Thursday, October 5, 2017

Recovery.

It's okay not to be okay, or so the saying goes.

One of my passions during the time I studied for my Masters degree was the physiological effects of trauma on the brain.  It has been so helpful to me over the last year and a half as I've attempted to raise a traumatized teenager here in our home.

Trauma parenting is so different than regular parenting.  Parenting in general is hard and worrisome, but if parenting is like riding a bicycle, then trauma parenting is like trying to ride one backwards on a tightrope.  That may or may not be on fire.

Trauma and attachment issues present themselves in literally every aspect of a child's day, from getting dressed to selecting food to choosing friends and going to school.  Loss, grief and lack of trust govern much of their thought process and behavior.  They are terrified of intimacy, keep people at a distance, hide their feelings, they are prone to prolonged periods of fear, and have a limited ability to trust.  They manipulate and lie.  They take literally ten times longer than children without trauma to learn new skills (even simple ones) and new patterns of behavior. They make the same mistakes over and over (and over and over and over).

Let me be clear, because it cannot be overstated: none of these things are the fault of the child. Only deep love, compassion and the formation of secure attachments can begin to promote new brain growth and impact the biological and emotional development of trust (I am safe), self-worth (I am precious) and self-efficacy (I am heard).

But the parenting process.  It is exhausting.  It is constant.  It is overwhelming.  It is neither natural nor instinctive in many ways.  It is necessary, valuable, and worth doing - but it is all those other things, too.

Parenting is the ultimate exercise in leadership.  When we agreed to take on a child with trauma, we instantly became responsible not only for his physical well being, but also his emotional development and his relational healing.  We had to build connection when we were virtually strangers, identify and heal wounds that we didn't inflict and redeem ground we didn't lose.  We had to quickly become experts on a child whose 14 year history we barely knew so that we could become the agents of healing he needed us to be.  We became versed in neural rerouting and self-regulation and trigger responses, and most of all, we had to have the tools and time and self-reflection to develop and put in place strategies and environments that would promote healing. 

Most of that fell on me, partly because of Casey's travel schedule, but also because it is "in my zone" professionally and personally.  Meanwhile, there were three small children to be cared for and schooled, a home to be run, a pregnancy and life happening abundantly all around us.  Major transitions - whether positive or negative - are always difficult to navigate in the life of a family, and we have had a LOT of them.

And then... sixteen months later... this opportunity came up for him to go home.  He had struggled with the loss of his friends and his life as much as with the loss of his father, and now he had a shot at going back to a place where he felt more "normal."  Where he was more securely attached and hopeful.  He felt that way, and because we love him, we did, too. 

But it was a loss for us too, particularly for the kids who truly opened their hearts with love and compassion in the most amazing ways.  Love, as they say, is a verb, and theirs was so much more than just lip service. 

We feel a little like the team that goes to the Superbowl and loses: proud that we made it this far, gratified by our efforts and teamwork.  As a family, as individuals, we know that we left everything we had out there on the field, but ultimately, it didn't go the way we would have liked.


And now... we have to pick up the pieces.  To stop and recalculate.

It's hard

I'm physically and emotionally exhausted after the work and the non-stop stress of the last year and a half, compounded by what we went through in the spring.  The kids are sad, and we all have a little bit of our own PTSD (mild on the spectrum, but real nonetheless) to contend with. 


We are not okay.  And, while I know that we will again be okay, it takes time to get there.

We took September really slowly.  We stopped for no reason to do fun things and build happy memories.  We focused on connection above all else. 



We did things that made us laugh. 




We took lots of breaks and were very intentionally aware of our commitments.  We applied grace liberally to every aspect of life. 

We got out of our routine and enjoyed beauty.  Because we can.


We focused on joy, peace and rest.

I don't see much changing for us in October.


In many real ways, we're rebuilding our family.  We are different people on the other side of this experience.  I know that our foundation is still there, and that foundation has proved, and continues to prove, incredibly strong.  But it is again a matter of establishing our new normal. 

We will get there, and we will get help if the path becomes too difficult.  We are worth fighting for. 

And while it's hard, there is grace.  And Halloween Bingo.



For parents dealing with attachment and trauma: Don't miss these amazing resources!  THIS is what we used during my MA program as foundational for connecting with "kids from hard places."  It is a game changer.  Also: this, and this are phenomenal. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

CC Cycle 3 week 4: The Declaration

It is probably going to become obvious pretty quickly: I am taking fewer and fewer photos as the weeks go on.

So, to fill a little space (or to help you get your baby fix... whatever...) I give you...


Luke!  Covered in baby food, because we're perfecting the art of eating.  It's not exactly school-related, though certainly a relevant part of our school day.  

We are thoroughly enjoying our time in the Revolutionary War.  The people, the courage, the wonderful oration.  It is incredible to me how much more we're able to pull out of this subject this time through.  Leah has amazed me with her ability to comprehend the reasons for war and remember dates, events and names.  She is beginning to see the link between cause and effect, and anticipates outcomes appropriately during reading.    And Logan.  Holy moly.  I'm delighted to say that Logan has such incredible enthusiasm for the subject as well, despite his young age. That child remembers everything

Of course, he is much more accustomed to and practiced in studying history than Leah was when we last did this cycle.  Logan has already been through the middle ages and World Wars with us, so what's a little War of Independence?  

Such is the plight of the firstborn... they always go first.  She and I are both more practiced at the Classical Method this time through - no doubt, that makes a huge difference!

This week's reading list:
Liberty or Death: The American Revolution by Betsy Maestro
Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley
Story of the World vol. 3
The Revolutionary War by Russell Roberts
Independent Dames by Laurie Hals Anderson
A Spy Called James by Anne Rockwell
Book of America: The Bravery of Abigail Adams
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
The Burgess Animal Book by Thornton Burgess
Poetry: Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

We listened to a reading of the Declaration, and used the first few famous lines for copy work.

Once we were thoroughly familiar with the Declaration, it seemed only fitting that we make our own.


I started this activity by finding a full copy, with signatures, that I could print off.  Then, we tore off the edges.


This gave the paper that authentic, parchment-style feel.


Next, we had to give that bright white paper more of an aged feel.  Tea bags provided just the right tool.



I keep telling you, there's lots of coffee (and tea!) in homeschooling, but a serious lack of hair brushing.

The finished product came out amazing.  The kids were incredibly proud of themselves and their contribution to "history."  It looks just like the original in the National Archives, or so I'm assured by my experts. 



And, here's a good example of the kind of activities Livvy does while we do school.  A little fine motor practice was on tap on this particular day.  This is something that keeps her content and busy for literally hours.  I'm a big fan of anything simple and self-contained, something that grows her creativity, skills or independence, even though we are not doing formal preschool.


My favorite reading of the week was A Spy Called James, the true story of James Lafayette, a slave who, serving under the Marquis de Lafayette, was also a double agent.  He played a critical role in reporting on the activities of Benedict Arnold - after his betrayal - and British General Cornwallis in the days leading up to the Battle of Yorktown.  I am sad to say that I had never heard of James Lafayette, and I don't think it is an understatement to say that without his information, it is possible that the seminal battle of the Revolution might have turned out very differently. 

Despite his loyal service, James was not granted his freedom after the war as he had been promised.  Ironically, after the battle for America's independence was won - in part due to the information he passed on - he was denied his freedom because he had been a spy rather than a soldier.  It was the testimony of General Lafayette that ultimately helped him to gain emancipation, at which time he decided to take the man's name as a tribute.  

It is an amazing and humbling story, and one I wish I had learned long ago.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

25 Weeks


That little smile has returned this week!  He's back to himself, with no teeth to speak of (go figure).  I'm getting very excited to see what this little chunky monkey weighs! 

He is coming along with solids.  And stealing our hearts little by little each day.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

CC Cycle 3: The Boston Tea Party

A while back, we read George Washington: True Patriot from the Heroes of History series by Janet and Geoff Benge.

The kids absolutely adored learning about Washington, his fascinating, courageous and often difficult life during the time of the Revolutionary War.  So it was with great excitement and anticipation that we came to this week's study: the Boston Tea Party!  They were already familiar with some names that came up often this week.  Names such as Adams, Revere, Henry, and Franklin. Watching their faces light up when they come across information they are familiar with never gets old.

We learned a little about Washington's spies, and did a cool activity writing spy letters with lemon juice.


Just add fire, and the message reveals itself.


Although I'm sure Washington would have envied the ease of my lighter.


Spying is a very serious business.  We also may have briefly discussed what exactly happened to the spies when they were caught.  I tried to edit that one out, but we have entirely too many resources in our house... Leah read about Nathan Hale all on her own.

This week's reading list: 
This Country of Ours: Paul Revere's Ride
Liberty or Death: The American Revolution by Betsy Maestro
We Were There at the Boston Tea Party by Robert Webb
The Boston Tea Party by Russell Freedman
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
The Burgess Animal Book by Thornton Burgess
Poetry: When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne and Paul Revere's Ride by Longfellow

Picture Study: Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley
Composer Study: Bach and the Brandenburg Concertos 





This week has been my favorite so far.  There's just so much great stuff to cover: Paul Revere's daring ride and Longfellow's beautiful retelling; the stirring words of Patrick Henry; the bravery of the minutemen who stood at Lexington and Concord.  We had a blast!

And, it was reflected in our Thursday Think, which turned out amazing.   Their best work by far!






They took in so much information this week, it was incredible.  And their drawings... WOW!  



The growth I'm seeing each week as we do gather to do this activity is incredible.



Friday, September 22, 2017

24 weeks


It has been a rare sad week for Mr. Luke.  A week filled with few hours of sleep and lots of tears.  That's not his MO, which has me suspecting that his teeth are bothering him. 

When there isn't crying, there has been LOTS of singing.  Oh my goodness, so much singing.  I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Solids and the fourth child.

Its one of my very favorite parts of the first year.  

Solids.  Oh, they're so stinkin fun!  

In our house, a baby always begins solids on carrots.  I'm not really sure why, exactly.  Probably because we're creatures of extreme habit, so we like to carry on in a consistent fashion.

Whether it's 2010 or 2017, beginning solids means a trip to Whole Foods and a reunion with a few faithful old friends.



It should probably be noted that even my hand blender is tired and thinks we'd better not have any more kids.  This baby, which has prepared virtually every meal all my babies have ever eaten, is definitely on its last legs.  


But still managed to get the job done!


My favorite part of beginning solids is the faces.  Both from the parents and the tiny baby.




That's it.  That's the face.  Why would you do that to me?!

A few more...




Oh yes.  Carrots is a success!

And, because we can't resist a good trip down memory lane...





Her bib sums it up:  Happy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

CC Cycle 3 week 2: The Pilgrims


On deck this week?  The Pilgrims. 

We spent our first two weeks immersed in the world of the Native Americans, so the transition into Jamestown and Plymouth colonies for the last two weeks has been a natural one. 

Plus, the timing of these activities in the fall is just so perfect.  Lots of good crafts and accessories in stores (cough... Hobby Lobby... cough) in preparation for Thanksgiving.

That's where I found these little figurines:


...which provided my kids with their favorite activity of the week.  They carefully painted their Pilgrims and Indians, and we had a great conversation about colors and which would be appropriate and realistic for the time period (even though they often ultimately went a different way!)


They worked SO hard on these little guys, with such care and diligence, it was fun to watch.

This week's reading list:

This Country of Ours: The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers
Pilgrims of Plymouth by Marcia Sewell
The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish by Cheryl Harness
If you Sailed on the Mayflower by Anne McGovern
Story of the World Volume 3
Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock by Jean Fritz (which, by the way, my kids hated.  And we don't often hate books!)
Book of America: The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Burgess Animal Book by Thornton Burgess
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbitt: Two Gentlemen of Verona 
Poetry: Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

We watched a few of these selected webcasts from Plymouth Plantation to give us a bit of real-life inspiration.  Imagine what it must have been like to live in those times!  Fascinating!

Composer Study: Bach's Cantatas
No picture study this week because... well, we simply didn't have time!


We kept up with our daily Bible study, math, memory work phonics and First Language Lessons as usual, and the rhythms of our weeks are beginning to unfold themselves so nicely.   



I am so grateful for the opportunity this year to just go slow.  Of course, that's not to say that the words hurry up! never issue out of my mouth.  But the biggest reason we did not join a CC community was to ensure that we could go at our own pace, that the thousand interruptions that happen when you have two, an active toddler and a baby, would not be allowed to derail us academically or relationally.  

My goal is, naturally, to ensure that my children have a high quality education; at the same time, though, I am so grateful that I don't have to rush them through it.  That they can linger where their hearts and minds wish to linger and explore the things they find compelling.  That they can stop to play while I put the baby down for a nap.  That life flows so much more organically when we're not constantly watching the clock to make sure we "get it all in."  

What a blessing!

Our Thursday Think made its return this week.



The kids LOVE this activity!  I hope to keep it that way, so for the time being we're not doing it every single week so they are not overloaded.


I am amazed by the natural creativity and curiosity it pulls out of them!





And the sweet, often unseen aspects of their individual personalities that emerge around this table.  So fun. Logan is still very much enjoying writing, and prefers to write over drawing (which shocked me.  Who saw that coming?!)




Leah has a grand time expressing herself through her artwork, and it is truly amazing to see how much they both remember.


Livvy works the hardest, though.  Her contributions are some of my favorite.  They may not look like much now, but I love her dedication, creativity and enthusiasm.  Who knows what these seeds will grow into?




I changed my font at thecutestblogontheblock.com