Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bulldog update

Her hard work is going to pay off. For several years now, Jordan has been hearing about how her education is going to help her problem solve and critically think, so when she was told by several people that there was no solution to her scheduling problem, she didn't take it lying down. The solution that she, (along with the Science head at her school) found is that we will homeschool (or independent study) Biology AND she will be editor in chief of the newspaper AND she will still get her IB diploma (science will be an SL instead of HL (higher level) but that's OK) She will have to miss Journalism about once every two weeks to go to Biology for experiments. She will have to continue to work her little tail off to teach herself Biology as well as all the rest of her responsibilities. But she did it. She searched for a solution... the first step to being an adult... wah!

What car?

As you know, paying attention and having focus have been the catch phrases at our house this year. Teaching Josh and Jameson to pay attention, focus, remember their stuff and in general "get it together" has taken priority. Recently I heard how an Ethiopian explained the difference between American kids and Ethiopian kids.

An American kid can see a car drive by and they will be able to describe the make, model and year, color of the car, the license plate and a description of the driver.
An Ethiopian child will say, "what car?"

That is so absolutely true. Once I heard this comparison, it actually made me feel better that it wasn't just my kids who couldn't pay attention.

So what have we been doing to help this? A lot of memory games. We play memory ever single day. We read the Usborne books where you find items hidden in pictures all the time. All the kids are memorizing scripture and the names of all the African countries in alphabetical order. The brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it will get. We quiz them on things that they see to teach them to pay attention to the details. We play games in the car looking for signs and certain colors of cars just to get them to PAY ATTENTION to their surroundings.

And then there is always tough love. Now this is not to say that I don't constantly give warnings, reminders etc, and it sounds awful, but there has to be a point where Josh gets it together. He constantly forgets whatever he needs to go to soccer, church, etc. I have gotten to the point where if he forgets his bag, he's going to have to explain why he forgot his bag. If he forgets his water, he's going to be thirsty. So that when we get to the soccer practice and Josh says, "mom, where's my bag?" I get to say, "What bag?" ha

Ode to my little Peter Pan

My little Peter Pan Justine is growing up whether she wants to or not. Justine is the baby. She was our very unexpected baby, who has absolutely blessed our lives in ways I can't even explain. There are days when we are laughing at her so much, and all of us agree that our lives would be so boring without her. She's always been the baby. She enjoys her place. She has embraced her birth order and taken on the roll of the family clown.
She does not want to grow up. While most kids are aching to get bigger and move on, Justine actively grieves her growth. She misses her pulls ups. She misses her toddler bed. While cuddling up with her blankie (nicknamed what else but baby), she said sadly, "Mom, baby's getting smaller. It won't cover my feet anymore."
Well my baby started Kindergarten this year... Except we can't call it Kindergarten because "she's not old enough for Kindergarten." I don't know why she believes she can only go to Kindergarten when she's 6...which is not for several more months. When I told her, "I can't believe you're in Kindergarten." She replied, "I don't know what you are thinking mom. I AM not old enough for Kindergarten."
And so here is Justine on her first day of "school."

Goodbye Baby Justine!

First Day of School


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The word for today is....


Homeschool Update

I'm sure you are all wondering how homeschooling is going... well it's going. We officially started school on August 13th. Jack, Jaiden and Justine go to school 2 days a week and are homeschooled 3 days a week. Once Jack, Jaiden and Justine went to school, Josh and Jameson and I kind of eased our way into school.

Jameson is so eager to learn. She is definitely very easy to homeschool as far as attitude and the desire to learn. We are definitely starting at the very beginning with her. Vowel sounds are a mystery to her... therefore we are starting at the same spot Justine is at in Kindergarten. She still switches a lot of her sounds and letters. For example, if she sees the word "Help", she will try to make it start with a "p." When she sees the number 17 (for example) she thinks it's 71. We are starting very easy with her. I'm not sure if you can be diagnosed as dyslexic in a second language, but if she were a typical American 4th grader doing this, she probably would be dyslexic for sure. But how can you say that when she just learned English?

It's definitely something that we are watching and will seek out help for if it doesn't get better.
Josh is a very smart boy. He knows more than he lets on to. This Monday we had quite a day where he would just turn in his work, undone, half done or completely wrong. I guess he thought I wouldn't notice? He wouldn't talk to me or look at me. It happened to be the same day that public school started, and I basically told him that this was serious and if he wasn't going to try, I would drive him to public school RIGHT now. That seemed to wake him up. He has been doing great ever since.

We started really easy with him as well... probably too easy, but I am trying to show him how important mastering the basics is. Time and Money are new to him. His issue seems to be that he tries to go so fast that he ends up missing stuff, or just not doing it at all. I have to remind him all the time to slow down. Our goal for him is to be finished with first grade math by the end of September. His Reading Comprehension is also a mystery to me. He knows all the words, but absolutely doesn't know what they mean when they are put together in a sentence.

I'm not an expert, but I believe both of them probably have some degree of attention deficit disorder. He fits it to a tee... not the hyperactivity aspect, but the inability to concentrate. Jameson also has a hard time focusing on any one thing and tends to be highly distractible. From what I have read, this is not uncommon for children from their backgrounds.

They are learning. We are accomplishing. And the best thing is that the more time I spend with them, the more I am falling in love with them. The more I am getting to see them for who they are. I can tell that when things were at their worst was when I was working too much or involved in too much. It was definitely a good decision to keep them home. (I say this at the end of August with a big ha ha ha ha belly laugh) I have a confession to make: I actually kept the public school piss off letter until school had started just in case I changed my mind. But I mailed it on Monday.

Now it's official.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The word for today is....


Top 10 things Jeff and I said to each other...

While watching the Democratic National Convention last night. Several things were said using our best "Bill and Hill" voices - so use your imagination.

10) "Snoopy, is that the Great Pumpkin?"
9) "Olivejuice" (While Bill was on camera mouthing the words I love you I love you I love you... watch the movie The Other Sister if you don't know what I'm talking about)
8) "Which one was she in 'The sisterhood of the traveling pants'?... I don't remember ."
7) Bill Clinton, "I wish I had my IPod."
6) "She said 'duty'... he he he he"
5) "We have territories?"
4) "What are you crying for? It's not American Idol."
3) "I thought this was about Obama."
2) "I'm in room 327" (While Bill was hugging some lady next to him for a really long time)
1) "You wanna play oval office?"

*Disclaimer: This list is a bipartisan effort to make fun of all politicians and does not in any way reflect our preferences for president. Hopefully we will find the RNC as entertaining.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The word for today is....


Bulldog Vent

Well today I am venting my frustration on public school again. What? Oh boy, here we go again. Jordan is a senior this year. She's in the International Baccalaureate Program... which basically means that a) she's really smart and more importantly b) she's been working her $#@ off for many, many years. She went to high school in the 6th grade and has been at Central ever since. (I'm not an IB student, therefore I will have to count on my fingers as to how many years that is... OK 6 going on 7) She was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper last year and was chosen again this year. Since Journalism is something that really means a lot to her and is potentially a future career path... we were thrilled that she EARNED this honor. And so the problems begin... She needs one last Biology class in order to obtain her IB diploma. The IB Biology class is only offered at the same time as Journalism... And therefore she has been told she will have to pick between being Editor-in-chief and her IB diploma. What the???? She wanted to handle it herself and has been doing a fine job at it. She has discussed doing an independent study for Biology where she will teach herself... the teacher thinks it will be too hard. Today I broke down and called her counselor and pretty much went off. She said, "Well I don't really know what an editor-in-chief does, but I don't see why she has to be in the Journalism class to be it." WHAT? Where do they find these people? So I gently explained to her several things about Journalism, Biology and life in general, and we are waiting to hear back from her about an independent study for environmental science, which will be a lower level instead of a higher level IB class (but that's a bunch of mumbo jumbo I don't care to get into) Basically I would like for people to stop making my life miserable. If anyone could work on that, I would appreciate it. Go Bulldogs!

A Beautiful Video

OK, I'm copying Julia... but you have got to check out Emily's video of her Gotcha Day. I have been reading Emily's blog for about a year now, and they just got their baby. Their video is absolutely stunning... of course the whole entire family looks like supermodels, which helps, but to see the absolute joy on their faces is what I'm talking about. Check it out.
Team Alexander Gotcha Video

Those were the days...

I am known the world around for being a good storyteller. When Jack and Jaiden were babies and separated by only 16 months, I had MANY, MANY stories to tell. I still have some doozies. I was reminded of a Jack story this week, which I just have to share with you. Why oh why didn't I have a blog back then?

There are two things you must know about Jack as a toddler: He didn't want to be potty trained and he loved dinosaurs.

The first time Jack put on big boy underwear, he came out SO excited! He had several dinosaurs sticking out of the front flap of his new underwear and exclaimed, "You didn't tell me they had pockets!" It made all the difference in the world!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Old habits die hard

We have found that Josh tends to feel very superior to women and his sisters in general. We don't know if this is a cultural thing, a personal thing or a "big brother" thing. Couple that sense of superiority with his competitive spirit... and you've got the perfect storm. We have been working on this since they came home in February. Josh would often order Jameson around... if he dropped something, he ordered her to go get it. If he wanted a drink, he ordered her to go get it. It went on and on. From the first minute we noticed it, we said, "Oh no. That's not the way it works around here." Saying it and changing attitudes, norms and habits are another thing. Jameson is quick to do WHATEVER he requests. We have to tell her to make him do it himself. Today while we were playing a memory game for school, Josh tells her, "I am so going to win." She replies, "I am so going to get second."
I guess some things are difficult to change.

PS I helped her win.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why I discipline my children

I have been thinking a lot about discipline lately. (For obvious reasons.) I have been working on my own personal philosophy regarding discipline. I have been evaluating what we do... what works, what doesn't. I think I tend to be a little harder on my kids and expect more out of them, but it's for a purpose.
While watching the Olympics the other day, I realized why discipline is so important to foster self-control.

I bet this guy's mother didn't discipline him at all.

This Cuban Taekwondo Olympian kicked the ref in the face after losing the bronze medal. He is banned from all further competitions. See kids? I'm just saving you from grief later.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shopping with Josh

For someone who was wearing pink crocs 6 months ago, shoe shopping with Josh is a nightmare. He is the pickiest shopper I have ever met. I finally gave up last week and passed the baton to Jeff. I bet he tried on 25 pairs of shoes before finally picking some out. Jeff's the man. And Josh is wearing men's 8's.

For my Hope Yahoo Girls...

You've all been talking so much on the board about this one... I thought I'd do more than talk. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


What he said: "I see people eating their kids at Hooters all the time."
What he meant to say: "I see people eating WITH their kids at Hooters all the time."
What he meant: "It's completely appropriate and socially responsible to take your kids to eat at Hooters for lunch. They have great hot wings and the service is great."
What he heard: "NO WAY."

Thank God for Dental Insurance...

Josh and Jameson had their first dental appointment since coming home today. They did very well, other than Jameson asking everyone if they were going to hurt her... I think they must think I beat her or something. The other kids were due for their cleanings and fluoride treatments, so we just waited until I could take everyone at once. All I can say is thank God for dental insurance! Jack, Justine and Jaiden still have no cavities, but Jaiden will need braces in about 6 months... this didn't come as such a surprise as her teeth are actually coming in through the roof of her mouth... OOHH! Jordan just got her braces off and has extensive work to be done in the next few months. Jameson had several cavities that will need to be fixed. Josh had no cavities but periodontal disease and built up calcifications on his teeth which are going to require a full mouth debridement and some other crap... sound expensive? Well it is. Thank God for dental insurance and a flexible spending account....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What the Bela?

We have been obsessed with the Beijing 2008 Olympics... specifically gymnastics (along with swimming, diving, and track) We have lost a lot of sleep staying up late to watch. It hit me in the middle of the night, in a sleep deprived moment while watching Ring the Bela with Bela Karoli that he looked oddly familiar.

I think I found Captain Kangaroo. He's not really dead. He's in Beijing.

Does anyone else think so?

I Am From

I am from cardboard playhouses, from John Deere riding lawnmowers fit for giving rides and roller skates going in every possible direction.
I am from the rolling dusty plains of Kansas, from underneath snow drift palaces and six foot icicles.
I am from the big brick house, with the roller skating rink in the basement, the house full of everyone else’s kids, jumping off the roof on a dare, laughter echoing in each room.
I am from the vast golden wheat fields, the white birch tree in the back yard bald from me peeling off the white sheets of bark.
I am from hard workers and everyone knows everyone else, from Larson and Drouhard and the unknown.
I am from don’t be afraid to try something new in a purple coat and read to me some more.
From this too shall pass, love your neighbor as yourself and sing song made up names.
I am from stain glass, pews full of family and dads eating donuts.
I'm from green-sky tornado warnings, greasy fried chicken and white gravy over bread.
From the hair brushing marathons, the ice cream eating grandfather and the hole digging brothers.
I am from fresh smelling cedar chests and cluttered attics. I’m from all those who hold my memories. I’m from so much more.
You can learn how to do your own I am From poem here.

Guess what?

We got kicked out of our carpool...

What does $75 get you?

In Washington DC, $75 got us this glorious room at the Wardman Park Marriott. We loved it and the air conditioning worked wonderfully!

When we arrived in New York, we walked right from the subway to our wonderful hostel... the Whitehouse Hostel in SoHo which also cost us $75. I found this place on the internet and thought is sounded like so much fun. To get a hotel room in New York was in upwards of $400 and we were only going to be there for a few hours, so we thought what the heck? I have never stayed in a hostel. Life is an experience; why not experience it? From the outside it looked quite quaint...

When we went to check in, the man directed us, "Sit down and wait..." And it wasn't in the nicest tone of voice. I thought we might be in BIG trouble. He said, "Go see your room and come back and tell me if you want it or not." When we walked up the 4 flights of stairs...
this is what we found.
A room big enough to turn around in. 2 cots. No furniture... It was actually a large floor where someone had partitioned it off into small little rooms with doors... ours had no knob. After we came back down, we met a man who I believe may have been living there... he was so nice. When we asked him which way we should start out, he was quick to give directions and even offered us some of his food.

The only artwork we found was this lovely graffiti on the wall...
and no we weren't the ones who put it there.

This was the ceiling to our room... lattice. Luckily we were on the top floor and there was some sunlight coming through the slats. The night we stayed there, it rained and you could hear the rain beating against the glass dome on the top, which you can see through this lovely picture of our ceiling. You could hear the rain occasionally... over the snoring of everyone else on the floor and the man who was screaming at everyone to be quiet.

Jordan looks a little dismayed... we got used to the hostel and even came to love it.

This was our key which we had to leave with the nice guy at the front desk and our door with no knob. We had to basically carry all of our belongings of any value because I wasn't about to leave them there.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Whitehouse Hostel in SoHo. It was a lovely place to sleep for about 5 hours.
A video of our floor:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Justine's plans

Justine has been making her own arrangements for her future in case of my untimely demise. She has chosen our friends daughter (I think because she has a new Yorkie puppy, but that's just my opinion). She notified her this weekend that she could adopt her if I died.
Jack was quick to respond, "No Justine, both parents have to die and the grandparents deemed incompetent to take care of you."
I'm so glad they're into planning for their future. Maybe we can get them to do some retirement planning for us now.

Why did we...

teach her English?

Jameson when she poked our friends daughter Mary Jo in the bosom and said, "Your boobs are soft and small. My mom's are big as my head.... like a rainbow."

Ethiopian Quisine...