Sunday, August 26, 2012

Baby B at 6 Months

You are half a year old! This month was uneventful as far as physical milestones go. You're still rolling around, still babbling happily, and still sleeping well. You had a cold this month, probably given to you by your foster brothers. The only new thing is that you spent most of the month drooling and chewing on everything in sight in efforts to get your two bottom teeth out. And you are starting to bear weight on your legs, something you never wanted to do before.

You are so happy and mellow. You smile at anyone who talks to you. Your favorite 'big brother' is Tommy - you watch him closely whenever he's around and you always have a big drooly grin for him. 

We just went on a five day long family trip to the San Diego area and you did amazingly well. During the long car rides, you played with your toys in your carseat until you dozed off, then took nice long naps. In the park you rode in the sling with me when you were awake and napped in the stroller. You were so easy!

I'm looking forward to introducing you to solid food this next month. You seem very interested in what we eat, and always try to grab my food when you sit on my lap during meal times. We'll have to see if you're interested. I'll probably start you off with avocado or banana.

Big brother Ben helping Baby B 'walk'

Foster Care Update:

We never wrote about some of the details of Baby B's case here. As new foster parents, we were super cautious about sharing any information beyond age and gender about her. Now that we have some perspective, we think it's okay to share a few bits, especially since they are so key to her case. So here goes: 

Baby B is Native American. Even though she was born in California, in the United States, our county has chosen to allow her tribe to have legal jurisdiction over her due to her Native American heritage. Thus the tribe has the right to put her into a Native American adoptive home. Mark does have some Native American heritage, but we don't have the documentation to prove it.

We have known from the beginning that there was the possibility, even likelihood, that Baby B would leave us someday. But we still hoped that she would stay. Now that we know that it's a certainty she'll leave, we're sad about it. We don't know when she's leaving, only that she is. It could be in a week, or it could be in two more months.

Please keep our family in your prayers: that Baby B's new adoptive parents would be willing to have an open transition process, and that we would be flexible and patient as we wait for the details of this case to be worked out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Legoland 2012

We had our big Legoland adventure this past week. We first went there two years ago when the boys were two and three. They had so much fun that of course Tommy asked, "When can we come back here again?" We told him we'd come back when he was five. Two years seemed like a really long time, so it didn't seem like a stretch to say we'd come back then. Well, when you're a grown up, two years flies by. Not so much when you're three and four. Over the past two years Tommy (and Ben) has asked no less then once a month "So, when are we going back to Legoland?". When he turned five (the magic Legoland age we put forth) the frequency went up to once a week. After a while I finally told him, "I promised you we'd go to Legoland when you are five and we will go to Legoland when you're five... don't ask again!" This seemed to help and they stopped asking about it. That gave us a nice cushion of time to surprise them with "Guess what! We're going to Legoland next month!"

The trip went exceptionally well, even with a baby in tow. The drive down took a whopping 12 hours but everyone did well in the car. We didn't even have to break out the DVDs (which we brought in case of emergency). We stayed at the park for four days to make sure that we tried out everything we possibly could. There was no crying, whining, or complaining - the fact that we saw so many children doing just that made our kids look like angels. The kids were basically pleasant the entire time - it was a blissful family trip.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Point Lobos

This weekend we went on a family outing to Point Lobos. It was misty and cool, a wonderful change from our crispy and hot hometown. The boys had a great time exploring caves and tide pools. Baby B did well in the Ergo, as we hiked all over the paths and rocks. We're working on our method of splitting up to both care for Baby B and at the same time spend time with the boys: often one parent would sit in the car with a sleeping baby while the other parent explored with the big boys. We haven't had very many outings together as a family of five, so we're still figuring all these details out!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First Day of School 2012

Yesterday was our first day of school. We started so early so that we can have more flexibility throughout the rest of the year to take time off when we need to. And because I've had about as much of summer as I can take. Ben is doing preschool and Tommy is doing 1st grade. He was supposed to do kindergarten this year. Earlier this summer I started planning out my school year for kindergarten and realized that Tommy had 'accidentally' learned about 80% of K material. Oops! That meant I had to switch mental gears and seriously consider doing first grade instead of K. I'm not a big fan of changing plans, so I took this decision very seriously. I researched what a first grader would be learning versus what a kindergartener would be learning. I gave him a 1st grade readiness test from a respected homeschool curriculum company (which he totally aced). In the end, I decided that it would be better for Tommy if we made the jump to 1st grade. However, one thing I need to keep reminding myself is that it doesn't matter so much what I call the grade; it is ultimately more important that I teach him according to his abilities and interests, not what a grade number says I should be teaching.

First Day of School special breakfast and gifts. Their gifts were "cool" pencils and an electric pencil sharpener. The sharpener was really for me; the hand-cranked one we currently own is quaint in theory, but in practice is a perfect place for crayons points to get jammed and for pencil shavings to explode from. I also conducted an interview where I asked the boys various school-related questions. 

Some gems from Tommy's interview:
What do you hope to learn about this year?: "Rocks, like what the clearest rock in the world is. And what the shiniest rock in the world is. I just want to learn all about rocks."
What do you want to be when you grow up?: "A builder."
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?: San Francisco 

And some from Ben's interview:
What do you hope to learn about this year?: "Really cool umbrellas." (huh?)
What was your favorite thing you did this summer? "Camping with our friends."
What can Mommy do to be a good teacher this year? "Be really kind to your kids. Which would be me and Tommy."

Our "schoolroom", which is also our dining room. It's perfect for school because of the long table and tons of wall space for maps and white boards.

I didn't plan on doing real work today. I thought we'd do all the fun "First Day of School" stuff, look at all the new books, go over the new schedule, and then they'd want to go outside to play. But they begged to start work. Being the nice mom I am, I let them do as much handwriting work as they wanted. Which turned out to be twenty minutes' worth. I'm soaking it up because I know the novelty will wear off soon enough!

Our tentative schedule. Each 'lesson' takes 10-15 minutes, so the whole school day should take no longer than 90 minutes (not including the break). I'll probably tweak this as time goes on and we work on our groove.

For those interested in curriculum details: 
This year (and probably for the next few years) I'll be focusing on the 3 Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. I used these three books to get most of my ideas for how to structure my schooling and what information to focus on:
The Three Rs by Ruth Beechick
A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

For Tommy I'm using Rod & Staff PenmanshipMath-U-See, and readers from the library for reading practice. In addition, he will be doing narration from Aesop's fables, scripture and poetry memorization, and we'll do read-aloud about science and history once a week. Realistically, it will probably be a lot more often then that, since science seems to be Tommy's favorite subject and since history is my favorite subject. Narration is one of those things that normally wouldn't be done every day, but it only takes a few minutes and speaking is an area that Tommy really needs practice. Ben will be tagging along with Math-U-See and in addition will be using the Explode the Code primer for reading/writing. Both kids will also learn about well-known classical music and artwork.

This post is mostly for my own benefit so I can remember how I did things and either laugh at myself in months and years to come, or remind myself of things that worked well for us. But I hope it gives others some good ideas as well. :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Swim Lessons

The boys had their last swim lesson of the summer this week. At the beginning of their lessons six weeks ago, they were both completely helpless in the water: couldn't swim, couldn't float, and didn't even like to be in the water. Ben actually yelled at his instructor for the entirety of his first four lessons (not a proud mommy moment). He complained about not wanting to go to swim lessons for the first few weeks, while Tommy couldn't wait for lessons.

At the end of twelve lessons, they are now very comfortable in the water. Ben stopped yelling at his instructor somewhere around the fifth lesson. Now they can jump in the deep end, float on their backs, and swim to the edge of the pool. Ben is pretty good at backstroke and Tommy is working on his freestyle stroke. I am so proud of them!