I find myself with full days but little time to post...and often nothing much significant to share. When your days revolve around grammar and adding with decimals, let's face it...there ain't much all that exciting going on!
But for all the blessed lack of drama, life is good...darned good. I was thinking yesterday that my life couldn't be any better, period. There is no amount of money that could add to my pleasure, no "trip of a lifetime" to look forward to that would make me any happier, no new car or home that would please me...nothing. I am loved and have many opportunities to show love every single day. I have enough, enough of everything I need. I am at peace in almost every area of my life.
And I so enjoy being with our children in the way we are together these days. They are maturing so quickly, and are turning into young people I respect and admire. I know that being with 5 kids all day long would not be everyone's cup of tea, but honestly, I have been on jobs before where my co-workers were far more frustrating as adults to be with than the 5 people I get to share my days with right now. There is respect, a strong work ethic, a desire to learn, enthusiasm for what we do each day...yes, even for math, kindness exhibited always, and we have a "No Whine Zone"...an activity which none of them engage in. It makes for such pleasant days, even when really busy.
There is something quite satisfying with sitting back and seeing just how far the girls have come in a relatively short period of time, and to see the growth that Kenny is exhibiting. The girls have been home 7 months and are doing so much in school that I never would have thought possible this early in the game. We have kept expectations at a minimum, and maybe that is what has caused us to be so surprised, but they are coming along in every area at lightning speed working at levels I never would have imagined during those terror filled nights on the frozen tundra when all I could think of was "I can't possibly do this God, why are you telling me I have to? I am not trained and don't even know where to begin! PLEASE tell me I don't have to homeschool them all!", and I laugh now as I can't imagine NOT doing it...or better yet am terror filled at where we would be if we hadn't. So glad I didn't chicken out on this, it has been a real gift to our family in a million ways, and all the kids are blossoming.
Matthew showed it in surprising ways at our church's "Talent- No Talent" show this weekend when he not only acted in a skit but played a couple pieces on the piano. It had nothing to do with skill that impressed me, it had to do with him coming out of his shell and doing things in front of others I never would have imagined him doing a year ago...and doing so with poise and confidence. He is not necessarily a gifted pianist nor actor, but he willingly and enthusiastically engaged in activities he would have vehemently declined to do before.
Kenny's reading is showing marked improvement, as is his attitude toward school, He is starting to see himself as the smart young man he is! I am enormously pleased with the progress he is making despite some struggles, and am able to show him specific areas of rapid growth that have helped him see himself differently. His reading speed is gradually improving, and his gifts in math are coming to the forefront. He went for special ed testing yesterday through our homeschooling program, and finishes today. The teacher there was able to quickly see the very things I have found in working with him at home which are quite intriguing...he can't identify syllables to save his life nor middle sounds in words, he inserts sounds that do not exist, and she also pointed out that one thing that is slowing down his reading fluency is his speech and articulation. Kenny can not yet read without vocalizing, so his speech makes a significant contribution to slowing him down...something I had not thought about. She thinks his reading speed will improve when he finally bridges that developmental gap and starts being able to fully read silently to himself, and I think we are getting closer to that happening soon. He has started to really dive into reading with a passion lately, and I think giving him hours and hours of time to read much lower level books has allowed him to naturally progress and he is now working on harder books.
While he remains well below grade level, I wouldn't be surprised if the combination of holding him back in 4th grade this year and working diligently with strongly focused one on one reading time sees him reading at 4th grade level by the end of this year. At least that is our goal. We have started him back at the beginning with everything...phonics, spelling, etc and he is doing everything again right alongside the girls and Joshua. Reinforcing things seems to be helping him gain confidence and is filling in the little gaps he had here and there that went undiscovered, and I don't see it as a waste of time at all to go back to the beginning, and neither does he as we find little things he never quite fully understood.
Joshie is stepping up in ways that are surprising as well. We just finished creating large maps of Africa, and he did a great job for a 2nd grader! In fact, in our little class he proved himself to be a leader as he was the only one who thought to color it based upon desert and forested areas, and the others quickly followed his lead. He is proving to be quite a self-motivated learner and you would never know from the focus he shows that he is 4-5 years younger than his siblings...at times he is the one setting the example for paying attention!
I am looking forward to winding down my own classes for ministry, as November fast approaches and I will be able to say with glee "I did it!". It will be a little less than dramatic as you attend your last class and there is no graduation ceremony or diploma handed out, no real celebratory event marking the completion of something that is pretty significant for me, but simply knowing I somehow managed to pull this off while in the midst of such huge life changes for our family will be reward enough. Then it is on to seeing just how God will decide to put me to work, the only real area where there is any lack of peace right now in my life. I am preaching a couple of weekends in October, both at our church and another one in a little mountain community nearby, and that is something I have not done much of and am always very nervous about doing, but that is it. I STILL have no idea why I felt called to lay ministry, and am hoping God makes it clear pretty soon.
Dominick is, thankfully, busy at work. It has been a real up and down year as the economy has taken its toll. Pillow talk this morning before he left at 4:30 AM had us sharing how we are glad we decided to just turn our finances over to God and quit stewing and fretting over it. We have long rested on God's promise that if we brought the girls home, somehow we would be able to provide for them. Once you get to a place where you accept that the worst case scenario would have you sitting in the dark with no electricity and eating top ramen every night...and you know you would still be happy anyway with your family around you...somehow you find yourself relaxing.
Funny, and I know others might not understand this, but Dominick and I don't feel alone in this. We have a strong team behind us in our family, and somehow we will all make it. We have been watching a PBS series on DVD called "Frontier House" where they took 3 modern day families and placed them for 5 months in 1883. They had to build their own cabins, raise and grow their own food, wear period clothing, and live just as the pioneers did. The kids have loved this but what has shone through is their comments as they have watched it. The families on the show were pretty typical, and sadly that means they also cracked a lot under the stress showing how disconnected they were in "real life" and how difficult life was to do without the modern day "essentials". We have loved hearing our kids' comments as they have said things like "We would be able to make it, because we would work together!" or "It's sad how those families don't know how to have fun together, we would have a lot of fun even if it was hard work.". Angela, who was the most fascinated, was a bit disgusted watching the teenaged daughters as they complained and didn't help their mom much. Kenny piped up "Those kids are all such whiners! So what if you have to carry water for your family, that's not a big deal...you take turns." It is an interesting experiment to watch unfold, but even more interesting to see the kids' reaction to it.
Kenny has healed beautifully, you would never know he had surgery less than two weeks ago. This time was much easier on him than last, and we were relieved he had so little pain. He is still on a soft food diet for another couple of weeks, but it isn't slowing him down in the Eating Department. Man, that kid can shovel the food down which is made all the more surprising by his small stature!
We have taken our paper chain and decided to go another route with it. It was becoming too long and unwieldy, so we went to a new method of tracking reading books. We got a jumbo pickle jar and pinto beans, and are going to fill up the jar with beans. We added in 652 beans to start, which was for the books we read this summer. When we fill the jar up, we get a reward trip to Six Flags Amusement Park in Denver. This kids were a bit surprised to see that 652 books barely came up less than an inch from the bottom of the jar, and Dominick laughed saying "We will be taking that trip to Six Flags when they are all 18!" but everyone is motivated and we will keep at it until it is full.
We also started a new "Student of the Week" chart. Each week I will select one of the kids to be Student of the Week. This is NOT based upon being the smartest, but on improving in an area that is challenging, kindness and character being exhibited, and working hard. Kenny won our first week and got to put a sticker on the chart. At the end of each semester, the child who has the most stickers gets a night out alone with Mom and Dad while the others remain home with a sitter. Surprising how excited the kids got over that prospect, I wasn't sure if that would be a good motivator or not but they all loved the idea of dressing up a bit and going out on the town alone with their parents.
So we are settling into fall which is my personal favorite season, and getting into our routine. We have a lot of firsts ahead of us to look forward to with the first Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas to experience at home with the girls. Pumpkin carving and tree decorating will be upon us soon enough, as will the shorter days of winter which brings with it sledding and fires in the wood stove to curl up around. Yes, life is surely sweet right now. Love somehow makes it that way...