Back to School 2014


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.

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


Summer is Here!

See that sign down there?  The one hiding behind Coraline’s gigantic noggin with the practically invisible writing?  It says: “Last Day of School!” in Niko’s coolest, fanciest puffy letters.  That was almost a week ago, and we are loving summer so far!IMG_4963

Tomorrow I will drop off Pippa’s portfolio along with my affidavit declaring my intent to homeschool *four* legally school-aged children next year to our local school district (three kids all turning 8 in one year sure makes for a sudden jump in the volume of homeschooling paperwork!), and we will be D-O-N-E!

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In the meantime, summer has already commenced.  Week one included two birthday parties (one of them a very first sleepover for our two big girls!) and a trip to the zoo.  We are all enjoying the relaxed pace of life and only a teensy bit chomping at the bit to get started on next year’s school.  (Someone in our family wants to start learning Latin over the summer instead of waiting for the Fall, but I won’t name names.)

Delia has made a new best friend!  (Mommy looks forward to seeing this friend every year, too.  Never a moment too soon!)


Sweet Annis has surprised us all by graduating to semi-mobility at the tender age of three months! To say that she has learned to roll is an understatement.  In fact, we cannot even lay her on her back to change her diaper without her immediately flipping to her tummy.  Girly knows how important tummy time is to her brain development, apparently!

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Rolling is serious business!

Valley Forge and More

We are thankful to some dear friends and fellow homeschoolers for inviting us to a free homeschool program at Valley Forge National Park this week.  The kids had such a great time, despite the fact that our big kids are currently studying World War 2 and the little ones, Ancient Greece.  It certainly helped that our big girls have a perennial love for all things American Girl, and Felicity Merriman (of 1774) has been a particular favorite lately.  We also all enjoyed reminiscing that last time we were at Valley Forge a few years ago, Pippa proudly asserted: ” I know why it’s called Washington’s headquarters: because his HEAD is on the QUARTER!” Well, okay, I’m not sure she enjoyed it that much.

Here are some photos of the day:


Classic Niko


Romilly and Niko, our resident revolutionaries.


Bea, ready for battle. (The girl clothes were in higher demand, and she’s not fussy when it comes to dress-up clothes.)


Delia watches in delight as Eliana explores.


And secondly…well, baby!

Annis is growing and changing faster than I can keep this blog updated with pictures of her, so I just have to throw them in at every opportunity.  She is growing and thriving, weighing in at 10 lbs 7 oz at her 2-month check-up this week.  Oh my goodness, we love her so much!

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Another Week, Another Update


Gym class at a friend’s house, and a much needed afternoon out of the house!

Sunday was rough.  I’d had a particularly long and harrowing night with Delia, and when Trevor got home (still the night shifts, remember?) I more or less collapsed on him.  Church was a huge blessing and just what my heart needed for refreshment, but sometimes when I’m in that collapse-y frame of mind, blessings can make me a little weepy.  I think I burst into tears on at least four different women after the service (not to mention the hymn and the sermon point that got the waterworks going before that), each time after thinking I’d pulled myself back together.  There’s something about that knowing “How are you?”  from a sister in the Lord that makes it very difficult to just say, “Great!  Things are going really well,” when frankly, things are just feeling hard.

On Sunday afternoon my mom called to let me know my great uncle had passed away, and the floodgates opened again.  Pippa commented, with the candor that only a child knows how to deliver, “Well, I’m just glad you’re crying about something that’s actually sad this time!”  I continue to be amazed by how perfectly fine and normal our life can feel to the kids when my world feels so very rocked at times, but when I chat with Pippa and Romilly in the evenings after the others are in bed, they faithfully encourage me that “Everything is fine, Mom.”  And it really and truly is.

I know we have been so prayed for this week.  God has heard and answered. It has been a very good week.  And as icing on the cake, Trevor found out last night that he does not have to work this Saturday night as originally planned, so we have a three-night week and a four-night weekend.  Having him home makes such a difference, and four days sounds almost too good to be true.


Sweet Coraline is wearing her sister down. No matter how many times Delia has pushed little toddler hands and feet away, Coraline has maintained, “Dee-la wuv me!” with complete conviction. Looks like she’s right after all.


Monday was the perfect day for a nature walk with Daddy.


On Monday afternoon, we had the blessing of a visit from an old friend of the family, Libby,  whose 12-year-old daughter also has autism.  What an incredible encouragement and resource they were!  We gleaned many practical tips on using sign language effectively and managing difficult behavior.  Libby’s particular area of expertise is diet and nutritional treatment for autism, and while I’m not quite ready to change our whole diet yet, we are eliminating a couple of easy-to-eliminate foods (bananas and raisins, who knew?) from Delia’s diet to see if it helps.  When Libby asked me, “Is she waking between 3 and 5 AM and laughing maniacally?” I knew I would do just about anything she told me to do next!

Tuesday saw Delia’s second significant snowfall since arriving home.  We had a very treacherous drive home from my midwife appointment that morning (who knew that much snow could accumulate in one hour!), but all is well with the baby.  At 32 weeks it seems that baby has decided to get in the right position, which was a relief since none of my other babies had stayed head-up as long as this one did – I was getting a bit nervous!

Yesterday the kids played in the snow, and again today.  Delia was ambivalent at best on her first snow experience, but today she was delighted!  I think she would have kept sledding all day if I had had the stamina to keep putting her in the sled for longer.


Pippa helped Delia get a good start at the top of our little hill.


Best thing ever!


Snow ice cream for a treat.

Yesterday, a lovely lady from church brought us two chicken pot pies, an enormous salad and a gallon of ice cream.  (Mental note: crying in church is embarrassing, but totally worth it!)  I haven’t cooked dinner in two days! 

We are having a lot of success with teaching Delia sign, and she loves watching baby sign videos on youtube as a family in the evenings.  All the kids do – they’re not used to so much TV time! She now repeats and/or uses signs for: more, eat, all done, nice, please, thank you, dog and maybe a few more I’m forgetting.  Understanding how visual children with autism are, I am trying to use a sign each time I ask her to do (or stop doing) something, and I believe this is helping us see some improvement in her behavior.  Sleep continues to be hit or miss, but last night was a very good night, so I’ll take it!


This morning we’d hardly begun our day (as you can see!) when all the kids became completely absorbed in this little craft project Pippa and Ro concocted…


Now all seven of the Young children have iDevices of some sort, a few of them multiple devices. Kids and their gadgets these days!

Thank you all for staying with this meandering post, and for praying for our family.  We feel so truly blessed by the love and support God has surrounded us with in all of you.

Farewell Summer, Hello School!

Hello, friends!  It’s been a little while, hasn’t it?  And I can’t even really claim that we’ve been any busier than usual.  Maybe it was more that I was enjoying the not-busy days of summer too much to spend time blogging about them.

We wrapped our summer with a lovely double birthday party for Pippa and Bea.


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We were thankful to be surrounded by family and friends gathered to celebrate two of our favorite girls.  It was a pretty perfect note to end the summer on.

On Monday, we officially began our new year of homeschooling!

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The kids were pretty excited.  You’d think we didn’t let them read over the summer the way they dove into their box of new school books.

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(We’ve also had a recent visit from the tooth fairy for Princess Gappy-Face here.  The mark of a true six-year-old!)

Our first week of school went remarkably well.  I was intimidated by the prospect of doing two separate “cores” this year for our history and real-alouds, as well as two science courses (1st and 4th grade), but with Trevor home for 2 1/2 school days a week to share in the schooling, it looks like it’s all going to fit.

We continue to marvel at all that God has given us in Trevor’s new job.  It truly was a blessing in disguise!  There are hard things about it, too – particularly the transition each week from the Daddy-home part of the week to the Daddy-working part, a bit like coming home from vacation once a week, if you can imagine! – but we are all finding our feet and settling into a new normal.  The overriding consensus is certainly that it’s all worth it for so much more Daddy-time than we used to have.

I’ve had a couple of gentle complaints recently about the lack of adoption news, but the truth is there really hasn’t been anything to report.  We trust that things are moving in the right direction, but everything that is happening now is very much out of our hands.   I will try not to leave you hanging so long in the future.

Have a lovely holiday weekend!

Post-Kindy Spelling and Other Bits of News


The above was a gift that Beatrix, our recent kindergarten graduate, crafted for her rabbit-enthusiast aunt Olivia.  It makes me smile and smile.  It’s a cardstock “bunee” that you can feed “carits” and “ledis” to.  You just put them right there in his “mawth”.  Simple!

Do you know that I look at her sweet, just-turned-six-year-old spelling and I am just in awe? Those words might not look like much to be proud of, but prior to about a month ago, this little girl had never-ever attempted to spell a word without asking for help (there are quite a few helpers around, after all) .  Now she writes all day long, and I can almost always figure out what she’s trying to say.   Letters mean something to her, all of a sudden.   And that is amazing to me.  Watching children learn is just absolutely amazing to me.  And she’s cute, too.  So that helps.


In other news, we received our updated FBI clearances today (still no record – whew!).  We need to send them straight back off to be authenticated in DC, but as Bea said, “It still means we are one step closer to Delia coming home!”  Also, I should have mentioned when it was fresh in my head that we also received our I800 clearances a couple of weeks ago, too  (When exactly?  In the comments, maybe, Trev?), so this is really the last bit of paperwork we need to scrape together to have our documents ready for court.  Which is probably still a long way off the way things seem to be moving lately.  Prayers for expediency and funding are still appreciated!

VBS and an All-Around Pretty Great Week

While this picture sort of says it all…


it also sort of doesn’t.  VBS has definitely been the main attraction this week.  The kids can’t wait to go each day, and would just live in their blue T-shirts for the whole week if I’d let them.  But it doesn’t start until after dinner each night.  That has left us with our days free, and we have enjoyed filling them up!

We’ve enjoyed the company of two of the girls’ little friends this week while their mom worked some extra hours (plus Tuesday with sweet Maura, of course!).  Yesterday we got to spend time with a family member from out of state who hadn’t met Niko before.  And today, Pippa got to go to camp with her dearest little friend Rosie for the day.    She had a blast!

While Pippa was off on her adventure today, the rest of us piled in the van to run some very happy errands.

First, we stopped at our local school’s admin building to sign an agreement for them to provide Niko’s speech therapy starting in the Fall.  I cannot tell you what a huge answer to prayer this is!  We began the process of having Niko evaluated for services through our local school district back in January. He qualified for several different therapies and services, but once we got to that point in the process, things got a bit sticky.  At one point we were told flat-out “No”, that he would not receive any services unless we placed him in public school full-time.  But when we inquired about speech therapy only, God slowly began to open doors.  We really feel now that we have been given the absolute best possible outcome to what has been a long and at times very stressful process.  Niko will be receiving the speech therapy that he needs, but he does not have an IEP, which means, in layman’s terms, no-strings-attached as far as our homeschooling reporting goes.  We are praising God for nothing short of a complete 180 from the school district’s initial response to our request for services, and we look forward to working with them in September.

After that we stopped to pick up most of our 4th grade curriculum for next year.  Free of charge!  The kids and I had gone to a 4th of July picnic at the home of a family from my old church at while Trevor was visiting Delia.  Just before we left that day I noticed a very familiar-looking shelf-full of books.  It was exactly the collection of literature we had just read in school this year, right down to the color-coded stickers on the bindings.  “Oh,” I exclaimed.  You used Sonlight when your girls were little?”

“Yes, do you??” she replied excitedly.  When I told her we did, she immediately offered to lend us the books we needed for the coming year, explaining that her husband had been wanting her to donate them, but she had been praying for a family to bless with them. She loved them too much to part with them forever (and I sympathize with this sentiment completely!).  Another great provision from the Lord.  We will need to buy science curriculum and consumables, but this gift will cut our curriculum bill in half at least!

The other completely fabulous thing about this week is that Trevor has been off since Wednesday morning, and he doesn’t work again until Sunday night.  This, in theory, should happen every other week.  But between his trip and the overtime he’s had to work to make that trip possible, we’ve barely been able to catch our breath.  Now, after two days of having him home (and awake!) life is finally starting to feel normal again, and normal feels good.


Let’s see… what has been happening around here?

We’ve finished school, and submitted Pippa’s end of year portfolio.  Check!

We’ve busily gathered items to send over to Little Lady and gotten all our documents in order.IMG_0726


We’ve started looking after sweet baby Maura one day a week, and someone, though she loves babies more than anything, is not entirely sure about having another baby around just yet. IMG_0745


We’ve been learning to read!  We are taking the summer to focus on pre-K and kindergarten curriculum that didn’t quite fit in while we were focusing on 3rd grade this year.  Also Niko, Bea and Junie are learning to read using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which I am so far extremely impressed with.  Niko was the king of “Cuh… Aaah… Tuh…”  “Good, what does that spell?” <crickets>  He knew all the sounds but had no idea what it meant to put them together.  This approach emphasizes practicing the skill of blending sounds together, which I now think is probably the hardest part of teaching a child to read.  All three are now sounding out words using the 10 or so sounds we’ve learned so far, though Bea is more advanced and is probably getting slightly bored with the pace.  All in all, it’s been a great summer of learning so far!  (Side note: Cora is not learning to read yet, but she loves to repeat sounds with the kids.  As well as be in every picture.)  IMG_0838 

Anything else?  Hmmm…

Oh yeah.

Trevor is IN COUNTRY and will be seeing Little Lady tomorrow!!!  Please pray for their reunion.  It was love at first sight for both of them two years ago.  (Actual caption from a photo I shared of her on Facebook after our first trip for Niko: “Sweet R. I do believe Trevor will go back for her if someone else doesn’t adopt her first!”)   But two years is a long time. That tiny, not-quite-five-year-old girl with the knowing eyes is now a snaggle-toothed  almost-seven-year-old.  Pray that she remembers her daddy when she meets him.  And for my sake, pray that he remembers to take pictures!


All Change

It seems like everywhere I look, things are new.

  • For a while it seemed like Spring would never quite settle in, but it finally has.  We are firmly in that perfect time of year with lovely warm days and crisp, cool nights that make for perfect sleeping conditions.  Our last few weeks of school seem like no bother at all since we can spend them mostly outside.  Also, Pippa’s already had her homeschool evaluation for this year (our first!), so we can relax a little and know that third grade is pretty much in the bag.


  • My friend Mary had her baby (a bit early, but mom and baby are doing well) three weeks ago.  I am looking forward to my first ever playdate with my best friend, and her deliciously adorable new daughter, Maura, this coming Monday!  Congratulations to their sweet little family.
  • We are looking into school options for Niko for next year.  We have been in the process since January of having him evaluated for special services by our local school district.  He does indeed qualify for speech therapy among other things, as we knew he would, but it remains to be seen what the school district will actually provide to us as homeschoolers, if anything.  We are watching hopefully to see what God might do here, but also wanting to push on other doors in case this one closes.

To that end, we went to a Cyber Fair today to check out some of the many wonderful online public schools that our state offers.  I think we found at least a couple that would be a good fit for our family, so we have a bit more homework to do if we decide to go this route.  The concept of having a public school beamed right into my home may take some getting used to, but I am thankful to know that Niko could receive all the services he needs this way (for free!) without my having to sacrifice precious face time with my boy.  Wisdom, anyone?  Thoughts?  Experiences?

Post Office Photo Op

Post Office Photo Op

  • Trevor is starting his second week of night shifts (following two weeks of training during normal business hours).  While it is very strange to be dateless on a Saturday night, I think we are both thinking this schedule is actually going to be pretty great once we get the hang of it.  In exchange for 3 or 4 nights a week of 12 hour shifts, Trevor will be home with us (and awake!) Wednesday through Saturday or Sunday each week.  So far, we seem to think it’s great mostly when we’re in the middle of the not-working part of the week, but the overall first impressions are good.


  • Finally, we have a new bike-rider in the house!  Thanks once again to the fantastic New York Method of no-training-wheels bike learning, Beatrix became our 4th bike-rider just this week, at five and a half.  If you don’t have time to watch the video, the gist is this: take off the training wheels and the pedals.  Let them learn to coast and balance using their feet for a while, then reattach the pedals and off they go.  We have taught four kids to ride this way now, and it is so much more effective than all the time we spent with training wheels before we discovered it.

Here’s our girl.  Doesn’t she still seem too little to be doing this?!

Hope you’re all enjoying the beauty and newness of the season, too!


One of the great joys of homeschooling is having the time and freedom to let our children follow their natural interests wherever they may lead.  Pippa’s interest in baking has been a blessing to all of us lately, as she is always willing to whip up a tasty treat on a moment’s notice if the occasion calls for it.  Bea’s fascination with little critters led us to get our pet mice which have ended up being more fun for even us grown-ups than I ever would have guessed.


But most recently, Romilly’s passion for American Indians has taken center stage in our family.  She and Pippa, with very little help from me, researched and planned a “pow-wow”, which we celebrated on Wednesday (the Spring Equinox) at my mom’s house.



The girls found (semi?)authentic Native American recipes and helped me plan outfits according to each child’s role in the festivities.   Niko was “drum boy”, Bea was “fancy dancer” (complete with cape), and Pippa was “jinglewoman” while Ro coordinated the whole thing and taught each one the respective dance.




The feast consisted of Hoh Fry Bread and fish (sticks, that is… Romilly asked for salmon, but we had grandmom’s budget to think of).  We also had sweet potato fries (root vegetable, anyone?) and mashed raspberries for dessert.




We rounded out the day by watching a movie about Squanto.  It was about 200 years earlier in history than the American Indians we have been studying  most recently, but it was a nice little refresher on the earliest American settlers we studied in the Fall.

It was a fun way to welcome in the Spring and share what we’ve been learning about, not to mention a great excuse to make Hoh bread.  Yum!