Okay, I have four kids. That’s more than average, but it’s not big in the part of town I live in. We’re about to add number five. That’s a bigger family and puts our family squarely in a different family style than a 1-3 kid family…. but again, it’s neither unusual nor exceptional. One of my kids has special needs. If I want to simplify what that means, it means I have a toddler who will stay a toddler for some time longer. Not at all strange to have a toddler in the house.
So when I simplify and downplay stuff… my life is totally normal and I begin to wonder… am I weak? Because I can’t do a lot of the things. You know, the play dates, the activities, the participating with other families things. All these awesome summer activities we’re doing, like going to the fair and going camping… they just barely happen.
And then I stop. I talk with Brian. And together, we acknowledge our hard work. I think this applies to all parenting, all work, all the good, hard stuff. But it applies to me too. This is hard work. Being Jordan’s parents is hard work.
Have you ever owned a puppy? You know that feeling of constant vigilance? The keeping them with you, chasing after them, finding them… constantly trying to protect your property from being chewed or peed on? The mopping of pee from a carpet… trying to get poop off of whatever it’s on… the deliberate calming of internal emotions so you don’t spank the puppy too hard when you discover something you value has been ruined by indiscriminate and destructive play? You know going places with a puppy… especially a full grown but young large-breed puppy. They jump on people, dump things of of picnic tables, pull on the leash, drag behind, and bark or whine endlessly so that you can’t participate in any of the picnic games. There is a reason that Jordan’s given icon is a paw print. He is so much like a big puppy!
We cannot leave this puppy unattended. We can’t leave him home when we go places. It’s not okay to leave him whining or barking. And he doesn’t speak English. And he does all those things. When we go to the fair, I see about 10% of what’s happening around me. I don’t remember taking many of the pictures. Because my attention is 90% on Jordan. Going to the fair is exhausting and stressful for him. Therefore it is for me.
Anyway, this isn’t really for anybody’s benefit from me. Sometimes I need to acknowledge my hard work. Sometimes I need to be proud of me. Sometimes I need to look into myself and see all this awesome strength. Sure, I am tired and I fail a lot of things. I get grouchy and I’m not the parent I want to be. BUT…. I am doing a lot right. Being tired does not mean weak. It means I have a big, important life where I’m pouring myself all the way out for my family. Somebody once spoke over me… they told me that I am a conduit of God’s love. They told me that when I believed myself a failure. But I’m not. God’s put me in a place with great responsibility for these children and I am honored and challenged and relying on God daily.
You won’t be surprised that since my diagnosis of anxiety and depression some years ago (four?) that I’ve been making pointed efforts towards improving my physical and mental health. I started with medication and therapy and then followed that upswing with better eating and the addition of exercise into my routine. It has been paying off with increased physical stamina, a more consistent energy level and shorter, less frequent spells of depression. As a lifestyle change, it’s a process that is ongoing and I continue to set myself goals.
A couple weeks ago, I began a 3 week exercise/eating challenge. (You can google Shift Shop if you’re curious) The diet is super low in carbohydrates and very high in vegetables. It includes a six day a week exercise program. I made it through 10 days of the 21 and then I dropped out. I struggled with that. Depression set in quickly. I hate not finishing. I hate failing. I see other people pushing through and succeeding in the challenge and I hear them encouraging us on, telling us not to quit. Don’t quit. Don’t be a quitter. I am a quitter. I am a failure. I am weak. I can’t even finish a short fitness program, how could I be successful anywhere else in life? I’m failing my children. I’m failing myself. I’m a disappointment to my husband. Adding Daniel to our family is going to sink us. What was I thinking to be so ambitious in life? My thoughts were a big spiral that all led downhill.
It was two or three days before my circling thoughts finally identified where it started. And yes, it is a good skill I’ve learned through depression… to identify my thoughts and address them with reason and with the input of my steady husband. And I decided that it started when I fell out of the fitness program. When I failed the challenge.
How was I going to get through this?
Here’s what I decided. I DIDN’T fail the challenge! You can call it a cop out, but guess what? I’m PROUD that I made it through 10 days of a challenging fitness program! I acknowledge that the fitness program is challenging. I acknowledge that my life is challenging. Let me draw an analogy… when working through one of the exercise videos, they tell you to modify if you need to, but still challenge yourself. So I did. And sometimes I pushed too hard and then I couldn’t finish a particular exercise. There’s this really big piece called pacing. We pace ourselves. If we push too hard, we can’t keep going. This fitness program was at a pace beyond what I could sustain. My everyday life is already at a significant pace. I am not weak. I am not giving up. I overdid my pace and had to pant to a stop.
I didn’t fail the challenge. I got further than I could have ever gotten before.
I took another day or so to think about my goals and set myself new fitness goals that are at a pace that is challenging, but hopefully where I can maintain better. Both with meals and with exercise. I’m pleased with my new goals. I’m still succeeding. I’m proud of myself. I’m starting to understand where the “mind game” is when it comes to exercising. When it comes to not giving up. The “can do it” attitude is not a thing I just have… it’s something I fight for.
At the end of my walk/run this morning.
Reminders to self:
Don’t compare yourself to other people
Do be inspired by other people
If you miss a day or a week in your plan, just pick up again when you can keep going
You have a lot on your plate
You’re doing a great job
June went by like mad and July in a flash. I cannot believe we are only weeks from a new school year now. July was full of 80 degree dasys with 50-60 degree nights… so pleasant and good for play. Yes, my heart has been heavy for Daniel and thoughts of my little son have been a mountain… but wait we must and wait we have! Great news on that front is a court date has been scheduled! September 4th is the day he will become legally our son. And just a few weeks after that we will put on our traveling gear and go to bring him home. Oh, I could repeat that all day. It feels GOOD!
But back to July! We had many opportunities to enjoy the summer holiday with friends and family and we did! We had opportunities to stay home and we did! The kids have spent some of every day in the pool. It’s fun to see how they have become braver and more proficient in just the one summer in one small pool. Jordan has struggled quite a bit this summer with sleep and with big feelings and behaviors, but he’s doing better right now. We keep him with us a lot rather than letting him hang out in his play room on his own. It seems to help. It’s more work for us, but I’m thrilled it’s been successful. Being together is so good for Jordan.
I have pictures of….
The big garage sale
Going for a walk with Jordan
Getting my hair colored
Camping for a week straight!
This piece of paper and its message warmed my heart. My sister and her kids collected their coins for Daniel.
Okay – no pictures of the garage sale, but we made something like $700 at it! So glad to have all that stuff gone and a chunk towards expenses!
For Independence Day, we spent the day with my sister, going to a parade and eating at her home.
This didn’t last long. Haha
A great gang of us were there!
I needed Brian’s help to harvest the honey. It’s HEAVY!
The box after I took the frames out of it.
Delicious capped honey. MMmmmmmm
I crushed up the wax in a fine sieve that sits on top of a bucket… one conveniently fitted with a spout.
Some of the wax was new and pretty and golden. Some of it was old and black. But it all contained delicious honey.
The girls wanted to cook. Anna led the way and made a scrumptious blueberry buckle!
The finished dessert!
We harvested almost 3 gallons of honey!!! Hopefully I did it right and the ones in the hive have enough to get through the winter.
Jordan and I escaped one sunny day to go on a walk at the park.
He really, really doesn’t like to hold on. Somehow he usually manages to balance with his elbows, though.
A few minutes in the creek was almost fun, but Jordan was only wanting to throw rocks at people and so we had to leave.
I like this pattern.
I got my hair fancied up!!! So fun. 😀
Time to go camping!
Once again, Jordan’s wheelchair was a lifesaver, giving him somewhere to sit that he could be buckled into.
We brought a full minivan and a full pickup truck too!!!
This year it wasn’t just us. We camped with our friends and my sister’s family and grandparents were even able to drop in!
We had plenty of floating things to play with!
The view from our campsite.
Turning around with the lake at my back…
The very first morning, our kids were in the water all the way out to the logs… no matter that the sun was still low!
At this point on morning one… I considered the trip was already a smashing success.
Keeping the home fires burning.
Dinner for Jordan. Lunch? I don’t know.
Maria the adventurer taking her kids out. They found a bridge with a rope swing good for swimming from. We didn’t dare it, but maybe next year! (they did!)
I brought my henna and colored any skin that held still.
Kids didn’t always sleep in the same place…. but Carolyn and Jordan were in the tent with us… and sometimes Maggie.
I loved waking up to cozy kids.
Before our hike we actually were all together in one place!
13 kids, 7 adults.
Jordan didn’t make it far walking, but I was prepared to carry him.
After the hike, we piled in the pickup for the last leg to our campsite.
So much water fun.
A beautiful place.
I picked these lakeside campsites on purpose!
Carolyn stole my heart… again.
Alexis was a huge help once again and a pleasure to be around.
Kids were in and out of the water all day long.
Each family had a campsite and “kitchen” ….. and we all kept moving from site to site for the best conversation.
I orchestrated a treasure hunt… the little kids were SO CUTE following a map.
One day, a chipmunk got trapped in a tent long enough for us all to take a peek!
In honor of some birthdays, we carted in the necessary supplies for italian sodas. MMmmmm
Strawberry italian soda?
Carolyn and Felicity continue to be best buddies.
Maggie photobombs with bunny ears.
It was difficult for Jordan to be there and he had moments of tears and being upset. But overall, it worked out really well for him too.
Listening to his music toy like a tiny boombox.
Another day, another swim. We were there for 6 days and 5 nights.
Unless he is very tired, Jordan lasts a long time in the water with just a puddle jumper on. Which he’s a little too heavy for, so I’m thrilled with his progress.
Anna’s very first jump off of the tall stump! Even I had a hard time jumping off of it.
Maggie jumped off once too. But got water up her nose, so she didn’t go again.
One of Jordan’s favorite things was the automatic hand dryer in the bathroom.
If you get the chance to go camping with a photographer… I highly recommend it! Credit to Maria Supin
Bike riding happened a lot! Credit to Maria Supin
Credit to Maria Supin
We went for lots of walks. Credit to Maria Supin
A lovely evening down by the day camp area. Credit to Maria Supin
More exploring Credit to Maria Supin
Credit to Maria Supin
A herd of little girls! Credit to Maria Supin
The big girls. So fun to have them together. Credit to Maria Supin
The nights were amazing. And Maria even stayed up late to photograph it! Credit to Maria Supin
Credit to Maria Supin
The “teens” Credit to Maria Supin
Credit to Maria Supin
Credit to Maria Supin
Adorable overload. Three 4/5 year olds. Credit to Maria Supin
Look at all them kids!
After the hike. Credit to Maria Supin
I love my carrier that I use for Jordan. You can see that he’s outgrown it in some ways, but it is still awesome. (It’s a Kinderpack Preschool – the largest of its kind) Credit to Maria Supin
Credit to Maria Supin
Maria introduced all the kids to the game, “Mafia.” So much fun to listen to! Credit to Maria Supin
Austin leading the game of Mafia. Credit to Maria Supin
I’m not sure what that means, but it’s what happened!
First – an adoption update. Daniel’s paperwork collected a few necessary pieces from immigration and the US embassy. All of that together was submitted on June 26th for its final review before getting sent to court. The review takes roughly 2-4 weeks. We’ll have an update on its status next Tuesday or Wednesday. Then to court… where we will likely run into the summer break. July 15-August 30 is the summer break officially, though some people work until August 1st. Basically, I’m waiting with great anticipation to be told when Daniel’s court date will be. I’m praying for a court date in July. Oh, what a relief that would be!
Onto the photo update.
Handsome young man. Jordan is 8 years old.
Me, from my 7-year-old’s perspective.
Anna had her big ballet recital in June. She had two performances and two dances in each performance. Family honored her with attendance and she did very well!
We are so proud of Anna.
So excited and ready for her first performance!
Carolyn wishes she could be in ballet already.
Everybody helped a little with Jordan in his chair.
The place was full to overflowing both times.
Full of vim and vinegar!
My favorite dance.
We are proud of Anna!
Anna and her great-grandma!
Anna and one of her good ballet friends.
They are the Nile river here!
The cousins and aunt Melissa and Grandma and Grandpa came to her first performance!
And Great Grandma too!!!
How Jordan felt after the first performance.
Really, this is how we all felt after the first performance. It makes for a late night and long days. zzzzzzzz
Pappy, great-grandpa and uncle Neal came to her second performance!
Great grandpa and my favorite photo bomber.
Honored guests. And… umm… we dressed up a lot the first night. Not so much the second night.
Anna and her good neighbor friend Elli, who hopes to join her next year.
Anna and her friends! (3 sisters)
Jordan looked pretty great!
Then along came Father’s Day. Brian got to have dinner with his dad and I got to have breakfast with mine. It was really special to be together.
This moment was not less special because of the single photo. This is Father’s Day with my dad. <3 All three kids together!
The bees are preparing the plastic comb in the flow frame to hold honey.
It’s fascinating to watch the bees work.
These flow frames are not designed to work well over winter, but next year, they will be ready for bees to put honey in! (This year, they spent too long preparing them)
A couple weeks ago was heavy honey flow time.
Soooooo many blackberries were blooming!
Neal and I got to run the Rugged Maniac 5K on the day of Anna’s second recital. It was SO MUCH FUN! I’m excited about going next year.
Well, at least they got the better part of me in the picture? hahaha
Neal crawling under barbed wire in the mud!
This is not us, but it’s about what we looked like going down the huge slide.
So great my brother came!
Before the mud…. there was fire!
It was so much fun!
Before: Neal and I were ready for the Rugged Maniac – a mud run, obstacle course, 5K!
After: We made it! My clothes leaned up against the wall and my leg was bruised, but we made it!
And a few other odds and ends…
We do usually clean up and make it to church on Sunday mornings!
Jordan’s annual frozen yogurt birthday treat!
The girls love reading. So much. They were even distracted from their ice cream to read!
I realize this plan is both ambitious and optimistic considering we are going to have more medical appointments and a traumatized child living with us. I think of it as a target to aim at and we’ll prioritize and streamline it as we go along. If I have things here and ready, then more can happen. If you look at the end where “extra” stuff goes, you’ll see that I’m going to have fun learning materials around for them to learn organically on. If some of the formal learning gets behind, they’ll get ahead in the hands-on learning stuff.
Reminder of Washington State’s homeschool subject requirements (which do not have to be taught separately/individually):
1. Occupational education
5. Social Studies
11. Appreciation for Art and Music
Mostly self-led studies:
– 1 year subscription to JAM Inventions
– A number of educational tv shows and movies (have any recommendations?)
– A stack of inexpensive science kits ($10-$20) including a “Magic” science kit, a bubble-gum making kit, perfumery, etc.
– A couple projects where i gather the materials and then let the kids have at it, such as birdseed ornaments, homemade rock candy and homemade slime
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We're just a typical, atypical family in the Pacific Northwest. We homeschool, love Jesus and are learning as we go.
We have three beautiful daughters, born in 2007, 2009 and 2012 and two handsome sons (one born in 2009 who arrived home December, 2011 and one born in 2013 who should arrive home in 2017).
After learning about the need for adoptive families of children with special needs, (and here and here) we began the process to adopt our son Jordan (who has Down Syndrome). He arrived home on December 3rd, 2011!. You can see photos from our trips to Bulgaria by looking at June and Nov/Dec 2011 archives.