Friday, December 16, 2016

Good Heavens, It's Been a Long Time

I have no idea where the time has gone.  Almost five months have passed without a single written word from me (some might wish this silence had also extended to the spoken word!).  I am rather sad about it - it's like I've missed the opportunity to capture what the last number of months have brought.

Just a few minutes ago, when we were cleaning up from supper, Seth said something funny (to his brother, he said "Matthew, I'm not going to hit you or kick you because Mom is training me right!") and my first thought was, I need to remember this...need to blog this.  And, although I've had numerous similar thoughts in the past number of months, it's the first time in a long time I've actually plopped myself into a chair to put pen to paper.

Summer passed by in a blur of summer camps, a bit of cottaging, and spending lots of time outside.  Then, all too soon, fall activities hit in an even faster streak of activity and we've been running since.  It's been our busiest fall ever.  Lots and lots of extra curricular activities and lessons, and we've changed our homeschooling approach somewhat.

The kids are involved in swimming, piano, our Learning Centre homeschool community on Tuesdays, math tutoring, hip hop dance, jazz dance (Lizzie), a full day at a local Christian school that invites h/schoolers to join with them on Thursdays, science club (Matthew and Seth), youth group (Matt), choir, gym class, a running club/track program (Seth & Lizzie), electric guitar (Matthew), worship band (Matthew), Orph music (Lizzie), and art.   It's pretty crazy at times.

We've also, this fall, moved a little bit away from an unschooling approach to homeschooling and edged a little closer to a more structured type of learning.  Unschooling has been wonderful for us...and we're not out of it completely.  We've spent the past three years pursuing the kids' interests, veering mostly away from any curriculum, and taking on life as an education pursuit...all while building attachment and working through trauma/developmental issues.  Earlier this year, however, maybe in spring?, I noticed that the kids (Matthew in particular, but all three) were ready for a little more routine and structure...and maybe a little curriculum.

So we're doing a little Science, a little more Math, Bible, and then a few things that are catered to the particular child; for example, Matthew is learning keyboarding with an online program, and Seth and Lizzie are well into a learn-to-read program with me, which we supplement once/week with an online phonics program that supports their other learn-to-read activities.

I've needed to be super organized this fall, so I'm back into weekly meal planning and organizing our days with a little more routine and structure...we have to do this in order to fit everything in.  And it's generally working pretty well.  The kids are loving the pace of it, with few exceptions...even if their mama is a little tired out from it all.

We've had some highlights and lowlights, in other aspects of life.

One highlight was spending a week in Orlando last week...just the five of us.  It was mostly a great time (I say 'mostly' because we still take our sometimes-annoying personalities with us on vacation, and it's too bad we can't take a vacation from them!) - relaxing and busy at the same time.  We did Disneyworld's Magic Kingdom (this mama even went on two roller coaster!) and a water park, and played lots in the hotel pool.  We also discovered that the kids simply adore eating at restaurant buffets!  It was fun and good to get away.

Another highlight was that I turned 50 this summer!  Hard to believe, looking as great as I do (ha!), but it's true.  We had a great week of celebration, including with my brother, SIL and three of my Vancouver-based nephews, all of whom flew out here to help me celebrate.  The weekend after my birthday, I went away for a weekend with my oldest friend (who also turned 50 this year) and we had a great time together, and even did a 'spa' day which was rather heavenly...and a first for me!  I felt very feted and think it was a bang-up way in which to start the next decade of my life.

In terms of lowlights, my sister and my sister-in-law are both struggling with ongoing health issues and it's tough watching them go through the things they're going through.  I just want that too much to ask?  Life, health, well being - these things are so terribly fragile.  Recently, also, my Mom was admitted to the hospital, where she's struggling with complex medical and functional issues; she is slowly getting better, but it feels like we're in the next stage of life where things have shifted permanently again.

Anyway, these are all broad strokes about life over the past number of months.  I do so hope that I can spend a little more time here, because I have missed it intensely.  When we were in Orlando last week, I wrote almost-daily updates to my family about the ongoings of our trip, not so much because I thought they'd care a lot about the minutia, but more because I feel keenly the absence of writing in my life.  It's my way of connecting, of feeling connected, of feeling most like me.  I intend to be here again soon.

Until then...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Watering the Dogs.

Over lunch today, the boys told me about a recent walk that they took with the dogs.  They were over at the playground near our place and noticed that the dogs were thirsty.  Sadly, they'd forgotten to take the dogs' water bottle with them; but, happily, they'd brought their own.

Matthew had an idea.

He lay down on the ground and opened his mouth as wide as he could.  Seth filled his mouth with water from their water bottle.  The dogs then had a good drink right out of Matthew's mouth.

Ever so creative, that oldest child of mine.

I was laughing too hard to reprimand them for such utter grossness.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Overheard this morning

I was in the kitchen earlier today, listening to conversation between Seth and Lizzie; they were working on a puzzle together.

At one point, Lizzie said to Seth, "I wonder what dog language Charlie and Finn speak?"

Seth:  "Hmm...well, Havanese obviously, because that's their breed..."


Seth (continued): "...and I think maybe a little Shih tzu, too."


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer Day Camps

It's that time of year again...time for summer camps.  For some kids this is the norm throughout the summer; in our household it means a huge level of excitement about the days the kids will get to experience carrying a backpack and a lunch, maybe riding on a bus, and doing something (hopefully) super fun!

I haven't been without my kids since last year's summer day camps so it's a rather novel and exciting thing for me, too.  Last summer, the kids were in two weeks of day camps, which meant that I had two weeks on my own during the day.  I had so many projects on my list to get done last year but the first week was almost an entire write-off for me because on day 2 of their first camp, I started to cry and I spent the next four days crying.  I think it was my body's way of releasing of all of the previous year's stuff that needed to come out.  I felt rather silly spending all of that time crying my heart out in my little library, but I clearly needed the time to do just that.  By the time their second week of summer camp rolled around, I was back to myself and got quite a few things checked off of my to-do list.

I was rather apprehensive this past weekend, anticipating the kids' first day camp this week.  Would I be ready and set to go, tackling my long to do list?  Or would I dissolve into tears the second I dropped them off?

Well, as it turned out, after I dropped them off yesterday morning for day #1, I was feeling very emotional.  But this was tempered by the fact that I had some workers coming to the house ten minutes after I got home, and so I tucked away those feelings while they were still at the house...though I was constantly aware of it.

When the workers left the house several hours later, I have to say that within seconds of their leaving the house, I did break down into tears - I couldn't believe how fast they's like I was waiting to be alone.  I ended up tucking myself into my trusty library chair with a blanket and both of my dogs, and just cried and cried and cried.  I had about 2.5 hours on my own and I decided to let myself have that time to feel what I needed to feel and to cry over what I needed to cry over.  I'm rather hoping it doesn't consume my entire week, as it did last year, but if it does...well, then it does.  Who knows, maybe it becomes my annual sob fest when the kids go away for their first week of summer camp.  Because I'm so rarely alone, I don't often have the 'luxury' of time in which to process feelings or thoughts; so when I am alone, it's like my body has a visceral response to being along and my feelings overtake and even overwhelm me for a time.  But it feels generally healthy.

This year the kids are in day camps for three whole weeks!  I haven't had that much time to myself since before I had children and, although I anticipate missing them, I also think it's going to be great.  I'm going to work on a bunch of projects, but I'm also going to take time to read, go for coffee with a few friends that I don't get to see very often, and maybe watch a matinee movie or two.  It's going to be good.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Kinda Funny: A Homeschooler Sings on America's Got Talent.

Someone forwarded me the link to this singer, performing for America's God Talent...thought it is rather funny...even though he also reinforces the usual stereotypes about homeschoolers!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Classic Adoption Zinger

(I wrote this yesterday, soon after the event in question)

Just had a zinger from Lizzie...been waiting for this one.

Her behaviour of late has been rather difficult again and she has been constantly challenging me in an effort to assert authority over both herself and me.  It's always extra hard when her alpha is strong.  I've been trying to work on our relationship in an effort to help her alpha subside naturally, but there are times when nothing seems to work (at least in the short term...long term is likely more hopeful).  And so today I had to gently call her on a few rather horrid behaviours by pulling her away from an activity that her brothers and cousin were engaged in.

I pulled her into the office with me and gave her a hug and told her that we were going to take a breather together for a few minutes.  She wondered why and I said that I'd noticed that she just seemed a little on edge and that maybe I could sit with her while we relaxed together for a few minutes...she could rejoin the others soon.

And then there it was, arms crossed over her chest and chin protruding just a little:

"Well, you're not my real mother and you're not as important as my other one so I don't have to listen to you."

Woosh.  Wind out of the sails.

It was just a heartbeat of indrawn breath for me, though.  Because when you are someone's mother you know just how to respond as if on automatic pilot.

"I am indeed your real mother, my love, and you do need to listen to this mother."

Then I pulled her resistant little body just a wee bit closer to me and whispered so that she had to bend in to hear.

"And I also know how much it hurts that your first mother can't be here on earth with you any more.  How I dearly wish she were."

She melted against me for a second before remembering that she was mad at me.

In both my head and my heart I knew it for what it was...her frustration that I was in charge and that she wasn't allowed to behave as she determined.  Her default is always to think that she has to take care of herself because, deep down, she fears that if she doesn't look after herself then no one will.  It puts us at loggerheads on occasion because, of course, I'm the adult and the one charged with her care - despite her fear, it's not she who is in charge.  Hers is not a logical position because of course we will take care of her and love her no matter what; but it's the default of her heart based in the primal wound that will never ever never ever go away:  She has already experienced the loss of everything important in her life (including her mother); and she is prepared to go it alone again if necessary.  So I understand.  I really do.  There's not one part of me that is upset about it.

But still...'s just so right there.  So at the surface.  So ready to use in memory of a mother who was her mother for barely a year of her almost nine, a mother that she has no conscious memory of.

It's a good reminder for me that I really don't have to scratch much below Lizzie's surface to know that her wound is still there...will always be there.  Precious child.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Worst Time of Year for Homeschoolers

Every year around this time, the kids and I go through a big's the time of year when public schools are coming to a close for the summer months and we have to adjust to the new reality that, wherever we go, masses of other people will be there, too.  For some reason, it's always a shock to our systems when this day hits.

For ten months of the year, we get to go wherever we want in relative quiet.  We don't have to wait in lines and we get lots of attention from the staff of wherever it is that we are visiting.

Yesterday, the kids and I drove about thirty minutes out of the city to visit our favourite Aquatic Centre.  Usually when the four of us are there, only a handful (maybe ten?) other people are in the pool - often other homeschoolers.  :)  I figured that yesterday would be our last hurrah before we stopped going to public places for the next two months.

We arrived at the pool just as public swim time was starting and were delighted to see that, sure enough, there were only about five or six others in the pool.  Awesome.  We started playing our usual game of tag in the lazy river, and had a few minutes of lobbing volleyballs back and forth.

Suddenly we heard a noise.  Like a thundering sound.

What was that? we all wondered, looking at each other.

We soon found out.

Pouring out of the change rooms and thundering towards the pool were what looked to be the contents of about four greyhound-busline-size and kids and kids and more kids were exploding in our direction.  It was unbelievable. Within thirty seconds, we went from a delightfully serene swimming experience to deafening levels of sound and utter chaos.  Kids screaming, tired teachers yelling that the kids should stop screaming and follow them and stop running.

The kids and I must have looked hilarious.  As the masses encroached on our space, we four gathered together and hunkered down against a far wall of the pool, a wall which happened to be the divider between the main pool and the lazy river.  As we huddled there, side by side staring at all of these people suddenly just everywhere, they all swarmed around and past us as they raced towards the lazy river and the stairs beyond that led to the water slide beyond.  Within seconds, the line for the water slide went from one to over 40 kids; the lazy river was so body-to-body full that I didn't know how the lifeguards could manage it until I noticed that at least six extra lifeguards suddenly materialized and climbed into the water to keep watch at closer proximity.

For ten minutes the four of us sat, veritably traumatized, against that wall.  Very amusing to the average passer-by, I'm sure.  But we were stunned, disappointed.  (We learned later that a school was enjoying a field trip.)

After ten minutes we were done.  Even my normally-very-loud-and-never-stops-talking Lizzie was complaining that it was "just way too loud" in there.  We bolted.  First, we ran for the sauna room, hoping that it would help us dry off quickly...and we laughed when we opened the door because sitting inside were four men (the only men present in that building, I do believe) who were just sitting there and who were "hiding out" from all of the noise, hoping to remain undetected.

And then we ran for the relative serenity of the change rooms.  Changed into street clothes and got the heck out of dodge.

How to people do that?  How do you bear the line-ups and the sheer noise level of being so packed in together?  Do you get tired of waiting in lines and of being limited to vacation seasons to get any fun in?

We homeschoolers are so spoiled by having the run of most places from September through June and, though it sounds awful to say so, we vastly prefer it that way.  It's just that we're not limited in our experiencing of things to the timing that is necessitated by school - we don't need to think about spring break, summer vacation, or Christmas holidays.  In fact, for the most part, when we take a break or a vacation, we choose to do so during the school's so much easier and more pleasant.

As we drove away from the pool a little while later, disappointed that our swimming experience was cut a little short, we all sighed and lamented that, once again, it was the end of the school year.  But it also gave us a chance to think of one more reason why we're so glad to be a homeschooling family.  We decided that we wouldn't go back to the public pool until our not-back-to-school day after the labour day weekend in September.

Monday, June 27, 2016 the Van???

Conversation in the van a couple of hours ago; we had just left the city and were driving on the highway.

Matthew:  "Mom, I may have to use a bathroom in a few minutes...gotta poop."

Mom:  "Matthew, really?  We just left the city where there were about 100 bathrooms couldn't have thought of this one minute ago?"

Matthew:  "When you gotta go, you gotta go.  But no worries.  I can hold it."

Mom:  "Good.  I think you're going to have to, for about a half hour."

(silence for a minute or two)

Seth (laughing, but laughing with an edge of horror...he undoubtedly knew what was coming):  "Matthew, why are you putting one of the dog's poop bags down the back of your pants?"

Matthew:  "Well, I said that I needed to poop.  What better reason to use a poop bag?"


Honestly, that child.  I can just never predict what crazy or weird thing he's going to do next.

(And no, he did not do the deed.  I yelled at him to stop before he proceeded any further.  But had I not put a stop to it, I can guarantee that he would have given it his best shot.)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photos from the Past Month

Here are some photos from the past month that I particularly like:

Playing "Pie Face" as a family...all five of us got pied!

The dogs:

Charlie...needing extra cuddle time with me since Finn joined the family: 

Lizzie with Finn:

Phinnea...aka Finn:

The kids at their piano recital:

The moms and kids of our Learning Centre:

Moms preparing "Leaf Trees" to recognize our three graduates this year:

Our three graduates this year:

LC kids painting LC kids:

Free rides:

Kayaking in the reeds with Learning Centre friends:

Learning Centre beach day:

Some Pictures of the kids:

What our kitchen table looks when I'm reading out loud to the kids:

Matthew's freshly washed and combed hair:

Me standing directly in line with a friend's antlers:

A few photos of my favourite flowers...lilacs in the yard: