Two and a Half Months of Silence?!?

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Of course, that’s web silence, not real life silence, of which I’ve had none.

I was sitting in the family room getting some post-kids-bedtime relaxation while Greg’s out playing tennis, but I just got the urge to come here and share. Things are really going well around here. I dreaded this summer, although not quite as much as I dreaded last summer. But we have two weeks to go, and it’s been good.

Jake has turned a corner. For almost four years he has struggled. Our organized, predictability-loving, rule-following, introverted firstborn had it rough being a foster brother living in a world of unpredictability and chaos…can you imagine?! It seems like now that he knows how our life is going to look for the foreseeable future, he has settled back into being himself. That delightful, easy-to-be-with self that we thought maybe we’d driven away by becoming a foster family…he’s back! There have been days that I just shake my head in amazement and joy to see that following this path didn’t ruin our little boy. We always trusted that God knew what Jake needed in his life to prepare him for his future, but it’s great to see him happy again. Thank you, LORD! I’m curious to see what He has in mind for Jake’s future in teaching him so young how to handle hardship.

I feel like I should write about Tyler here, but there’s nothing new to say. He’s wonderful. He always has been wonderful. He rolls with the punches and gets along with everyone. He’s enthusiastic and easy-going and affectionate. He has been the child who kept me going during many months. Tyler is the rock…and he rocks.

The big surprise: seven year old E. I don’t want to jinx it, and we had one bad week this summer with tantrums and defiance and such, but that’s been it. Her behavior has completely changed. COMPLETELY. I am in awe just typing it, and I hope it’s not just a fluke. She is handling it when we don’t give her what she wants when she wants it. She is handling it when we don’t entertain her. She is taking no for an answer. All of this with flashes of attitude followed by…get this…controlling herself! We compliment her on it constantly. We made a point to keep her very busy this summer with morning camps and such, and we are planning to continue this strategy when school starts because it takes a village to raise this girl. She still struggles when artwork or school practice work isn’t perfect, which makes me nervous about her return to the classroom. But to think back to where we were when she first came, and even around February/March…amazing. Wow. We continue to pray for bonding times with her, but it is SO much easier to bond with someone who isn’t dissolving into an uncontrollable fit all the time! It’s hard not visualizing how I thought it would be to have a daughter this age and then comparing it with how it actually is. But I’m looking back at the progress we’ve made…one year made a huge difference…three more months even more…maybe when the adoption is finalized she’ll breathe a sigh of relief and really settle in?

Speaking of the adoption, it hasn’t happened. It was supposed to happen this summer but somehow someone didn’t remember about a certain evaluation to be done so it could be put into a report and placed in a file to go into another report to be presented to us in order to move forward. The evaluation has now been done and is working its way from desk to desk at the social services agency. Someday, somebody whose job it is to call people to set court dates will give us a ring and set one date of a set of three, I think, that we need before the adoption is finalized. But this isn’t at all frustrating. I’m sure glad that we have shared all kinds of psychological, educational, behavioral, and medical information with the county so that they can write it up into an official report to give all that information we gave to them back to us and say, “Here are these kids we want to tell you about. Do you want to adopt them?”

On to Little A. He is a piece of work. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him. He has flashes of complete anger and violence, and then minutes later is the sweetest, cutest, winningest little guy in the world. And those dimples. I love this boy. And he drives me crazy. I don’t think I’m going to solve this in two weeks so I’m not going to try. I’m going to wait until he goes back to school and deal with whomever he turns into then. No point in coming up with new discipline plans and strategies only to use them for a few weeks. We’ll hunker down and weather the flashes of rage with the discipline techniques that have been working well for us in the past (and even with him, until three weeks ago, or so), and then we’ll regroup in the fall. I guess it’s always going to be somebody having trouble when you’ve got a family of seven. Right now he’s it.

Midge is here! Sleeping upstairs for the third night in a row as I type. Not permanently. But we’ve been seeing her for a few days at a time this summer. She went camping with us and she’s going to beg her dad to let her do it again next week. Her dad is falling apart, in my opinion. Nothing that concerns us about his parenting, but about his inability to draw the line with Midge’s mother now that the courts are out of their world completely. We hate it. He’s giving mom overnights and trusting her not to drive with Midge or do anything to endanger her, despite her complete inability to show she can be trustworthy. We think he’s just overwhelmed with being a single dad, so we keep offering to take Midge whenever he wants us to, but he can’t quite seem to juggle everything. There’s nothing we can do, because if we report any suspected wrongdoing or incompetence to the county without really knowing what’s going on and without knowing whether they’d remove Midge again, we know he could easily cut us out of her life completely. So far, we haven’t been scared for her safety, thankfully. I just don’t know what’s going to happen. Again, we’re in a totally powerless situation where we just have to pray and leave her in God’s hands. And I have no idea what’s going to happen when she starts preschool again in the fall. Sigh. My baby. While I can, I’m enjoying every minute with my spoiled-rotten, can’t-take-no-for-an-answer, I-don’t-know-how-to-share, wonderful little girl.

So we made it. Two weeks left of summer and we’ve survived. Not even that, I think we’ve actually done well. I’m hoping to start substituting this fall at the kids’ schools and I’m working on a single subject Math credential to go with my multiple subject elementary teaching credential. I’m competing in a triathlon this Saturday, which should be good for a laugh at my expense! I trained very regularly from January to early May, at which point I got bronchitis and pneumonia which lasted a month, got busy coordinating our school’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and then it was summer with no time to train sans children. So I almost didn’t follow through with my triathlon goal. But as my good friend pointed out, I probably won’t regret it if I do the triathlon, but it’s very possible I’d regret it if I didn’t. So here I go. School days, substituting, credentialing, scheduling fall kids’ activities, adjusting my parenting strategies as our family schedule changes…such is life around here. And looking towards the future with hope.

 

School Choice: second & fourth grades!

Wow. Do we really have a kid who’s going to be in fourth grade next year? That’s one of the grades I taught…I have never pictured myself having a child the age of my former students. Crazy.

We are in the school choice window for our district, which means that if you want your kids to go to a different school from the assigned elementary school for your neighborhood, you have to decide now. Our lives are so up in the air right now that I have no idea where we will all be for the next school year.

Tyler is currently attending a Title I (at-risk, low income) school which has a Spanish Immersion Charter School program. I LOVE it. So much. The kids are diverse in every way. The families value different cultures and languages. I love hearing music and conversation in different languages at school events and in the hallways. Right now the whole day is in Spanish, with the kids changing teachers (so their own students don’t ever hear them speak English!) and teaching English for 30 minutes a day. Next year, it will increase to 60 minutes of English with the rest being Spanish. We are lucky that the program can even extend into Jr. High and High School if we’re interested. At that level, the kids take Science in Spanish instead of English, and they take a Spanish elective class for immersion kids. I have several really good mom friends now at Tyler’s school and I love the teachers, staff, and program.

Tyler, on the other hand, has complained to me about once a week that he wants to go to an “English” school. He’s not that convincing, really. He only says it before school when I think he’d just rather stay home and continue playing legos. After school, it’s all smiles and chatter about his great day. Still, I wonder if the idea of an “English” school will always interest him. At his teacher conference, his wonderful teacher told me he is soaking up the program so well. I wasn’t sure what he was really capable of producing in Spanish until she showed me a recent writing assignment he did. Oh my. His Spanish vocabulary is WAY beyond what he admits to at home! His sentences were perfectly composed with reflexive verbs and proper tenses and even correct adjective endings. Seriously? I don’t know that I could have done that in High School Spanish class. I was so thrilled and relieved to see that, and to know that his teacher feels he is thriving in the immersion program. When I told Tyler that his teacher hopes he’ll continue on in the program next year, he said, “Okay. I’ll do it,” and ran off to play. See, I told you his complaints about “Spanish school” weren’t all that serious!

So we’re all set for Tyler for next year. But Jake is totally up in the air. Luckily, we don’t have to decide for him until the last minute because of the program he is in. We decided last year to move him from our wonderful assigned school to a nearby school with a special challenge program for 3rd-6th grades. The idea of the program is that they group the kids who need extra challenges into one class for each grade, so that the whole class is aimed at a higher level. Greg was in this type of program as an elementary schooler, and I taught this type of program and LOVED the cool stuff I could do with those kids that I couldn’t do in my regular classes.

The problem is, there just aren’t enough kids who have tested into this program at his grade level. Jake’s teacher thinks that the decline in the number of kids who test into this program is related to the rising class sizes in the lower grades over the past few years. So for third grade, his class has been a regular class with just a cluster of kids from the program, like any school would have. We knew this ahead of time and moved him anyway so that it would be an easier transition than moving him after third or fourth grade. I’m glad we did…he’s had a great teacher and made the school move so easily without any complaints about missing his friends or his old school. But NOW they’re telling us there might not be enough kids to have a full class again next year for fourth grade!

I’m frustrated because I’m not sure I would have moved him if we had known this last year. But what’s done is done. I can’t complain about this year’s experience and am happy with our choice with the information we had. But I AM wondering about next year. If they don’t have a full class for the program, I’m not really interested in messing with carpools and the longer drive and all that taking him to that school entails.

So then I’m left with three options. I could homeschool him for fourth grade and see if they get enough kids to have the full class challenge program in fifth grade and send him back that year. I could send him back to his previous school, although in my mind, I would probably want him to stay there for 4th-6th rather than moving him back to the new school YET AGAIN even if they have a full class program in 5th and 6th grades. Or I could send him back to the tiny little canyon school where he started in kindergarten before I pulled him out to homeschool him. I loved that little school and he has only positive memories about it.

What I choose to do with Jake next year fully depends on the new little people who will be joining our family hopefully before the next school year starts. If they are school aged and native Spanish speakers, I can send them to Tyler’s program so I’ll be able to make Jake’s school decisions based only on what’s best for him. If they are school aged and English speakers, I will want to factor in what might be best for the new kids as well as Jake (I have already vowed not to have kids in THREE different elementary schools!) If they aren’t school aged, I will have only Jake’s school needs to think about, but I have to admit I’m intimidated about trying to homeschool a fourth grader with needy little ones underfoot!

We won’t find out until April or May about next year’s program for Jake’s school, and even then, if we don’t have our new kids yet, I don’t plan on making a decision about Jake until we know who’s in our family, or until August when I’d have to start homeschooling if that’s my choice!

Phew. I’m thankful for so many options, and intimidated by them all at the same time. Once again, I’m grateful that we have the LORD guiding us through these decisions each year. Even when we don’t feel sure about the future, He knows what the future holds!

Nothing.

There’s nothing to say here. Day after the election, beloved foster daughter being taken away, watching her transform from happy and secure into clingy and tantruming and spoiled right in front of my eyes, good friends with big problems, other good friends with a kid who might have cancer, neighbors divorcing and probably moving the kids’ best friends away, throw in a week of exhausting vertigo… When it feels as if everything in the whole world is going wrong, I need to remind myself that not everything is terrible. I think it would hurt God’s feelings if I kept saying life stinks. Not to mention that it sounds pretty spoiled and petty just writing that out. God places me in the wealthiest country at the least labor intensive time in history and with the most sheltered life He can think of, and I have the nerve to complain. Sometimes I feel like a rotten toddler who freaks out when my parent makes me give back the toy which a friend has shared with me. These kids, all three of them, really aren’t mine, are they? Even as God lets me keep my biological sons more than the two years he’s let me keep my sweet daughter, even then, the boys still belong to Him, and are only on loan to me. Sigh. I guess God is the most patient of parents, listening to my tantrums. But I’m sure even He gets tired of it.

List of One Thousand Things We Love…continued…

53. listening to the boys playing together in the other room

54. good books that last a long time and where everything turns out just right

55. lemon chicken soup at Daphne’s Greek Cafe

56. listening to books on tape in the car with the boys

57. warm baths

58. the way Midge cocks her head to the side, lifts one hand in a teenage-like gesture and says, “Oh yeah,” to everything, like she already knows and has known for quite some time.

59. the boys are both finally readers…real readers! pick-up-the-book-in-your-spare-moment-readers. Motherly, Teacherly Happiness.

San Diego Getaway: Comic-Con!

For the past few years, my sister Amy and her husband Rob have told us all the tales of craziness they see in San Diego during Comic-Con (the world’s biggest deal for comic book/t.v. show/sci-fi movie geeks!) So last year, we called dibs on their guest bedroom for this year’s Comic-Con.

The boys and I went down for two days of people watching and hang out time with Amy and family. Kate was especially happy to have the boys there, whom she collectively called “Ty-ty.” I hear she was looking for them when we left. Midge missed them while they were gone, too, asking Greg one day after naptime, “Brudders here? Mishyou.” You miss them? Greg asked her. “Love ’em,” she told him. Awwww.

But we were busy trying to wander the streets of downtown San Diego. It was a little bit crowded.

But we pushed our way through to get all our freebies (aluminum water bottles! hats! sunglasses! movie passes!) and to see the displays from all the different shows and movies. The boys walked through the Grimm forest, worried that something would jump out at them.

We were dressed for the occasion. I mean, if you have a great excuse to wear costumes, why wouldn’t you? I just don’t understand the un-costumed people at all.

There were plenty of freaks we recognized…

…and plenty that we didn’t. Including many women who took this as a chance to dress themselves in questionable attire. I did not take their pictures.

The batmobiles were out in force…

…and we spent much of our time walking around, trying to get poor Kate to be happy. It was one of those days.

I thought one of the coolest things was how San Diego was transformed, with posters on every building, pedi-cab, and street corner.

The History Channel took up a block of parking lot with free sausages and games for the kids with prizes. I think it was my boys’ favorite spot. Jake was thrilled about the sunglasses he kept winning; I had to cut him off at three. Tyler won some, too, as well as a scoop necked women’s shirt from the history channel that drooped on him and showed his whole chest, but he insisted on wearing anyway.

I guess it’s no wonder that the boys were too excited to sleep that night.

Hanging around Amy, Rob & Kate’s place is a bit more relaxing than braving the crowds. Kate has some great bed-head. And the boys don’t mind their Wii at all.

The boys and I walked outside seeking a place they could be loud at 6:45 in the morning. Found it.

Later we tried out Aunt Krissy’s Comic-Con hats, which would have been easier to wear if there were no breeze.

We encountered more creatures…

…and did more people watching…

…which includes a lot of, “what’s that guy supposed to be?”

And where else can you find a free giveaway of zombie feet (that look disgustingly real) made of bread?

What a great getaway! Thanks, Amy, Rob & Kate!

How You Know Your Kid’s Not Ready To Be Baptized.

Tyler: “Mommy, in church pastor Aaron talked to us about baptism. And he said that next week they’re gonna baptize some people after church. And you know what? He said that they’re even going to baptize some of the kids!” He pauses, and quietly but eagerly says, “I hope they pick me…”

Sorry, Tyler, I didn’t throw your name into the random baptism lottery this time.

This, from the boy who, as my brother-in-law reminded me recently, prayed as a three year old: “Dear Lord, Thank you for this day. And thank you for God’s son. And thank you for Jesus’ son. And thank you for Capri Sun. Amen.”

No, buddy, you’re not getting baptized next week. I think we have a little ways to go.

Summer on the Brain.

SO ready for summer. The boys and I are counting down the school days (11 including today) and I’m fine tuning the summer calendar to make sure we get it all in. The weather around here is helping, too. Perfect days in the eighties. And who wouldn’t be ready for summer when you get to look at these freckles on these beautiful faces every day…

Good Day! (and ramblings about school choice)

Jake on his first day of first grade in 2010.

I’m just popping in to tell you that I’m having a great day! Isn’t it nice when you don’t know quite what to expect and you are pleasantly surprised?

I’m spending the evening with my parents, which I do off and on when my in-laws watch the kids on Wednesday nights. Tonight we’re going to be hanging out in their quiet house and sewing something I’ll show you later. But what I’m really excited about is this morning. I’ve been in the throes of school-choice decision making for our boys for next year. I am thrilled with Tyler’s dual language immersion school. I like the people and the school and the program fits his personality and will be such an asset to him in life. So he will stay there until I feel differently. But I’ve been agonizing about Jake.

Choosing schools is such a hard thing for me. There are just so many wonderful ways to educate a child and I want to do all of them. In fact, if you ever hear of a school that is an immersion Spanish school that meets three days a week and homeschools the other two days and is on a year-round schedule and teaches using the theories of multiple intelligences and has a gifted magnet class and encorages interaction with nature and self-guided learning and is free and is not just for Christians and is near my house would you please let me know? In the meantime, I’ll keep working on making a real life decision.

Don’t we as parents have so many things to worry about? It seems like every choice we make for our kids can have lifelong effects! I know it’s not always true, but it seems like it. I’ve been pondering three options for Jake.

  • Our Neighborhood School where Jake currently attends. We are lucky to have what I describe as a private-like school as our neighborhood school. You know, the ones where the PTA is so involved and the community so into fundraising that you still have music and art and dance and olympic day and field trips and assemblies and all that? In a public school. With nice people. Close by.
  • A New Charter School Nearby which emphasizes teaching with the Multiple Intelligences. Which means nothing unless you’re a geeky ex-teacher like me who gets thrills from things like this. Innovative, different, successful, and perfect for kids who want to explore information more than just learning it. They employ different teaching techniques to bring the curriculum to life in artistic, physical, musical, and other ways in addition to the standard teaching ways. So cool. And it also has a part time homeschooling program. Intriguing.
  • The GATE Magnet School for our district, where kids identified as gifted can go to a class of just GATE kids and high achievers for accelerated learning with more depth. This one is close to my heart, as I’m a former GATE magnet class teacher and (in spite of the crazy parents) count those years as some of my favorites as a teacher. So much learning can happen in that format. So much fun can be had with those kids! So much deeper can you teach, with a whole class of GATE kids.
I was leaning towards the charter school until our neighbor went to their information meeting (I’m planning to go to one in a week or two) and I wasn’t thrilled with her report about what happened and what was said there. Not that it’s not great for a lot of kids, but maybe not a good fit for our family and our goals? Not sure. Still pondering and I’ll probably still go to their meeting just to hear for myself.
But this morning I had a chance to tour the GATE magnet school, and oh, my, was I in heaven. I was worried that I’d be disappointed and overly critical of any other GATE program because I’d be comparing them to the one I taught. But I was so impressed! Actually, the third grade teacher I heard from made me feel like I was a slouch when I was teaching GATE. The level and kind of work they are doing in there is amazing, and I left the morning walking on air. They have an impressive set of teachers and a lot of special curriculum aimed at helping gifted kids go wider and deeper into any topic. They also have most of the great programs I’ve come to enjoy at his current school! The best of both worlds, it seems. Biggest downfall: it’s farther away. Sigh. 12 minutes as opposed to 3 minutes. But in the grand scheme of things, what’s an extra 9 minutes, when it looks like the kind of program that would suit Jake perfectly, and the kind of school I would love to get involved in. Although there’s still time to change my mind, I’m so excited to have a choice that I’m so excited about! (Yes, I know I’m being repetitive…that’s what happens when I’m happy!)

What a day…schools, sewing, family, and leftover roasted vegetables for lunch. Score.

Vintage Carnival Party!

The parties are finally behind us around here. Jake’s Spy Training Party was first, followed by Greg’s big Super Bowl Party the next weekend, and here we have Tyler’s Carnival Party rounding out the trifecta of party weekends. Phew! I love planning and throwing parties, but three in a row is just too many for even me. However, I didn’t want Tyler’s party to be a big letdown after the other two great parties, so I rallied my energy (and my relatives’ help!) and threw one last shindig.

When the boys are only interested in legos, and we’ve had a lego party before, it’s tough trying to come up with party ideas they like. Pinterest to the rescue! Tyler loved the carnival idea right from the start. I wanted to give it that old fashioned feel, so I designed a collage to use on all of the game posters.

And with some of the full sheet label paper leftover from previous parties, I used the collage on labels for the drinks. The blue and green Jones sodas were my party splurge…they’re more than a dollar each!

We had five carnival “games” run by five different suckers, I mean, relatives who love Tyler. My mom ran the dart throwing balloon pop, because she has the teaching background, which kept anyone from ending up with a dart in the head.

Uncle Don ran the beanbag basket toss, and came up with all kinds of creative challenges for the kids to do, like throwing the beanbags over their shoulders backwards! My dad ran the knock em down booth with towers of cans and tennis balls.

Good ole Uncle Rob had the hardest job, running an obstacle course up on the third floor. I sent him up there with no instruction, and there he stayed, creating new courses in isolation up there for the entire party!

Aunt Krissy supervised my last minute addition…balloon faces. The angry birds (downloadables here) turned out to be the biggest hit!

At each station, the kids earned tickets which they could spend on prizes. I bought a few lots of small prizes from Oriental Trading Co., along with the lollipops to decorate the kitchen island. The bigger prizes were a combination of Target dollar spot items and Goodwill finds. I found a whole box of McDonald’s happy meal prizes that were the cutest miniature beanie babies! Can’t beat 28 beanie babies for $14! Then I added some stuffed animals we’ve won at the fair over the years…I’ve been saving them for future foster kids or as present toppers for birthdays, but I thought they’d make a fun addition to the prize table.

When we had to move the party from outside at the park to inside the house, I picked up two rolls of crepe paper to make the dining room reminiscent of a circus tent.

Of course, the birthday boy had a blast. Surrounded by as many people as humanly possible, our six year old extrovert had the time of his life.

As I said the other day, the rainbow layer cake was a hit, even if we didn’t even dip into the cupcakes. I sent those home with a neighbor mom when I found out it was her birthday!

Happy Birthday to my littlest not-so-little boy!

Notes from Today:

  • First Day of School 2011. Note to self. Remember that Tyler gets out at 1:00, not 1:20. I almost made the unforgivable error of showing up 20 minutes late to pick up my child from his first day of kindergarten. I think God intervened, and I had a sudden epiphany about the 1:00 pick up time.
  • I went to Target twice today. The first time, at 12:15 p.m. to pick up an epi-pen with a pharmacist label on it for Tyler’s school. It was interesting to note how many moms were gliding through Target, child-free, stopping to chat with other child-free moms and glowing in their aloneness and the air conditioning. The second time, on my own while in-laws babysat, to look for new thermos’s and sippy cups. This time the store was full of junior high and high schoolers and their parents, scouring the place to fill their teacher’s supply lists. The guy  behind me in line told his son, “I think this is the last package of graph paper in the whole city.” Whoa. That’s rough.
  • There’s got to be something wrong with someone who spends forty minutes scouring Verizon’s website to find the perfect ringtone for her new phone. I think I have commitment issues. That, and I really don’t want something jarring, but I really do want something in the praise and worship genre. I really don’t want someone calling to the crowd, “Let me hear you!” in the middle of my ringtone, either. That’s a bit strange when it’s coming from your purse.
  • Interesting to note the differences between my two sons’ schools, even on the first day. Jake’s PTA membership costs $10, Tyler’s $7. Hmmm. I thought this was a national organization? I think there might be some price-gouging going on here. To buy a t-shirt from Jake’s school at Olympic Day: $30 “donation”, to buy a t-shirt from Tyler’s school on the first day: $5. School supply list for Jake included about 20 items. School supply list for Tyler “bring $7 if you can donate, and the checked item below.” My checked item was three apples: one red, one green, one yellow. ??????  Not sure what that’s about. But can you guess which school is in an upper income bracket and which is in a lower income bracket? Introducing Tyler to the non upper income world is one of the many reasons I’m excited about his new school.
  • Speaking of Tyler: first day of school and he didn’t even mention anything about not understanding what was going on. He loved it. Had a great day. Got to lead Simon Says. Smiles and waves seven fingers over his head singing, “Siete! Siete! Siete!” because Seven is the number today. And best of all, “I want to say goodbye to that kid over there, Mommy. I made him my new friend today.” Only downfall: they didn’t play on the playground yet. He’s drooling over those shiny silver trikes. Could be that the triple digit heat kept them from getting a full recess. Maybe next week.
  • Two hours to myself. Our school timing works out just right so that when I get home from dropping Tyler off, Midge naps for two hours and I am alone. The house is quiet. I was able to clean the downstairs of all the post vacation/pre school clutter, fold and put away a load of laundry, do a load of dishes, make some phone calls and write an email, all while still having time to read my bible and write out this week’s to do list. Let me just say that it was weird. I felt a kind of guilty pleasure in it all. Will this be my life for the next few months? I think I could get used to it. Or I’ll adopt a few more kids. Either/Or.

The Annual {half} Birthday Bash.

 

 

This might be the last year that we can get away with a half birthday party. But it’s just so wonderful thinking about a sunny beach party in February when the boys are begging for a party and I’m recovering from Christmas and working on the Super Bowl party. There’s nothing better than lots of family friends gathered together at the beach in the summer.

This year, we went with a lego theme.

I tried cake pops and failed. Everyone makes them sound so easy, but they are not. My cake to frosting ratio was off and they were too mushy, then the yellow candy melts were too thick.

I salvaged the idea by using marshmallows instead, but the candy melt problem was still there. Then we tried drawing the faces and the yellow was too waxy and wouldn’t accept the ink. Oh dear. But we brought them along to the party anyway because the boys were so excited about them, and I didn’t hear anyone complain as they gobbled marshmallow lego heads before cake. We just had to be careful to catch the kids who were trying to roast them over the fire before we had a liability suit on our hands!

Luckily, although the cake pops were a bust, the cake itself was a success! My original frosting was too pastel colored, but Greg had the great suggestion of spraying the cakes. He didn’t even know that they sell cake spray in bright colors, which is how we got the real lego colors. And the boys insisted on placing lego men on the cake, which ended up looking really cute. Especially the man bursting out of the back left lego to ambush another guy.

The best part of the party is always enjoying the sunshine and the waves and the people coming together to celebrate.

 

A big thank you to Uncle Rob, whose job was to keep this sweet girl from drowning herself as she ran straight for the huge surf repeatedly, and without fear.

I found a free lego font online to label the party favors. I’m not a fan of lots of little junky things for party favors, so I usually plan ahead and buy dollar spot stuff on clearance throughout the year. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead this time. But I found nice buckets with shovels and beach balls for each kid, then ordered lego candy online for the table and for each bucket. We also bought a few bulk lego packages and divided them up so that each kid had a small ziplock baggie with about 50 legos to play with.

The boys were most excited about being the judges for the lego contest. We had each kid use their legos to create something and the boys chose their top three to win a prize.

 

At a beach party, you must sing and blow out the candles while you are still lighting them, or they’ll blow themselves out.

The weather was beautiful, the waves were huge, the company was great. Happy half birthday, Jake and Tyler!

 

 

 

 

 

An Eventful Day One :: Cousins

In one short day we squeezed in a lot of mysterious cousins-hiding-in-Nonna’s-attic-hideout, some bike riding, the necessary first day In-N-Out trip, naps/rest time, and a beach night.

But the most eventful parts of the day revolved around Tyler, who had not one but two serious accidents. The first involved him hitting a car while riding his bike (he was looking backwards and talking to his cousin and hit a poor woman who had stopped when she saw him while pulling out of her driveway.) No major injury there, just a lot of fear. The second incident is still a mystery, but had something to do with him jumping in the sand and ending up in the E.R. like this:

He has a bruised muscle in his neck and can’t move without screaming. How we are going to get through this day (and how we got through last night) is a mystery to me. But is anyone surprised that Tyler is the first in our family to end up in the hospital in a neck brace? No, I don’t think so. Poor baby.

Tyler Got In!

I’m on a bit of an adrenaline high right now…just got the mail and Tyler got in to our district’s free public school Spanish/English Dual Language Immersion Program! We’ve been waiting for months (thinking about it for years, actually) and now we know. But I’m suddenly getting cold feet…it’s such a huge decision to make a schooling choice for a child.

I found out about this amazing program before I was even pregnant with Jake. The kids are taught primarily in Spanish in the elementary grades, working their way up and getting more English instruction each year. They graduate from 6th grade being totally bilingual and biliterate (not just your casual “I can talk to you in Spanish,” but “I can read and write and understand and speak Spanish like a native speaker.”) What a gift to give a child. There is a 7th-8th grade program at our assigned junior high school, too, and then a 9th-12th grade program at a high school further away. But for now I only have to worry about this seven year commitment in the elementary grades.

I love speaking other languages, and although I was quite fluent in Spanish several years ago when I was speaking it more often and teaching kids whose native language was Spanish, I have forgotten quite a lot. Not to mention my eight month stint in Germany, where I became proficient in that language, and my brain now thinks I should throw out any word in any foreign language and others should understand. I am amazed by those who speak five, six, seven languages. I have trouble compartmentalizing it all. But one other language (especially one so widely spoken in California) is so valuable, and not too difficult if you’re speaking it daily.

I knew that Jake’s “need-to-know-what’s-going-on and don’t-like-feeling-out-of-control” personality would not be a good fit for this program, so we didn’t pursue it for him. Tyler, on the other hand, is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Sociable, talkative, friendly, easy-going. However, he’s also stubborn and even at his fabulous preschool he has days where he tries to refuse to go and says he hates school. (Then he comes home and has totally forgotten all about it and tells me what a great day he had.) I’m worried that it will be a hard transition for him. I’m worried that I won’t be able to hack it if he starts complaining and says he hates it. Then again, if he says he hates a wonderful program that he actually loves this year, maybe I’ll be able to have a little perspective when he says it next year. The fact that he says he doesn’t want to learn Spanish makes no difference to me. I’ve learned that kids never want to do something that seems strange and intimidating. But who knows? Don’t you wish you could predict the future?

The biggest problem…the program is at a different school from where Jake will be next year. Most of the time I’m pretty okay with that idea. Actually, no matter what, he’ll be going to a different school from Jake’s, but the other kindergarten choice is much closer and isn’t a seven year commitment. Yikes. Feeling so uncertain right now. And if we get a new foster child in the fall, I could be driving to three different schools when you count preschool. Yikes again.

On the other hand, I think about any kids we might adopt in the future. Once you have one kid in the school, their siblings are automatically accepted. There are so many obstacles that kids have when they’re coming out of the foster system…wouldn’t it be great to be able to give them the big advantage of bilingualism?

Okay, I’m just typing out loud here and I know my thoughts are all over the place. Such is life. Every decision we make seems to be life-altering. I know that I could pull Tyler from the program at any time if I want to, although they do request you stay. I know that being bilingual would be a great gift for Tyler. He could make twice as many friends in the world! He could have an advantage over English only job applicants! He could be used mightily by God!

I have been thinking about this program for years and have been excited about it for months, yet the time comes to pull the trigger and I’m nervous. Now I have no more time to obsess about such things. I hear Midge waking up from her nap and there’s dinner to cook.

Birthday Week.

My three boys turn another year older and another year wiser. Lots of candle blowing. Pizookies. Fudge. Legos. Much joy. Much asking if there are any more presents for me. Throw in a little baseball practice. Add a day of solar panel installation on our roof.

Did I mention Lego playing? Don’t forget foster visitations and a meltdown after a serious phone call from Midge’s social worker. Talk to her case manager about it and recover from emotional breakdown. Two days home from school with fever. Enjoying those extra hours together. Seeing my boys and realizing how quickly they grow.

I love this week. Now bring on the Super Bowl Party. We can take it.

 

The Big Shebang.

Half Birthday Party #3. Because two years ago I decided that summer beach parties were better than early February just-after-Christmas we-can’t-party-outside parties. Celebrating 6 1/2 years of life for Jake and 4 1/2 years for Tyler. Wow.

The much requested Hot Wheels cake. I think it was probably the worst of my birthday cakes, but it was still fine. Better than these beauties, decorated by the birthday boys.

Then again, there’s not much cuter than the artwork of kids, edible or otherwise.

Goodie bags and birthday banner made from this digital kit that I was highlighting for the JessicaSprague.com creative team this week. Goodie bags held a squishy water ball for everyone, a new hot wheel car for the boys, a big bouncy ball for the girls, and some little toys and shovels and such for the babies. I wish that was all they held. But they were stuffed by the time everyone went home…more on that in a moment.

This is always the best part of beach birthday parties. Bashing around the beach with all of your best buddies.

Birthday boy #1. When did you get so old and tall? How are you almost seven?

This photo of her beautiful garden grown tomatoes is for the benefit of my cousin Michele, who needs validation. Just kidding Michele. Kind of.

Birthday Boy #2. You are the dirtiest, funniest, happiest, sweetest boy we know.

Now I remember why I have never before had a pinata at a party. Well, I have to admit, it was really a lot of fun. We got a great sturdy pinata that could last several beatings from each kid without breaking. The problem for me was this…

…too much candy! Here I am, the mother who really eschews candy for her kids, and I sent each kid home with a lunch bag bursting with junk. I’m sorry, friends. I didn’t mean to do it. I really should be better at estimating how much candy a given number of kids need. But when you’re faced with a rocket/car (anyone’s guess) pinata the size of a small european car, you sometimes get confused. In my defense, there were non-candy items in there, too. I blame all of this on my dear husband who made me go out and buy more, until the pinata was so full that the wire hanger broke.

But the most important thing…everybody had fun. Running in the waves, chasing each other, playing on the playground, pretending the lockers they were climbing on were safety boats in a sandy sea, bashing the lights out of a huge red car-like pinata, and yes, picking up pounds of candy. It was a good time. And so we are thankful for our dirty, tired, happy little family and for another celebration of life.