Monday, April 30, 2012

String Trio


We had a lot of stringy things happening at our house today.  Curly had her end-of-the year concert with Palouse Suzuki Strings.  She was in the Palouse Junior Orchestra this year, and I was pleasantly surprised by the mature sound of the group.  




Tonight after dinner, Hubby and I teamed up to start Abi and Mister on violin.  Mister's piano lessons petered out due to his teacher having several unforeseen circumstances, and with no lessons, his practicing momentum failed.  Instead, he has shown quite a bit more interest in starting violin like his sister, and we decided that Abi could go ahead and begin at the same time.  Since Hubby and I have been through the Pre-Twinkle routine with Curly, we could get the younger two going before we have to start shelling out for lessons.  Unless, of course, we cannot maintain momentum with this either!  Time will tell.

Tonight, though, both of them had a ball learning the parts of the violin and playing the "Twinkle A" rhythm on the open strings.  Seeing the little 1/16th violin brought a bit of nostalgia: here's Curly's first violin picture. So cute. :)

Dandelions

Is there anything more magical to a young child than these little scraps of sunshine that turn into lacy seed-puffs and blow away on a breath?


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Juxtaposition

Sitting on my kitchen windowsill, fresh spring daffodils keep company with medication I take for depression. They reminded me how life is such a mixture of beautiful and terrible, of sad and sweet. And they whispered to me to not neglect hope. Tomorrow will be better than today was, and spring will always come again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pouring

The rain is coming down today, but that isn't what this post is about. It's about learning to pour liquids, while cooking, watering flowers, or dousing brothers in the bathtub. Months ago, I watched the fantastic videos put out by the Washington State School for the Blind on various blindness skills, and I was particularly struck by this one:


It seemed odd to me that a teenager would need to be taught to pour. The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to realize that blind kids don't have the experience every day of watching the milk pour from a jug into their cups, or the mesmerizing sight of sand slipping from their bucket on the playground.


For this reason, I jumped upon a teachable moment today to teach Abi what pouring means. We were all at the Science Center, and she was playing with Cody in the dinosaur bone dig, which happens to actually be a big box filled with lentils.


While I sat beside her, she began holding up handfuls of lentils to show me. I held my hand under hers so the shiny brown lentils could slip into my hand from hers. That's when it struck me that pouring could begin right here and now.


For nearly ten minutes, she and I poured lentils into one another's hands, or into our own hands, both enjoying the sensory experience.  I told her the English word, "pour" and we felt the lentils pouring into the bin from our open hands.


Bean, ever the little parrot, had to imitate us, and for a while he and Abi practiced pouring into each other's hands, with the result that they forgot to stay over the bin, and the lentils poured onto the floor.  Oops.

Still, I felt that we'd laid a good groundwork for the concept of learning to pour, and that with the additional use of cups and bowls in the bathtub, we can have the idea of pouring down long before it's time to learn to do it deliberately when cooking.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Tent and the Thunderstorm

Since we've had a spell of warm weather this weekend, Curly and Mister got it into their heads to sleep in the tent in the back yard. I remembered how much I had wanted to do this as a kid, so I agreed to the plan and helped set up the tent.

At 11:30 pm, with lightning flashing, thunder rumbling and wind beginning to pick up, Hubby and I moved two very sleepy children to the basement guest bed, and collapsed the tent enough to drag it inside out of the rain.

This morning the tent is back outside again with happy children playing in it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beautiful

Today had such gorgeous weather that we met some friends after church for a picnic. We kept Abi close; although she did try to cuddle up with several of the adults, we retrieved her. The other kids played in a nearby creek, catching frogs and getting generally quite muddy, and of course having a glorious time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Anniversary Happenings

Although Abi's birthday happened almost a month ago, I still had some presents from my mom saved.  Back during her birthday, we were trying so hard not to overwhelm her, these were still in their sack in the downstairs storage room.

Today, Abi's three-month anniversary of coming home, seemed like a great day to celebrate with these presents! After we barbecued for dinner and rode our bikes for a while, I got out the presents. Fending off the other kids, I let Abi investigate her new explosion of pink: a pretty new "dancing" dress, a toy computer, a tea set, a spring jacket and a couple of books. She was absolutely thrilled.




And pics of bike riding


Yes, I fixed her helmet. Not that she did anything except walk anyway!


Mister has finally learned to pedal. Big achievement for my little guy who is a bit behind in his large motor development.


Bean, who still has no clue how to steer, got some assistance from his big sister.


Mister tried the "real" bike and LOVED it!


Happy anniversary, Princess Abi!




Friday, April 20, 2012

Home Three Months

Although it's tomorrow that the date has a heart around it on my calendar, I'm going to blog about it today, because I don't often have time to blog on Saturdays.  There is a heart around the date on the calendar on April 21st for a very important reason.

Abi has been home for three months!!!

Three months! That magical number when everyone says things begin getting better. Not that things will instantly change over night, but the time when you realize that this new normal isn't going to kill you, that you can actually do this, and that might even have a smile once in a while.

Yes, folks, that day is tomorrow!

So, how are we adjusting? Well, Abi's English is still mostly parroting what we say. Not to worry, a friend whose daughter came home a month before Abi says it took her son at least 4 months.  We'll get there.

We still have bad days and good days. On the bad days, Abi pouts, resists eating, and spends her day buried in the corner of the couch watching Sesame Street on the iPod.  On the good days, she actually does pretty much the same thing, and I can't really explain why those days are good.

The other kids struggle. They struggle for attention.  But they love her too. It's a journey we're all making together.

Has it been easy? No. It's been a lot harder than I ever anticipated it would be. Not because of her blindness, but because she has been so wounded and so scared. It's been hard because we can't communicate beyond the bare minimum.  It's been hard to know what to do when she acts out and the other kids watch to see if the same rules apply to their new sister as apply to them, but what she needs is to be taken into my arms and never let go.

It's been hard for me to form a bond with her when I have three others demanding Mommy, mommy, mommy. Or when she shows her orphanage manners and I secretly wish I could send her back there if she smacks her food one more time or acts smug when her little brother gets in trouble.

Yet the beautiful moments have been there too.  Little milestones like when we went to the park the other day and she did not ask any other parent to hold her. Just Mommy. Or when I watch her eat nutritious food and think that she never has to be hungry again.  The times when I tuck her into bed at night and kiss her forehead and thank God that she is here and she is mine.

Once in a while I glimpse the joyful, talkative, exuberant little girl I saw in Africa.  On occasion for a few precious seconds, I see that she is still in there, a tiny transplanted flower lying dormant, waiting, staying safe while the rest of us pour water and fertilizer and sunshine onto her. We pray and we watch and wait for that little flower to bloom again.  In time, I know she will.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hi, and Stuff

I blog a lot about the kids, about doing stuff with the kids and teaching the kids and acquiring new kids. That's fine, I mean, it's mostly what I do all day as a Stay-At-Home-Mom of four. Kids, kids, kids and wiping various surfaces, including kids.

Once in a while, though, I take a minute to step out of the zoo and take a deep breath and remember that I am still an individual person whose name is not actually Mommy. Somewhere in here is still a me, the me who loves crafting, the me who is happiest out in the middle of the woods hiking with a good buddy, the me who can do calculus and read a 500 page book in a day.

That me has been working really hard to shed the 15 pounds I gained in the stress of adopting and traveling to Africa twice. I've been eating an inordinate amount of green beans and exercising like mad, fighting my naturally sluggish metabolism. Happily, willpower is winning and the scale is finally creeping downward.

Another very slow happening in my life is that I'm growing my hair out. I've heard a bunch of people say the same about themselves; perhaps it's something in the water. For whatever reason, I'm on the hair-growing bandwagon, which is about as thrilling as watching paint dry. The last time I cut it was in October, when we got back from the first Africa trip, and it was really short, so I have a ways to go. We'll see how long it gets before it makes me crazy and I cut it again!

Hearing people talk about gardening makes me wish I gardened. But alas, gardening is simply not one of my giftings. I both despise it and am no good at it, which is pretty much a clue that I ought to spend my energy elsewhere. Still, this time of year, even I feel the call of Spring and itch to get my hands dirty while I make something grow. Maybe one of the kids will inherit all of the gardening talent that runs in my family, but skipped me.

The only project I really have time for right now is a bit of knitting that I can pick up if I'm sitting at the park (rare that I get to sit) or during nap-time. I actually dug out a sweater that I started back in high school and never finished. The back and sleeves are all done but I ran out of the navy-blue yard I was using, and try matching a 20-year-old dye lot! So I switched to a natural tan for the front and am knitting cables, just for the interest of it. I'll try to remember to post a picture when I'm done.

Speaking of remembering, I don't! My brain has regressed into complete mush again, just like it did when the bio babies were born. I'm still waiting for it to switch back on so I can quit wandering from room to room thinking, "What was I going to do in here?" or telling Little Mister that I'll make him a fishing rod out of chopsticks, but three days later, finding the chopsticks neatly put away in his underwear drawer.

I guess I'm still talking about the kids. That pretty much sums up my life at this point, aside from some more personal struggles that have no business being shared on a public blog. With time and sunshine, hopefully those will soon be gone too, and the way things are going now, I won't even have to remember them!

Signing off, and soon back to your regularly scheduled doses of kid adorableness.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Outing

One of our favorite outings this spring is to ride the city bus over to the Eastside mall. We pick up some lunch at a restaurant or the grocery store, and play for a while at the indoor play land before it's time to head home so Abi and Bean can nap.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kids Just Being Kids

This post is mostly just an abundance of offspring cuteness for the grandparents to enjoy. I guess it also gives a glimpse into the creatively bizarre things that unschooled kids invent to amuse themselves. Not that all kids don't do this to some degree, but sometimes I think that mine take bizarre to a whole new place.

Decorating Themselves






Turtle
(She saved up her own $$ to buy the puppet.)



Making Faces

(Thanks, Alyssa, for this one!)


Sitting in Boxes in Pajamas and a Bicycle Helmet


Eating Ice Cream
(ok, that's not weird.)
(Well, for her it still is.)

Spontaneous Getaway

On Saturday, we decided that we were bored, needed to get out of town, and we could take an overnight trip. In a way, a spontaneous trip works out much more nicely than a planned one, since plans seem to go wrong more often than not. It seems like looking forward to a trip will often mean that it gets canceled, or someone gets sick, or something happens to prevent it, but a spontaneous one just happens.  Or maybe I'm just getting cynical.

Anyway, we went north, which is where we usually go for surgeries or social worker stuff or that kind of thing.  But really, when you live where we do, there aren't a lot of options, so that's where we went.

We stayed overnight in a hotel with a swimming pool, which I did not get any pictures of, because it took all of my attention, and Hubby's, to wrangle Bean in the water, and introduce Abi to her first swimming pool experience, as well, as an excited Curly and a hesitant Mister. So no pictures.  Still, it turned out to be fun, in spite of Hubby being completely preoccupied with something he wouldn't tell me (until later) and forgetting essentials like swim trunks and diapers.  



After the hotel, we jaunted east for an hour to visit the cabin and check on it for Mom. All was well there, and since it wasn't opened yet, we only stayed long enough for the kids to get a taste of playing in the woods with a promise to come again later in the summer when the weather's warmer.


Curly loved the swing. To me it seemed a bit like deja vu to watch her. I seemed to see myself at her age swinging in the same place, as if time had reversed 25 years or so.


Abi has never been in the woods before; even in Africa she never left the orphanage, so playing outdoors has been a novel experience for her.  On this trip, she mostly clung to Daddy, but I have no doubt that with a little familiarity she'll be ready to explore.


Bean and Mister spent their time collecting and piling rocks.  It made me smile, since those two rarely find much in common and almost never play together.  But they are both boys after all, and the lure of the rock piles called to both of them on this occasion.


We found a tree that had been chewed by something (a beaver?) but luckily it wasn't close enough to the cabin to cause any damage.  We soon headed back home again. I was pleased that all four kids did great in the car. It's been years that we have always had a baby in the family and were prevented from doing much traveling by someone getting car sick or screaming for hours on end. I hope this means that we can now drive farther distances again when we get the bug.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For The Best

This week, my loveable, exuberant, oafish Labrador, Shadow, went to live with some good friends of ours out in the country on a trial basis.

Part of me feels sad. I miss the sweet guy.

Part of me feels relieved at the burden of guilt that has been lifted from my shoulders.

If you remember Abi's introduction to the "woosha" (dog), you'll remember that she was a little less than thrilled to have him in her life. Dogs in her part of the world simply are not kept as pets much. I guess it makes sense. If you struggle to feed your human family, it doesn't make sense to keep an animal too, and the wild dogs on the outskirts of the city compete with people for food.

Although she had progressed to the point where she'd tolerate him being in the house provided we kept a fence between the two, it was evident that his size and happy unpredictability would never go over well, at least not until she's grown to at least his own size and weight, and can avoid being knocked down.

So the poor guy had been banished to the dog run in the back yard.  He'd been out there most of the time anyway, just because I was too exhausted to deal with his training and shedding and outdoor-dog smell.

I felt guilty, though. I know that dogs need to be with their "pack." He needed attention and exercise, and he wasn't getting them. His behavior had deteriorated and he'd begun to bark and create escape routes in the fence.  Something had to be done.

On Saturday, we took him out to our friends' house as arranged, and I watched my dog bound away from me to play with the 11-year-old and 9-year-old boys.  I watched him run pell-mell into the pond and come out grinning and wagging his tail so hard I thought he might wag it off.  He came back to give me a wet, sloppy hug, and then he was off again, hunting turtles, running with the boys and in his doggy heart, soaring.

I knew then that we'd done the right thing.  When I got the news that the trial period was most likely over, I felt happy for him, and sad too.

Since I was young, I've never felt quite complete unless I've had a dog in my life. There's something about canine friendship and love that fills a place in my heart that nothing else can fill. This time, though, I've also realized my own limits, and the limits of circumstance.  It's a disappointment, really, that I've tried two dogs since my little Piper died, and had to find new homes for both of them. Maybe I'm just too idealistic to think that a houseful of small children and a husband who dislikes dogs can ever be a good home for a canine furbaby, but maybe someday we'll find just the right one to join our family.  I hope so.

EDITED: Just got a call and apparently Shadow tried to obtain one of their baby goats as an afternoon snack. Looks like he's coming back to us after all.

Sunshine At The Park

Although the weather is supposed to turn off rainy again (sad!), we had enough sunshine this morning to head to the park across the street from our house.


I snapped a couple of pictures of Abi on her way up to the slide. I guess she was concentrating on climbing the stairs because she looks a bit grumpy in the pictures. In reality she was having a wonderful time.



As usual, the boys made a beeline for the sand pit and began a grand construction project. Bean wore a headband, because I put one in Abi's hair and he wanted to be as pretty as she was, and get all the attention she was getting while I did her hair. Curly put his on, and it made me laugh since it looks like a workout sweat band.


Curly opted to help with the sand play for a while, but soon she gravitated toward her favorite: the swings. She was disappointed that there were only toddlers at the park today. Often when we go, we meet another homeschool family with older kids, but today there were only small fry.


Bean wanted to learn how to swing, and his big sister obligingly lifted him onto the swing and gave him a big push. I watched nervously, because he has been known to spontaneously let go of the swing and fly off, but this time he stayed on. Whew!


Pretty soon, the interest of the swing paled to the attraction of the sand toys, and he was back helping Mister.


When I told Abi that I wanted to take her picture, she giggled and hid from the camera. She also learned to stay on the swings, but I didn't get a picture.  When we got home the kids jumped on the trampoline while I fixed lunch, with the back door open to their cheerful shouts and playing. I love it when the weather is nice!