Saturday, May 4, 2019

A New Season

If you are new to our blog, welcome!
As many of you who have been following our blog know, we have ten children, our oldest four are grown and have already moved out and are living on their own.
At home we have six kids, two 18 year olds, an 8 year old, two 7 year olds, and a 6 year old. Our youngest six all have special needs. We adopted our now 7 year olds as infants in 2012, then in 2014 we adopted our 18 year olds when they were 13, and then in 2016 we adopted our now 6 and 8 year old at the age of 3 and 5.
9 of our 10 children +our second oldest's daughters baby *our first grandbaby* +our third oldest daughter's fiance

Our oldest daughter was unable to make it for the picture, but our second oldest was able to fly in to visit and bring our first grandbaby with her <3
Our third oldest daughter is engaged and we were so happy they could both be there to take pictures with us. One of the biggest challenges when you have grown children is finding a time when they can all go take pictures. With everyone's busy schedule it can make getting everyone together for pictures a challenge.  

In life we have many seasons. It is that time in our lives where we as parents are thinking about what our future will be like, and what the lives of our children will be like as well. 
We have come upon a season in life where we have been taking a really hard look at what we are putting into our bodies, asking ourselves what we can do to eat healthier, live healthier, and also asking what is important in our lives. 
We have decided that we want to live life with purpose and we are getting tired of watching our money go down the drain. Literally. Turn on water when you live in the suburbs and every single drop that goes down the sink is another penny you are spending. Every time you turn on that light, you are watching money go down the drain. 
While we were in Ukraine for our adoption in 2012, people did a LOT of walking there. WE did a lot of walking while we were there. Here, we are driving to a store which is less than a mile away. WHY??  While in Ukraine and Latvia (in 2014) we were walking at least 1-6 miles, PER DAY. We felt good, our bodies felt good, we had more energy. 
We have become lazy. Lazy in our lifestyle, lazy in our eating and we are tired of it. In Ukraine and Latvia we ate foods that were not processed. I remember thinking how fast the foods went bad, bread lasted a week at best before they started to go off. Here, you can make a cake using a box mix and it will last a month, what is in that box???

So, what has our answer to those issues been?
We have decided on a five year plan. There are some experiences we would like our children to have since at least two, but possibly more, will never live on their own, so this would be their only chance, to have. But then, at the end of the five years, we hope to move to the midwest and live on our own 10+ acre permaculture farm! 
We have SO much to learn between now and moving. So we have gotten started with building a garden and we will learn as we go. Watching youtube videos of others who have gone before us, learning what grows best with what, companion gardening and things like that. We will also learn about building, animal husbandry and just soaking up as much knowledge as we can before we move.

The picture below shows a path we built from our front garden gate to our front door. We plan on putting a path just like it in the garden to make a path from the side gate to the back deck

We are so excited on this new adventure of learning about permaculture and hope you will follow along! 
We are STILL working on homeschooling and that will be the main focus of this blog, however we will also update with things like our plans and how they are progressing.

Our kids are working VERY hard on learning to be more independent. For their 18th birthday, our oldest girls were given the gift of Raddish Kids which is an easy to follow recipe club that comes with a little cooking tool each month. We are hoping this will get them excited to cook and help me break out of the box of our same go to things we cook. My husband, who was born and raised in England is very adventurous when it comes to food.  However, I am not, so I am hoping this will help me try new foods and add more foods to our meal plans. 
 My amazing and talented husband was able to decorate some basic white aprons for our girls so they could have unicorn aprons. The girls LOVE them!!
opening their Raddish Kids kit
So, our 5 year plan goes something like this...

2019 - Learning and Exploring with lessons like swimming and music lessons.  Fun activities that  like camping and Great Wolf Lodge. Work on getting healthy, start gardening, reading books and learning along the way. Start working on improvements for the house as money allows.
2020 - Last big fling trip to Disney. No classes that cost money. No monthly memberships but maybe a membership to places like the the Zoo, which is a one time fee.
2021 - Super buckled down to saving. No memberships at all. Start going to places like the zooonly if they have a free day, go on walks, hikes, library for story hour and free events like that.
2022 - Same as above, take classes online or in person for learning things like growing crops and Permaculture, learn things like soap making and candle making and any thing interesting like that if it would be useful to know how to do on a homestead.
2023 - have house ready to go on market with any fixes done. Pray it sells within the year.
2024/2025- have house sold, move and check out land, buy land, find a local job or an online job while working on the farm to get it built and set up.

So there it is in a nutshell! Our dream for our future. Our long term plans would be to help our kids who we know will not be able to live on their own to be able to have their own little business making things like candles, soaps, or selling crops they grow or things of that nature at farmers markets or online that way they can feel good about making things and having their own money to buy things they like.
One day I would like to have a little farm school where kids and their families could come and visit a farm, feed animals, and learn to make things. With as talented as my husband is he could make so many things. While we were raising money for our adoptions my husband made SO many things, he made crosses, children's blocks, Montessori material and so much more. 

But that is for another day and another time. Right now our focus will be soaking up as much information and knowledge as we can before we move. Once we move we will still have a lot of learning to do, but at least we can get a head of a start while we wait until we can finally move.

The kids are VERY excited to hear we plan on having our own land, they love animals. They are very excited about having chickens one day, and maybe some cows. They love animals and I love the idea of them being able to grow up on a farm environment, being able to climb trees, and so much more. They wish we could move now, I do too, but we have to take our time, and make sure we are ready before we move. Also, our youngest daughter has many more surgeries before we can move. 
She currently just had surgery on her nose, lip, and the back of her throat. (she was born with a cleft lip and palate) There are several more she must have before we move. 

So, in the mean time let me leave you with some new pictures...
Learning to ride a two wheeler!
Making a path in the backyard from the back deck to the garage
She wanted to paint her nails so I thought we should do it outside. She had never painted her nails before, I was super impressed!!

Learning to ride a two wheeler! We found some adult training wheels. This is the first time she has ever been on a regular two wheel bike. She has used adaptive bikes before but never a regular two wheeler.
Sisters make the best friends
Painting Van Gogh's Starry Night
Happy 18th Birthday!
More Starry Night painting

 Have a Blessed Day!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Coming Clean

I will be honest I still have moments where I ask myself if I can do this. I have a 7 year old who says every single day, tomorrow I am going on the bus and going to go to school. I wish she could, I really do. But we tried it, it didn't work out, she wasn't learning anything at school, she learns more at home. Her anxiety went through the roof at school, she just couldn't handle it. Another of our kids is above grade level in reading, but struggles with fine motor and is not potty trained yet at age 7, because of this our local school wanted to bus him to a different school and have him in a class with kids grades k-5. There is no way I am going to allow that. I homeschooled our oldest four kids who have no special needs and loved it, homeschooling our kids with special needs is a love hate relationship. I do it because I know they are learning more at home, I know they are safe, and no one will bully them. I homeschool them because recess at public school is not nearly long enough, especially for two of our kids who have ADHD.  I homeschool them because they need to be with other kids their ages, not stuck in a class with kids grades K-5.  I homeschool them because they need direct guidance and in our school district they dont get it (they wont give them an aid or para) and there is little to no inclusion here. My two girls who are almost 18, adopted at age 13, will retain things for a day or two and then we are back to square one. There are days that I feel like I am beating my head against a rock, because I am teaching the same thing over and over and over and over before it clicks, and sometimes no matter how many times I try, it just doesn't click. I don't like to admit I am failing, I don't believe in giving up, but sometimes I have to accept that some skills just might not be possible for all of our kids.  My oldest four kids learned things easily and each day was fresh and new and fun. I loved learning along with our oldest four. 
I don't get that same joy from teaching our six kids at home. There are many moments of joy, but it is not constant. There is a lot of repetition, a LOT.
One of our older girls has zero executive functioning skills. If the answer to the problem can not be solved with their first try, instead of trying something new, they keep trying the thing that didn't work. We have been working on this since 2014. We have still not progressed. According to the neuropsych eval we had for her, it looks like it is just the way she is, and while we can work with her to remember what to do, the follow through on her part just doesn't happen. We can teach her again and again to ask questions, get help, when she does not know what to do or understand. She can recite that she needs to get help or ask questions. But in the moment, she forgets. 
One of our other older girls has good executive functioning skills but has lower social and emotional skills and is not able advance in school work much more than where we are at (preK-early 1st grade skills). She has come a LONG way since she first came home, has learned SO much! But we are reaching a point where we are nearing her academic limits. 
Our two 7 year olds are doing well. They learn things much easier than our older girls. However they still struggle with fine motor and one of them still struggles with potty training (looking into issues with a tethered cord which could be causing it). There is still more repetition needed than was needed for our oldest four kids, but we are seeing regular gains. 
Our two with FASD and ADHD have different struggles. Reading is a challenge for our 6 year old because her auditory processing skills are too low to be able to sound out words and she has trouble with her memory. With our 8 year old, he struggles with reading for a different reason, he struggles because his ADHD is so severe that he end up guessing at all the words rather than taking time to sound them out. Our 6 year old is doing well in math, however our 8 year old has a hard time, even with the simple problems. One thing we have done is getting an abacus to help him.  
Auditory processing is a big struggle for all six kids, so learning about history, geography, science, etc, is something we have to go over and over. It can sometimes feel mind numbing to have to read the same thing again and again. Sometimes watching a video of what we have read helps, somethings acting it out helps, sometimes making a craft helps. But it is very rare to have something stick the first time.
And then we have moments like this...

There are the fun times when we bake things together and we work on cooking skills. There are fun times when we make crafts and I notice that cutting skills are getting better. There are wonderful moments when handwriting seems to be progressing. Or when we have company over and they proudly show off what they have done and talk about what they have learned. One of our kids who has ADHD never showed they were learning anything until they went with friends to the science museum and ended up talking all about what I had taught them about King Tut, Egypt, the Nile River, and so much more. 
Today we went on a walk and because we had talked about clouds a few months back I was asked what kind of clouds were in the sky, so they are learning, just at their own pace. And that is ok. I just have to remind myself that I am not "failing" because they are not learning faster, or even sometimes not learning what I am trying to teach them. Everyone in the world has limits. And while we have limits we have things that make us uniquely us.  Each one of our kids has their own wonderful skills and personalities and strengths.  They shine in their own way.

This post in no way means that I do not love our children and accept them for who they are. I love them very much and love them no matter what goals they reach. I just wanted to share that I am human too, and it isn't always easy. I get a lot of comments from people saying wow you are doing great, etc. However, I am just as human as the next person and I struggle just as much as everyone else. We have a lot of really good days, and other times we just need to step back and take a break because we are all feeling overwhelmed. I want those reading to know we are real. We have days where things are going well and other days when kids are having meltdowns, or just can not sit still and focus.  I taught my oldest four kids and then I taught school for many many years before we adopted our youngest six kids. 
Now I am having to learn another way of teaching. One that involves a lot more time on the same materials, and I am having to get more creative in how I teach. I am so proud of all that our kids have learned so far. Some days are just harder than others because I end up feeling like I am the one failing them for not being able to teach better so they learn more. Then I have to take a moment and remind myself that I can't compare them to children I have taught before because they just are going to go at their own pace, and that is ok. 
And while sometimes it seems like it would just be easier to send them to public school, then I would miss all this wonder and magic.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day

Love is in the air! This has been a fun Valentine's Day for the kids. They all got a small box of chocolates from Daddy and made arts and crafts. 
My amazing husband let me sleep in and had the kids all sign a card for me and he had one for me as well. I had set his out on the table and he saw it when he first woke up <3
Little V worked hard signing her name on a ton of Valentine's Day crafts to give her friends in her American Heritage Girls troop and also made crafts for adults in an assisted living home. 
Sometimes we just have to take a step back and take a moment and listen, watch, observe, to be able to see all the beauty in the day. 
So thankful for our family!
Hope you all had a Happy Valentine's Day!