Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Post That Almost Wasn't

I have not written lately as I have had a bad case of writers block.  The process has been write, erase, repeat over and over.  I do not know why - maybe being sick, maybe the stress of the realities of life, or maybe just children constantly interrupting.  I feel the fog of the block lifting but not quite there yet so do not expect anything profound or witty.

The eight chicks we got has now become seven.  We got up one morning to find Gabby's chick looking rather odd.  Over night it had almost feathered out all of it's wings and looked scruffy.  She would not stay with the other chicks and appeared tired.  I wanted Gabby to know she had done what she could for the little thing so we took the chick out and let her run around in the bedroom with one other chicks for company.  The chick did seem to perk up a little but was still not walking tall like the others, her little neck just seems to be contracted in a hunched position.  I had told Gabby to pray but be prepared for the worst.  The next morning her chick was dead.  She handled it at best as she could and Crystal the chick is now buried in a box in our backyard.

Being one that always believes God will provide, but also know that God has His own paths for us which is not always our first plan or thoughts, I have been praying a lot about how I am going to support us as the children grow up and move on with Jim being disabled.  This week a neighbor said I could sell my crafts in her store, another neighbor we found out has a restaurant and will buy all of her eggs from us (15 more chicks ordered today), and I purchased an antique vanity to restore.  The same neighbor that will let me sell my crafts in her store also said if I do a good job on this restoration, she will have me do all of her restoration work.  I also found a second walnut tree on the property and since I am allergic, I will be able to sell all of the walnuts that come from the tree.  God is providing in more ways than I ever thought.

On the note of blessings, a dear neighbor has given us so much food from his garden that my new to me freezer (thank you to a new friend at church for that gift) is almost completely full of green beans, zucchini, summer squash, corn, peppers, and tomato sauce.

I do not know what we have done to deserve so much love from so many. I do not know how I will ever give back as much as I have been given.  I am beginning to wonder if us coming into contact with so many other foster parents and all of these good tidings is not a sign for us to go back into foster care.  We cannot until we have lived here six months and honestly, I do not feel emotionally ready for it, nor would I bring a foster child into the home when we have a teen that has almost been arrested three times due to his anger issues around the other children.  I am praying on this a lot but feel God's path is heading us towards medically fragile children again.  We will see what He has in store for us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It has been a week of hurrays for us.

First, the great news about the repairs on the house (see last blog).  Then, Jim got a second letter from Social Security confirming he will be getting SSDI and with back pay from December.  I am shocked since this was his first application for SSDI and we know many people are denied.  It reinforced in both of us how disabled he truly is.

Next, Gabby started attending camp for the first time.  After her initial fears wore off, she has loved it and is disappointed that it only lasts one week.  She has asked if she can do an all day camp even.

Dustin has a job with our neighbors doing whatever they need at their consignment shop and helping the husband clean out abandoned buildings.  The first building he will get to help with is an old jail that is on the historical registry.  Dustin has denied any payment for now since these wonderfully, kind people have been giving us clothing for the children, plants for our garden and Jim a new office chair he liked.  I told Dustin that is very admirable of him, but he needs to think about getting paid at some point so he has spending money.

Towards the end of the week I took Cameron, Ben, Gabby and Bella to VBS.  Bella did not want to go and was very adamant about not going.  I insisted since she had not made any friends yet.  I am so glad I did!  She had fun, made a friend, and there was a boy there she liked.  She came home and spent hours on the phone talking or texting with a friend in California about it.  It was so nice to see her acting like a typical child instead of the defiant, angry one that we have seen for weeks.  By Saturday Dustin had heard so much about VBS, that he decided he would go - but only this once and it was just to help with Cameron and he wasn't going to pray or anything like that.  I just sat there smiling and nodding at him.

I met another homeschooling mom of six at VBS.  We did not get much time to talk since she was a tribe leader and I had Cameron to chase.  Before we left on Friday, she offered a freezer to us for free.  We are arranging to pick it up next week and our neighbor is going to help us get it.  Neither one of them will allow us to pay them.  I guess I will be doing a lot of baking in the near future.

I am thanking God every day for the wonderful blessings he has brought to us.  We are definitely blessed and hope we can show the same love and caring for others in the near future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I have not written in a few days as I have had many things on my mind.  I have tried to write but nothing came out the way I wanted.  Today was a day of miracles though so I had to write.

Jim got a letter last Thursday about his SSDI claim stating he met the requirements for medical disability.  This was such a blessing, but in the same breath it set things in black and white that Jim is not capable of doing everything we had hoped.  He is not pushing himself to work as hard and we are noticing some improvements in his health when he takes things a little easier.  That made me realize he was not going to be able to complete the repairs on the house like we had hoped, not without some kind of major help.  I have been thinking about our finances for days trying to find some way to pay someone to do the repairs and still continue with the financial plan we have set for ourselves.  When the cost appeared prohibitive, I was trying to make a plan for me to do the repairs on my own and still manage my own chronic pain.

Then today I got a call from the pastor of our church.  He told me that he had got a call from a woman Jim had talked to at a Wendy's on Sunday.  I thought this was odd, but as I listened to what he had to say, I was shocked.  The pastor informed me this woman belongs to a Baptist church in Marietta, which is over an hour away, and they have been looking for a ministry to help a family.  Our pastor did not know Jim had received the disability letter, nor how disabled Jim really was, but when she asked what our family's biggest needs were, he told her we need the house repaired.  He asked my permission to give her my number so she could call us and work out how the members of her church could come in and do all the repairs on the house at no cost.  I was flabbergasted!  I did not know Jim had a conversation with anyone nor how this woman would know what we needed.  Later, Jim told me he had gotten into a conversation with this couple about us moving to Georgia from California with all six kids.  The couple asked if we attended a church and Jim mentioned we are going to the Lutheran church in Rome.  I was in shock again because the Wendy's he had met this couple at was no where near either of our homes.  We were coming back from a gun show that was an hour and a half away in the opposite direction from where they live when this "chance" meeting happened.  I cannot believe now that there was any "chance" in this and that God had a hand in their directing this meeting.

Not only were we shocked by this offer, but once we mentioned to the children this could not have been coincidence and His hand must be guiding us, my daughter that has been swearing she is an atheist now wants to go to vacation Bible school in a few days and has asked for some church clothes to go with us on Sundays.  I do not know if she is actually starting to believe or if she does not want to be left with a babysitter at her age.  I am just happy she is willing to try.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Time For Change

I have been reading the Dear America Book series to the younger children lately.  I love the way it reads and reminds me a lot of the journal entries written for Dances with Wolves.  I think I am going to try writing my blog in the same manner to see how it flows and to keep my interest sparked for awhile.  So here we go:

We have been in our new home for a little over a month.  It has been a month full of ups and downs, happiness, fear and sorrow.  The family as a whole and each individual is going through a lot of change.  I have a lot of fears for two of the children as they are not dealing well with the move.  It looks like Jim will be approved for disability which is good as he will be able to access medical care, but the ramifications for myself and my work load is overwhelming.  I am trying to get our little homestead fully functional and easy to maintain as quickly as possible as I do not know how much longer the older boys will be living with us to help with heavy lifting and repairs, nor do I know how long Jim will be able to help.  I cannot count on the three oldest consistently either do to their disabilities or just defiance.  We are going to start going to a church and hoping I will be able to get help from members of the church when it is needed.  Jim is coming to the understanding that he can no longer push his body to do all of the things he wants to do.  Accepting help from outsiders will be hard on him though.

I have been thinking a lot lately about blind faith and how much this move was based on just that.  The two children that are struggling are my two that have no faith as both are now atheist.  I feel that I have failed them, but their lack of believing has made me realize how important faith is as the other children that are believers are thriving.  I had prayed on this move for a long time and truly believe it was God's hand guiding us on this path to Georgia and into a new life.  Now that we are here, I know this is what He wanted us to do.  I did not realize how tormented we had been in California and how impacted I was by it.  When one of the neighbors stops by, I still feel my stomach jump into my throat thinking it is someone complaining.  I still do not answer the phone when I do not recognize the phone number as I feel like I cannot deal with anything negative without stopping to think things through first.  God has blessed us with wonderful, supportive neighbors, a church who will embrace my children and us, and I pray that I can finally let go of this fear.  As for the two children who are atheist, I am praying they find a path that does not continue to lead them down a road of anger and resentment.  I see their anger turning into hatred and viciousness towards others and all relationships in their lives are being damaged because of it.  I pray that someday God's love will fill their hearts and push all of that anger aside.  At this point, a mother's love has not been enough.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homesteading with Children

The fun to be had with children on open land with neighbors that don't complain about children running around and being loud.  My industrious husband recently got a cart to move things around the property with - soil for the garden, grass and clippings to the compost piles, heavy tool boxes from here to there, etc.  My children had a different purpose for it.

We've been discussing getting chicks so we could eventually have fresh eggs.  We are planning the brooder, hen house and yard.  During one of the discussions about spacing needed, Benjamin pops up and asks, "If I squeeze the chickens, will eggs shoot out the chicken's butt?"  Anyone that knows the way I think can just imagine me giggling as I had this comic strip thought of Ben running around squeezing chickens and shooting eggs at his siblings.

There is something interesting about looking into the backyard at night to see a teen swinging a light saber near the bug zapper.  Turns out hitting bugs out of the air is a new pass time.

Then there is my sweet daughter that loves the outdoors, horses, dogs, well any kind of nature, except flying insects that buzz - which here in Georgia I think is 90% of the bugs.  It has become a daily ritual for her to come in whining/yelling "There's a wasp in the house!" or other such flying creature she is afraid of.  This is the same child that donned a bee keepers hood and held pieces of a bee hive just a few months before we moved.  Somewhere between California and Georgia, she became afraid of flying, buzzing insects.

We will see what the next adventure holds another day.  They are really keeping me on my toes, or at least laughing regularly.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What I've Learned in Georgia

Since moving to Georgia, I've learned a few things.

1. The bugs are BIG here.  Very big!
2. Teenagers can get up by their alarm even on the weekend by 7:00 and not melt.
3. Children of all ages can learn to say Yes Mam and No Sir without being sarcastic.
4. Bear skat really stinks but it comes out of a dog's hair with vinegar.
5. You may see interesting things along the road like someone barbequing out of the back of the truck.
6. Drivers are more patient.
7. People actually pull over and stop for funeral processions.
8. Fire flies are camera shy.
9. Sweet tea is better than soda on a hot day.
10. Sheets dried on a clothes line smell heavenly after a hard days work.
11. TV is not a necessity.  Children are actually happier without it.
12. There's something relaxing about hanging clothes on the line while kids are laughing and playing.

13. Fire flies can make everything right after a hard day.

14. Teen boys from California think they've died and gone to heaven with all the southern beauties.
15. Teens don't have to walk around plugged into things or texting and they will survive.  Not only that, there are teens here that actually communicate with adults and help out around the house!

16. People reach out to help others just because that's what you do.
17. Men are still gentlemen and open doors for ladies and tip their hats to them.
18. A family of 8 can live with just one refrigerator.
19. It is possible to feed a family of 8 without a stove for over a month.  Meatloaf on the barbeque is quite yummy.
20. There are people that don't pity or baby children with disabilities.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Catching Up

It's been an interesting few weeks since the move.  Our things finally got here a week late and items were either lost or broken.  We are still documenting all of the things that we are going to have to replace and praying we get reimbursed from the movers insurance company as it is going to turn into a hefty amount.  What saddens me are the things that can't be replaced like my mom's wedding china or all the canning I did last summer.  I guess technically the canning could be replaced but so much time went into it and they won't compensate me for that.  Most of my inventory and some of my looms for the business were destroyed.  I'm having to replace all of that too before I can get the business off the ground again.

The house has proven to be in worse shape than what we thought and needing a lot more repairs.  We've been here two and a half weeks and I still don't have a stove.  We finally got an electrician out to look at the electrical issues. I have no 220v to plug a stove into so we are stuck now until after June 1 before he can come back out.  So for now I use the electric griddle, camp stove, BBQ and roaster.  I'm able to prepare meals just fine, but I have to say it will be very nice to have a real stove again.

The kids are thriving though!  We have done away with TV until the fall when the days get longer and they have to be in the house more.  The kids have not even asked to watch anything.  They are having fun playing outside, playing games, reading and doing art.  We will hopefully have their play structure and playhouse delivered in the next week.  Cameron is talking more and physically just taking off - literally taking off, down the road.  We now have gates put up to keep him on the decks.  Ben is much more organized and able to process things better - slowly still but he can consciously make himself focus.  Gabby is her usual little bundle of energy but is completely over her fear of bugs and turning quickly into a little "farm girl".  Gabby's fear of bugs was transferred to Bella though as she is now afraid of anything that buzzes and/or flies.  Bella is loving the frogs and toads that come to visit.  Speaking of which we have Toad Buddy who comes onto the front deck most nights.  Bella picked him up one night to find a moth half hanging out of his mouth.  The older boys, well, Donald likes it here, and let's just leave the update on them at that.  Oh, I guess I could say Dustin is great at mowing the property as he has had plenty of practice lately.  Hard labor is good for the troubled soul.

Overall this has been a wonderful change for us.  I feel at home here.  People are friendly and helpful, the terrain is beautiful and teens don't walk around texting or plugged into an iPod.  There is a different level of respect for people here.  There was a little old man crossing the street one day.  He was shuffling along as fast as his wobbly legs would take him.  He was barely half way across the street when the light changed.  No one honked, no one hurried and went around him, and no one started yelling.  They just let him cross the street and then went along their way.  It was heart warming to see.  I'm hoping the respect rubs off on my teens.

After two and a half weeks of being here, I honestly believe this was the right move for us.

Half Way There

I had originally started this post while driving to Georgia.  Since we didn't get internet back until recently, I was unable to post it until now.

We are past half way now on our move to Georgia.  We knew it was going to be a long drive when Gabby asked, "Are we close to our new house?" and we weren't even out of Sacramento yet.  For the most part though, the kids have been troupers.  We got a chance to stop and see a friend in Tucson, even if just for a few minutes.  It was so good to see her.  We are staying in a hotel room tonight in Abilene TX as Jim and I are too tired to drive any further and there are thunderstorms just ahead of us.

Just this morning we saw wild horses which was an amazing sight.  The desserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas became very monotonous and we are looking forward to the "greener pastures" of the east.  Cameron cannot take much more in the car and Gabby's hips just will not allow her to sit for longer.  We will drive all the way through to the new house for our next leg of the trip so tomorrow we will finish going through Texas, then through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to our little home on the northeast side of Georgia.  Then for a few days of camping while we wait for the water to be turned on.

Honestly, I couldn't have made this move without the help of a dear friend.  She has been there to support us emotionally and now to clean the house for us.  There is the saying that you can't pick your family, but in this instance I was lucky enough to do just that and have a sister by choice.  Thank you Erin from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Moving Van Day

It's been a long day of packing, loading and emotions.  The highlights and lowlights - the movers charging us extra (including $100 for tape), spending an afternoon with wonderful friends, stopping to put out a grass fire on the way home from picking up the kids, a teen filled with testosterone, a mouse running between one of the kids' feet at bedtime, and then getting to sleep on an air mattress because the movers were so late getting done we couldn't leave like we wanted to.  We will see what the first day of travel unfolds for us.  Right now, I'm ready to attempt sleeping on the air mattress and praying my back doesn't give out because of it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

If Today Were Perfect

If today had been perfect....

I would not have woken to a puking child.

The dog would not have tried to bark as she swallowed and ended up gagging to the point of puking on the kitchen floor.

I would have had the aforethought to think the puking child was starting to feel better before I told his dad he needed to stay home to rest instead of going with dad to run errands.

I would have realized that dad was also taking the more helpful teen to get his braces removed and I was going to be left to fend for myself with a rambunctious 5 y.o. (previously puking child that found all of his energy plus more), an overtired 7 y.o., a 6 y.o. that has mischief to spare, and a happily defiant 10 y.o.

My mischievous son would not have found a pair of scissors and cut a chunk out of his sister's hair.

The same mischievous son would have forgotten the lessons I taught him about the Forbidden City and not tried to recreate it out of Chinese food boxes that had our lunch in them.

The 5 y.o. would not have tried to get the puppy (which outweighs him) to ride the rocking horse.

There would not have been huge puffs of dust flying of my son's head due to his sister putting dirt on his head to make his hair a lighter color, nor would there have been bits of grass in my daughters hair because she "needed a beautiful hat" courtesy of the dusty headed brother.

My preteen daughter would not have had her rambunctious 5 y.o. brother constantly going in to the bathroom saying, "Suuuupise Sissy!", while she tried to bathe to get rid of her allergy attack and sinus headache and I would not have had to keep stopping what I was doing to pull him out again as he did his evil laugh.

A teen would not have taken his frustrations out on the one apple gourd that I was able to grow in the garden last summer.

Someone would have told me I had bits of red frosting on my forehead the youngest child had so artfully applied before people stopped by to pick things up and not wait until I saw it in the mirror.

My dogs and 5 y.o. son would not have doorbell ditched the new neighbors when the children were coming into the house after being out.

At least at the end of the day, the children got to spend one last night at Bounce U and I got a wonderful dessert with a friend.  I also guess, in it's own strange way, it may not have been a perfect day, but it was a typical day for us.

The Pioneering Spirit

It's been a long time since I posted because so much has been going on.  After Jim made two trips to Georgia, we bought a house that closed escrow in two weeks and we are preparing to move.  It's hard to put into words all the emotions we have been going through.  Jim and Isabella are the only ones who have been to Georgia to see the house.  The rest of us have only seen pictures and have only ever lived in CA.  We have traveled as far as Reno, NV and I've been over the AZ border once.  Now all of a sudden we are packing up to trek across the nation to a house we've never seen, to a state we've never been to, leaving our family here in CA.

I know the pioneers had a much harder time than us leaving their family and friends behind for parts unknown, traveling over harsh terrains and experiencing cultures they never knew existed.  I admire them for the spirit they had to have to do such hard things.  The thought of driving across the country with six special needs kids with two dogs and a 14 y.o. cat which doesn't travel well, in the middle of a medicine increase for Ben to try to control his latest increase in seizures, all the while trying to keep peace with our teens that don't travel well either, makes me wonder how our ancestors did it and kept their sanity in tact.  We have one day until the movers are here and all I see and hear is chaos, wild emotions and kids who have lost their brains and must be looking for them as they run through the house like total banshees.  It sure didn't help to start the morning with a child puking and blowing out diapers.

It will be interesting to document the next few days of our adventure as we finish the packing, load the moving van and head off for a new life that includes three days of camping until the new city can get our water turned on in the new house.  I am hoping my children will be blessed with the pioneering spirit to get them through the next few days, and that I have the strength of the pioneer women to carry my family into our new adventure and onto our new life with the stability and fortitude they will need.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Our Homeschooling Day

I've been very hard on myself lately about not getting enough school book time in.  Not enough worksheets completed, not enough experiments done, and just not enough anything that resembles school.

Today I took a deep breath and really looked at what my kids were learning since we had done no book work as it was Saturday.  Today's lessons included: a teaspoon and tablespoon can make a huge difference in a recipe, washcloths too close to an open flame do catch fire, not getting clothes into the laundry means wearing dirty underwear or go without which led to the lesson of waiting to do a load of whites until after the dishwasher is done and you have showered to make sure you have enough hot water, mom and dad's expectations aren't so bad when you get to do the things you want, that maybe mom does know that hot tea with lemon and honey and a hot tub will help a sore throat, that even if momma gets upset with you she never stops loving you, taking responsibility for something done wrong is much easier than arguing, that not slowing down to let little brother explain what he wants makes for a very mad little brother which led to the lesson of a mad little brother is not fun, putting dog hair on the table does not make for a happy momma, and when times get tough mom and dad have your back even after you have treated them terribly.

All of my children have learned to read or learning to read, they are all learning math, and they will be exposed to everything they are supposed to for history and science.  I guess the most important things in life aren't taught in schoolbooks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teaching Multiple Grades, Mutliple Abilities

I hear from credentialed teachers, especially those that teach special education, that they too teach multiple grade levels and abilities.  I have frequently been talked down to about my not being a "real" teacher because I don't have the same college education as a teacher and yet insist on teaching my children.  My continual questions for them are how many of them teach children that are at a preschool developmental level all the way up to those that are reading and comprehending at a college level.  Do they have children with severe mental health disorders in their classrooms with their kids that are significantly delayed?  Do they have monthly IEP's to readdress where the child is making progress and tweak anything if need be? And the one that I love to ask the most, does each child have separate curriculum specifically suited to each individual child's needs so that lesson plans have to be done for each individual child and taught separately, at the child's pace, in order to benefit from said curriculum the most?

By the time I get to the last question, I'm usually being looked at with glassy eyed stares.  The thought of doing all of that for each individual child is mind numbing to any that are involved in the current system.  For many very good teachers, it is what they would love to be able to do for their students as they do have the child's best interest in mind.  The problem is there is no way for it to work within our educational system.

I try to be understanding of those in teaching professions.  I also support those families the public school system works for.  I'm a strong believer in doing what is best for the family - parent and child alike, so I am not anti-public schooling.  I am though anti bash-me-because-I-homeschool.

It is possible to teach multiple grades at multiple levels all in one day and kids get an education.  It is just time consuming.  I do not have time to hang out with friends as much as they or I would like.  I cannot organize all these wonderful outings as much as my friends would like for our kids to attend together.  I am busy getting kids here and there for classes, clubs and events, teaching, doing lesson plans for 4 kids ranging from PreK through 8th grade (depending on the subject and child).  Yes I have to do lesson plans because my kids thrive on structure and I need a way to see if they are making progress because of their abilities, see if they are regressing, and monitor grades to see how well I am teaching them for their needs.

No, I am not super mom or wonder woman.  I am a mom of amazing children that don't fit in with the given system.  I do what I have to do so my children get the best education possible.  This is the "least restrictive environment" not the most because they can learn at their pace and when they can learn the best, not at some predetermined time frame decided by a group of people that don't even know my child or their abilities.

 Yes, I have to keep up the house, grocery shop, prepare meals, keep up the laundry, take care of my disabled husband, get everyone to their doctor's appointments, and still educate my children.  Again, I am not super mom or wonder woman. I am a woman blessed with a family life that allows us to be together, help each other, and us come out stronger for it. I am a woman that does what she needs to do without complaint as this is the life God has given me and it is truly my calling. 
My little boys "reading"

One day of schoolwork for 4 kids

Ear Infections and Puppies

After two nights of little sleep with the youngest having an ear infection, I thought we would finally get some sleep.  He had gone to sleep easily, stayed asleep a long time, and had a better day in general.  So what does the puppy do, get into everything and chew things right next to my side of the bed all night long instead.

The sweet puppy, Spirit, has been so in tune with our littlest ever since we brought her home.  I don't know if she picked up on him having Down Syndrome or their having a common past of neglect, but whatever the case may be, there was an instant bond.  She loves to lick our little man which definitely has it's purposes when he needs the sensory input, but has been trained not to lick him in the night.  Now with his ear infection, she has been following him around all morning trying to lick his ear and make his owie all better. He keeps telling her, "No Spiwit.  My eawr."  She will stop for a minute or two, but then back to following him so worried about her boy.

We have to go to the ENT this morning to get his ear looked at.  I hope the house is in one piece when we get back.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It was a long holiday season and after a lot of time, stress and tears, this just put everything in perspective.  This was my Cameron a year ago during Christmas 2010.  

And this is my Cameron now.  

After second guessing everything I do with the kids, how often I wonder if I'm really doing the right thing by homeschooling them, questioning if I really am meeting their needs, this just is a reassurance that I have done something right somewhere along the way.

All I can say is, what a difference a year makes!