Thursday, July 30, 2015

Homeschooling Continued

I appreciate all the input on homeschooling and math. One thing I have come to learn as a parent is that sometimes we start to second guess ourselves and we feel as though we are screwing up our kids. Thankfully most of the time our kids survive our bumbling parenting.  I know that when I was a kid I thought that parents knew it all then I became one and realized that they actually didn't.

When Sarah was in the third grade she was in a self-contained classroom.  The school recommended that setting for her. By Christmas we started to think that perhaps that wasn't the best place for her and we had her moved back to the regular classroom with services for the fourth grade.  She has always struggled with reading and math, with math being her biggest struggle. For some reason a lot of people with neurofibromatosis struggle with math. When she went into the fourth grade she was given a calculator as one of her accommodations. Funny, when she got to algebra she was able to do that better than simpler math skills. She was able to pass the tests to graduate and went to a local community college.  Her SAT scores were low.  She took four math classes at the local school (I believe that two were prep classes based on admission testing). After deciding that she did want to do mission work she decided to go to Columbia International University.  That school only required one math course and she already had it.  She works hard to maintain her 3.0 but she is doing it.

With Larissa the struggle with math is worse than it ever was for Sarah.  I put her back into school last year because I thought that they could do better than I could.  We had gone back to the beginning in math and finally changed to functional math skills. However, she started the year off on 3rd grade level reading and by Christmas she was on 2nd grade level reading.  They weren't able to get any further than I was in math and I suggested that they start working on functional math skills like I had done the year before.  Lots of cooking (sometimes we triple recipes around here) and money skills. Once we started doing half days after Christmas her reading scores came back up to where she started the school year at.  She is just not able to function at school all day.  She was coming home and falling asleep on top of her homework and having seizures.

I have decided that it is time to just give her the calculator and move in another direction. I am not sure what curriculum I should do if going for more functional skills. Math shall be interesting.  In reading I am going to start her and Emma off on third grade level together. I talked to Larissa and told her that I expect her to work quickly and get to fourth grade.  Perhaps we will do some extra work next summer and try to catch her up again.  We will just work at her pace.  I don't plan on putting her back in school anytime soon. We need to resolve the seizure issues before I can even think about public school.  I am looking at a neurologist in Charleston.  That is quite a hike to see someone but I am just not getting any answers here in Columbia.

So now I am searching a different way and looking for functional math skills and how to proceed with using the calculator.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Homeschooling Challenges

I am having a hard time with deciding what to do with homeschooling.  Emma is easy.  She has no learning delays so I am doing the paperwork to have her do one of the online schools.  However, Larissa is more of a challenge.  We had tried the online school and she struggled so much that we took her out of that program and chose our own curriculum. On our own we were able to get her caught up in language arts (however she lost those gains once she went back to school).  Math is a totally different matter.  She will not be able to catch up in math.  Honestly I don't see her being able to take the graduation test in math. Her challenges with math are that severe.  Even the school didn't know what to do with her.

I have been told that the online school will give her online resource.  I know that means more work when she is struggling with stamina as it is.  She isn't going to the brick and mortar school because the program doesn't work for her.  Would it really make sense to put her in a virtual school based on that very same school.

How do I deal with the math issue?  What does that issue hold for her future education? We encourage all our kids to go to college.  Not all of them do but they have the capability to if they push themselves.  With her inability to do math she would not be able to succeed in college.  I am really frustrated and can't find anyone who can give me some good answers. If you don't fit a certain mold then the public education system isn't prepared to deal with you.

It is hard because she looks so healthy.  She looks and acts like there is nothing wrong with her. Last year the school didn't seem to believe that she had any challenges until I finally taped one of her seizures and showed them to her.

I have seen the impacts of those seizures this summer.  She went away to camp for three nights.  On the first day I got a call from the camp telling me that she had a headache and was not feeling well.  I know that this was the impact of not enough sleep and too much activity.  It was fun activity but that didn't matter, she struggled to do a full day of camp.

Last week the kids went to Winshape camp.  It was a day camp and the kids all loved it.  However, on the first day I got a call from a crying Larissa. She was only able to make it to noon before her headache set in. We did strategies for the rest of the week and she was able to finish out the week. However there was a cost.  We medicated her with pain reliever before she left, got as much sleep as possible, got permission for her to stop an activity and take a break when needed.  When I talked to them about her problems with stamina they looked at me like I was crazy.  Like I said, she looks so healthy. But she does have a debilitating condition. It is just not visible.

Back to schooling.  I have been putting it off all summer, what to do with Larissa and school.  I started the process for enrolling her in the virtual school but now I have serious doubts.  Any homeschoolers out there with suggestions?  Any homeschoolers with kids with special needs? I would love to have some input.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Diminished Lying

In our household it has been noticed that Michelle's lying has greatly diminished.  Even my moms caretaker has noticed it, the level of lying has dropped that much.  We have asked ourselves, why?

Obviously she decided to make a change. I asked her and she said that she was tired of not being able to play games because of her cheating.  Also, she was tired of getting in trouble for it.

For so long we had consequences in place for lying and we thought that they weren't working. However, they eventually did. It just took a long time for her to realize that lying wasn't working for her.

I watched her reaction when the kids were all doing something they shouldn't and she would be the only one who would lie about it.  Everyone else was given a verbal correction and she was given a consequence for the lying.  Every time this happened she would scream and cry.  It didn't help her. Every time I explained that this was a consequence of her lying and she saw that everyone else simply got a verbal correction because they told the truth. Emma caught on to this concept after a while and I wondered why Michelle didn't.

Eventually she tired of it.  Eventually she decided that telling the truth was simply easier.  The first time she did tell the truth I was actually surprised but acted as though it was expected and she went on her merry way with a correction. I did not make a big deal out of it or give her extra attention for it.  In this house that actually backfires sometimes.  I did mention that I noticed that her lying had diminished when we were talking about getting baptized.

This lying thing is hard. It hurts relationships and destroys trust. It also takes a lot of work to keep track of them!

Do I think that there is no lying going on in my house?  Not at all, I know how kids are.  The gut reaction for many of my kids is to lie.  However, right now we are at the point where I can honestly say that none of my kids are at the "if they are talking they are lying" stage right now and it sure is nice. We still practice the wait and think before you answer to offset the gut reaction.  We also allow for a rethinking of an answer.  We still consequence for lying. I just don't have to do the consequence for lying near as often as I used to.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Michelle was baptized over the weekend.

She has asked in the past but when discussing it she really didn't understand what it was about.  Her motivations were more of an attention seeking nature.  This time it was different.  She understood what baptism means.  She has accepted Jesus as her Savior and wanted to share that belief with everyone.

So she got dunked.  Does this suddenly take away all her behavior issues?  No.  However, she has made some huge improvements in her lying.  More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Boy and His Car - Bargain Shopping

When I was a kid my dad would take me to Goodwill and allow me to get as many books as I wanted. I loved to read and therefore loved Goodwill. When I became an adult I continued to go to Goodwill. You just never know what you will find.  When I became a mom to many kids it became a lifesaver. Sometimes we go and look at the dollar rack of clothing just for the fabric, so much cheaper and sometimes you can find a unique piece of fabric.

The other day I took Benjamin with me and he fell in love with this car.  It has a metal body and was really cute.  It also had a price tag of $4.75.  He had to ride it out the store and through the parking lot to the car.

I tried to pick him up but the car came with him.  I had to pry his little legs off the body and then his hands off the steering wheel.  I sat it next to him so he could hold it.

He loves his little car and I love that for under $5 I was able to get him a quality toy.  I looked it up online, that car can be purchased for $100 on Amazon.

I am always looking for a bargain; garage sales, clearance sales, Craigslist, facebook sale sites.  I shop at all of them.  Paying full price for clothing and toys is not necessary.

So, I am curious, who else bargain shops and do you have a favorite find?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Call from Adoptions

Today I received a call from adoptions.  They said that they needed a little more information to finish their paperwork.  Basically it was questions about Little Man and his development.  Then she told me that they were finishing up their paperwork and as soon as the received the legally free letter from my county they would call us to come in so they can read us the file.

First, this is funny because most of the information in the file has been given by me.  I even have his birth certificate which I had to scan and sent to her this morning.

Second, it means we have officially been selected as his adoptive family.

I asked her if she knew when the judge had signed the order and she said on the 24th.  That means that the 30 day waiting period will end this Friday, on our anniversary.  As far as we know, biomom has not filed an appeal and she only has a few more days to do so.

Typically the local county has about a two week delay in sending out the legally free letter to adoptions.  So if biomom doesn't file an appeal we should hear from them mid-August.

Then we will go into the office in Columbia and they will read us Little Man's file.  After they read us the file we then sign the official intent to adopt paperwork. We will then contact our lawyer to get the ball rolling on completing the adoption. If there is no appeal and everyone does their job Little Man will be adopted before the end of the year.  We are hoping for October.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I had posted a while back about biomom and threats to us and the social worker.  We have not had any problems with the biomom but remain very aware of the situation.

However, we have had a situation with the system that is so frustrating.  On the last day of our vacation we received a call from my moms caregiver.  She was staying at our house while we were gone.  She called to tell me that they tried to serve biomom papers at our house.  The documents had her name and our address.  She told the sheriff that we were foster parents to the person that they were trying to serve and that we had received threats from her.  The person wrote that information down and left with the papers.  When we got back I called the sheriff's office to see where they got the address from and if our address had been removed from it.  She said she got the address from the state DSS and that they delivered the papers with our address on it.

I then went up to the sheriff's office to talk with them.  The person in charge told me that she knew we were the foster parents and that the person was the biomom.  No, she didn't know that our address was supposed to be confidential.  No she didn't in any way mark out our address.  She said she couldn't alter the papers.  When I asked her why she didn't send it back to be corrected she said that they do this all the time.  I again told her that foster parents addresses should be sent to bioparents. She said she never heard of such a thing and that we had visitation anyways.  Yes, I explained, at DSS not at our home.  Yes, I am taking this further.  If this is standard operating procedure then it needs to be changed.

Then I went to DSS in Columbia where the papers came from.  I got a lot of run around but finally got in touch with someone who understood my complaint.  Apparently medicaid says she lived at that address.  She has never lived at this address.  They think that since we got Little Man straight out of the hospital that he was still connected with her.  They seemed very concerned about this and are looking at the problem.  I received a call from a supervisor above the person I spoke with and answered her questions.  I also received a call from my county supervisor because she heard from the state and she wanted to understand what happened.  She is going to look into the problem too.

Honestly, my complaint isn't with the DSS system.  There was a slip-up somehow.  They admit it and seem interested in fixing it.  They see it as a problem.  My main complaint is with the sheriff's office who didn't see it as a problem. When they were told that she had threatened us you would think that they would have had a moments thought about sending it to her with our address, but they didn't.  I am working on making sure that the procedure is changed.

Never a dull moment at our household!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Recap of our roadtrip.......

Our van was great.  There was enough room for just two kids on each row and plenty of room in the back for luggage. It is a 15 passenger van but we took out the back row.  With the back row of seats in there is no room for luggage. We had portable DVD players and extra outlet plugs for electronic equipment.

Putting the clothing in bags was a great suggestion.  Before we put the clothing in the bags I had each kid try on their outfits to make sure that they fit, were appropriate and matched. There were some issues after the half-way point when we did laundry and we hadn't kept all the bags.  Some of my kids just can't match.  But at least they all fit.

All my kids have their own small suitcases.  Overall this was fine.  However, when moving to a lot of different hotels it got annoying.  For the trip back we determined what they would need for three days and combined it into one suitcase.  That way at each stop there was less to unpack and repack.

Hotels, we stayed in places with either a suite with two rooms or we reserved two hotel rooms. Our best hotel experience by far was a two bedroom, two bath suite outside of Chicago (Staybridge Suites). We prefer suites over two separate rooms because of safety and communication.  When we had two rooms Sarah stayed with the girls in one room and John and I shared the other room with the boys so there was an adult in both rooms. If Sarah hadn't been along we wouldn't have had the option of doing two rooms unless they were joined.  Although we tried to get joined rooms anyways it was difficult.

Years ago when travelling we would drive until we were tired.  We would stop and get a hotel. However, in the past few years we have noticed that more and more hotels would be booked.  Most of our stops were pre-planned and we had reservations. Coming out of Canada we did not have a reservation since we weren't sure of our plans at that time.  We did have a problem finding a hotel and had to travel further to find one.

Even with reservations you just don't know.  We made our reservation for Chicago in April.  They called us while we were at Niagara Falls to see if we still wanted our rooms, they were full and wanted to make sure we were coming.  One reservation we made through Expedia and when we got to the hotel Expedia hadn't sent our reservation.  They did take the money our of our account. Thankfully there were rooms available (rural area) so we were able to get our rooms.  I do need to contact them, the hotel charged us less that what Expedia took out of our account. Thankfully that was the only hotel we had booked with Expedia.

On this trip we actually stayed with family for a few days.  It was great and the best way to connect with family we don't see often. It was also a stressful time. We had to ensure that our kids didn't damage anything.  We watched Emma manipulate them and when we pointed it out they said it was OK. Most concerning for us was our baby.  The house wasn't child proofed and they lived on a river.  Beautiful home and property.....and Benjamin knows how to open doors. At hotels we could lock the door and he was safe.  We used our transfer method at their house to keep him safe.  In our transfer method a specific person is responsible for him.  Even if 15 people are sitting outside with him, one specific person is responsible.  If they having been watching him for a while they transfer the responsibility. You ask another person if they can now be responsible and make sure that they respond back to you their acceptance.  He is a fast mover and loves water so that was very important.

Staying with family gave us a break from hotel breakfasts.  The free breakfast is great.  We are pros with flipping the waffle machines.  However, I must admit that even I got tired of the food choices.  It is amazing how similar they are at all the different hotels.  Some have a little more choices with fruit and yogurt and such.  However I personally don't like the way the eggs and meat are prepared.  I mostly do the waffle and fruit if offered. Naturally the kids loved the buffet style eating and seemed to like the eggs.

We found that when driving the best daily mileage was 350-400 miles/day.  It was also best if the day ended somewhere were everyone could get out and walk around. Even when we drove longer we stopped and did something physical at some point. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was at a great stopping point.  We waked around Niagara Falls another night. For travelling through we visited a Children's Museum and visited Rock City.  We tried to do as much physical activity as possible. I loved using to find places.  I also used that program when we decided to make some small changes to our trip.

The kids behavior wasn't bad. They had some squabbles and Benjamin a few tantrums, but nothing severe.  Nothing really out of the range of normal.  I think that my biggest concern is the children s sense of entitlement.  Also, they didn't seem aware that some of the homes that we visited didn't have ice machines and such.  I see a need to work on these issues more.  More on that issue in another post.  Actually, we saw adults acting worse than our kids.

We had planned ahead and collected change and dollars.  When travelling up north we always spend a lot on tolls.  I don't miss them one bit!  We don't have any around here in the south.  It got old spending up to $4.50 just to cross a bridge. Stopping at toll booths is also a loss of time.  I guess that spending a lot of money on them can allow me to appreciate that I live an an area without them.

Overall we had a great trip.  We visited all the relatives we planned on seeing (and even a few extras) and saw a lot of great places.  I loved driving along the corn fields and looking at the different architecture.

We made sure that we ate at places that we don't have here.

And yes, we got stared at.  Actually it was so obvious that the kids asked me why people were staring at us.  I tell them that people are curious because we have so many kids and to just smile back.

Now we are planning for our next trips. Tubing/rafting trip next summer in NC and a cruise in December.

Stare if You Must

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day 12 - Home

It is good for me that I numbered the days or I would have thought that we were gone for a month!

We left southern Illinois and headed to Chattanooga, TN where we went to Rock City.  I thought it was a little expensive but they did give a 20% military discount.  The kids loved the trails and different fairy tale scenes that they had.  It was a good break to allow them to get some exercise.

This bridge did swing a lot!

The kids were speculating if we old folks could fit in this gap. It is called Fat Man Squeeze.

For a majority of the trail we carried Benjamin.  There were a lot of drops and it concerned me. There was railing everywhere but he has been known to climb railing. They have a short trail for strollers but you miss a lot.

We could see storms coming in so we didn't see everything.  John wanted to be down off the mountain before they hit.  It was still early so we decided to push for home.  We had strong thunderstorms most of the way but made it home by 12:30.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day 11

Our road trip is winding down.  Our day was spent travelling to John's last aunt in southern Illinois.  Along the way we saw a huge cross in Effingham.  I was curious and looked it up.

According to my research it is the Cross at the Crossroads. 

Last night we saw the final aunt and several cousins.  Today we start our last bit of travel (600).  I can't decide if we will stop mid-point or push for home.  I think that Benjamin will determine that.  We may stop and look at some sights to see if we can get some stink blown off of him. If he cooperates we will push for home.  If not, well, we will stop.  About to check weather before we leave.  I hear there was some nasty weather last night.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Day 10

It is hard to believe that we have only been away for 10 days!  Feels like it has been weeks.  We are all ready to get home and into our own beds, guess we aren't the nomad type of people.  We do love to travel to new places but we also love our own beds.

We got up this morning and headed over tot eh Navy Pier.  The weather was beautiful and the view from the pier was great.  We had planned on going up the Willis Tower but decided that we had enough of crowds so we headed out to our hotel in the burbs.

We met up with John's son and kids and went to one of those trampoline places.  The kids had a great time and got plenty of exercise.  I bounced into the pit only once and worked up a sweat getting out so I stuck with the trampolines after that.

Benjamin loved it too, we practically had the place to ourselves.

John Jr, grandkids and Sarah.  Both granddaughters are taller than Sarah.

There are a lot of things to do in Chicago but our main reason for the visit was to see family.  We could have spent more time in this area but we have no interest in visiting Chicago during the week, even for tourist stuff. Tomorrow we go to southern Illinois to see one last aunt then we start our trek home.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Day 9

Before we left on our road tri[ I promised the girls that they could go to the American Girl store in Chicago and get their dolls one outfit and a book. Today they got to go and they were so excited.

There were so many choices.  Finally Michelle got a soccer outfit, Larissa a dance outfit and Emma a ballerina outfit.  They each picked a book and I got them a second outfit with Chicago on it.


Outside of the store there was a lady/statue.  The kids were fascinated.  Larissa said that she was scared of her.

They discussed whether it was a real person or not.

We gave her a tip and she moved for them. 

Later I saw her gathering her tips.

We visited the Disney store where we bought some shirt with the same logo as their store window, so fun.

I am not sure what we will be doing tomorrow.  We may go into town again or we may not.  We met with John's son tonight and tomorrow we will meet with the grandkids.  It will me another day that we wing it.  Vacation, such fun!