Friday, September 30, 2011

Decisions

Parenting. Bumbling along.

At homeschool co-op today, I could not decide whether to stick Little Mister in a math class geared at his age level, where they were doing skills he had mastered a year ago, or whether to bring him into my math class for older kids, where he would be challenged academically, but where he would be expected to learn in a much more refined manner. We tried the class with the older kids, but like the 4yo unschooler he is, he wanted to build something out of the counting blocks and draw pictures on the white board. He was such a distraction that I finally walked him back across the hall where the younger math class was eating doughnuts.

Later in the evening both boys had a checkup at the Pediatrician. We talked quite a bit about the advice of the eye doctor from earlier in the week that Mister needed vision therapy. Apparently vision therapy is a bit of a suspect activity, in the category of chiropractic, that is not "proven" to do any good. (I happen to think chiropractic care is quite beneficial in some cases, and I see a chiropractor regularly.) Dr. M instead recommended that we see a pediatric ophthalmologist since Mister shows some large motor delays that seem to be linked to visual issues (my son, ya think?) Hubby and I are so conflicted on what to do with/for/about him. Should we follow the eye doctor's recommendation and pursue his pet project, the vision therapy, which, by the way, costs in the quadruple digits, and is not covered by insurance. It may or may not have any effect, but probably won't hurt anything. Should we get a second opinion, see a specialist, and see what treatment s/he recommends, if any? Should we relax and do nothing, since his vision problems don't seem to be progressive, nor are they holding him back significantly or lowering his quality of life? Should we spend a lot of time, trouble and money, and upset him only to hear there is nothing that can be done anyway? Perhaps no one will actually come forth and admit this, but will continue running us around for years, in order to collect more consultation fees?

Do I sound cynical? Sorry. Sometimes that is what the medical system seems to be doing. With a borderline mild case like mine or Mister's, I wonder if it is even worth trying to find something to treat what may end up being untreatable anyway. Of course I want to ascertain that there is not something actually wrong with his eyes, that his corneas and retinas are healthy.

Parenting seems so overwhelmingly difficult sometimes. Everyone out there is willing to add their two cents to the overload of ideas and information, and the advice conflicts. This works, this does not work. These values are important, this therapy will help, kids ought to learn this and know this and be able to do that. If they don't, they are delayed. Once Abi comes, we'll have even more of these decisions to make for her. Which specialists should she see? Which therapies will benefit her? What can I truly teach her at home, and what will I need an expert to show us?

Although I know parenting and teaching are not a race, it often feels like they are. The kid who reads at an advanced level is clearly winning, and will obviously be successful. Ironically, I was that kid, reading a newspaper fluently at age five. In the long run, everyone else seemed to catch up just fine, and I don't think it did much for me beyond helping to progress the myopia that I was already prone to, and making me feel like a failure whenever I wasn't five grade levels ahead. And now, at the end of the education rat-race, safely here in grown-up land, I would say I am pretty average. I'm not exactly a nuclear physicist or CEO of Google or finding a cure for cancer. So, when it comes to pushing my kids to excel, well, I'm not. Not that I blame my parents for pushing me; they didn't. I think they would have had to put me in a straightjacket to keep a book out of my hands.

I know I'm rambling here. It's a bit of a brain dump, really. We parents all want the very best for our children. Sometimes, though, it's not clear how well our decisions will play out in the long run. It's not clear whether we ought to seek medical intervention for Mister or not worry about it. It's not clear whether I should try to homeschool Abi. It's not clear which math class would be the best for my little math-maniac, who would prefer to eat doughnuts.

My mom's advice sounded the best: pray. And I do. I pray for wisdom constantly. We need the wisdom and guidance of the Lord to care for these precious little ones dependent upon us to teach and love them. I think the minute we're convinced that we have it all figured out is the minute we'll be proved that we're actually doing it all wrong. Instead, I guess we'll keep asking the Lord for wisdom, and continue gathering all of the information and advice that we can get, doing the best we can to make good decisions.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bean is Two!

Today, Bean turns two years old! It's hard to believe that our funny, silly, sweet, smart, crazy, exhausting, wonderful Bean is two. This morning, I taught him to say "TWO!" when someone asks him how old he is. True to form, I asked later in the day, and his answer was "Three!"

Miss A, Bean's birth mom, called this afternoon to tell him Happy Birthday and that she loves him. He had a ball talking to her on the phone and attempting to push as many buttons as he could. I was so blessed that she called. As he grows up, I think it's vital that he understand how much she loves him, and a gesture like remembering his birthday goes a long ways.

Bean's favorite part of the entire proceeding: the yellow party blowers.


Even Chewy got a hat!








Stopping at the top of the hill to look at the lights.


Stargazing.

Along the way home, we noticed an unusual number of police and flaggers.  It turns out we drove up behind one of the controversial Megaloads.  When we got into town, protestors and police cars lined the streets.  It was kind of cool to see something in real life that has made national news in the recent weeks.


Once home again, and very late, our little birthday boy was doing his overstimulated silly routine.  He drank his bottle of warm milk and crashed immediately upon being put into bed.  Thus endeth Birthday Number Two.

Chore Charts

Q: What is better than making chore charts for your children?

A: When they make them themselves.

P.S. Don't you love six-year-old spelling? That "laundry" kills me! I love it. It's almost going to be a bummer when she finds out how it's really spelled.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Less Than Two Weeks!

We travel to Ethiopia in less than two weeks!  I get to meet our little girlie!

We have been collecting things like power adapters and travel money belts. Yesterday, I spent a long 45 minutes with an overly solicitous banker setting up a travel account. Hubby bought some new headphones for the plane. We're looking at packing lists, and weather forecasts.

I'm also thinking about the three Goombas staying here with Mom for a week. This has never happened to them before; always before one or the other of us has always been with them. Every little ritual and routine and inside joke stands out in stark relief against the backdrop of leaving them for an entire week. Many times per day, I reassure myself that they will be fine, but the mother bear in me is not in the least satisfied.

My emotions swing from being afraid of the discomfort of the long flight and jetlag, to anticipating the adventure, to anticipation of meeting Abi, to dread of having to leave her again and say goodbye.

Never in a thousand years could I have guessed that someday I would be traveling across the globe to visit Africa. Such an exotic adventure was the privilege of people much wealthier than I. Other people made plans to travel to foreign continents or live in glittering cities, but I am a farm girl, planted firmly in the land, who loves to stay and grow with the changing seasons here. That God would put this trip into my own life has surprised me beyond measure.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Day With Bean

Bean and I spent the day together while Hubby took the bigger two to the Science Center. We walked downtown, both took a nap, and I did chores. For quite a while, I surfed the 'net, and Bean played with toys.



A little video, nothing unusual, but that's the beauty of it. It's a snippet of a normal day, a wonderful day, a day to remember just in its simple beauty.

First Day of School Pictures

Since yesterday was the first day of Co-op, I went ahead and took their "school pictures" before we left.


Little Mister is in Pre-K, and his favorite color is blue. He loves to build things, play on the computer, and help Daddy bake yummy treats. He's picking up reading really fast, has begun learning to multiply numbers, and is taking piano lessons. He also is in a singing class. My most introverted child, he often needs time alone, and loves to think deeply.


Curly Miss is in first grade. She is reading easy chapter books, like "Nate the Great," and is working on fractions. She has added yellow to her very favorite colors. She loves art and drawing, and music, progressing quickly through Suzuki Book 2. She is almost 100% extrovert and has a talent for making friends quickly. She loves to be on the go, and to be with people.


The Bean needed to have his picture taken too, since his siblings did. He is learning his colors and letters, and he'll be two next Thursday. He learned several new words a day, and chatters a lot! He is still extremely strong and fast; I predict that he will excel at sports, although he is also bright academically and quite musical.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Art Class

Homeschool Co-op has begun! Curly counted down the minutes all summer, she was so excited.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garden Fresh

Curly came home the other day from violin class with fresh garden veggies, of all things. Apparently her teacher had an excess. Each vegetable had a number drawn on it using masking tape. I guess the kids used them to play a violin game. The prize? You get to keep the veggie. Curly must have played well, because she had a whole bagful of vegetables.


Several tomatoes, an onion, and a spicy purple pepper got turned into salsa fresca. Yummy!


A pumpkin and an odd little white squash became pumpkin cream cheese muffins.


Now left in the basket are these little gems. I'm told they're called tomatillos. Now, I'll admit I have never heard of tomatillos before. What are they and what do you make with them? (Once you finish using them to play the violin, of course.)

Edited to add: Answer--you give them to a friend who knows what they are and knows how to make salsa verde out of them! She also knew to wash the sticky stuff off before you try tasting one. Oops. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Piano Man

Little Mister has begun learning to play the piano. We found a wonderful piano teacher, who was a friend of a friend. She taught in a gentle, playful, encouraging manner that fit our family extremely well. Then, her Hubby got a job in Arizona, and she moved away!

I was so disappointed to lose her, but since we are Facebook friends, we decided to try an experiment. We continued our lessons via Skype. Every Monday night we meet up online and I set up my computer so she can see Mister's hands. He plays his songs, and she has been super pleased with his progress.

Tonight, after our lesson, she told him that he played "The Submarine" so well, it needed to be on a video on my blog! So, per instructions, here is Little Mister playing his song. Thank you so much Teacher S! We love you!

Goodbye crib

He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. Ecclesiastes 5:20

Sniff.

Smile.

Sniff.

When moms bemoan the fact that their babies are growing up, and sigh over the past years, I feel alternately irritated and sympathetic. Yes, I'll miss the snuggly baby days. Yes, I love newborns. I love to smell their heads.

But I also love children who can talk, use the restroom, get their coats on, and finally, move out and have a wonderful life as adults. Every stage is beautiful, and I love each one.


But, he is my last baby.

And now he's in a big-boy bed.

Sniff.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two Peas

Curly and Bean, although nearly five years apart, share a common exuberant outlook and energetic joy that makes them unlikely comrades. In particular, they share a love of making noise, the louder the better, making music, making messes, and engaging in roughhouse play. If you had asked me two years ago which children would bond closely with one another, I doubt that I would have picked these two, my oldest and youngest. Curly, of course, loves Little Mister dearly, and they are almost constant playmates, but I have been surprised by the close bond she has also formed with Bean.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Candid Discussion

As a mom of multiracial kids, I have thought a lot about race. When we adopted, we took a bunch of training on transracial adoption, and listened to adults talk about being adopted into a family who were of another race. We listened to biracial adults talk about how they didn't feel a part of either world, one race or the other.

I've been accused of thinking from a position of "white privilege" and that I'll never truly get it. While this may be true, I find it ironic that it was a white person who told me that. I may not have wrestled with race in the past, but I have certainly wrestled with identity, and the need to fit in, to be accepted, to belong or feel like I don't belong. In discussions within the adoption community, I've been told to acknowledge race, and I've been told not to acknowledge race. I've been told that my black kids will grow up to be "Oreos" (black outside, white inside) and that they will struggle with their own racial identity. What parent likes to be told that their children will struggle, and it's going to be their fault?

I've wondered how best to give my kids a sense of their own race, of their place in our culture. One is biracial. He's descended from the proud race of black people who have lived here for hundreds of years and who have incredible spirit and identity. He's also a part of the white people who came from Europe and pushed westward across our continent. My other is African. She isn't descended from American slaves at all. She may feel even more misplaced, growing up on the "wrong" continent. How do I teach them? How can I even understand?

I remember watching "Roots" for the first time last year, holding my black baby on my chest and weeping as I imagined him in the life of the historic slaves, and feeling oh, so grateful for the civil rights movement that allowed us to adopt him in the first place, and allowed him to grow up with unlimited opportunities, as is his due. For a moment, I felt the emotions I imagine a black parent feels, a mixture of love and pride and fear and hope, the same as every parent feels, but affected by the attitudes and culture of those surrounding them. I am sorry if that sounds cliché, watching "Roots," but, hey, just telling it like it happened.

I know I will not be able to instill a sense of racial pride as well as a black parent would be able to do. A sense of being there and belonging, and knowing what it feels like. But, as an adoptive parent, I am not totally helpless. I can acknowledge their races and cultures and the fantastic creations that they are. I can give them a safe, stable, loving home where they are fed well, clothed well, educated well, and given every future opportunity that our nation offers. I can give them the knowledge that God created them perfectly wonderful exactly how they are and that I think they are absolutely beautiful.

I was reading on Twitter (yes, Twitter) the other day some funny one-liners on "BlackParents" and what they say. (It was a top hashtag, okay? LOL) It occurred to me that yes, my black son is missing things within the black culture. I have a huge respect for black people and black culture, and a lot of the one-liners made me chuckle. Some are not so different after all, especially regarding church, respect, and not having any McDonald's money! At the same time, I am not going to try to imitate it or cheapen it. I'll do my best to teach my black children to love who God made them in the same way I'll teach my white children to love who God made them. Some of my kids are pink, and some are brown, but they are all my kids, and they are all perfect and beautiful.

Just as they should not have to apologize for who they are or what color they are, I should not have to apologize for being white. I am the color that I am, and I have been given the task of raising kids the color that they are too. In a way, our family will have its own unique racial identity, just like the United States, where all colors live and work together. I don't want to pretend it doesn't exist, thank-you-very-much. I want to enjoy it and celebrate it. Race doesn't have to be a shameful topic, it can be a wonderful one! That's one of the strengths I think black culture brings to our nation, is a willingness to talk plainly about race, and their feelings on it. I know it's not very PC for a white person to do so, but I don't really care. It's something I need to sort out for myself and my children, so it's something I will write about and talk about. Hopefully, when the time comes to help my children form their own ideas about race and identity, I will be a little closer to being able to relate with their need to wrestle with it, too.

I can imagine someone saying, "You are already doing it wrong, writing this about your black children, when you don't write the same thing about your white children. You are already separating them out, treating them differently." Well, you know what? If our country was perfect and discrimination did not exist, then I would not need to do that. I would not need to think about the fact that I need to write this about my black children. But, I don't think ignoring the issue is going to heal the deep wounds in our country. And asking white people to walk on eggshells around the issue is not going to make it go away, either (and the PC Police in my experience are usually white). It's a part of my family, a part of these little people, and I love them, and it's part of their culture to talk about it. The differences in my family are good differences, beautiful differences. We are not a black family, it's true. Neither are we a white family. But we are a family!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Are They Watching?


Their baths are over.


All in a row on the couch,


they are watching something, so intriguing, so fascinating.


What is it?


Oh, it's Shaun the Sheep.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Moon Dough on the Brain


Moon Dough, for the uninitiated, feels like a strange hybrid between packing peanuts and playdough. It's light and soft and strange, and it shreds into bits that go everywhere. The kids love it.

Lately, I feel like this is the substance that inhabits my brain. I can't keep a coherent thought formed for long, let along making a plan or keeping a schedule. I think a large part of my brain is wandering the corridors in a little orphanage in Ethiopia.

All I can say is that it's a good thing I'm not tied to a homeschooling schedule or I'd be a miserable failure. As it is, the kids seem to be picking up reading with alarming speed, and all I have to do is sit back and admire them. Whereas, if they had to wait for me in order to learn something, they might be waiting for a while.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember.

The morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up and prepared to meet my carpool ride with a fellow teacher. In my head, I was preparing for a day of teaching music: the fifth graders would be first. I would need to spend extra time helping my struggling little trumpet player today. I would have first graders just before lunch, and after lunch, the high school kids took all afternoon. Some learned guitar, and some were in choir, the last class of the day.

I stepped into Mrs. V's car, where the radio spilled out words.

"Sssh, there's something wrong."

We listened in uncertain silence as we drove through the naked, harvested wheat fields. Something was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

We got to the school and hurried inside. I found myself in the history teacher's classroom. A television showed live coverage of smoke. We saw a plane, and watched in horrified slow motion as it disappeared into the side of the second tower. We waited.

I didn't want to teach. Our world seemed to be falling apart, yet we felt insulated by the thousands of miles between us and what was happening. It didn't seem real.

The Principal called a hurried meeting and told us all to try to keep our schedules as normal as possible in order not to scare the children.

I taught my fifth-grade trumpet player. In a dream, I taught my first graders. Our world was never going to be the same, and yet the 28 innocent pairs of eyes still looked up at me, and still loved our games of music hide-and-seek.


My life did change that year. As if the falling of the Towers signaled the falling of my old life, I changed forever that year. Ten years later, I can look back and see that year as a blessing, but then, it felt like that day, numb and filled with smoke and fear and pretending everything was okay when it was actually crumbling into nothingness all around me.

Like our country, that was a time of pain, a time of humility, and a time of growing. It was a time of realizing I was not invincible, and that some things hurt too much to ever truly heal. At the same time, I learned to be strong. I learned to find courage in the midst of tragedy.

No, I won't ever forget that day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crackled Cookies

A nice side effect of Hubby's side job as a coffee roaster is a little bit of play money for him. Clearly, I am not very good at sharing my own play money, because he was beyond thrilled to finally get some too. He decided to invest in his baking hobby, purchasing a food scale and the book, BakeWise.


Last Monday, Labor Day, he recruited the kids to help him bake a new kind of cookie. Cookies are my Hubby's lifelong obsession and love. When we go to his grandma's house, the first thing he does upon walking in the door, if he is not intercepted by a hug, is to check the cookie box on top of the fridge.


I think the fact that I don't bake cookie very often is one of my wifely failings in his eyes, and he has taken it upon himself to remedy the problem and bring our children up properly in cookie-lore and production.


These cookies surprised me in their simple beauty and amazing taste. I am told they were composed mostly of different types of sugar, which contributed to their richness. Hubby seemed pleased with the result, and enthused at length about the interesting articles in his book on the chemistry of cooking. For my part, I'm just going to get a glass of milk and enjoy one of his creations.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hat


Can you believe he is almost 2? Neither can I.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Building Tall

While Curly and I were at Meadow Creek last weekend, Little Mister got some much-needed one-on-one time with Daddy. It was their ambition to use ALL of the Legos to build a giant castle on the Dining Room table. Since we just scored a huge tub of Legos from the local free Classifieds, this was a large undertaking.


It turned out that they were not able to use even half of the tubful (I love having enough Legos for everyone) but still built a very tall house. The best part to me was the bright smile that greeted me when I came home from hiking. Little Mister's tank o'joy was full, and it did my Mommy heart glad to see it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Snapshot: Child-led learning


Entirely on her own, Curly asked me to turn the Book 2 violin CD on the stereo. She then pulled the book of music off the piano, and took it inside the fence where the baby could not swipe it. She has been sitting in there happily singing along, commenting on the composers and following the music for each piece. For half an hour, she has been absolutely fully engaged in her learning, practicing sight-reading skills, listening for major and minor, commenting on the keys of each piece, and identifying elements such as a Grand Pause.

I intended to write a long blog post detailing my thoughts on child-led learning, but I haven't gotten to it. (My Mother's Helper is absent this week, and I sure miss her!) But what better way to show the benefits of child-led learning than this vignette? Rather than pulling Curly away from something else she was engaged in, I allowed her to choose the time and place of her learning. She chose something she is interested in exploring, and rather than having to force her to focus and concentrate, she is by choice completely immersed in it. Even her brothers cannot pull her away from her music this morning. For this reason, I'll have little need for forced review or reteaching of what she learns this morning. She is internalizing the information to a depth she would never accomplish if it wasn't her idea.

One of these days, I'll write the post on Child-led learning, answering the many objections to it, such as "what if they never choose to learn math?" For now, though, I am too busy watching learning in action to write much philosophy!