Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School is in session

Well, the kiddos are in school now. We have actually nearly completed the first trimester but I'm just now feeling like my head is above water. It is going to be a tough year for poor Joseph. Jonathan has a definite advantage since he hadn't started reading in Russian yet. He was a little behind but seems to be staying up with his classmates okay. We do a little extra work at home during the week but still focus most of our extra energy on his physical limitations. Joseph on the other hand is really behind. They tested his reading level during the first week of school and found out he was reading at a "3" on our school's scale. This is the lowest level you can be to leave Kindergarten. His teacher (who I absolutely LOVE) talked to a 1st grade teacher about resources to help him and this teacher said he could just join her class for reading groups. To make a very long and not very exciting story short - Joseph joins this 1st grade class for reading groups, attends a reading recovery class with another teacher, and joins a different 2nd grade class for "specials" since he is in 1st grade when his normal class goes to special. He misses quite a bit of time with his "homeroom" teacher and so she sends that work home for him to do at home. Luckily math is not a struggle for him and he is on level for that so that stuff goes quickly. We spend about 2-3 hours a day on homework 4 days a week. Add football practice in there for Michael and Joseph and soccer for Charity and it makes for some crazy days. We were fortunate that all the practices were on Tuesday and Thursday so we can relax a little more 3 out of the 5 school nights. Now that sports seasons are done I hope we can spread the work out a little bit more and really focus on the reading. He has improved so much since the beginning of the year. I think it is possible that in 2 years no one will know that this kid isn't a native english-speaking kid.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our Summer in Pictures Part 2

Well, July is over and school has started again - booo. We made the most of the last few weeks and packed in as much fun as we could. All the kids managed to earn the points they needed from the Super Summer Challenge (Charity pulled it out at the last possible moment - earning 45 of her 200 points in 4 days) and are now looking forward to the family trip to Holiday World in beautiful Santa Clause, Indiana over Labor Day weekend. We're hoping for a great school year for all the kids. Joseph has been dying to get back in the classroom for months. Mom is apparently not a great teacher, well - not a patient one anyway. So here is the month of July in captions. Now that school is in session the photos will be fewer but hopefully I can update a little more often. There is something about seeing mom on the computer that makes my kids DESPERATELY need my attention.

Our vacation started out on a rough note. The brakes on our van decided that they were on vacation as well - in fact they were retiring. So, while Eric was at the local Rotary meeting, the kids and I hung out in the auto repair shop until my friend Beth could rescue us. It ended up being a great afternoon somehow - hanging out with Beth, Jubal and the George clan. I'm so glad it happened in a place where we had friends to help us and where we knew a reliable and honest mechanic. Thanks to our friend Chris and to Dave's Automotive in Valpo for fitting our repair in so swiftly.

Michael and his buddy Jubal. We were able to help celebrate Jubal's (half)birthday while we were on vacation. We had a great time hanging out with these faithful friends and reconnecting with others from our church during "law school days".

Jonathan managed to get in on the bowling fun as well. He managed to beat both his brothers the first game, of course he had bumpers and they didn't but we aren't going to discount his victory on that technicality.

Burying small children in sand is a favorite activity of Eric's. We had a great time on the beach - it was a little chilly but the "under 10" crowd didn't care. The look on Jonathan's face here tells you exactly what he thought of being submerged in grit! It makes me laugh out loud everytime. I'm telling you - we are NOT nice people!

I said that the kids didn't mind the chilly weather - well Charity was the exception when we made her go wash off all that sand. Lake Michigan is REALLY cold. I don't blame her for being a pansy. It think I might have spent a total of 30 minutes in the water all week (but I got a lot of reading done and my tan was fantastic!)

Eric and his baby brave the water. I can't believe how brown Jonathan got this summer. I really thought that he would be a burn risk all summer but he has tanned up quite nicely. Granted - we were constantly putting sunscreen on him but still, I don't think he got the least bit pink all summer. Yeah me, for once I did it right!

Look at my handsome boys! It doesn't get much better than this.

Going for a spin in Mr. W's Porsche. This car is the definition of a "sweet ride"!

Last day at the beach. I have a picture of Michael and Charity like this last July. It is at times like this that I am struck again by just how much life has changed in one year.

Our last indulgence before returning to real life. There is a large dairy farm off of I-65 that has incredible ice-cream. Eric and I are normally really good and get kid size cones for everybody but this time he and I splurged and got the waffles. Ugh - my stomach was protesting the whole way home but I refuse to regret eating every bite of that cone!

I looked back at one point on our drive home to find my two oldest looking this cool. Rest assured that this picture will resurface when they are about 17 years old!

The day after we got home from vacation we dropped Michael off for a week at camp. I missed him like crazy and life was more than a little weird without him around but we made it. He had a blast and loved spending the week with Mr. Josh and a bunch of his buddies from church. He learned so much about what worship is and we have had several reminders since camp to keep applying what he has learned to real life. He made the decision to follow Jesus about a year or so ago but has been struggling with the idea of being baptized in front of our church. Many people do it in private (Eric and I did) but I really think it is important for Michael to follow Jesus' example and take this step of obedience in public. We are going to let him meet with our 1st-4th grade associate and bounce some of his fears off of her but my guess is he will be getting baptized sometime in the next few months.

Aaahhh fair time! Can't you smell the blue ribbons in the air? Or maybe it's the funnel cakes mixed with the unmistakable odor of the pig barn! Joseph loved working on his Mini 4-H projects. He is a little handy-man in the making and loves to work on stuff so this was right up his alley. I'm not sure he loved making cookies but his pillow was excellent and his model was above reproach!

Hanging out on the golf cart with Little Papa and my favorite niece (yes she's my only one but that is just a minor detail!) Jonathan had had some issues so he didn't GET to go to the fair - this also meant Eric didn't HAVE to go to the fair.

Jonathan did get to join us the next day and decided that he would like to snuggle up with one of the babies. Aren't they sweet!

Michael really enjoys working with the dairy animals. I think he will have a great time in his first year of "real" 4-H next year.

Charity and Hannah (my youngest brother's girlfriend). We LOVE Hannah as is evidenced by the fact that my two youngest yell her name at the top of their lungs EVERY TIME they see her. She seems to love them anyway, what a patient young lady!

I love this picture because this is how I spent MANY hours at the fair when I was a kid. Granted - they aren't playing euchre like I did but still.... Ah, memories!

We did take a break from the fair to take in an Indians game with Eric's family. (Jonathan took turns snuggling with everybody. Here it is with Aunt Laura.) It was a "dollar menu" night which works out well for our family. My kids feel like we spoiled them with ball-park food and Eric's wallet feels like we got out for cheaper than we could at McDonald's! Win-win situation folks!

Oh look, Aunt Teri got in on the action as well. That's okay, she took him home with her after the game so he could eat all the sugar he wanted that night as far as I'm concerned!

I know I'm slightly biased but I just might have 4 of the cutest kids on the planet.

The three older kids took part in the fair's jackpot show on the last Saturday of the fair. They each showed a calf. Charity's heifer was acting crazy but she managed to keep control of her in the ring and came out with the all important ribbon and bag of Skittles.

Joseph and Michael did a great job as well. They are both pretty mild mannered so not much phases them but Joseph's sweet smile caught the Judge's attention and he got second place in the class. This of course annoyed his sister to no end because, "he's never even showed a cow before and he didn't even know what kind of cow she is!" I'm sure what she really meant was, "wow! I'm excited for you, Joseph, and am very proud of your accomplishment and not the least bit jealous that you got $2 with your ribbon and Skittles."

Jonathan played baseball the last 4 Friday's of the summer. He got to play on the major league diamond at the park which made his older brothers jealous. He actually can hit the ball off the tee pretty well. Fielding is another story but he had so much fun and loved getting to do something the other kids had been doing.

This picture cracks me up. We spent the evening at our town pool celebrating the birthdays of 3 of the boys' friends. Jonathan scooted from the kid pool to the sprinkler area and left his version of "foot prints" along the concrete.

My two favorite 2nd graders after a night of swimming. I don't get very many of the two of them together so I nabbed the opportunity!

The end of summer signals the beginning of football season - Michael's favorite time of the year. Michael and Joseph enjoyed football camp with their friends Cameron and Aiden. They are so tough!

The last activity of the summer was a trip to the state fair with some of our friends. We don't get to spend nearly enough time with these great people and so this day was ideal. The weather was beautiful and the kids were behaving, making it a great day!

Little farmers in the making. This area of the fair is my kids' favorite every year. They love walking through each area, collecting their harvest, selling it at the market and then going to the store to "buy" a snack. The lovely green Pioneer Seed hats are just a bonus!

Jonathan and Lucas getting up close and personal with some baby dairy steers. I can't decide who's cuter - the kids or the calf!

This is my favorite picture of the whole summer. We will call it "Back to School Blues". The kids and I had spent the morning buying school supplies and they were exhausted and hungry. I was in line at Subway (conveniently and ingeniously located at the exit of our local Wal-Mart) and looked over to see these happy campers. I don't know why I had my camera on me but I'm so glad I was able to capture this moment for posterity's sake!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Our Summer in Pictures (part 1)

Michael is at church camp (booooo! In general, I hate it when my kids are gone for more than a few hours) and for the first time in way too long we have absolutely nothing on the calendar for the day today. The fair will be starting next week and we have the kids' mini 4-H projects done (2 days early thank you very much!) If you know me personally you know this already, but for those of you who just know me through my blog I'll let you in on a little secret about me - I am a complete fair rat (who happens to married to a "fair hater")! My dad's side of the family has been producing fair rat's for years and my brothers and I caught the bug as well. (My sister escaped somehow, but even she comes down for at least one day of it.) We were all 10 year 4-H members and Michael will begin his journey in 4-H next year. The kids and I will be at our county's fair nearly every day and while it is my favorite week of the year, it always signals the end of the summer to me. This summer has gone way too quickly and it is just nutty that we start school in 25 short days (another booooo!) With that in mind I thought I would take the day to post a bunch of pictures and just caption our way through the summer. The plan is to do June today and July another day.(This will take me all freakin' day since I have dial-up internet - don't even get me started on how much that irritates me:) But I promise I will be a mother to my children as the pictures take 5 hours to upload.) I know it is a lot of pictures but we just have so much fun and my kids are so stinking cute! My cousin Heather gives me a hard time for saying that my house is in a state of perpetual "play group" but it is really true. We definitely have moments of anger, irritation, and insanity - there is no doubt about that - but with the ankle biters being SO close in age, they can play happily pretty much all day every day - they just switch up who they are playing with when they get annoyed.

Group photo taken after hiking at a local nature park. Eric called me and told me he was coming home early and we were going on a hike. This was the first time we had gone since the boys had been home. It will be challenging figuring out how to do the whole Jonathan thing as they get older but for now he rides on Eric's shoulders and off we go.

Eric hasn't gotten fishing licenses for the kids but on the free fishing weekend we killed some time before a birthday party by fishing. (I'm the official photographer because I don't touch fish or bait so....) Anyway, Michael got the first (and only) catch of the afternoon and his kind father made him "kiss" it before throwing it back.

Aunt Teri takes the kids to the zoo at the beginning of the summer every year. For the past couple of years I have been invited along with the stipulation that I have to be "Aunt Mommy" all day - in other words, not overly concerned about little things like rules and manners. I also have to be WAY more fun than I would be on a normal day. This picture is as we were waiting for the dolphin show to begin. They all want to sit in the splash zone - of course - but inevitably as soon as Charity gets wet, she starts whining about how cold she is. This year was no different and all of us got drenched!

The goats at the zoo (especially this white one) could not get enough of Jonathan's wheel chair. They kept nibbling it and nudging it and basically invading Jonathan's personal space. And I, like the good mother I am, laughed and took pictures of it instead of coming to his rescue!

VBS week at our church is a big deal. Over 800 kids came through the program this year and they always have such a great time. The theme this year was "Treasure Quest" and the week was filled with all kinds of pirate fun and of course learning about God. Michael and Joseph were in the same group and I caught this moment. This especially warms my heart because they had no idea I was standing there. These two are such good buddies and they love each other as brothers should. Again, one year ago we didn't even know we were missing Joseph and Jonathan. Now we can't imagine or remember life without them.

This was the day after the last evening of VBS. The kids had gotten pirate masks the night before and decided to wear them as we did the grocery shopping. Some things just aren't worth arguing about - so here is Michael and 2 pirates eating cookies that they pillaged from the deli.

Jonathan has been taking an adaptive sports class as his PT for the summer. This is him "playing" soccer. He's actually not a bad little goalie - as long as the goals are low to the ground. My kids have decided that when they are playing at home they put Jonathan in one goal and whoever is in the other goal has to sit on the ground too.

Michael's baseball team made it to the league championship game but lost by one run. It was a great game and the boys had a great time. Poor Sam (1st base and pitcher) broke his arm the week the playoffs began so he had to miss out, but he was there every game cheering his team on!

This isn't a great picture but the evidence on Jonathan's face makes me laugh - Smores! We have three large trees in our yard that drop sticks with each stiff wind. We throw these in the portable fireplace, get out the newspaper and lighter and have a grand 'ol time getting all chocolatey and marshmallowey.

Joseph had never encountered lightning bugs in real life. One night we were good parents and let them stay up until 10:00 (that's when it is finally dark at our house in June) so that they could catch some. Classic summer fun!

Another week, another VBS. The church down the road - which happens to be the church I went to as a kid and a large chunk of my extended family still attends - had their VBS the week after ours. It ran Sunday through Thursday evenings with the closing Program on Friday. Michael enjoyed being chosen to help share with the parents what they had learned that week at "Crocodile Dock". The kids had a great time and Eric and I enjoyed the 2 hours to ourselves for those 5 evenings. I wonder if there are any more that I could ship them off to....

My friend Beth says that Eric and I haven't raised kids - we've raised fish. My kids would live in the pool if we would let them and luckily Michael and Charity can swim very well. When the Ukrainian kids were being hosted this summer we attended a pool party/cookout where we got to visit with the families a little bit and most importantly let the kids be kids. Charity wasn't content to go down the water slide like you're supposed to. Head first is way more fun!

This is Grace. She came home from Ukraine about 3 weeks after our kids did. She really loves Jonathan and he can't get enough of her. Every time we see them those two pair up and pretty much ignore everyone else. My boy has good taste! She's beautiful - inside and out!

Charity attended church camp at the end of June. She was gone for 2 nights and had a great time. She didn't have to be there until 6pm and we only live an hour away so all day she was on pins and needles, antsy to get going.

Umm, aren't you supposed to fall asleep on the way HOME from camp? All that anticipating apparently got the best of her as she fell asleep about 30 minutes into our drive TO camp.

Bunking beside her buddy Mariah with Mom nowhere to be found - what could be better? Oh I know! She's a picky eater and so I asked her about the food at camp and her response was, "Great - we got dessert at every meal and it didn't matter if I ate my real food or not!" That's my girl!

The camp missionary for the summer was from Italy and he taught the kids a funked up version of "Jesus Loves Me" in Italian which the kids performed for us when we came to pick them up. As I walked up to the cabin to pick up my precious darling daughter she came running up to me and yelled, "What are YOU doing here?!" That's love ladies and gentleman!

Each kid was given a certificate at the end of camp by their group leader that expressed appreciation for an outstanding character trait that the child had exhibited over the week. It's awful to admit, but this kind of stuff always makes me cringe when it comes to Charity. We love her dearly but that girl keeps us on our toes. One day she is all sweetness and light and the next she is doing her best impression of the spawn of satan. (Not in a clinical sense - she isn't bipolar, just strong willed.) I never know which Charity is going to show up for me and so I cringe when someone else begins to talk about her. I have to say, they pegged her very well. She got an award for Leadership, which is accurate. We have always said she will either be in prison or president, she will lead the chain-gang or the country. Either way, watch out America!

My mom will not like that I put this one up but I just love it! She loves my kids so well and is a HUGE part of their lives. She has been up north with my grandmother for the past couple weeks and we are missing her terribly!

Jonathan loves playing with bubbles so I broke down and bought a bubble machine for him. The other kids love it as well of course so let the hours of bubbly fun commence.

This year our church held it's annual volunteer celebration/thank you day at an Indianapolis Indians game. Our family sat with several families from our small group and some of our long-time friends. We had a great time and the Indians won in the 10th inning. I was a good mom and got sunscreen put on all the kids - forgot to put it on myself. I paid for it as I sat in the shade and wore a hat at the pool the next day to keep from adding to the sunburn I had received. The above picture is a chunk of the kids from the aforementioned families - Charity is the odd man out as there was only one other girl in our little group. The story of her life.

Joseph and our buddy Jordan enjoying the game while listening to some tunes. We have been blessed with great friends who also have great kids. Jordan is the kind of teenager I hope my boys will emulate. He is kind and respectful and will carry on a real conversation with adults. At the same time he jumps right in there to wrestle around with the other boys. Love that kid!

So there you have it - the month of June. July will be coming in a few weeks with all the lovely fair pictures that have yet to be taken. Pray for my marriage as Eric and I duke it out again this year over the amount of time the kids and I spend at the fairgrounds - fair hater!! :) I love the man dearly. It's too bad he has that one BIG problem!