Friday, September 29, 2006

Happy Feast Day!

Today is the feast of the archangels...a special day in our house with our two John Michael's. Traditionally you are supposed to mark the feast day with a berry pie,,,,blackberry? I don't remember. Here we often mark feast days by a donut run or ice cream sundaes....I've usually made a couple of berry pies already by this point in the year. Tonight, however, Maria really wanted to make her own we are having spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and brownies. :)

followed by a bad morning...and a revelation?

We carried over lousy behavior this morning, unfortunately. Kain and Maria started fighting over something, and he hit her, and I lost my temper again......

then we left for school and I attempted again to talk with Kain, nicely, about his behavior, mainly explaining that he couldn't hit when he was angry, etc. When I was done, he said "I wish I was dead now." Ok...when I asked him why, he said "So I don't have to see you anymore." Well. Thanks for that. We continued to talk, and he said, "Maria always says she wishes she never met me." When I got home, I questioned Maria about this, and she insists she has never said this to him...but I wonder how often she has "said" this by her actions. I wonder how often we all have "said" this to Kain, because surely we have all felt it at least sometimes over these last few weeks. I think today we will all work on sweetening our attitudes and see how it goes. I told Kain that today we would "start over", everyone with better attitudes, mom included.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

what a bad evening looks like around here...

I try to post the positive steps in our journey with Kain. It's easy to dwell on the negatives in such a situation, and I want to feel positive about our time with him. But tonight...tonight has been rough. Maybe something happened at school to start the cycle. He asked me on the way home this afternoon if I thought his mom missed him. He rarely even mentions his mother...I'm not sure what triggered this. I told him, Yes, I'm sure his mom misses him. I asked him if he missed her, and he said Yes, but he would see her someday. Then he rambled on to other subjects. When he got home, he began a series of near-constant temper tantrums because

--he wanted macaroni and cheese for an after school snack, which I wouldn't fix. I offered him our standard "snack bowl" and "fruit bowl", both of which we pass around every afternoon since he came two months ago. As usual, he took a snack, refused the fruit, and because he didn't take the fruit too...
--he threw random fits from 5-6 because he was hungry and didn't want to wait for dinner.
--then at 6, when dinner was ready, he threw a fit because he didn't want to come in and eat. A neighborhood kid had just shown up in the yard and he wanted to play.
--when I made him come in, he threw fit because dinner was "ugly and gross" and refused to eat. At this point I totally lost my temper and started yelling back, telling him that he could eat or go to bed. Now. Without dinner. Never have I threatened such a thing to a child before. I'm not proud. But the dinnertime rules are strict around here about such things. Picky eating is contagious, and besides, I don't enjoy having my cooking bashed. The house rules are, you eat at least three bites of everything served, period. If you really hate what is served so much that you can't eat more than that, you can make yourself a peanut butter sandwich. But there is no negative food-bashing allowed. A polite, "I don't want any more" is enough. "EWWWW WHAT IS THAT ON THE CHICKEN, DISGUSTING!" is sure to push Momma over the edge.
--After he finally came to the table and got his three thank you bites down, he admitted he liked the chicken and the potatoes, but still refused to eat any more than the three bites. Then, while Jack and Maria had baths, he threw random fits because bedtime snack was too long in coming.
--At bedtime snack, he threw a fit because I still wouldn't make him macaroni and cheese. We pass around assorted cold cereals for bedtime snack here (I don't serve it for breakfast). It's quick and easy, nutritious enough, and filling enough for a kid who picked at dinner.
--At evening prayers, he threw a fit because I wanted him to leave the hall light on so that Maria could read the prayer cards. While we said prayers over his screaming, he came out of his fit to let us know he wanted to help blow out the candles. Then he threw another fit because Maria blew out the one he wanted to blow out. After three warnings to come blow out the other one before I did it myself, he threw one more final fit when I actually did blow out the candle myself. I then proceeded to haul all 70 pounds of him through the house, over the baby gate in the hall, and into his bed where he continued his fit for a good 15 minutes. When he finally quieted down, I went in his room and talked with him about all that had happened today, calmly, not wanting to end the day on a bad note...but when I refused to relight the candle so he could blow it out, he began his tantrum again and I just gave up and left.

Now it is 8:45, and quiet. This is the hard part for me. I miss peace and quiet, and it is never peaceful and quiet with Kain here. Even when he is in a good mood, he is loud and rowdy. Constantly. And I hate nights like tonight, when I find myself getting loud back. I have a bad habit of losing my own temper, and I have painfully worked on that over the years...and made pretty good progress if I do say so myself, especially where my kids are concerned...but Kain does know how to push those buttons.

the island of misfit jewelry

We frequent thrift stores around here. First of all, I consider kid's clothing to be a disposable purchase. They outgrow clothing quickly, they are hard on their clothes, and all of this bothers me less if it's clothing I acquired cheaply. Secondly, if we bought new clothing it would probably be from Walmart. I have found that clothing that survives someone else's child and makes to to a thrift store in decent condition is much better quality than what I can buy new at Walmart.

Anyway, we made a thrift store trip yesterday with Maria and Jack in tow. We were looking for fall/winter clothing for Maria and Kain. Maria *loves* going to the thrift store. Her allowance goes further there. Her favorite thing to spend on by far is the junk jewelry. You can get Ziploc bags full for a few bucks. Honestly, most of this is pretty ugly stuff. But that doesn't faze her much.

She comes home and sorts it into three piles...the first pile is for her favorite items...the pretty chains, bracelets, pins. These will go into her jewelry box. Sometimes she picks something for this pile that is not appropriate for a young a big ole chunky necklace that looks like it belonged around the neck of a great-Aunt Edna. I try really hard to ignore this. Her taste in jewelry will improve as she gets older, and her enthusiasm for the newest pieces in her collection is short lived. I consider one of the small and unforeseen benefits of homeschooling is that I can indulge most of the clothing-related obsessions kids go through- as long as it's modest and clean, we can generally work around a treasured item.

The second pile is for the gaudiest pieces. These usually end up in the dress up trunk....the great big neon-bright necklaces, often with some wild animal suspended on them, chunky geometrical clip-on earrings...this week's haul even had those round plastic deals you could thread oversized t-shirts through...they were so popular in the '80's, anyone remember those? Yeah, I'm dating myself I guess....

The third (and smallest) pile is pieces that she really doesn't like at all. Maria dresses with flair, so these items are usually plain or in colors she considers "ugly". This week this pile contained plastic bracelets and earrings in olive, white, and khaki. Occasionally I will pick something from this pile...but not often. I'm not a big jewelry-wearer, but what I do like is pretty plain. The dregs will be put into our own "donate" box...they will eventually be returned to the thrift store....thus completing the life cycle for the misfit jewelry.

Monday, September 25, 2006

the early bird gets the worm?

What an incentive, huh?

I wake up at 5am. I will pause and let you marvel at my self-discipline. heehee. Seriously, I often get comments about how early we rise around here, but let me assure you I am quite lacking in self-discipline. Our lives have just kind of slowly shifted towards these early hours for several reasons. My dh is a nurse and has recently started working day shift, which means he has to leave for work at 6:15....he doesn't get home until around 8pm (on a good day), and has go to bed no later than 10. (It sounds horrible, but he only works 3-4 shifts a week) Around the same time, Jack started cutting 2 year old molars and was having a terrible time falling asleep at the end of the day. His previous 7pm bedtime turned into this long,drawn out 2 hour tear-fest. Kain and Maria were being more and more neglected in the evenings. I found sanity by keeping Jack up until after I got Maria and Kain in bed...then I could lay down with him and nurse him to sleep without feeling guilt over the other children. And I often fell asleep with him. Since I was going to bed so early, I started waking up earlier. This has worked out nicely because Jack is now sleeping later and I can use the early morning hours to get done what I would have gotten done if I hadn't gone to bed so early. In fact, I actually get much more accomplished. When I was trying to do these things in the evening after all the kids were in bed, the temptation to crash in front of the TV was often too strong to resist. In the morning, I am refreshed and awake and much more motivated to get a jump on the day. And as a bonus, I can see John before he leaves for work!

Jack's sleeping patterns are improving now. He will actually fall asleep by himself pretty well. I could shift his bedtime back, and it's tempting because I feel oddly guilty for his unconventional bedtime....but I think I'll wait for now. See, there's another benefit to our schedule shift. I lay down with Jack around 9pm. I am not quite ready to fall asleep that early, so I plan to read a bit while he falls asleep. But we usually end up just snuggling, reading picture books, and singing together for a good while instead. At the end of a busy school day, with my attention almost constantly devoted to the needs of older children, this has become Jack's special time....and mine.

Friday, September 22, 2006

an exhausting day at the doctor

We are also working on getting Kain's lung condition evaluated. He has bronchopulmonary dysplasia from being born 2 months prematurely and being on a ventilator for several weeks. His lungs have not been properly assessed and treated in Lord knows how long. So, this has been on our "to do" list since he came to stay with us. Last week we started by going to see the family practitioner assigned to him by Medicaid. This doctor referred him to see a pediatrician, which was great because we managed to get him referred to our pediatrician. I took him to see the pediatrician today....with all three kiddos in tour. I am still being initiated to doing such things as a larger-than-average family. I didn't prepare very well, I'll admit. I didn't pack things to keep the kids entertained, didn't pack water bottles,,,I've got to get on the ball! Anyway, after getting through the pediatrician's office, we were sent to the hospital for chest x-rays, and by the time it was all done everyone was cranky and fighting...not good. I continue to be blown away by large families in public with well-behaved children. Teach me! Mold me!

We also left with a handful of medications to treat Kain with and a referral for a pulmonary function test followed by an appointment with a pulmonologist. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

how to wash dishes in a kitchen with no plumbing

We have been almost three months without plumbing in the kitchen. It has been most unsatisfactory, to say the least. I have long ago had to resume cooking...a couple of weeks of take-out/frozen meals made us realize we cannot afford to eat that way for long! We have relied heavily on throw-away dishes, but there are still pots and pans, mixing bowls, sippy cups, etc. I had been washing them in a large mixing bowl, but this hasn't worked very well. Pots and pans generally need to soak when you are washing by hand. Trying to get a greasy, gunky pan clean in a bowl of water just doesn't work. But I have a NEW and IMPROVED system now...odd, but effective enough. I post this for those who might have a remodel done in the future, God help you. I am using our cooler as a "sink". In the morning, I carry the cooler to the bathroom and fill it with as much water as I can carry (about half full). As dishes are dirtied, I scrape them into my "sludge bowl" on the counter (aka, the piece of plywood that is serving as a counter) and deposit them in the cooler. When it is full, or after dinner, whichever comes first, I drizzle dish liquid over the heap and use our mop bucket to haul very, very hot water from the tub to dump over the dishes (have a towel handy). I let the dishes soak. When I'm ready to wash, I flip the mop bucket over to use as a seat in front of the cooler. I wash the dishes and deposit them in the (un-hooked up) kitchen sink. When they are all washed, I go get clean hot, hot water in the mop bucket for rinsing and leave the dishes to dry on the counter (aka, the top of the un-hooked up dishwasher). Then, and here's the fun part, I use the mop bucket to scoop up dirty dishwater (mmmmm, good) and haul it to the toilet for dumping (again, have a towel handy). When I've dumped most of it this way, then I haul the cooler to the toilet and dump the dregs, rinse the cooler out, rinse the mop bucket out, and viola! dishes are done. This chore is all mine as no one else in the house has washed a single dish since we lost the plumbing. But that issue is for another post.

For all those concerned about our health, you should know that we haven't been using the mop bucket for mopping. It is exclusively for dishes. And I clean my bathroom daily. And yeah, it's still kinda gross. What else can we do man?

Well, I'm off to wash dishes...we ran out of throwaway dishes and I have quite a pile today! haha!

How is Kain doing?

For those that are kind enough to wonder....

We are actually making some progress behavior-wise. Some things that have helped...

--I have had luck with discussing his behavior with him. The key is not to do this when he is enraged about something (which is often). He will not hear you and you will only make it worse. I talk to him at bedtime, discussing what it means to be obedient, what it means to speak kindly to people, etc., and giving specific praise (Remember when I told you it was time to turn off the computer and come take a bath and you did it right away without complaining?). He seems to really eat up this positive reinforcement.

--He needs *so much* physical affection. He's like a puppy. Seriously, you can almost see his tail wag. It's difficult to give him affection some days. He is not always a very likeable kid. Don't get me wrong, I love him very much. This is just honesty here. If you think all kids are inherently likeable, you need to get out more. :) I think he has the *potential* to be more likeable, but his social skills are terrible, and it is very clear that, while he has been abused, he has also had a serious lack of limits and real (constructive) discipline. But the physical affection is what helps him really bond with us it seems, and then he *wants* to do what we ask more often. And it helps us bond with him too. :)

--Catch him early. One of our frequent bedtime talks is to keep control of his temper and his voice. When he gets angry, he quickly loses it altogether. And he is *loud*. Really, really loud. We have discussed this enough that I can frequently catch him as he is starting to get worked up and remind him, "control your voice". And he will! You know, sometimes.... :)

All in all, we are seeing small improvements. We are working on getting him into a place nearby that does lots of testing/therapy for kids with all kinds of problems. We are also in the progress of getting his lung condition evaluated/treated. Slowly sorting it all out....

Monday, September 18, 2006

sick days

Maria, Jack and I have been sick all weekend with some kind of virus. We had plans to go to the fair yesterday, but with three of the five of us running fevers we didn't make it after all. Jack seems to be on the upswing today. I didn't fix breakfast this morning for anyone besides Kain (because he had to get off to school)...instead I've just fed everyone on demand today. Maria has had nothing but a bowl of broth. I think she still has a ways to go. She just started her fever last night, whereas Jack and I started ours Saturday and I'm hoping we will feel much better by the time the day is done. Jack has had three cheese sticks, half a peanut butter sandwich, and some tortilla chips....definitely feeling better....

Saturday, September 09, 2006

color me exhausted

Our kitchen makeover is chugging along....slowly. The cabinet guys first arrived on August 1st. Now, over a month later, our cabinets are installed (although we have a couple of things that weren't measured properly that we are haggling with Lowe's about), my floor is in (extends from the kitchen and into the laundry room), and counters have been ordered. We finally have our stove back, but we don't have a sink or I am washing dishes in a bowl on our makeshift plywood counter. Nothing like a makeover to make you appreciate your kitchen. We are thrilled over every small step! This weekend I have been painting. I picked out colors for the laundry room and dining room this morning and have been working all day,,,,literally, since dawn until about 5 minutes ago. I love painting though. It's so much bang for your buck, such dramatic improvement for $30 and a day's work. And much to most people's surprise, I pick bright colors. My laundry room if freshly painted in bright peach,,,tomorrow I will paint the shelves in there a pretty blue. The dining room will be the same blue with a pale yellow colorwashed into the dark wood paneling. My grandmother is horrified, and my mother in law probably will be too when she sees my handiwork. My grandmother believes in painting for the sale...that is, you should decorate your house in neutral colors so that it will be easy to sell someday. I don't care about painting for some hypothetical person that might be buying my house in 5, 10, or 15 years. And I don't like my walls neutral colors! I rented for years, and I have grown weary of white walls and beige carpet! Now, I have seen lovely houses decorated in neutral colors, don't get me wrong...these houses are usually owned by people that can afford to buy beautiful furniture, tasteful paintings, and carefully selected accent pieces. See, bright colors have another advantage for me. When you decorate your house in the Early American Garage Sale motif as we do, bright colors help you pull off a cozy, eclectic cottage look. When you pair the Early American Garage Sale motif with white walls and beige carpeting....well, it just looks like you shop at garage sales.

Friday, September 08, 2006

another happy birthday

to my double-digit girl. My Maria turned 10 years old on the first. My sweet, sensitive, high-needs baby that taught me how to be a momma, that dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of AP parenting because she would accept no she is growing up on me! This is the payoff, these big kids,,,Maria is my right hand. The birth of her little brother almost two years ago has helped to give her that final push into becoming a responsible, accountable person (almost all the time :)). She is kind, passionate, and has a wonderful sense of humor. I am really enjoying the young girl she is growing up to be. Surely God is making the most out of my parenting strengths and smoothing over my many mistakes to develop her into this special person.

spelling with Kain

Kain- Do you know how to spell "red"?

Me- you know how to spell "red"?

Kain- Yes! R-A-D!

Me- Well, that's very close. It's R-E-D.

Kain- No, I learned it in school.'s R-A-D.

Me- You are mistaken honey, it's R-E-D.

Kain- My teacher SAID it's R-A-D.

Me- OK, well, you can ask your teacher tomorrow if you want, but it really is R-E-D.

Kain- I'm sorry, but you really don't know very much about spelling "red".

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday Blessed Mother,
Happy birthday to you!

I'd love to say that I planned some kind of deeply meaningful activity for the Blessed Mother's birthday...alas, I have not. We are still knee deep in our remodel. Today we have completely been banned from the kitchen/laundry room area as the floor is grouted. Life is a bit wild a crazy...I have no special devotions planned, nothing special set out on my altar...I have asked Maria to go on a flower-search, but the pickings will be slim this late in the year. Tonight we will present our meager flower offerings and sing Happy Birthday to Mary,,,and like any mother, she will surely accept our inadequate offerings with the love and devotion behind them.

I also apologize for my neglectful blogging practices. Like I said, it is nuts around here! We are getting back on schedule this weekend if it kills us all! haha!