We are in the midst of the end of the school year frenzy! It is such fun to go on field trips and make plans for the coming summer months. Unfortunately one I am working on is our travel plans for Kenny's next surgery in mid-June. Dominick will remain home as I go with all the kids to Chicago utilizing one of the two sets of tickets from being bumped on our travels to and from Kazakhstan. It should be interesting to cope with Kenny and all the kids during this excursion, but I am bringing them all along for a few reasons. First of all, we want our dear friends to meet our new daughters. We will again be staying with them, and are so grateful to have such extraordinary generosity while we are there. The kids will stay with them at night while I sleep with Kenny at the hospital, then the kids will all be with me during the day. Another reason is that it has seemed very important to Kenny to have them all see "his" hospital. Shriners is an amazing place, and he wants them to know what it looks like and where he is when he is there in the future and has mentioned this several times. One of the most important reasons is the development of compassion and understanding of what Kenny...and so many other kids...have to go through with hospitalizations, surgery, etc. Not to mention what Mom and Dad have to go through too! It will be good for the kids to witness some of this, to better relate to Kenny's experiences and to be supportive of him. I am sure that through our time there they will also meet some other special kids as well.
We are trying to cram in some decent schoolwork here at home while still doing a lot outside our house this week. I have been invited to be on the Board of Stewards for the Vision Home and Community Program which is the public school umbrella program we work with for homeschooling. Last night was my first "real" meeting after attending 2 others, and it happened to be a marathon session that lasted from 5:30 PM until midnight! However, I enjoyed it and found it very interesting, and look forward to becoming more involved in the program that will hopefully be a large part of the next few years of our lives. Tomorrow Dominick is taking off work to be home with the other kids and be Mr. Homeschool Mom for a day while I go on an all day field trip with Joshua...who is so excited he can hardly stand it! He worked until 8:30 tonight to be able to take the time off, so he is pooped too.
As I type this we have all 5 kids strewn across our bedroom floor. What is it about sleeping in here altogether that is so appealing to them? We read "I Love You Forever" tonight and even though Matthew and Kenny were reading other books off to the side, when I got to singing the little song I made up to go with the words they stopped each time and sang with us...it was a cute little chorus.
I cracked up today, as we are really a gender-bending family these days. We have the girls asking to see a Power Rangers video and Kenny watching a Barbie video. Matthew picked out a Strawberry Shortcake video which Angela had watched one of and hew knew she would like another. What 12 year old girls today would willingly want to watch Strawberry Shortcake? Another reminder that we are parenting kids of mixed maturity, and it is sometimes sweet and always tender.
The most fascinating thing that went on today was one that will surely gross all of you out, but had me gleefully trying hard not to lose my lunch. Somehow, and I wonder what the odds are with this, we came into the possession this week of 2 dead baby birds, both in varying stages of development. The first one was discovered at church and Josh came up to me holding it out and asking if he could keep it. Ugh! Yes, of course you can...get a baggie and wash your hands. That ended up on his desk waiting for him to decide what to do with it. Today we walked out our back door and there was another one on our patio, a dead soldier from the annual nest we have tucked in the crook of our awning.
Joshua, our most tender hearted of all of our children, is totally a scientist in the making. He is utterly enthralled with all things scientific, and he asked if he could "examine" the birds more closely today. How could I say no? Sooooo...what do I do? Hand him an exacto knife and grab the camera. He proceeded to perform an autopsy on the birds...after giving them a bath first...and without any guidance on my part (Heck, I could barely sit and watch it...seriously...had to walk away!) he took care to look at the tongue, beak, tiny little skulls, etc. I then handed him a fresh Composition book from the Dollar Tree and told him he had to document his findings. He wrote an entire page of comparisons and observations....that one had wings and the other didn't have them developed yet, that the beaks were different, what color the...ummm...various liquids were that came out of the bodies. Actually, it was really cool for me to sit back and watch him work, see what he recorded on his own with no guidance, and I realized that all joking aside, we have a passionate scientific learner here and a real natural at that. I gave him the Saxon Math placement test yesterday to see where we should be placing him when he starts homeschooling soon. For the uninitiated, Saxon is a popular, solid math curriculum used by tons of homeschoolers. Well, the test designed for K-3 had him missing only 2, meaning we start him skipping 2nd grade math and move right into 3rd. He just gets it really easily, has that kind of brain I guess. So funny as this is the kid I expected to be pulling teeth with academically before he started school, he had zero interest in anything academic. Here are photos of the autopsy, may they rest in peace:
Aside from the little thrill I got at seeing Josh so engaged in something (and trying hard not to lose my Cheerios!), I loved his spirit later in the evening as we were talking about it. I said something about "those disgusting birds" and he stopped short, looked at me and said "Mama, those were beautiful little birds once, don't forget that.". Shamed, I hung my head and saw once again how much our children have to teach us. His respect for life was a reminder that ALL life is sacred, and those little birds may be the first step in lifelong learning leading to a career in medicine, biology, or who knows what. RIP, my little friends, your bodies were donated to science, and you can rest easy knowing they were treated with the utmost of dignity.
Watching the girls come alive is such an incredible thing to witness. Angela has been the most tentative about expressing interest in anything, and also finds it terribly distressing to have to make decisions of any sort. Olesya embraces opportunities a little more easily and has a few interests such as animals which we are trying to tap into as a bridge for other learning. Today, for the first time, Angela sat down at the piano and started plinking away. She got up a few minutes later only to return two more times throughout the afternoon. I have to walk very gently around everything with her, letting her whet her appetite for something before I say anything, or it is an automatic "No, thank you" as if she is afraid to admit she likes something. I looked up later and saw Matthew and she hunched over the keyboard together as he was showing her a couple of things he has learned. The image will be embedded in mind for a long time to come, for it spoke so clearly of the appreciation they have for one another and the nurturing qualities I love seeing in our kids. It also had me chuckling as I remembered the concerns in court over "mixing races" in our family. Wish they could see this and recognize what limitations racism places in the lives of those who still live within its confines.
Interestingly, there has been a real deepening of the relationship between Matthew and Kenny lately. They have always been closer than some brothers are to each other, but there is something subtle that has shifted and I can't quite put my finger on it. Is it compassion on Matthew's part as he now better understands some of Kenny's struggles? Is Kenny gradually maturing and meeting Matt in the middle? Is homeschooling already having an effect in drawing them closer to one another? Not sure at all but twice this week I saw Matthew walking down the hall at school with his arm around Kenny's shoulders, and even saw them holding hands as they ran across the driveway the other day, giggling and laughing joyfully with one another. This evening I took the girls and Josh to the store and asked Matthew if he wanted to go. He asked "Is Kenny going?" and when I replied "No" he said he would rather stay home then. Interesting and wonderful development and I am happy to see them growing even closer than they were before.
As I sit here writing this, I wonder how strange our family must appear from the outside. Man, we are one WEIRD bunch! Weaving looms, avian autopsies, ministry pursuits, pig-latin-English being used constantly, terribly mismatched ages/grade levels, cohabitational sleeping arrangements most nights with kids big enough to make it impossible to walk safely to the bathroom at night, Barbie Movie watching boys, jock girls...sheesh. Nothing normal about us all right!! And that is just in one week...hmmm...no wonder people avoid me in the grocery store! Hahaha!
Well, it is late and time for me to close the lid on the old laptop and catch some zzzz's. I need my sleep as I am still fighting off a cold and want to feel better soon. Off for tomorrow's field trip. I have a lot to make up for, as I missed Josh's class event this morning after Dominick kindly let me sleep in and turned off my alarm clock, not realizing I had made last minute plans the day before to attend. Man, I hope Josh doesn't find a couple of dead marmots or something!!! If this keeps up I need to get a cast iron stomach, or at the very least a face mask!!