Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Victory Post

When Bubbles was removed from her bio family, she was a month away from completing kindergarten. Except she had not even been at school half of the school days that year, so she was retained. She completed a full year of kindergarten with her foster family. Last August Matt and I made the big decision to have her skip 1st grade for social reasons.

  • Because of her birthday, she would already be one of the oldest kids in her appropriate grade.
  • That made her two full years older than some of the kids if we'd put her in 1st grade.
  • She would have been graduating from high school just a few months before her 20th birthday.
  • She would have been in 1st grade with Piper (1 1/2 years younger) and Pepper (2 years younger).
  • Pepper is off-the-charts smart, and we were concerned that his high achievement would cause unnecessary competition and frustration for Bubbles.
  • With all the transitions she went through last summer, we wanted her in class with her peer group, making friends with the kids she'll grow up with.
  • We wanted her to have her own set of friends, not to be intermingled with Piper's set of friends.
  • We came to terms with the fact that her academics would be low this year, but that with hard work, it will even out in time.
The school guidance team agreed with us last fall, and put Bubbles in 2nd grade. She rose to the challenge! It has been an incredibly intense year as Bubbles and I have spent 2-3 hours each day on her homework. There have been many tears, lots of frustration, but also huge growth and wonderful bonding time for the two of us. She had an incredible teacher who poured into her life and encouraged her every day. The rewards are great, folks!!!

When Bubbles started 2nd grade, she was in worse academic shape than we thought. The state the girls came from has lower academic expectations of the kindergartners than the great state of Florida. She may have been the top of her class there, but she would have come into 1st grade here on the low end. And then she skipped 1st grade and came into 2nd grade rock bottom. She came into 2nd grade barely able to read at all.  Testing placed her on a pre-primer reading level, not even beginning kindergarten reading level. Her SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) score was a 0. She scored 0 on it in September and December. She couldn't write three sentences. She didn't know how to write all her lower case letters. It was far worse than we thought. She immediately began receiving tier 2 support services. And we worked HARD. 

Today, just one week shy of completing 2nd grade, Bubbles has made AMAZING progress! Her final report card will have two A's, two B's, and one high C! She took her last SRI test today and she scored a 263, which puts her on the low proficient level for 2nd graders! Her reading grade level equivalent is 2.5--a huge jump from pre-primer! Her spelling is still awful, but now she's writing a whole page at a time! Like I said, the spelling is bad, but you can read it with little effort. She's a good writer, too, using solid mechanics and great flow. She's got wonderful potential. She's a math whiz, and has an A+ in Science! I am so incredibly proud of her.

I'll be home schooling her this fall to shore up her foundations. We're going to go back to 1st grade phonics and reading to make sure she's confident. I think learning the phonics rules will be a huge help with the spelling. Everything else we do will be 3rd grade because she's ready for it. My hope is to put her back in public school for 4th grade, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

Tonight I'm going to celebrate with a chocolate peanut butter milkshake and So You Think You Can Dance on TV.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Four Mothers and Five Children and 1000 Gifts

A Birth Mother gave me life and gave me a future.

A Forever Mother loved me with every cell in her being.

A Step-Mother is a solid rock of love in my life.

A Son and a Daughter made me a mother.

Another Birth Mother gave me the right to be the mother of three more daughters.

On this Mother's Day...

My Birth Mother sent me a Mother's Day card from Arizona, where she is a distant, but active part of my life. I love her.

My Forever Mother is celebrating her 10th cancer-free Mother's Day in glorious presence of Jesus. I miss her so much.

My Step-Mother is anticipating our visit to California next month. I adore her!

One handsome son and four beautiful daughters have been hard at work over the last two weeks, tucking away little projects and artwork pieces and presents. For me. They are my greatest joy!

Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny's Birth Mother is grieving the loss of her children. Three daughters and two sons. She was a mother, but just in her memories now. This is her first Mother's Day as a mother to none. I love her for giving them life. I hate what she did to them and didn't do for them. I'm sorry for her loss, which is my great gain. I hope that she can find healing and peace, which is only possible through God.

On this Mother's Day I think about the complexity of motherhood in my life. And I'm glad Mother's Day only comes one a year. Too much to process.

991. Sherry, my birth mother, who chose to not have an abortion, knowing throughout the pregnancy that she would have to say goodbye to me. That's courage and true love, folks.
992. Lotte, my forever mother, the single most significant person in my life. 23 years of having her as my mother.
993. Nancy, my step-mother. She's the perfect life partner for my dad. They've been married for almost 9 years, and I never could have found a more perfect match for my dad if I had spent my whole life searching.
994. Snapper, my beautiful 10-year-old daughter who makes me so proud.
995. Bubbles, my lovely 8-year-old daughter who shows me the meaning of courage.
996. Pepper, my handsome 6-year-old son who makes me laugh every day
997. Piper, my sweet 7-year-old daughter who never ceases to entertain me
998. Sunny, my adorable 5-year-old daughter who is making a better person
999. E, the girls' birth mother, because without her I would not have Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny
1000. The personal growth and heart of gratitude that has developed in me since I began this thankfulness journal in November. My entire perspective of the world is transformed. When troubles arise, I can now see God's blessings in the midst of the trouble. Contentment in the midst of trying circumstances...YES! I can! Thank you, God, for Your abundant gifts to me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

990 and Counting!

981. Checking things off of my checklist
982. My sweet Auntie is her birthday!
983. Mother's Day Tea at Sunny's school
984. Beautiful Snapper, glowing as she sang in her school's chorus concert

985. Well-earned awards at the Awana Awards Ceremony last night! Snapper earned her Timothy Award (a big one!) Bubbles earned her Sparks 1st and 2nd book awards. Bubbles earned her 1st book award. Pepper earned his 2nd book award, Review Award, Workbook Award, and Psalm 1 Award! I couldn't be prouder of them...or more thankful for all the Scripture that is now alive in their hearts and minds.

986. Knowing that a friend from church is making dinner for our family on Monday...just to lighten my load. How cool is that?
987. NO MORE SPELLING TESTS FOR THE REST OF THE SCHOOL YEAR! (I rejoice because Bubbles and I spend, on average, an hour per day working on spelling. I get my hour back!)
988. The devotion and adoration in the gently blinking eyes, swishing tail, and soft meows and purrs of my cat Pixie. There is nowhere she would rather be than with me. She checks in with my throughout the day, often coming to sit in my lap for a few minutes. When I move to a different room, she comes with me. When I call her name, she meows back at me. She arches her back and rubs around my legs, purring and looking at me with soft eyes. She wakes me up in the morning and wants to sleep on my feet at night. She adores me and the feeling is mutual. That I'm clearly her favorite family member is quite flattering. =)
989. The prayers of my Facebook friends when I post a status update asking for prayer
990. Reconnecting with one of my mom's dearest friends

Monday, May 6, 2013

Weekend Sweetness

961. Posting my need for good reads on Facebook and being overwhelmed by the response. I will not run out of books to read until Christmas!
962. That a majority of the books were available at the library
963. A weekend of wonderful weather: warm, blustery, rainy Saturday and glorious clear, sunny, balmy, breezy, un-humid Sunday
964. Our neighbor's star jasmine blooming and filling the air with a delightful fragrance that smells like my childhood summers
965. A long conversation with my sister
966. Evidence of deepening bonds between Bubbles, Matt and me
967. Seeing her take ownership of our family (in a very unconventional, yet delightful way that is too personal to post on this blog but is detailed in my own journal)
968. Spending Sunday afternoon playing outside with my kids
969. Discovering that spinning Sunny on our tire swing for about 10 minutes completely resets her sensory system, and Pepper's attentiveness to his little sister's needs.

970. My 6-year-old son's wonky sense of humor. Okay, so Pepper's real name is Jackson. GASP! I said it on my blog? Yes! I said it. So you will understand why this photo is so funny. He came out, set himself up like this and said, "Look, Mom! I'm a Jack-in-the-box!" He is such a ham! Totally cracks me up!

971. Piper independently riding a two-wheeler! I love this photo because of her ballerina socks. She has insisted on riding Pepper's old boy bike because her bike is bigger and it scares her. Even on a boy bike, she managed to let the girly girl shine through. By the end of the afternoon she had mastered riding on her bike...which is pink and purple and has a sparkly basket.

972. Bubbles and Snapper teaching themselves to skateboard on the boards they bought at a thrift store last week

973. Reading stories and snuggling with my two littlest girls
974. Taking about 100 silly face photos of Bubbles and me together
975. The delight of unbridled joy and laughter shared with a child who until very recently has been completely controlled by fear
976. A very exciting and satisfying end to yesterday's NASCAR race. I love seeing the underdog win!
977. An uncomplicated bedtime for Sunny last night. I never take those for granted!
978. A breakfast date with Matt this morning
979. The fun of picking up the breakfast tab for one of our school's support staff who was in the restaurant at the same time and then sneaking out without telling her. Why? Because it's Teacher Appreciation Week and we love the wonderful people who faithfully serve the kids at our school. Matt wrote a sweet note on the receipt and had the waitress deliver it to the table after we left. He didn't sign his name to it. FUN!
980. The clean smell that is permeating my house today because of the mountain of clean laundry that is on my couch waiting to be folded

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thankful for Therapy!

941. Sunny's big improvement academically at school...she is being promoted to kindergarten!!!
942. An exciting new partnership at work. I can't give details, but the potential impact if HUGE!
943. A GREAT session with Sunny's therapist yesterday. Sunny has three therapists: Mary Jo (addresses the emotional), Steve (addresses the physical), and Laura (addresses the social). Yesterday we met with Mary Jo. We're working on helping Sunny give names to her feelings, and then teaching her coping strategies for when the big feelings come.
944. Mary Jo's understanding of children who experienced extreme trauma before the child was able to remember.
945. A technique that really worked for Sunny yesterday

Mary Jo and Sunny, talking about where feelings come from and where they live

946. A very peaceful, happy, productive afternoon and evening with her after therapy
947. Good conversation with good friends
948. Loaded baked potatoes for dinner...super easy and SO YUM!
949. Bubbles' horrible battle with frightening memories of her past. Why am I thankful for this? Because when she battles, the real girl comes out.
950. That Bubbles finally reached her breaking point and has decided she's ready to go see Mary Jo! This is a victory because for the last 10 months, she has been completely closed to getting help.
951. A whole week of beautiful rain and thunderstorms
952. Muscovy ducks and a flock of ibis in our front yard this morning
953. Only 3 weeks left of school!
955. That my rat race week ends at 4:00 today
956. Wonderful spiritual conversations with the kids' swimming teacher
957. Seven free tickets to LegoLand, a gift from a friend!
958. Italian Sweet Cream coffee creamer
959. That my mom saved all my childhood books, and now my kids are getting to enjoy them, too!
960. Snapper taking responsibility for her homework and getting up at 6:00 this morning to finish it. On her own!