Monday, September 30, 2013

Monopoly Continues

And we had a relatively peaceful day.

Missy paid James three dollars tonight and one to me.  That was it. James now has the most money in his jar.

An understanding of the value of a dollar is beginning to dawn on Missy. She's quite concerned that she only has four dollars left to spend on Sunday. Worried that she won't have ANYTHING left by our shopping date. I'll give her another paying job to make sure she has a dollar or two if it comes to that because this is not about discouraging them, but putting things into tangible perspective.  She's wrapping her brain around this much quicker than I had expected. She held out her four dollar bills and with a quaver in her voice said, "I'm not going to have enough money to buy anything!"

My dear, in this economy, you are just about right.
What you have there in your hand is precious.... you MUST protect it.
Be very careful not to lose another dollar more.
This is a living object lesson to teach you the importance of respect.
Respect your brother.
Respect is precious.
Protect it carefully like your dollar bills.

A Money Solution

 Don't be thinking this is a post on family finances. Ha. Not even close.

Sundays can be so hard. Steve works, and the twins are home. They get to sleep in, but just messing the schedule even that much throws them a little. I feel like I'm trying to hold back a tidal wave with them pushing the limits. The morning was struggling along as usual when I asked the Lord for wisdom to specifically turn this day around.

The answer was actually fun. Let me introducing you to the money jar.

Bickering between siblings is just not allowed, but the twins take swipes at each other on the sly in ways that appear that they are trying to take each other down a notch and build themselves up. Then they start tattling.

I took a blue sticky note and cut it into strips for James. I used a green one for Missy. I wrote their offenses on them including tattling.  I told them the one with the most stickers at the end of the day would pay the other a dollar for each offense above equal. Believe it or not, the results were instantaneous. I never had to put up another sticker all day.

Next, I took 3 pint jars and put 6 one dollar bills in each (no dollar for Sabbath and no money transactions on that day). I told them if they fought me at any point in the day they would pay me a dollar in the evening. Next Sunday I will take them to the store to spend whatever is left in the jar.

Money is a mysterious concept to Missy. I have decided it won't demystify itself unless I give her opportunity to use and explore it.... so we have a three fold motive for this new program.

They were not using their free time in any sort of play or usefulness.... They had reverted to ZOMBIE mode, which I feel is detrimental to both of them, so I paid them to pick cherry tomatoes. That was $2 for every 8 cup bowl they filled. I could have just told them to pick tomatoes but I would likely have had to gear up for battle. Putting a dollar sign on the end of the request eliminated the needs for armor. They both filled the minimum 1 bowl each. Yes, it took her longer to finish, but there was not a cracked or spoiled one to be found in her bowl!
James' pickings

Missy's pickings
It was like a game of monopoly. At the end of the day James had one more sticker than Missy.... so he paid her a dollar. They both eared $2 picking tomatoes. They both owed me a dollar, one for fighting therapy, and the other for fighting music practice. James jar stayed at $6. Missy's jar is at $7. Mine is at $8.  (I lose dollars for losing patience. I get paid for dealing with nonsense. :). They can only lose a dollar a day for behavior to me, but they can lose a dollar per infraction against each other. They were pretty pleased about everything and enjoyed counting the money and look forward to their Sunday spending spree.

These sort of things don't motivate them to do right generally. It's fun while it is a game. It worked for one day so far. It brought in an element of fun and took their minds off of the misery. Today, we shall see. Missy fought therapy this morning. James used every delay tactic in the book to avoid feeding the chickens, because, as I pointed out to him, he was avoiding going out in the rain.  Missy still managed to be on the bus promptly. James missed breakfast and nearly missed the bus. His fear of raindrops rules the day.

They also had to go running with dad last night for fighting therapy and music practice. Steve figured out that the best place to go, since James is terrified of the dark, is the school racetrack. It is fully lighted and there are ten rows side by side. If they run each of the rows it is 2.5 miles. Steve and Christina are preparing for a half-marathon. The twins are preparing for life. :-)

My pickings.... actually, 5 of these boxes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Partaking in the Suffering...

What follows is a reflection on my devotional time... I preface this post to say that I don't believe I have ever experienced TRUE SUFFERING in the context of which Peter wrote... prison, torture,  slavery, standing for right, or laying life down for Christ in the face of sever and menacing opposition. I am one of the privileged North Americans living in a free country and allowed to live according to my convictions. (Although, I truly believe these freedoms are temporary. Everyday these are being eroded away!!) Neither have I lost a close family member who was not old and ready for rest. We are a healthy family for the most part. I have not watched any of my children languish in debilitating agony, nor experienced marital discord, I have never had to go days without food, I've never had to live in a cave,.... In short, I feel blessed beyond measure and in that light anything I have to complain about is trivial. There are people who suffer ALL these things all over the globe on a daily basis.

Still, everyday we are faced with disappointments, annoying trials that are  real (or often imagined), weariness, or pain. We are tempted to be discouraged, to lose sight of the goal, to not be at peace in our hearts. Things happen that we don't like; dissension arises among friends, stuff breaks, money runs out, unexpected bills show up, people don't act like we want them to, accidents happen, we lose our keys, our feelings are hurt, children disobey.....  and some people's children actually almost never obey :-$!  Not much of it is life threatening, neither is it directly in opposition to our faith in Christ, BUT how we relate to it will most definitely reveal to us our relationship with Christ and increase, or destroy our faith.  Every small trial we face in Christ prepares us to face a greater one with strength and courage.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, 
as though some strange thing happened unto you: 
but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's suffering; 
that when His glory shall be revealed, 
ye may be glad with exceeding joy."
 1 Peter 4:12, 13

Partakers in Christ's suffering...

Could it actually be that as we bear bravely in Christ we are sharing in HIS suffering?

Most of us loath suffering. It is said of Peter who penned the words about sharing in Christ's suffering "that to Him it was a bitter lesson that he learned but slowly 
that the path of Christ on earth lay through agony and humiliation. 
The disciple shrank 
from fellowship with His Lord in suffering.


in the HEAT

of the furnace fire

he was to learn its blessing." 
Desire of Ages pg 416

His experience in suffering ultimately led him to tell us that we would be glad with exceeding joy for being allowed the privilege of suffering with Jesus.  I know that I have A LONG, LONG way to go in responding to my trials meekly without a thought of murmuring. . .  

And as one put it, at the end of my life, would I want to see Jesus who suffered so MUCH to purchase my pardon .... would I want to stand before Him having suffered nothing at all? No. Let me suffer with Jesus.

..... only, strengthen me, Lord,  for the roughness ahead for I am weak and shrinking. For someday I would choose to share in your glory in the life to come.


This took me hours to write and may not make total sense yet. It's more for me than anybody.  This written in the midst of the trial of trying to encourage a willing heart and obedient spirit in two unwilling souls who have no desire to  follow my direction or give in to my please that there is a happier way.  I think I know how God must feel. If only I could enlighten their minds!!! It would make their lives so much easier.... sweeter.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I'm Pretty Sure

 That this was written with me in mind.

Three Lies about Parenting That Steal Peace

I definitely am constantly evaluating my actions and my parenting and my responses and I judge myself harshly. The facts are, this is complicated and delicate and there's something dreadfully not right about my kids brains.

Missy is a bit better today. In fact, enough better that it disturbed the status quo.

James found himself being beaten to chores and his coveted places.... rage took over. There's no logic in any of this. Dad had to leave work and come home because this mother is losing her grip. *She* was locked in a hot shower letting the tears roll.... Not proud of it, but thrashing herself for not being stronger, not praying harder, not being firmer, not having the tools to fix my kids....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To the Human Eye...

things are so beautiful and encouraging with Buddy's family. A 6 month celebration of progress, movement towards independence, healthy family relations, etc... Today she called me to ask me to pray for a friend in a similar situation that she has once been in. She was able to be with this friend at court today and to pray with her friend as we have done with her. They saw a miracle of answered prayer and it increased her faith all the more. She has much to offer those in need. VERY much to offer because she has an understanding and compassion that some of us will never know. She felt as though God honored her in being able to reach out and teach this other woman to bring her great need before God and then she was there to experience the joy of answered prayer. There is nothing like it.

To the human eye things are in a bleak place in regards to a certain little Miss.
I have nothing ~ except hope in what the Lord can do for her. I've lost every inch of ground ever gained with her in regards to respect and obedience. There is NOTHING that will induce her to do what is right - nothing. The misery is unending.

I'm really afraid for her.

The wringer drains me emotionally and physically. I have been unbelievably weary the last few days. Long hot showers and curling up under bed covers and shutting her out are very much my temptation.... but I keep going out of my way to be with and work with other people. There's only one or two that I have shared the extent of our struggle of late. It's the helplessness of watching her destroy herself . . .  Yes, blatant disrespect irks me to no end, but she's getting away with it somehow because I have lost the energy or will to make her, and I'm not even sure if that would be the best approach at this point anyway. If I get too invested in a certain battle, the temptation to lose my own peace is there. My only consolation is in bringing this child before God in prayer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Armadillos, Apple Pie, and Mushrooms

What we hear from Bri in Oklahoma is that she is getting a taste of that South land.
She went on a midnight armadillo chase
and they caught it and put it in a cage to be carted away because it was destroying the lettuce patch.
She found a scorpion by her bed.
She was bitten by fire ants while gathering kale.
She was warned to watch out for wild pigs when she goes running.
The land is flat and running is pretty easy there.
She chopped piles of okra for winter storage.
She's enjoying her friends...
One even flew in for the weekend just because.
She's spent a fair amount of time in the filming studio already.

We are MISSING her.

Just so you know, making applesauce in the rain is no fun,
 but we got another 60 quarts done. 
We made 264 quarts on Friday and 
today's adds up to 324 quarts total so far.
My math is really off the wall these days. I can't guarantee that is correct :-D
We plan to finish up on Tuesday.

Christina made apple pies. Gluten free, even.
Missy filled the food dryer with apple slices- after she had a tantrum over it and destroyed about 8 apples in spite. She has had a difficult attitude ALL day!
James made an apple crisp. He's a little disappointed it cooked down so much and it's only an inch thick. Experience is a good teacher. He knows what to do about it next time.

A fellow that came to my yard sale in the spring showed up again today. He wants all my green tomatoes when our harvest is over. He offered me pears, apples, and peaches in exchange... Apples I have. Every kind of bartlett and D'Anjou pear is offered to me on every turn.... PEACHES? YES! Our peach tree died.  He also offered me a good deal on some sweet corn. I'm sure we'll get as many Asian pears as we like, but I'm on the lookout for abandoned plueot orchards and also concord grapes would be nice.

We gave away 4 boxes of tomatoes from our market garden to two people today. I have one for myself. I plan to make salsa. I have three more orders to fill before frost.... In the thick of it we wonder if it's worth it. We don't make a lot of money,  but, ah, we do make friends. Actually, Brianna does better at making money than I do. Between that and her other jobs, and a rather nice donation, she is set for her Africa trip. I guess we will do again next year. It's so much work, though.

You can only imagine our fruit fly and house fly infestation
with all the fruit and tomatoes around here! UGH!

I don't usually pick wild mushrooms. We went hiking up the back of the Icicle yesterday and met up with some backpackers who were really excited about all the mushrooms they were finding. They said that these pine mushrooms were worth a lot of money, but they were just excited to find them and even though one of the guys doesn't even like mushrooms they were going to eat them. They were super friendly and happy. To make a long story short... they are Canadian and SDA  know alot of people we know and after learning our name realized they know our relatives. SMALL world. You don't usually expect to find and make friends in the middle of the woods over mushrooms. I figured out they were French Canadians and they had us pegged as SDA before the connections were made. It was fun. We hiked out with them and took their backpacks and mushrooms the last 5 miles in our car so they could ride their bikes unencumbered. They had hidden the bikes in the woods before setting off on their backpacking trip. They gave us these mushrooms to try and I washed them - which, according to google, you aren't suppose to do. Then I stir fried them, which, according to google you aren't suppose to do. Oh, well. They WERE good anyway.

It's good to make new friends.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday's Applesauce Party

Just in case you have ever wondered how many apples you could fit in a Honda Civic.....
Not highly recommended, but hey, where there's a will, there's a way.

Honeycrisps make amazing applesauce. After the girls tasted they decided to go get more apples. 
It's so good and sweet!
We probably didn't need more, 
but they are free
and everybody was willing to work.

It went slower than I had ever dreamed. We had ONE apple saucer... and 4 pots cooking apples. The rest went quickly. We had three canners and that's easy until you run out of propane.

We decided to do another day on Tuesday.
There might be a few different families coming by to make some. 
So far we have 200 quarts to split between Kahlers, Axelsons, Us and Buddy's family.

It is good to work with friends.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Few Honey-Crisps


 It's applesauce time! These are number 2 honey-crisps for free. So grateful.
Skip the boxes. You can get more apples in that way.

We were SO blessed to have Glesni AND her mom, Janean, bring Vanessa home.
We had a WONDERFUL visit.
We took a long walk. Picked peaches. Collected apples. Talked.

It's good to have friends.

A Pear Or Two!

I'm posting this picture because I keep forgetting to show Steve on facebook.... he'll see it here.

A day's picking at the Tall's. This is Jonah's photo. Can you imagine how many pears those guys grow if this is one day's worth and they pick for nearly three months? Where are the straddle trucks anyway?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Her Own Wings {Walking a Slack Rope}

I'm missing her already. Brianna has been my companion all summer long. We've tied tomatoes together, cleaned house and cooked, read each other's writing, poured over her photography and computer issues, and talked. We talked a lot. She navigated some new waters this summer and she made a lot of discoveries and I do think she is lot more grown up and a wee bit less naive than she was a few short months ago. Now she's flying off to a new adventure and I feel like I'm being left behind.

Brianna has always been a very sweet accepting personality. People are very attracted to her gentle and cheerful disposition. She handles disappointments and changes as if they were coming straight from the hand of God for good reason with something positive hidden there for her in a silver lining. She constantly thinks in object lessons as she works and recreates. And if you are interested she keeps a blog, but she writes more than you will ever see. She only posts one out of every 5 entries....  Here's her latest post: A Theater or An Actor.

She left the house just after 4 am this morning for Oklahoma. She will be gone 2 months. I'm looking forward to seeing what she will learn there, but it's kind of hard to let her go on  her own wings even though I know she's ready.

Vanessa is in Idaho visiting her friend Glesni. Christina just arrived home with Steve from Canada yesterday. College classes begin next week. It's good to hear her laughter. No one can throw their head back and laugh quite like she does. It was fun to hear her laugh as she told how her dad had trouble distinguishing between the men's and the womens' washroom at Walmart  and of his great escape....

The twins have been mostly doing well.... We had an episode of complete meltdown and rage and destruction of a bedroom which included dumping every last lego, car, train, clothes, books, papers, wall hangings, etc. in the middle of the room and then using markers on the furniture. It also included locking everyone out of the house. I was not home. I felt really anxious that I could not turn around and go home, but in the end it served to give me time to think about how I would handle it when I got back. And I simply took a look and said not a word and let the child sit in his mess and contemplate it for a few hours. After that I invited him to come eat at his convenience.... AFTER the room was completely cleaned and the marker washed off. It took a few hours. I told him I was really sorry that he had made so much work for himself. After that he was fine. I've come a long ways from really getting stressed out over this stuff. I neither reacted nor helped to fix the problem he created. The reason for his explosion was so utterly random I can't really put a finger on it. He was doing what he does every day when he lost it.

This morning both children had a dark cloud about them. They were both balking my interactions with them and after trying a few things....  I put my running shoes on and bade them a good day and went for a walk. Christina says nothing happened at all. At 5 minutes until the bus arrived she told them they had time to get out the door still. They quickly both got dressed and made it to the bus. They did not eat, they did not comb their hair, brush their teeth, or wash their faces, they did nothing but get on the bus dressed.

I didn't help them at all by walking away. Staying and trying to motivate them would have done nothing but frustrate us all. I already know that. If they would not be helped the least I can do is remove myself from the stress and get some exercise. If their mood is different when they get home then I will try to seek a solution to our problem with them. They are going to have to give me some words..... however long it takes.  I'm trying a new approach if I can help it.

I do see some some responsibility being carried by the twins in certain areas. Music practice is theirs. I am not hovering. Brianna is not here to teach a violin less every day and Vanessa has no time to teach piano. They practiced every day on their own marking on their card each time they played their songs. James did better at it than Missy did. In the end, yesterday she just wrote a bunch of check marks so she could be finished.. I recognized that when she showed me and we threw the week's record away when she admitted it did not represent truth.

Balance, balance, balance.... always trying to find the balance...... Don't push too hard. Don't enable. Don't frustrate them. Don't allow them to lean-in. Don't allow myself to get to the place of exasperation. Don't abandon them to their folly. I think I'm what you call a slack rope walker.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Easiest Respite Yet

Three girls with super long hair, 
matching names and 
amiable personalities are here just for the weekend. 

Ages 3, 5, 6.

I learned that recently our town and surrounding area lost 33 foster families.
I didn't know there were that many to begin with.
I don't know if they consider our family among those lost.
They still call us every other week.
Might it be a sign that this branch of the system is in need of serious change when so many people are walking away?!
Big meeting Monday night to discuss concerns of the foster parents that are left.

Last night we had a family over for supper.
Our kids together: 4 children adopted from foster care
and 5 respite children
(plus our originals 5 - which some of mine are in Canada).

Friday, September 13, 2013


Little Missy's In-Home Care Giver is a gem. She seems to enjoy trying to work with Missy, though she calls the child difficult and some days I'm sure I can see the steam building. Some days I actually have to intervene on the poor woman's behalf. She's not naive to the manipulations and all that and doesn't put up with it, but is patient and she keeps coming back. :-) I am thankful. I need her.

Missy gave her a run for her money on Wednesday. It was one of the days that I stood by and had to intervene a few times. It was the day Steve and the girls left for Canada - and MIssy was not happy about it. Yesterday was a good day, though she had difficult moments, over all she was cooperative.

Her hard moment was when I drove up. I had arranged for a friend to pick up the kids after the care-giver left if I wasn't home in time. She was SO disappointed that I was home. She had been looking forward to going and started crying. James might have been a tad disappointed, but he popped out of the house with a big smile and a big "Hi, MOM! I'm so glad to see you. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!" I don't know if all  that was to help neutralize his sister's response or what, but he was genuinely glad to see me.

When it was time for the care-giver to leave and she stood up to go, her muscles went into horrific spasms. She was in great pain and was crying. This is not new. Some days she hasn't been able to leave home... It was the first time Missy witnessed it though and it obviously made her feel for her care-giver. She did everything she could to help and even offered to carry her water bottle and books to the car. Brianna and I were both really impressed with her ability to understand someone else's pain. She was VERY, VERY sweet and it was heartwarming to see.

This is awesome. Growth in the right direction! I was so proud of that kiddo.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The IDEAL Response for Parents

Very well said.... grabbed it from another blogger, though I have watched it before. I do the choices thing with the two fingers ALL the time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leaning In

You could tell by the sounds he was super excited to be on the horse. This boy, disabled by cerebral palsy and completely dependent on his wheelchair, was riding a horse - BY HIMSELF! A year ago he could only ride with the trainer/therapist sitting behind him to support his weak and spastic body. Riding lesson after lesson he has grown stronger, more confident, more relaxed and now he was showing everyone how he could hold the saddle horn and stay upright and ride without being held. The instructor shared how all the assistants walked next to the horse with their hands up but they could NOT touch him. He was used to support. If they lightly touched him he leaned in. It was a balancing act teaching him to ride using his own strength. They needed to be there and ready to help, but they could not allow him to lean on them or he would have never learn that he could ride independent of a care-giver.

Déjà vu!

This was the clearest example of what we face day after day with the twins.This is the balancing act we've struggled with at home.

It's the hardest thing to explain to people who think you are expecting too much, and not giving the right kind of support as we toil at teaching the twins to be self-sufficient in their everyday care and chores and homework. The more you support and give help the harder they lean in and the more they expect you to do for them. It's really hard for them to feel good about themselves and their little accomplishment if they know someone else did the work. They more you do for them the less they think they can. And yet, we have to be there... we have put their hands on the saddle horn over and over and over. We have to be ready to catch them, to keep them from sliding, but we have to keep a distance that allows them to make the effort to use their own muscles. I have a much easier time doing this with James. With Missy it becomes exasperating enough that I walk away - far away. My tolerance for the struggle shrinks as I know the fight that is ahead and I walk away sometimes without even giving her the chance. If she brings out a homework sheet and wants me to sit by while she works on it,  it appears that the whole point of the exercise is to see how much mom will do of it for her and how tied up we can get in a power struggle and so I don't sit by her. I give us space... lots of space. She can be at the table... I'll be in the kitchen. When the power struggle begins the page goes back in the backpack. I refuse to go there. There are times though, when I won't even acknowledge that she has a worksheet she needs to work on. I walk away - FAR away! It's a constant balancing act.... and often we don't get it right. Sometimes we help too much and sometimes we walk too far away.

Missy's teacher at school let me know that they feel that same issue with Missy. She tries to get them to do her work for her. This is especially true when she is in a one-on-one or with a para. It makes for an interesting challenge all around.  Knowing this helps me realize it is not just a relationship problem between her and I. Also I  can't think I can just leave all the school learning for the school to deal with. It isn't peaches and cream for them either and she needs to be encouraged from every direction to strive towards independence on the subjects she is capable of. So hard to sort out where she is capable and where it is too hard. It's hard for all of us to figure out.

Today is total melt down day. Missy has been unable to get ready for school and she missed the bus. Steve and the girls left for a trip.... late because Steve was trying very hard to work with her. She wasn't willing to work with anybody.


Alatheia's little donation ticker is not updating itself. Someone is going to have to go in and manually update all the donations. Our family completely clueless at this point what was donated in our children's names, but it will show up soon.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Team Blakken

This post was mostly written by Christina. She is passionate about Alatheia and the special needs children she works with. It also gives her the chance to work with horses in an incredibly useful way without us owning one!! (Been there, done that, an expensive escapade it was!). Both of the twins have benefited greatly from their riding therapy lessons. They can't wait each week for lessons to begin... and believe it or not, I was able to replace the therapy program at the hospital with these riding lessons, because actually the kids received more benefit. Possibly because it is so much more engaging and fun! So here is a word from Christina:

Trot! The child’s eyes dance with delight and anticipation as she shouts the command, and kicks her heels into the pony’s sides. I tug on the lead rope and we break into a run. Giggles bubble contagiously while the little girl tries to master the art of posting. Her braids bounce to the rhythm we’ve created. 1,2,1,2, up, down, up, down. The activities of today include obstacle courses to improve steering skills, catch, memory, and trotting. Although she wears a full body brace, Allie May is one of our stronger students and has become almost completely independent in her riding. Mrs. Grette plans out each lesson carefully to help build core body strength, and build courage and self-confidence in our riders.
We work with about 50 individuals at Alatheia. Each has a different special need, from Down’s syndrome, to Autism, to Cerebral palsy, and Spine bifida, to just name a few.

Every time I have the privilege of working with a new student, their excitement as they ride and try new things strikes me. Laughter has filled almost every lesson that I assist with. Who couldn’t laugh seeing some of the things we do? If you haven’t already picked up on it, I love Alatheia. The children, the team, and of course, our beautiful Fjords create the highlight of my week. The hot dustiness of the arena doesn’t bother me when I know I am making a difference in the life of a child.

Each person comes once a week for an hour lesson in a session of about 2 1/2 months. Currently each lesson costs $20, which does not cover all the expenses of running a center like this. Just the cost of feeding a horse is more than that. Ally May and many others have applied for scholarships to cover their cost. I would like to ask you to financially partner with us in helping provide the therapy these children need. Our annual Drive to Ride fundraiser is underway and our goal for this year is $22,750. Will you help us reach it? We have a Chip in button on our website where you can donate. PLEASE be sure to chip in on TEAM BLAKKEN and in James, Anna-Joy, or Christina's name!! Thank you so much!!! We appreciate it.
 And please let us know when you donate. We have no way of knowing who the individuals are on our end. We just see the little chip in go up!!  Christina actually canvassed ALL the businesses in our little town and NOT ONE business gave. Was she disheartened? NOPE. She went on to the neighbors, who were very kind. We have really nice neighbors!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Held Accountable

It was quite a morning. By 11 o'clock in the morning I texted my friend with this:

Oh, boy! so the morning started off with my mother missing - somewhere between United Emirates and Tanzania.  A few hours later she was found. Her plane landed some 24 hours late...must have had a mix up or a connection issue in Dubai. All the while James putting up a huge fight over morning chores! Even kicked me... I am just walking home in the heat from getting him to school. His teacher is the best! She made him answer to her and apologize to me :-). Now I have a plea from DSHS to please, please, please consider taking a brother/sister duo abandoned by their mother - 5th graders. How do I find the strength to say no to that??? THis is hard. SO how is your day. Hope it's better than mine.

I got a first hand demonstration on how awesome James' 3rd grade teacher is. I am so very impressed.

The kid was being slow and lazy and when I tried to motivate him he balked. BIG time BALKING. It was not good. For a kid that gets up at 5:30 and doesn't meet the bus until 8, he has a problem if he misses the bus. He did. Actually, it was an all out choice to miss the bus. He also faked feeding the chickens and generally dawdled along with a serious attitude.

Of course, he walked to school. So did I. And it was HOT. We both had sweat pouring down our faces when we arrived. Mrs. Secretary in the office was very firm with James. I had told him he needed to speak to her about why he was late. He never uttered one word, never answered a single question she asked him and pretty much wouldn't look her in the face. She scolded him and gave him a pass to give to his teacher.

I took him in the hall. I told him that when he saw his teacher he WOULD apologize for being late. He would answer her questions and he would be respectful. He cried his eyes out. It was SO HARD for him, but he knew I would not hesitate to walk him home again to take care of a little business and would walk him back.... So he bucked up and as he entered the door the teacher stood up. "Mr Ford, I am so glad to see you have arrived. Now tell me why you are late."

She turned to the other students put them to work, then came close to James, took both his hands in hers and asked him what he had to say for himself. He apologized and told her the reason for being an hour and half late. She went on to talk about his responsibility as a third grader and how it should not happen again. Then, surprise, surprise, she made him turn to me and apologize for all the trouble this morning and had him thank me for loving him enough to make him do what is right and good for him.

I was in awe. This is the kid who can hardly utter a word under pressure. The whole class staring at him, the teacher expecting him to respond, and me standing there requiring him take responsibility for his behavior and he answered her and apologized. He stuttered and he paused, but he spoke. She gave him words to use in apologizing to me and that was a bit easier. He can repeat with less brain freeze then when he has to dig up his own words.

The teacher also brought up the book issue. She wants me to choose some books for him, and bring in some of our own. She has no problems making it work for us.

When the bus came home, James really, really hoped I had forgotten that he needed to clean the barn. He was super nice until I reminded him. Then the screaming began. I needed to run an errand and was planning to take the twins with me, but I will NOT drive with him in my car when he is unpredictable and I had to turn around and bring him home. I told him that he cannot bully me around with his screaming. I will not respond in the way he is trying to force me. Thankfully, Vanessa was there. Missy started in on extolling her virtues....  yiyi.... and I left her at home, too. We have had quite enough of her telling us all how good she is. Every time James makes a misstep we get an earful on how she's such an angel. lol.

James is currently scooping manure with a normal attitude. He switches it on and off at will.

Oh... and those kids that need a home. They even sent me a picture to show me how cute they are! I've been praying for them all the rest of the day. Can you imagine your mom just walking away?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Art of Tact and Tall Tales

Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.
Someone built a whole lot of these cairns on the riverbank.

Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
Dr. Seuss

    So, James may have taken care of things for me at school, but obviously, we are in need of lessons in the art of tact.
   The kid came home from school and dug into his backpack for his parent  teacher folder. There were several things he wanted to show me; his cursive work, the password to an online skill builder, a chart, and a couple of calendar pages that needed signatures. He announced that he had returned "that terrible junky book" and got a new one to read. I was like, "Oh, you told your teacher that?" 
    "Yup, I told her I didn't want that kind of bad junk and she got me a better one."
    I managed to choke out, "Great, that's just great!". I'm not  actually known for using sarcasm, but you know....and He didn't get that either. He never missed a beat, thought I was commending him on his forthrightness, and went on to expound on the virtues of his newly picked book on alligators, which he forgot at school, incidentally. The teenagers in this house were busting their guts and he never even noticed. 
     I take comfort in the fact that this surely isn't the first socially inept third grader this teacher has ever had to work with. 
    My next problem is a bit cuter. I am suppose to sign a school schedule he filled out and return it to the teacher. Only, I don't know what it says. There are a whole lot of penciled in letters that don't make words in the only language I read. He hasn't a clue either.
Missy has taken to telling tall tales. James reported that she told him and the bus driver that she was going to Barn Beach for a field trip on the big bus. He's with it enough to question the story and report it to me. She's quite ashamed of herself. The only reason I can think of for this new phenomena of late is that she is trying to one-up him or make herself look important, or something. It backfires. She's building up her reserves in a quiet rest towards making cards of apology and regret for her untruthful words.

Children's Hospital is scheduling yet another sleep study for this kiddo. I take this as a sign that her CO2 levels in the blood sample were too high.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Eating In

We are kind of crazy for Asian food here.

If we are going to eat out, it's 

usually Thai... but it doesn't happen very often.

Brianna's been working for the Kim's and she relishes every meal there.

Today she came home and did her best to replicate what she had eaten there for us

Mostly raw fresh veggies 

and fruit

which doesn't make it especially Korean,

it's the leaves they picked from the Kim's garden, I think,

I don't even know what they are called but they are good and have a very unique flavor,

and of course the seaweed,

and maybe the sweet chili sauce....

and the way they stack their rice and strips of veggies on the seaweed.

It was yummy. Kind of like eating out....

and the twins, they couldn't eat like a house on fire,
because they had to stack their little rolls up neatly and
eat them carefully so they didn't fall apart.

It was a pleasant experience.

Everything was so beautiful, how could it not be pleasant?!

The not so pleasant part of the evening was when we went to wash the dishes.

I went to pour a new bottle of dish soap in the dispenser

only to realize


had removed the bottle!



Brianna was in the basement catching the stream of blue Dawn in a bucket!

Now that wouldn't have happened if we had been eating out.


I just don't know if we are doing the right thing.

It seemed like last year the public school program was indeed the exact thing this family needed. Christian schools don't do special ed, you understand. Homeschooling, my first choice, was not working out too well at all. Both children put up an enormous resistance to learning anything directed by me and they didn't yet have the idea that ALL children must learn to read and write and add and subtract. They figured it was just an option this mean mom  had chosen to inflict on them and they weren't going to do it unless it was convenient. The old proverb, You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink, was exemplified on a daily basis in our efforts to educate the kids. Anybody who has read this blog knows we were already up to our eyeballs with just trying to teach them to brush their teeth and not scream when they heard the word, "no".  I was burned out from the two and half years of exhausting work it had taken to get the children as far as they had come. I knew it was time to put them in school and let the experts have a go at it. HUGE things happened that school year for which I will ever be grateful. They learned that kids actually have to do this stuff. That was light-bulb moment number one.  I felt like the kids were given an amazing opportunity and every teacher/aid/para  put forth their best to help these two.

I had a few books come from the school library that I was apposed to having in our home, but mostly they were fine and I would just ask James to take back the ones that I didn't feel he should read. Okay, so that happened like twice, maybe. Even if he had read them his comprehension was such that he wouldn't have gotten much out of it anyway. His understanding of the story line was foggy at best. Missy was banned, by me, from bringing library books home, because she just would not return them. Our friend (his family a fellow homeschooling family during the older girls' homeschool years ) was  the special-ed reading teacher and he was helpful in alerting me to things that I might have a problem with - movie day, etc...  PE was tricky. Music class combined with PE.... even trickier ~ that's where my 9 year old's desire to go to a high school dance came from. BUT overall school was a good thing. The kids made progress, we got the needed break from each other, it cut the chaos in our relationships by half.

We didn't question putting the twins in the school this year. I homeschooled James as much as I could throughout the summer in an effort to help him catch up with his class so it wouldn't be so hard for him. He rarely resisted, though it did happen. Missy was not about to let me do the same for her, unfortunately, but there's a lot about her learning disabilities that I can't even pretend to know how to deal with. For her, public school is the only option for awhile, unless something better shows up. I plan to homeschool James next year. Our relationship is in a good place.

 We are three days into school and I'm totally questioning the wisdom of our decision to send James at all this year. I like his teacher. I think the set up is great, and all... BUT my concern is growing. He has become socially aware, but it's more than that. The content of some of the materials for third graders........!

I nearly started crying last night as he was reading to me from his book brought home from school.  When I finally stopped focusing on his pronunciation of individual words and paid attention to the plot of the story, I was aghast. I wondered if he really understood what he was reading .... then his snickering over a disgusting paragraph confirmed that indeed, he did. I took the book and perused it.  Bullying, the showing of a fist in anger, smart talk, betting, unkindness, superstition, magic potions, conquering others and winning for self glory, harsh words between siblings, lying, name calling, and whatever other trash, all found in a 25 page chapter book. And all justified in the end because the 1'st grader, through it all, conquered his fears and learned to ride a two wheel bike and beat the bully who said he couldn't. Really truly? Such a "wonderful" model of conversation and behavior for our children to follow... REALLY?!

I keep thinking, "By beholding we become changed".

It seems to me we have an uphill battle as it is in character development. Can't we get a little help in the right direction? Must we glorify sin just to make reading attractive to our kids? Why in the world is that rubbish even considered attractive? I'm repulsed, frankly.

I don't get it.

So, now I have a problem. I have to go talk to the teacher............ and I'm so not desirous of making her hard job harder!!! First, though, I shall have a little chat with our friend, who is now the vice-principle,  because I know he's on the same page with our family ideals and should understand why I am concerned, but also maybe he can enlighten me on the inner workings of the school and what I should be able to expect in this coming year of third grade. I am beginning to think that with  having my kid more integrated in a regular classroom rather than in multiple one-on-one pull-outs in the day it might be quite different. I'm a tad worried someone is going to tell me that it's time to scrap this idea of public school and time dig up the ol homeschool books...