Friday, October 27, 2017

29 Weeks

He's Incredible. 

(It's okay to be biased.)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October Celebrations

October is, without question, our favorite month of the year. 

We have so much to celebrate in October!

Like our 9th anniversary.  Wow. 

And Casey's birthday.  He's officially old, so someone really nice made him this from-scratch chocolate cake.

With a baby on her hip at least 80% of the time.  I had to throw that in there.  I like the sympathy vote.

Of course, there were other things (besides food) to celebrate.  Like pumpkin patch visits.

And costumes to be worn.

This costume brought to you entirely by my husband.  He has been plotting this baby for several years.  Of course, this year, we were one too many to go as just the Incredibles.  Fortunately, Livvy didn't mind taking on the role of Syndrome.

So, something interesting we discovered while out and about?  When you dress as the Incredibles, people will talk to you as if you are the Incredibles, and stop you often for photos. 

Oh my goodness, it's Mr. Incredible!  Can I get a photo with you?  My daughter loves your movie, it's her favorite!  

That one definitely caught me by surprise. Of course, the kids completely loved it.  I'm pretty sure they thought they were actual celebrities by the time our day at Boo at the Zoo was over.  Maybe it was because we had all the genders in the right order?  Or because we came complete with Jack-Jack?  I don't know.  But, it was pretty cute to have little kids running up to us in sheer delight.

The adults who came without children to pose for photos?  Well... that wasn't quite so cute.

We also stayed up late to enjoy a fun Family Night, complete with glow sticks, flashlight tag and smores.

We got really excited about the first snow of the season. 

It wasn't much, but ooooh, we do love the white stuff.

Friday, October 20, 2017

28 weeks

Well, the sweetest of sounds came out of my big guy this week.  His first word.

What was that long awaited, much-treasured word?


I got a mama out of my big boy, and of course it was music to my ears.

Hooray for Luke!  I'll take as many of 'em as you can give!

Friday, October 13, 2017

27 Weeks

Oh my goodness.  The wonderful things we are doing this week.  Luke can now sit up, all on his own, with full dexterity.  I no longer have to worry about him falling over, he's mastered the concept. 

He is growing like a weed.  At 6 months, he weighs 18 pounds even, and his "little" head is still floating somewhere waving down at the 99th percentile far beneath it. 

He is happy all the time - with the exception of the five minutes immediately before he goes to sleep, when he cries and tries to tell me how he's totally not sleepy, mom, before his eyes roll backwards and he drifts off. 

Luke is still rocking the nine month clothes, and at this point, we can't even attempt anything less. 

We love, love, love that sweet baby. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

CC Cycle 3 Week 5: George Washington

Hands down, this week has been our favorite.  Which is basically what I said last week, too, so if I'm overselling just how much we've enjoyed our sojourn through the revolutionary war, you'll have to forgive me.

For the record: we really, really love George Washington.

We cheer when Washington successfully crosses the Delaware.  We boo at the deceit of that treacherous villain Arnold.  We root for the downfall of the dastardly Cornwallis. 

Many a squabble was had this week over just who was going to be Washington and who had to be Cornwallis.

In the end, they abandoned Cornwallis so that they could play together and fight on the same side.

Seems a good trade to me.

This week's reading list includes:
George Washington by Ingri d'Auliare (Our Favorite of the week!)
Liberty or Death by Betsy Maestro
This Country of Ours by Elizabeth Marshall: The Birth of a Great Nation
The 4th of July Story by Alice Dagliesh
Story of the World
Book of America: Yankee Doodle
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

We used Draw Write Now to practice drawing our hero, and mapped out Washington's Delaware crossing.

As it is a new month, we began studying a new virtue.  October, as our favorite month of the year, brings us none other than Joy: choosing to praise God in all things.

We are nearing the end of our composer study on Bach, but, being the month of Halloween, they were particularly enamored with this one, Toccata and Fuge in D minor, for reasons that become obvious the moment you hear it.  YES!  That's good stuff.

For picture study, we tackled (yes, you guessed it!): George Washington by Charles Willson Peale.

Although next week we will move out of the Revolutionary War and on to the next amazing chapter of American history, this has been such a fun place to linger.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017


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.

I changed my font at