school wherever we can sometimes to make it all fit (evenings and weekends are popular times to catch up on read-alouds, which the kids love anyway), but we never have to turn down a playdate or a Grandmom day when it comes up, and that’s how we like it.

IMG_7658

Math, language arts and handwriting are grade specific, and we usually focus on those in the mornings.  The kids work mostly independently while I float and help as needed.  And drink coffee.

IMG_7653

This sweet little person just generally hangs out with us and brightens everyone’s day.  She says “mama” and “dada” now and I feel like she might mean it.  She blows raspberries and definitely does mean that.  She waves enthusiastically and often.  She shows zero interest in signing and much prefers to let us know when her food isn’t coming fast enough by screeching at us.  So, yeah.  We’re working on that.

IMG_7650

She can stand holding onto something if we put her there and really wants to pull herself up on the coffee table but so far hasn’t managed to.  She gets around very well on her tummy, and she gets her knees under her more and more, but she still hasn’t quite mastered the whole crawling thing.  Did I mention she’s sweet?  That’s still probably her main superpower.

For the most part, I feel like the system is working.  Everyone is learning stuff and getting smarter and largely enjoying what we do.  They spend their free time reading, writing, drawing, lego-ing, pretending, crocheting, and perhaps over Christmas break there may have been a bit too much of watching Pentatonix on youtube, but in general I feel pretty good about all the things that are happening around here.  It’s been a good year so far.  And just 79 more days till summer!

Random Dress-Up Fest

It was a ho-hum kind of day around here today.  Daddy decided early on that he’d be spending the night near work because of the snow expected, but there wasn’t yet enough on the ground to have much fun with.  We made our own fun instead.

IMG_7604

Nothing brightens up a dreary day like doing school dressed as Anna from Frozen with a pint-sized mermaid nearby and the Incredible Hulk flexing her stuff all through the house.

Tomorrow, there should be sledding, and snowmen, and Lord willing, Daddy will come home at the end of the day, and all will be right with the world again.

October Beauties

 October. Quite possibly my favorite month (although doesn’t one’s own birthday always have that effect?), full of pumpkins and apple picking and dressing up.  We do not celebrate Halloween, but we love to celebrate Fall in all its glorious splendor.  Look how pretty!

IMG_6541 IMG_6539 IMG_6526

IMG_6464

IMG_6712 IMG_6597 IMG_6613 IMG_6612 IMG_6620 IMG_6627

I’m savoring the bit of warmth that has lingered in the air this week, knowing that November will be upon us soon enough.  I do love October.

Back to School 2014

IMG_5764 

Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year, everyone!

We are almost through our first week and so far everyone’s enthusiasm is holding.  Delia is not feeling the love with workbook time, but we will get there, I’m sure.  She and Coraline are doing the same pre-K workbook, so hopefully peer pressure will win the day.  It worked that way with pairing Niko and Bea when he was first home and had the attention span of a gnat.  Now he’s racing through his second grade math for the week and begging for more.

IMG_5800 IMG_5796 IMG_5788 IMG_5786 IMG_5781

IMG_5780IMG_5778 IMG_5776

Wherever you do your learning, I hope it’s a great school year!

IMG_5768