She is officially a three-year-old! Part of me cannot believe almost two years have passed since she joined our family, but the other part of me just knows her as always being here. Our family is complete with her, and I love being her mama and watching her grow. It is difficult to say whether she experienced a bigger transformation this past year or the year before. Regardless though, each year with our precious girl just gets more awesome. She makes my life brighter and I can see God's handiwork in her every single day (even when she's throwing a temper tantrum!). She is sassy, loud, sweet, and funny; and she always has a big, crashing hug for my legs. She bursts with energy and talks a mile a minute (much of which I am still trying to decipher). She is smart. Oh so very smart. She knows what she wants and does what it takes to get it. And she is always willing to lend a helping hand. She is my girl, and I love her to the moon and back. Happy Birthday sweet Sunshine, I am excited to see what this next year holds for you my little love!
Monday, May 27, 2013
My friend, Kelly, so graciously let us crash her family beach stay this weekend. We needed it. Like really needed it. It truly was just what the doctor ordered. Maybe more for me than the kids. But regardless, I am so thrilled with the friendships that were formed ... of course Kelly and I talked (a lot). But the kids ... oh the kids ... lots of new friendships were created! What a beautiful sight to witness! Between getting soaked in the ocean, building sand castles, collecting sand crabs, hitting boardwalk rides, exploring outdoors, playing wii and every i-thing you could imagine ... ohmygoodness, it was pure bliss. And that doesn't even include the talks I shared with Kelly (one lasting until 2am!). It was such a great weekend, and I am feeling so thankful for Kelly and her family. The kids are already asking about the next time we'll get to see them again.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Sometimes you just know instantly when you are going to be friends with someone. That's what happened with these two. They met on the first day of Kindergarten, and it was friendship at first sight. Although they hadn't seen each other in a year, being together today was just like they had never been apart. Her mom and I both agreed we needed to do a better job at getting the girls together ... and I really hope we do!
Friday, May 24, 2013
I will never forget when Melissa first contacted me about adoption almost two years ago. It's a total God story that I won't retell because Melissa did such a great job. But since then, an amazingly close, bonding friendship has formed between us. I'm so thankful for her and her adorable family, and am even more blessed to call her one of my very best friends. My kids adore her and I'm just in love with her little Giddy.
She and her family brought us dinner on Thursday night, and we had such a great time. It was really just what we needed! Melissa and I chatted for a bit afterward too - girl time is always a fantastic bonus to help bring you back to reality when you need it :-)
|Sorry, the lighting is terrible and the file is very noisy! But I love it anyway :-)|
Thursday, May 23, 2013
We've been doing a lot of visiting over this past week. Nana (my mom) came for a visit yesterday and this little scene was just too precious not to capture. I love that Sunshine can verbalize her desires now! I need to do an update on her speech progress sometimes soon. But suffice it to say, she kept Nana busy by asking her to draw many different kinds of things, including a cat, a dog, a flower, and her drinking cup. Oh this girl!
Monday, May 20, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
Sometimes you just need to dump the box of legos on the floor and CREATE. And this post reminds me that I need to snap some shots of Lovebug's lego creation that he put together by himself a few weeks ago ... I was so proud of him!
Monday, May 13, 2013
As we sat around my house yesterday celebrating Mother's Day (my 8th, whoa!) with family, I took a moment to meditate on the blessing of motherhood. Sometimes I cannot believe that God trusts me to raise these three precious beings whom I have the privilege of calling "mine." All three of them are so special and unique, and I love each of them in different ways for the little people they are. They all bring such joy to my life. Angel is my little "mama in the making," exploding with such compassion and love. Lovebug is my court jester, with a heart of gold that he uses to love and feel so deeply. And Sunshine is my fierce warrior, so strong and courageous, overflowing with love and hope. I see Jesus working through their young lives all the time. I am a better person because of them and my faith has been strengthened because of what they've shown me about unconditional love, grace, and life. I celebrate how much more my children have given me than I could ever possibly give to them.
Yesterday while thinking about this, I couldn't help but notice something God-breathed and simply beautiful. It was the way Sunshine was so comfortably a part of everything, as if she had just always been. She was happily climbing all over my dad as any grandchild would do. She was interacting with her 93-year-old great-grandma in a way that no one else could. She ran to each of her grandparents effortlessly, squealing their names with delight. She played with and chased around her brother and sister as any sibling would. She wrapped her little arms around her daddy's neck so sweetly as he carried her around. And she laid with me on the sofa with such trust and security and love, as if I had always been her mama. It was the way it's supposed to be. It was breathtaking.
Almost two years ago, we brought her home to us forever. At the six-month mark, I thought things were good. At the one-year mark, I thought things were great. But almost two years home, oh my it just keeps getting better and better. The love that I have in my heart for this precious child has grown so big, it's overwhelming at times. It definitely had to grow and be nurtured, but it's very real and it is fierce. She is mine and that is amazing. This plan that God has for Sunshine and for our family is pretty awesome. And watching it unfold right before my eyes is truly remarkable.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Confession: I let the kids pollute their minds and watch Looney Toons while they eat lunch. I wish I could say I provide a stimulating, rich environment filled with educational opportunities while they eat ... but I don't. And I don't mind. Because it gives all of us a brain break, and gives me some time for me.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
As the school year (I use that term loosely because we are continuing a few subjects through the summer) comes to a close, I wanted to get my thoughts out about my first year as a homeschooling mama. There were soooooo many things I did wrong, but I do hope that, just maybe, I got a few things right. (Sorry, this is a loooong post!)
- This may seem obvious, but the choice to homeschool was a huge success for our family! Angel loves it and Sunshine is too young to know any different (but I can say with certainty that her speech has improved so quickly because I am able to work with her all day long). Lovebug still says he misses "school," but everyone in the family is still trying to convince him that traditional school is nothing like the structured playing he did in his half-day Pre-K class last year =) Angel knows better!
- Setting up a separate school room was a necessity for our family. I know not all families need this or have the capability to do it, but it was essential in making the switch from traditional school to homeschool for us. Having a separate, organized, and cheerful space with individual desks was really key for us being able to maintain a "school" environment to ensure we got our work completed. Maybe I needed the separation more than the kids, who knows. But it was a huge helper for making things run more smoothly and kept all of our schooling stuff nice and organized.
- Being flexible with (i.e., totally scrapping) the schedule I had intricately mapped out was so important. I had incorrectly thought I needed to plan blocks of time using workboxes for each subject. It worked so much better to give the kids a list of what needed to be done (I used Homeschool Helper App), and let them do it in the order they wanted. The exceptions were that fun history and science projects were done only when all of the other work was completed first. This worked especially well for Angel, who did a lot of her work independently, only getting me when she needed help. If I was working with Lovebug or helping Sunshine with something when Angel needed help, she just moved onto something else until I could help her (or I recently started keeping a fun chapter book available to read at her desk too). Vice versa for Lovebug - I'd give him work to do that didn't require help while I helped Angel (the Ooka Island computer game was great for this when he was finished his other independent work). I also kept separate activities put up and out of reach for Sunshine to be played with only during school time. I set her up at the green table and she was good to go for a small window of time. This was helpful with keeping her occupied when I needed to work with the older two. It wasn't perfect and there were plenty of days that simply did not go well, but it was pretty good overall.
- Joining our Classical Conversations community was absolutely a highlight of our school year. We loved everything about it, including the friendships we have made. Through some trial and error, I think we have a good system down for working on memorizing the grammar now. I didn't do a very good job in the beginning, but I am excited about implementing good memorization practices in the Fall. I think at least Angel is going to try for Memory Masters next year!
- Using CC as our curriculum base for history and science was a big success. I mostly used Story of the World for history and God's Design for Science for our science lessons, both mapped out to our weekly CC grammar (we skipped around in the books to fit what we were memorizing each week). I also used several other living books, especially when SOTW and GDS didn't have lessons that fit well. And then using multiple resources from other CC moms and pinterest, I picked different projects to go along with what we were studying. The kids loved doing different projects each week!
- The other curriculums we worked with this year were pretty awesome. I'm sticking with most of them for next year, which makes the english and math planning easy peasy (with the exception of switching Lovebug over the All About Reading). We are still going to be using CC for these subjects as well, but the CC memorization is in addition to the math and english curriculums we're using. I am planning to add in more art at home next year too. Angel loves art and to be honest, we didn't do a ton of extra art, other than the history art projects and what we did at CC. I'd like to work on a foreign language as well. We memorized some Latin at CC, but I didn't do anything with that this year. We think our family would be better served learning Mandarin, but I need to put that into motion.
Lessons to Learn From
- I didn't plan ahead enough in the beginning ... I learned my lesson the hard way because I do feel like I sort of floated through the first half of the school year. Especially with the Fall being my busy work season, we didn't do as many interesting things as I would have liked. I got my act together for the second half of the school year though and planned the whole thing over Christmas break. Although we didn't get to every project, things went much more smoothly and we were way more likely to do the hands-on stuff because it was already planned, along with all of the supplies already being purchased (I did that while planning). I planned for one science and history project a week (art, experiment, or hands-on activity). It didn't always happen, but we tried!
- We didn't start school at a regular time early enough. This one is ALL on me and was a big one. It is so easy for me to get caught up in answering emails or work stuff right after breakfast, and then before I know it, it's 10:00am and we haven't started school yet. I know that the beauty of homeschool is flexibility, but too much flexibility for me is not good. On the days when we started early (before 9:00am) and were finished by lunch, everyone was happy and so excited to have the rest of the day free! It set such a positive tone for the whole day. So a BIG goal for next year is to be disciplined and regularly start at about 8:30am.
- Along the same lines, I struggled with time management. I'm pretty sure every homeschool mama will relate. Juggling multiple responsibilities is a bit overwhelming, and part of the answer is cutting back on work. It's such a fine balance, because I love homeschooling and I adore my job. And then trying to be the best wife I can be, finding time for me, for blogging, for Red Thread Sessions, for adoption/orphan care related activities, for household stuff, etc., etc., ... oy, it can be a lot.
- I was just getting my feet wet this year and felt a little overwhelmed on the academic side, so I will definitely be working on getting the kids involved in more extracurricular activities. Angel has been talking about gymnastics, Girl Scouts, and maybe softball next Spring. We also just bought her a violin and she starts lessons on Monday! Lovebug has been asking about Tae Kwon Do for longer than I'd like to admit, so I really want to get him involved in that. There is also a weekly homeschool gym at the Y that is very close to our house. It's drop-off AND in the afternoon - so I can drop the older two off, head home for Sunshine's nap time, and be back to pick them up when she wakes up. SCORE! We tried a homeschool gym at another gym and it was awesome (kids loved it!), but it was too far away and it took place in the morning, which was so hard with scheduling school time.
- I struggled with Bible study all year. It was quite frustrating because of all the things we are learning, my most important job is to teach them about God. The rest will fall into place, but I welcome the task gladly to teach the kids about their heavenly Father! I had a difficult time using our curriculum (which I really do love because it goes through the whole Bible systematically in three years and involves a lot of good memorization) because of the age range of my littles. Angel was very interested, Lovebug was somewhat interested but mostly indifferent, and Sunshine was usually creating distractions. It was really frustrating. I also tried a morning basket at breakfast for individual devotions - it worked quite nicely but we were hot and cold with using it. And although I love devotions, they aren't a replacement for Bible study. So I actually gave the Bible study curriculum a retry several weeks ago again, and by God's grace, it worked. And it worked well! We're several weeks into the Bible study and it's going ... great! We're reading straight from the Bible and everyone is sitting relatively quiet and paying attention! We all love the interactive timeline and for now, the whole study is totally working for us!
- Scripture memory was a big fail this school year. I was so focused on the rest of our academics that I didn't even try. But I know that hiding God's Word in their hearts is so very important! Learning from my mistake though, I put together a Scripture Memory box using Charlotte Mason's system and I am thrilled to say that we started using it this week! If you haven't checked out this system of memory work but want to memorize scripture (or anything else for that matter), go watch THIS VIDEO about how to do it. It rocks.
So anyway, I think that this first school year went very well overall. I pray that we were able to glorify God, and that we only continue to do so as the years go on. It must be a good sign that I feel like I could keep going and am not desperately waiting for the summer months to hit. I am even more inspired for next year and am excited about a few of the changes we'll be making too!
Monday, May 6, 2013
There are so many creative CC mamas out there that have adapted different memory ideas for CC. In fact, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to pinning these awesome ideas! I thought the Jenga review game was pretty cool. Playing Jenga while reviewing our grammar? Yes, please. I wanted it to be useable for all CC cycles, so I wrote the review questions by subject and week, instead of asking cycle-specific questions on each block. I used a sharpie to write directly on the blocks because I was afraid that using labels would make the game not work as well. And to conserve, most of the blocks have a subject/week on each side. Otherwise I would have needed to purchase 2 games. Using both sides, I was able to get all of the subjects/weeks on them (Latin weeks were combined). This idea could easily be adapted to any information that needs to be reviewed/remembered. I love how versatile it is!
Sunday, May 5, 2013
What a gorgeous group of kiddos. They represent five adoptive (or pre-adoptive) families from our church. This get-together was one of the awesome bi-products of our Orphan Sunday. Our new group, Chosen, is an adoptive/pre-adoptive/foster family support group. I love that ALL of us, adopted and homegrown, are chosen by our heavenly Father. Each of us unique and special. The name of our group couldn't be more fitting. Yesterday was our first event and judging by the smiling faces below, I'd say it was a success. The kids had so. much. fun. Sunshine is sporting her poker face look, but I promise she enjoyed herself immensely after she warmed up to the new faces. Parents thoroughly enjoyed themselves too with plenty of chatting while the littles were occupied.
There was a lot of playing and chatting, but the girls also spent some time working on creating artwork that will be sent to Chinese orphans at New Day Foster Home. Just about any reason to do arts & crafts is pretty good in my book. But sitting down with glitter glue and markers to hopefully bring smiles to the faces of orphans is pretty much awesome. We are looking forward to the next several events that have already been planned!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Sunshine's sweet Godmama got the kids Dr. Seuss's "Oobleck" story, along with the ingredients to make our own oobleck. After reading the story (which they loved!), we made oobleck. It's the strangest sensory experience. It's sort of a solid until you pick it up, and then it turns to liquid. I don't know any other way to explain it than that. Oobleck is easily turned into a homeschool science experiment, a sensory bin, or just an entertaining rainy day project. Sunshine was not a fan of this experience, but the older kids were absolutely fascinated. I think it was just a little too weird for her. She definitely laughed a lot and enjoyed herself, but was finished with it pretty quickly. I promise you though, most kids will love playing with this stuff!