Thursday, May 31, 2012

Labor and Delivery

I mentally prepared for our moving date by reminding myself that it was going to a lot like having a baby: a marathon of hard work and then weeks of recovery.  The labor began on Wednesday when the packers arrived.  Thursday morning, the girls and I packed up and headed to my mom's for the day and night.  The girls did amazing on the hour and a half drive.  Ana fell asleep shortly after departure and Tali only required one potty stop.  We pulled down a quiet road.  We could have used the potty chair that I keep in the van but I just held her over the grass.

When we arrived at my mom's, I just propped the door open while I carried our stuff in the house.  The girls were getting along quite well until Christiana closed Tali's fingers in the piano cover.  Ouch!  We found a note saying that my mom had arranged for a babysitter to come and help out after school.  It was a little hectic when she arrived because the girls were just waking up from naps and were very out of sorts and crabby.  But in no time, they had warmed up to her and my mom and I actually had a few peaceful moments to talk in the kitchen.  That never happens!  Mike and I don't even get quiet moments to talk.

I anticipated that the girls would have difficulty sleeping since we were in a new place and they've never stayed over night any where but home.  They have also been sick so they woke up coughing and they're at the point of potty training where they are beginning to wake up to use the bathroom.  So not much sleep that night.

In the morning, Mike texted me asking if we had anything for poison ivy.  Tony was pretty uncomfortable.  My mom kept the girls minus Julia while we went to closing.  The elderly couple we bought the house from were so sweet and funny.  Lots of good love in the house!  They've been married for 65 years(or maybe 66.  There was some debate).  Then we went to house to direct the movers.  They were able to back the semi up tp the garage again without any problems this time.  It was a bright clear day too.

After a couple of hours, I was really feeling awful and my mom called to say that Tali was looking pretty droopy and seemed to need a nap.  So I excused myself and went back to the house to put the girls and myself to bed.  Mike was a little concerned about directing the movers by himself but it had to be done.  Tyler had come with to drive Mike's truck here.  Mike drove his work truck.  Tyler was really sick and so I brought him back to my mom's to sleep too.

After naps, my nephews, the new babysitter and her brother and my mom all headed over to the new house.  The movers we done and had left.  My sister and sister-in-law met us there.  We left Tyler sleeping at my mom's.  My sister brought pizzas and we started unpacking the kitchen while the rest of the crew headed to the park.  It was so strange. I hardly saw my kids that afternoon.  They even had Julia over at the park for a long time.  My sister and SIL got the kitchen mostly unpacked and found the pizza cutter and something to use for hot mitts.  They kept asking me where to put stuff but it really didn't matter. It was fine for them to just put it somewhere and I would rearrange later.  My brother came after work too and helped get the lawn mower started.

It was fun and crazy and busy but good.  We got the girls to bed later than usual but it was fine.  Tali is in the closet of the girls room.  We leave the door open but she is the most easily disturbed so having a little distance is good.  Amanda and Julia slept in there with her and Ana slept in a toddler bed in our room.  The rooms are so much bigger than the ones at home.  The second night, I moved Ana's bed in with the other girls and laid down in Amanda's bed to nurse Julia when the other girls needed to go to bed.  Then I lay Julia down once everyone has fallen asleep.

I'm pleasantly surprised by how well everyone sleeps in the same room.  Everyone doesn't necessarily sleep through the night but when one wakes up they don't wake the others and when I get up to leave the room, they don't wake up either.  In general, the move has gone much smoother than I had expected.  Now, if we could just all get better and start enjoying ourselves a bit more that would be fun.  I have a similar sore throat to the one I had after to Julia was born complete with losing my voice.

My grandma is doing great!  She's been up and walking by herself.  They are attempting to have her at home but she's like a toddler always trying to get up and get into things.  We'll see what works out.  I'd love to help up more but with two toddlers of my own, I have my hands full!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We've survived Day One of packing.  The packers arrived about 45 minutes before our neighbor came to take the girls.  Ana was terrified and I could not walk more than two feet away from her.  When I finally got down to the laundry they had already packed up my dirty laundry.  Ha!  I did ask him to unpack it.  Some of it was a little wet and it will be a few days before I can get it done again.  They moved really quickly and I tried to stay two steps ahead and save the things I needed.  I spent the day very anxious that they would pack something up that I really needed.  Like my shoes or purse or keys or something.  They were actually really good about asking about things they assumed we'd need.

I went and got the girls around lunch time to feed them and put them to bed.  I had asked the guys to pack the bedrooms first.  Everybody napped for a little bit.

By about 3 pm they had everything packed up and were ready to start doing some loading but it was pouring rain and thundering.  They decided it might be a good idea to try to back the semi up to the garage door so they could load without things getting wet.

Residential area.  Gravel road.  Pour rain.  Semi truck.  Hmmmm.  Can you picture the scenario?  Yep.  Bright orange semi truck jack-knifed in our driveway.  Nice.  The best part?  Mike just called the guys at the lumber yard and they came with the 1/2 ton pick-up and pulled the truck free.  I couldn't believe it.  Mike said they pull loaded truss trucks off muddy job sites on a weekly basis.

They did manage to get the truck backed up and loaded quite a bit of stuff.  It seems like there's still a lot left but they don't expect that to take very long.  We are sleeping in our own beds tonight.  Well, I really should be my own bed.  We won't have Internet until next week so I'll see you on the flip side!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Four Months

Happy four months, Baby Bug!
 Babies are so much fun!  Julia is no exception.  I think I enjoy each baby a little bit more.  Julia is very snuggly and "hugs" when I cuddle or "snuffle" her.  She is sleeping in the crib in our room now and usually sleeps for 11 pm to 8 am.  She has started sucking her thumb which so sweet.  She is becoming more mobile when she's laying on her back.  She kicks and squirms and can move quite a bit.  She's probably close to 20 lbs.  We missed her four month appointment because everybody has been sick around here.  She doesn't seem to like chocolate, broccoli or asparagus.  It's too bad because I really like those things but we have some rough evenings if I indulge.
She fell asleep easily tonight so I'm going to go join her.  One more day until the movers arrive.  And it's our 18th anniversary.  Mike came home and told me he's buying me a new house for our anniversary.  Ha, ha!  Funny guy!  Good night!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Uniforms

Amanda's birth family sends us money on her birthday and Christmas.  For a while we were just using the money for the basic things she needed but I knew they wanted us to buy her something special.  A couple of winters ago, I used Amanda's Christmas money to buy these dresses on clearance in varying sizes.   And then there were three girls.  And the there were four girls!

The little girls love to all match and given a choice, these were the dresses they chose.  Then I took a step farther and no longer give them the choice.  I got rid of most of their other dresses.  These are the church dresses.  This is what they put on every Sunday when we go to church.  They each have a pair of black legging and black shoes that go with them.  Lame?  Maybe.  But I think it's a brilliant sanity-saver.

But wait!  It's gets better.  Because these dresses are from Hannah Andersson, these same pretty, classic, feminine dresses are available in sizes all the way up to ones a teenager could wear.  And I have been able to find them on Ebay for the next size that Amanda needs and one that was smaller for Julia to wear this fall.

Okay.  So that little discovery wasn't exactly cost effective because now the little girls have matching summer dresses too. Technically Amanda was the only one who needed a summer dress but I was able to get rid of several more bags of the girls clothes.

The less stuff I need to sort, organize and find space for the better because in FOUR days the movers will arrive!!!  Eeek!  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The middle child

I often worry about giving enough time and attention to my middle son who was the baby for so long.  He doesn't complain, of course, but I feel bad that we rarely connect.  So, when he came to me one afternoon and asked to borrow my camera, I gulped and said, "Sure."  He came back with some pretty neat pictures and videos (and my camera in one piece.)  Totally worth the risk!

Tony is understandably upset about the move.  That's hard but I hope he forgives us sooner rather than later. He will be a junior next year and will be attending classes at the community college that is only a few blocks from our new house.  That's a very good thing since he'll need to ride his bike until he's able to get his license in October.  He did very well on the entrance exam and the school has an excellent engineering program which is what he is interested in pursuing.  In the long run, this move will provide him with more opportunities, but he's pretty unhappy about leaving his friends.  We do know plenty of families with kids his age, so hopefully we'll get him connected with new friends before too long.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, my Grandma had a fall and had been a little unstable since.  Last Monday, my mom took her to the ER because she couldn't feed herself or walk anymore.  Since, Ana's been getting up at 5:30 am anyways, we just decided to ride with Mike to work on Tuesday and spend the day visiting her.  Here's the story I shared with my family after we got home.

We got to the hospital yesterday around 9 am or so.  We were all a little shocked by the bruising on Grammy's face so Mike took the little girls out into the waiting room to color and have a snack. A gentleman from her church was there to give her Communion but she wouldn't wake up.  I stood by her and hugged her carefully and prayed some Rosary.  I changed the tv channel to EWTN.  Pretty soon a nurse came in and brought 4 folding chairs.  I sat down next to Grammy and wondered how long I could get away with leaving Mike in the waiting room with all four girls and just enjoying listening to Grammy breathing quietly. ;)

The girls started coming in and out the room and since they were getting used to the scene, I told Mike I could manage so he could go to work.  He called for a ride and was on his way.  The girls worked on puzzles, ate their snacks and colored.  The doctor came in and checked on her and asked about her. He told me that she had a very serious brain-bleed and he didn't expect her to last more then a couple days especially since she seemed to go down hill so fast and now couldn't be woken.  After I nursed Julia, I laid her at the foot of Grammy's bed while we watched the acrobat's video and danced around a bit.  She's in a nice big room at the end of the hall. It was very nice space to just hang out and be with her.

At precisely 10:30 am, she woke up and started looking around.  I asked her how she was doing.  She said, "Just fine."  I asked her if she wanted to hear the Rosary and she nodded.  Amanda was excited when she woke up and when over to talk to her.  I asked her if she wanted or needed anything and she shook her head.  Amanda and Ana held the Rosaries that were in the room.  Eventually Amanda let Tali have a turn.  I moved the rocking chair closer to Grammy's bed so we could see the tv better and be closer to her while I rocked Julia to sleep.  The middle girls were still a little afraid of her.  I don't remember having any specific conversations with Amanda but she was very knowledgeable and comfortable with Grammy's condition and destination (heaven).   She also kept asking if she had died yet.

Around 11 am, my sister came to eat lunch with us.  Grammy was awake and responsive to Christie.  Then the priest came to do the annointing.  Grammy was still awake.  We gathered around the bed and Amanda helped hold the oil.  (Their priest is so good about including the kids.)  I'm so glad we were there and got to be a part of the annointing.

Soon, Bonnie and Tristen came.  Bonnie did so great caring for her.  Bonnie said she was more alert and responsive than she had been the night before.  I took Ana and Tali out for a walk to the van to ger our lunch.  Bonnie worked on getting Grammy some lunch.  She helped her sit up and get her adjusted.  Grammy was hungry and wanting to eat.  Bonnie helped her eat about 1/2 banana and drink some water.  Then Bonnie, Tristen and Amanda went to the cafeteria to get their lunch. By the time Grammy's food came, she had fallen back asleep and the kids were getting squirrely so we needed to go.  We told the nurses that she'd need help eating.  It was about 2 pm.  

It reminded me of so many family gatherings: sharing food, lots of kids and Grammy snoozing in the midst.  Amanda kept asking me, "Are you sure Grammy's sick?  Because she seemed just fine."  I agreed and I have wondered if she isn't going to fool us again and be healed.

 It was a nice visit and I'm glad we came and kept Grammy company for a while.

My mom has been keeping us updated since then.  During the week, she has still been responsive, eating, and they have even gotten her up for wheelchair tours of the hospital.  Saturday was a busy day for her since my cousin and her family and my aunt and uncle came from the Cities.  She's is now being moved from the hospice area of the hospital since she is no longer "eminently dying."  She is obviously on the decline; she's 92, but I just hope she holds on for several more weeks so we can spend come time with her when we get there.  

We have just 10 more days.  I don't have to do any packing but I wanted to do some organizing and purging before the movers came.  I'm beginning to accept that I just can do everything I want to or think that I should.  Especially since everybody's been sick including Mike and I.  For the same reason, I'm probably not going to be able to say all the "Goodbyes"  I had wanted to do.  Goodbyes are definitely the worse part about moving.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Toddler School

What to do with toddlers while trying to home school older kids is a pretty big question among teach-at-home moms.  I've read lots of great ideas but here's one I never considered:  Teach them to read.

We started using Reading Bear a couple of months back to help Amanda learn to read and to keep everyone busy while I was nursing the baby.  It was a while before I clicked on the [more] link on Reading Bear's home page that lead me to Larry Sanger's blog about teaching his toddler to read.  I still haven't read Larry's entire article but I have started using the free program with the little girls instead of just trying to have them keep quiet while Amanda goes through it.

Using some of the concepts I learned in the Madsen Method, this is how I have been engaging the little girls:

We listen to each presentation on the slowest speed.  We sound out the words with the program while either signing each letter or using the index finger of our right hands to touch each finger (starting at the thumb) as we make each sound.  Making learning multi-sensory improves the focus, retention and understanding.  It challenges their brains and tires them out.  (Bad behavior is often the result of under-stimulated kids at our house.)

Then I read and say the sample sentences when it is displayed on the screen and spoken. Then I encourage the girls to repeat the sentence with me once the picture is being displayed.  Speaking in unison with a class is an important skill and it's is challenging for them (and me) to remember the sentence that was spoken  and repeat it.  Amanda has really started reading and sounding out words since starting the program.  It's frustrating that English has so many rules and exceptions though. She has learned so much but in reading a short book, she comes across so many word challenges.  She is really motivated to keep trying.

One of the things, I learned from Madsen is to ask kids a question and then give them the answer and have them repeat it after you.  I don't let Amanda struggle with a word or answer to a question very long.  If she's struggling, I will begin to help her sound things out.  This has led her to ask me not to say anything and let her try on her own.  If I had demanded that she do it by herself (like I did with Tyler), she would have become frustrated and wanted to quit.

Yesterday, I had the idea to go through the presentation on the slowest setting but with the sound off.  Then Amanda got to be the teacher and led the sounding and signing of each word.  She has many of the sample sentences memorized but some of them I would pause so that she could sound them out.
One of the important things I missed yesterday in the process was quitting when she lost interest.  For a while, I kept trying to get her to come back and try to finish reading the sentences to us but then realized what I was doing.  I wanted to complete the presentation (because I like closure and completion) but it's so important to follow their clues and not make it a battle.  So, I took over the teaching role and signed and sounded out the rest of the presentation for the little girls.  The little girls like closure too and don't like me to quit the program before it ends.

I have also been employing another principle I learned from Madsen.  When we are going through a presentation, I don't allow non-script conversation.  This means we only say and do what is played and displayed on the program.  Amanda likes to chat about the picture that is displayed and often misses the beginning of the next word.  Not allowing her to chatter cuts down on the distractions and confusing messages to her brain.  Sticking to the script is important for students and teachers.  It means she does not talk back or argue and I don't get side-tracked by scolding or admonishing.  Both of those things hinder learning and damage relationships.  I do need to remember to go through them sometime with the specific purpose of looking at and talking about the pictures.

We've also started using flash cards.  In the Madsen Method, they are called Quick Response Cards.  We have a set of the McGuffy Readers and each lesson lists the new words at the top of the page.  So, I just made flash cards of the words contained in the lessons.  We'll work with the flash cards for a while and when Amanda's really fast with them we will sit down and read the lessons.  The reader has five lessons and then a review so that's how I've grouped the flash cards for now.  I thought I would just go through the first set with her but she wanted to see all of the cards I had made so far.  I don't know if it's me or her but she sure seems more enthusiastic to learn and practice than my first student.  I down-loaded the flash cards from Larry's site but have not been able to print or view them yet due to software issues that I keep forgetting to ask Mike to resolve.

I know I've talked a lot about Amanda, but what about the toddlers?  Well, they are just in the background much of the time absorbing and repeating what Amanda is doing according to their abilities.  Ana really wants to learn to sign and tries to copy.  Tali just watches quietly and will sounded out and speak up when she can.  I don't allow them to chatter or talk during the presentations either.  They are welcome to join in a speak along but not allowed to be a distraction.  Since I'm usually nursing when we're going through the presentations, I don't have two free hands to teach and demonstrate the signing or finger touching.  Maybe I  should have Amanda teach them.  That would be a great activity while they are waiting for me to get food on the table.

So, I'm feeling a lot better about the progress we're making with school or rather my ability to stimulate Amanda's brain like she has been craving.  It will be interesting to see how the little girls progress but for now I'm just happy to have found a way to teach Amanda that is engaging for the little girls.

The final resource that we have been using from Reading Bear is the Power Point presentations that Larry made for his son.  Discovering those was like getting a whole new bunch of library books.  They are like children's picture books only I don't have to try to hold the book, make sure everyone can see, and try to turn pages while nursing the baby.  There is a wide range of educational topics that will expose the girls to science, arts, history and geography.  Hopefully there's some math and grammar there too.  I haven't looked at them all yet.

I think we are going to be doing a lot more of our school work on the computer with this second round of kids.  There is so much great material available on-line and it will really reduce the amount of clutter in the house.  I'm may actually be ready to give up my set of 1978 Encylopedias. ;)

I still plan to use the Madsen Method to teach the girls to write when everyone is a little older and I'm not spending so much time in the nursing chair.

Here are the links again:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I guess I can't.  I'm sorry if you can't see the video.  I don't know what happened to it. I don't know how to find the post to edit it. Ugh!  It was of the little girls hugging and singing.  Too bad.

23 days until moving.  Mike hasn't allowed me to do any packing since his company is hiring movers to pack for us.  I want to organize stuff but now that I think about it, is is kind of silly because the stuff I want to organize and/or purge isn't even my stuff.  Oh, wait.  Now I remember why I want to do it.  Because I have felt some what crippled over that last few years when the men have been responsible for caring for their own stuff.  Some one is always asking me, "Have you seen my ....?"  and I have no clue.

Julia is gaining weight faster than I am gaining muscle.  My back really hurts!

The neighbors just got two boxer puppies.  Whenever they are in their kennel and we are outside, the girls will go over and visit them.  Ana is getting more and more brave around them.  Yesterday we were there playing on their swing set when she came out to let them inside.  As we were chatting, she opened the kennel and clipped leashes on the puppies.  It was Tali who freaked out when she saw the puppies were out of the kennel.  Ana didn't react at all.  Yeah!  Good progress!

Amanda started swimming lessons.  It's funny because we were afraid she would be too shy and clingy which is why we didn't doing any classes sooner.  In her swimming class and skating class she has been the loudest and most outgoing and sometimes a little too silly.  She argued with her skating coach that she wanted to be in the lower class with the younger kids who could barely skate because they got to play games and not just practice skating.  Funny girl.

Naptime is over!