Oct 30, 2013

A little pumpkin carving...

I spent a little time with the kids doing google image searches before we started, for inspiration.  A couple of friends came over while we carved, which worked out great because both Mister and Dear needed quite a bit of help.

Well, maybe Dear didn't need help, but she sure wanted a lot of it anyway.

Mister wouldn't have needed help, if I'd been more discerning when I let him pick out a pattern.  His pumpkin is the pixelated Wreck it Ralph- Chris ended up doing most of the carving.

I decided I really liked the pumpkins with stems for noses, which I soon discovered you totally can't see once you put them out in the dark and put a candle inside.  I turned on the light and snapped a picture, because I like it.

Man I love this holiday- there are so many fun things to do for kids and adults alike.  Tomorrow is too-much-candy day!  Happy Halloween everybody!

**This has been Day 30 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 27, 2013


Last night we had our second annual Halloween party!  It was pretty simple and low key, but we had a lot of fun.  Other than our normal fall/Halloween decorations, we just threw up a few things yesterday when we were done cleaning- balloons, streamers, some black construction paper and chalk (I really am a fan of the current chalkboard fad).

For food we made a ton of baked potatoes with some of the basic fixings, this spiced apple cider, coffee, cookies and candy.  Our guests brought the rest and it was delicious. There were chips with homemade guacamole, chili, sweet jalapeno poppers, mini pizzas, cookies with fun dip, and apple crisp.  We opted for real dishes instead of paper and plastic, and it worked out great.  We just made sure the dishwasher was completely empty before everyone got here, and then put out every plate and mug we owned!

Entertainment was music, cookie decorating, about $20 worth of glow sticks, and each other's lovely company- which is mostly what the grown ups were looking for anyway.  (The kids sure loved the glow sticks though.)  Everyone dressed up, and the costumes were varied and awesome.  Towards the end of the night we played a little cards and a little Scategories.

I am so grateful that I can have parties with my kids and my friends and my family all at the same time and it works out wonderfully.  I think that's lucky, as young as we are, that we have friends who are not only willing to hang out with our kids, but are good people for our kids to hang out with- even though many of them don't yet have children themselves.  Some of them do have kids and that's fabulous, too, because it gives our kids more kids to hang out with!

I didn't get many pictures this year, but we really had a wonderful time.  Now I'll take a deep breath as I realize we'll be doing the same thing all over again next weekend for Slim's birthday.  The season of crazy has officially begun around here!

**This has been Day 27 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 25, 2013

School Carnival

We started off our weekending tonight with the school Halloween Carnival.  Chris and I spent the morning setting up the booth for Mister's class.  We spent the afternoon compiling costumes and doing hair and make-up.  Then we helped work the carnival and had some fun, too.  We were so busy most of the time it went by fast, and all of the kids were great.

A little tip, if you ever feel inclined to do pumpkin bowling- it's exhausting crawling around on the floor and reseting the pins every 15 seconds.  Maybe opt for fewer pins, or pick a different game.  On the other hand, the kids LOVED it.

Katniss, vampire, and Indiana Jones.

That's my frazzled scientist face.

We're throwing a party tomorrow night, so by Sunday I expect to have some worn out, well sugared, tired kids.

**This has been Day 25 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 23, 2013

Books, Basketball, and The Beatles...

I spent all afternoon on this:

Mister helped me with the bats.  I volunteered to be Room Mom in his class- I might not do that again in the future.  I definitely underestimated how much work it was going to be.  I love art and crafting and creating, but in my own time.  I've been a little stressed out trying to get everything done for the upcoming Halloween Carnival, but today was a productive day and I'm feeling much better about it.

The plus side of sitting at the table drawing and painting for a few hours was that the kids all wandered around at one point or another to sit and chat with me.  Slim is powering though every book she can get her hands on by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series.  She loves how he often "writes in the first person, so he uses words like 'I' and I get to see the story through the eyes of the characters."  I love how she's expanding the way she thinks about and discusses books.

Mister came by and played for me his rendition of "The Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles on a ukelele.  Awesome.

Dear talked about some trouble she is having with a girl on her basketball team.  She feels like she's being bossed around, and it's hurting her feelings and kind of ruining basketball for her.  Honestly I'm more worried about Dear learning conflict resolution skills and how to function on a team than I am about basketball, so I'm taking a really passive role on this one.  I know Dear has trouble communicating, and I know this story has more than one side.  Still, I don't want to belittle Dear's feelings.  I listened with sympathetic ears and encouraged her to talk to the girl.  I think kids need to learn how to work these things out, and I believe they can!

While Dear was in basketball practice yesterday, I was watching Mister play with the kids who were in daycare and marveling at the social interactions taking place.  There were groups of kids trying to impress each other, groups playing complicated made-up games, children feeling left out, tears and all sorts of feelings flying around while they tried to work everything out.  It wasn't chaos- these were kids acting intentionally.  It occurred to me, maybe for the first time, how difficult it all is.  These children are navigating a whole new world, trying to balance self interest with empathy and consideration.  I could only imagine all of the different motivations that might have been playing out in their heads and hearts simultaneously- desires, fears, insecurities, guilt, advice they'd received, behaviors they'd observed in others and more.  It looked rough but it was also impressive.  These kids were TRYING.  They put themselves out there.  They allowed themselves to be vulnerable.  That takes guts.  I know kids can be mean sometimes but they can also be amazing

And isn't that how it is for adults, too?  We make mistakes, we make up for our mistakes...  

My little realization yesterday afternoon both reaffirmed my faith in my children's capabilities, as well as my sympathy for them.  Growing up is awesome and terribly hard at the same time.  Still, I can't do it for them.  It's only going to get more difficult for a while.  In the girls' near future: relationships.  Like... romantic relationships.  Hopefully we won't have too much to worry about for at least a few years, but who knows.  I can offer advice that probably won't be followed, and give them a shoulder to cry on when it doesn't work out.  I can be here, and listen patiently.  

Mostly patiently.  

Most days.  

**This has been Day 23 in 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 22, 2013


We do early bedtimes around here.  Mister hits the sack at 8, and the girls follow a half an hour later.  During the summer we tried to move Mister's bedtime back, but he was overly tired all the time.  He can handle staying up late for special occasions, but if he stays up past 8 a few nights in a row, he starts to fray and fall apart.  The girls could probably handle staying up until 9, but I'm done at 8:30.  They go to bed and talk quietly in the dark for a little while, and pass out around 9 or 9:30.

Bedtime was tremendously stressful around here for a long time because Dear couldn't handle it.  I don't know why- maybe all of the anxieties she couldn't cope with during the day came to a head at nighttime and she panicked.  It also may have been because children that come from a traumatic home typically suffered many of their traumas at night.  Whatever the reasons may have been, a few nights a week for the first couple years we had the kids, Dear had a mental breakdown and would cry and yell and kick the wall.  That pattern led to my own bedtime anxiety because every night I would wonder if she was going to do it again, and if I was going to be able to handle it.  Not only was bedtime terrible, but guess who got up at the crack of dawn every day, too!  Nobody slept much those first couple of years, because when Dear was awake she made sure everyone was awake.  It was rough.

There wasn't any one important thing that worked to solve the problem.  We did a lot of things- a consistent bedtime routine, chamomile tea, stories and/or songs.  She continued to go through counseling, and we continued to work on helping her with expressing her feelings during the day.  Eventually the tantrums just kind of petered out, and now it's been months since she's had one.  Like anything else my kids have learned, I think we've done some things right and some things wrong, but given enough time they've figured it out anyway.

It's hard to be patient when you're in the thick of it.  I can't even tell you how many nights I told Chris, "She has to stop now because I CAN'T do this one more night!"  I was wrong, though.  I did it many more nights.  By the time we got to the last few tantrums I didn't even worry about it anymore, because I could see it going away.  I'd be willing to bet my lack of anxiety helped them go away faster, too.  

Now, Mister says goodnight and gives everyone a smooch, (pets included), and Chris takes him upstairs to play him a song and tuck him in.  The girls finish up with their showers and brushing their teeth, and then they sit and talk to me for a little while.  It's not planned or coerced, and some nights they'd rather wander back upstairs and putter around their room until bedtime.  But most nights there's a sense of winding down, nobody wants to get started on anything new, and we just kind of sit around the living room.  I might have a book or some knitting in my hands, but I'll stop reading so I can listen.  Dear shows me what she's learning in math, and tells me about her friend who's been really upset because she doesn't get it.  Slim talks about her history class and how she "basically already knows pretty much everything they're talking about."  It's not always about school, though.  Sometimes they talk about sports, or art, or family.  It's never too heavy- a popular topic around here these days is 'what I want for Christmas and/or my birthday,' since those are all coming up.  There are so many distractions and responsibilities during the day, sometimes this is the only time when everyone is relaxed enough that we can sit and visit about whatever we want.

I am grateful for this moment in our lives when this is what bedtime looks like.

**This has been Day 22 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 21, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

Well, we're a little over halfway through the month and I pretty much dropped the ball on my 31 Days Series around here.  It happens- things get in the way, and we were busy.  I've already forgiven myself. I'm just going to pick it right back up again.  On the plus side, even though I didn't write about it for a few days, I did get to do a lot of fun stuff with my kids.

"Look Jeska, my fingers look like Grinch fingers!"

"And when I put them by my head, it makes my head look really big."

We decided to decorate the floor, mostly because he wouldn't hang up where we wanted him.  Also, we thought this looked funny.

He rocks ladies dollar store sun glasses, because they only last a couple of weeks before he loses them.

Wearing all red to the farmer's market, because we had a themed birthday party to attend later that day.

We also took a trip to the library, played some basketball, played one of my favorite board games with Slim and a couple of our friends, and Dear and I baked an apple pie.  She likes to cook, and we're trying to use that to help her brush up on her math skills.  Plus, then we get to eat pie!

Yesterday morning we did one of my all time favorite fall activities, and we took a trip to the pumpkin patch!

Mister enjoying the petting zoo.

Dear and her cousin, my nephew, J.

My niece A, taking a ride.

If you want it, you have to carry it to the cart- a great way to offset the cost of pumpkins by the pound.  Mister doesn't mind, he likes to do things for himself anyway.

J looks up to Slim, and follows her everywhere.  Unfortunately, at this time in her life, she doesn't quite appreciate it like she should.

Slim leaning on Poppi, my dad.  She's an affectionate girl.

Even you, A!  If you want it, you carry it!  (I may have cheated with her toward the end there.  My sister-in-law forgave me.)

Sharing the load, begrudgingly.  They both wanted to pull it by themselves.  They call each other "brother", and they bicker like brothers, but they love each other.

Normally, I struggle to keep their faces out of the picture I share here.  Partly because they're adorable, but partly because it gets tricky trying to come up with new ways to take a photo without a face.  At the pumpkin patch, though, it was easy.  They were all constantly running away from me in all directions, because they were so excited, I mostly got pictures of the backs of their heads anyway.  We had a good time, and next weekend we get to carve those pumpkins!  I love this time of year.

**This has been Day 21 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 16, 2013


Tonight at dinner Dear said, "You know what my teacher said to me?  She said 'Are you adopted?  Because you don't look like your parents."

We've had to deal with people asking inappropriate questions SO MANY TIMES I couldn't list them all now if I wanted to.  We just don't match our kids- we're young and our kids look even older than they are because they're so tall, and people have no boundaries.  I get it- people are curious.  They don't assume there is some kind of uncomfortable situation, and they ask questions without thinking about it.  And I don't mind questions!  I like talking about my family and I like talking about our kids.  The thing is, I HATE questions in front of my kids, because it makes them uncomfortable.  They just want to be left alone.  They're still pretty insecure about their past, and they deserve to choose for themselves what information they share and with whom.  Who?  Whatever.

So at times when strangers ask invasive questions, I get annoyed pretty fast.  Then I try my best to mask my annoyance and change the subject.  Nope they're mine!  So anyway...  I felt anger rising inside me when Dear said that.  I was contemplating the best way to bring it up with her teacher.  I didn't want to lose my temper and ruin every interaction with her from here on out.  It didn't even make sense anyway!  Dear's teacher knows exactly what her situation is!  She knew it last year, when she had Slim in her class.  We've talked about it many times!  Beyond being inappropriate it was illogical.

Then it occurred to me.

Dear is a terrible story-teller.

I've noticed it when I've listened to her telling other people stories that happened when I was there, and she told it all wrong.  I've noticed it when she's told me stories that just didn't make any sense.  She leaves out important information.  She phrases things in misleading ways.

So I asked her, trying to stay nonchalant, "What exactly did your teacher say, anyway?"

"Well," she said, "I told my friend Julie* that I don't live with my birth parents, because she doesn't live with her birth parents either.  Then today she said to our teacher 'Did you know Dear doesn't live with her birth parents?' and our teacher said 'Oh.' But I could just tell what she was thinking."

GEEZ that's a different story.

Kids.  Take everything they say with a grain of salt.  Or a lot of salt.  Lots and lots of salt.

*Julie's name isn't really Julie, but it works for our purposes.

**This has been Day 16 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 15, 2013

Fall Bunting and Decorating Together

I wasn't always a big fan of festive holiday bunting.  I didn't have anything against it, I just couldn't see buying it when it'd be so easy to make, and I never felt like making it.  It's so easy though!  It's cute, it's fast, and it's a great way to use up scrap materials.  I love the satisfaction of starting and finishing a project in under an hour.

I knew which materials I planned on using, so I pulled them out and played with them until I found a combination I liked.  I used a stencil to spell out fall on the burlap.

This is the paint I used, but I imagine any paint with enough heft would do the trick.  Washable kids' paint would probably be too thin, and wouldn't show up on the burlap very well.  It took a pretty thick layer of this stuff to coat the burlap.

I sewed birthday bunting a couple months ago, but this time I opted for the simplicity of a hot glue gun. I laid the triangles in a row upside down, taking care to make sure 'fall' would be oriented correctly when looking at the bunting from the front.  I just estimated on the distance between the triangles- another great thing about bunting is there's no wrong way to do it.

I like how it came out- cute and simple.  Both Chris and Dear asked me if I was going to make one to spell out every season of the year.  I think they're making fun of me!

Our box of Halloween decorations has been sitting on the living room floor for about 4 days now, and Mister asks every day if we can put them up.  So this evening, in between dinner clean-up and showers, we took a few minutes to decorate together.

I love decorating for the holidays, and the kids have whole heartedly adopted the tradition, too.  Today was kind of a rough day, (traffic, missing homework, nobody following directions, pouting because oh my god I have to clean out my backpack?!)  So putting out the Halloween decorations was the one thing that worked for us today.  Those were our ten solid minutes together- ten minutes when everybody was happy all at the same time.  Some days are tough, and I think ten minutes is perfectly respectable for a Tuesday.  Or heck- for any day!  Because there are 5 people living in this house, and growing up is hard and parenting is hard and ALL 5 of us happy together for a full 10 minutes?!  I think that's pretty good.

**This has been Day 15 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 14, 2013


Something strange has been happening around here lately.  The girls want to play by themselves.  It's relatively new.  Mister is not into it, and without them to play with, he follows me around a lot.  It drives me nuts sometimes, but I also appreciate it.  I love him, and I'm going to miss when he doesn't want to spend so much time with me anymore.  I'm going to miss when, no matter how many empty seats are in the room, he has to sit on top of me to read his book.

On top of them entertaining themselves more often, the girls are both old enough to play on the basketball team at school this year.  Since we live a full 30 minute drive from the school, and I'm not really keen on paying for daycare if I don't have to, that means an hour and a half for Mister and I to spend together at the school while his sisters have practice 4 days a week.

After he finished his homework, there was only one thing he wanted to do.  It's pretty much the only thing he ever wants to do, if he has access to a ball and a wall.

Kick the ball against the wall- over and over and over again.  When I look at these pictures of him mid-kick, I can't believe he doesn't fall over every time.  He kicks it high up there, too.

The flip side of this extra time spent with Mister is less time with either of the girls.  I know it's a natural part of growing up.  In fact, we've been looking forward to it.  For the last couple of years it's been exhausting having all three of them following us around from room to room, competing for attention, every waking hour of EVERY day.  

We were told, and so we told ourselves, it was part of the attachment process.  It helped them learn to trust us, and develop a sense of security.  We told ourselves it wouldn't last forever, but I don't think I believed it.  Now everything's changing so fast, and it's all fabulously "typical," but it's also kind of sad. We only just got them, (I say about these real individual people that I totally know are individuals and not mine), and now they're growing away from us.  

It's really way too early for me to worry about this stuff.  They're totally still here and dependent and I've got years before they really pull away- years before they can do horribly scary things like drive.  Still- this is the beginning.  I can just tell.  And I don't want to wait until they're teenagers to argue with them about spending time with me.  I'd rather put the effort in now, and hope they come back to me on their own when they're older.

I'm not going to smother them in planned activities.  I'm grateful for quieter evenings around here and less interruptions when I'm in the bathroom.  I'm going to make more of an effort with them, though.  If they don't follow me around anymore, I guess I'll have to seek them out in their room more often.  I just want to make sure our relationship is solid, so as they gain more independence, they have a solid foundation to fall back on.

**This has been Day 14 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 13, 2013

Apples and Tomatoes

We played a little catch up today.  I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  Does anybody else have trouble getting back into the swing of things after being sick for a week or so?  Like A LOT of trouble.  I wish I was one of those people who woke up after a week of rest and was pumped and excited to get back to it!  Those people exist, right?  Can those people come to my house?  I'm going to take a nap...

Mister and I did some tomato picking together- in October.  I thought tomatoes were a summer crop.  I shared a picture of our haul over on Instagram.  If the weather holds out, I think we might get one more just like it in about a week.  

I think that maybe my favorite thing he does right now is rush up to the back door all dramatic and breathless to say "Jeska, I got a really big surprise for you," before showing me a mushroom or a tomato or a flower.  He won't always get so excited every time he finds something growing, and I want to remember when he did.

Toby's an excellent helper when it's time to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I guess if I were a more disciplined dog owner I probably wouldn't let him do this.

After lunch, the kids caught up on their correspondence.  

I love reading what Slim writes sometimes.  I think she's better at expressing herself on paper- I'm often impressed by the depth and honesty when I read her letters.  Other times, her letters are just adorable.  Today they sent notes and Christmas/birthday wishes to my mom, and thank-you notes to an Aunt who sent us an impromptu gift in the mail recently.  Dear told me she was going to write "really long essays" for her letters.  In her attempt to live up to her promise, she copied down her entire schedule for her upcoming basketball season in her letter to my mom.  She makes me laugh.

In between helping the kids with their letters, and supervising some art cabinet clean up, Chris and I got around to a few things we'd been postponing in the kitchen- the most time consuming of which was making applesauce.  We got a 20 pound box of apples at the farmers market, and turned about half of it into applesauce.

Homemade applesauce is really easy to make, and it tastes about one thousand times better than store bought.  We don't even eat applesauce except for in the fall when we make it at home.  The only really annoying part is peeling all of those apples.

I use this recipe, because I've tried it and I love it, and it's simple.  I don't think it's approved for canning, though, so if you're a canner you should check another source.  I've been told you can can applesauce (there's great writing for ya), but I've yet to look into it myself.  I just put my extra jars in the freezer.  From 8 pounds of apples I got 5 pint jars of applesauce.  I'll probably make another batch before the apples disappear for the season, but who knows if I'll have the time (or motivation). 

We're all feeling better, just in time for basketball season, pumpkin patch visiting, fall decorating, a birthday party, a Halloween Carnival, and a Halloween party.  Whew.

**This has been Day 13 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 11, 2013

A Moment to Remember

Inspired by SouleMama, "A Friday ritual.  A single photo- no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment..."

**This has been Day 11 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 10, 2013

Sick Day

He's had a cold all week, and he's just not been getting better.  He's been coughing and sniffling, and he comes home from school with flushed cheeks and zombie eyes.  He plays hard at school, even if he doesn't feel well.  I kept him home today.  When the whole family is together, it can be a lot of fun, but there's something to be said for one on one time.  It's easier to see them- when you look at them one at a time.  It's easier to hear their stories.  

**This is Day 10 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid

Oct 9, 2013

Learning to Read

Dear finished her first chapter book today!

That is a BIG deal for us- for her!  She's started many many many chapter books, but she's never finished one.  Until today!  It was the Great Illustrated Classics version of Alice in Wonderland.

We were so worried about her for such a long time.  The girls missed a lot of school in the early years of their lives.  Mister was only 3, but Dear was just finishing up 1st grade when she went to live with my in-laws, and Slim was finishing up 2nd.  (For more information about that, I suggest you go here.)  Everybody is different- everybody learns differently and everyone copes with trauma differently.  For Slim, after starting up the 3rd grade and going to school every day and coming home to a safe place, she blossomed academically.  She loved to read.  She made great strides catching up, and has kept up ever since.  She still has problem areas, namely math and namely with her attitude, but she does ok.  Dear was a bit of a different story.

She just about couldn't read at all in the beginning.  She could read some words, but not many, and when you tried to sit down and read with her she just wouldn't do it.  She would shut down- no talking and staring straight ahead.  She was weird and evasive.  You never could tell which words she did know and which ones she didn't, because she was inconsistent.  And for years, she didn't get better.  Or rather, she improved at a snails pace.  For months nothing would change, and then all in one week she'd get just a little bit better- then months of more of the same.

Looking back, we probably should have just read to her more.  We should have read to her all the time, like you would a toddler.  I don't mean that in a condescending way, it's just how it is sometimes with kids who have rough beginnings.  In many ways Dear was kind of stuck around age 3, she just didn't really mature past that point.  In hindsight there are many things we could have done differently, but in the moment we just didn't know!  I mean we kind of panicked- what do you do when your second or third grader can't read and shows no signs of picking it up?  What if she never learned?  How would she survive?  We tried to get help from the school but OH. MY. GOD.  I could write an entire book on that struggle alone.

Yet, somehow, ever so slowly, she did learn.  I don't know how it happened, and I don't know when it happened.  It seems to be that way in this family.  I can look back at where we were 2 years ago and tell you that we were in a wildly different place then, but I couldn't tell you how we got to where we are now.  I think it's an amalgamation of many small choices combined with time, lots and lots of time, that leads to great change.

We switched the kids to a new school, a better school *cough cough*.  We read WITH her, we read TO her, we read IN FRONT OF her- we tried not to fight with her and totally did fight with her.  I'm sure we did many things wrong, but SHE LEARNED!  And today, while waiting at the dentist's office for her turn in the chair, she finished her first chapter book, and I cheered.

Does anyone else feel amazing the first time they realize this kid that couldn't read before CAN read now?  I still do the same thing with Mister every time he reads something- because he can read!  He couldn't do that before and he can now!  Not just 'cat' and 'dog' and 'the'- hard words!  Like 'could' or 'might' or whatever because he can read!  Sometimes people chuckle at me when I get excited about it- I can only imagine because they're thinking yeah, he's supposed to be able to do that.  I can't help it.  Slim can read and Dear can read and Mister can read and it's amazing.  The human brain, the resilience, the determination- I'm not sure what it is that I'm so impressed by but I am simply GIDDY that all three of my children can read.

**This has been Day 9 in 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

Oct 8, 2013


I'm feeling pretty under the weather this week.  Mister has it, too.  I'm trying to decide if I want to keep him home from school tomorrow.  Slim had it last week, but if she felt like I do, she handled it a lot better.  This has been my camp during the afternoons the last couple of days.

Water, computer, blankets, pillows.  Mister came in to show me his muscles.  All 3 kids are great at eating healthy foods.  If Mister is ever unsure, we just tell him it will make him strong.

Dear is acting up a little.  She always does when I get sick.  Maybe she feels a little neglected?  She's so much better at coping now though, compared to how she used to be.  Now, she just needs a little acknowledgment.

I asked her what she thought parents did when they don't feel good and their kids are acting up.  Slim chimed in with "Send their kids to bed?"  Which is totally what I was going to say!  Smarty pants, she makes me laugh.

Everyday moments, cuddling, remembering to laugh out loud when one of the kids says something funny- that's the best I can muster when I don't feel well.

**This has been Day 8 of 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.