Sunday, June 8, 2014

Our Life as of Today

I had all these cute pictures downloaded last night and the blog half written when, for whatever reason, everything shut down and nothing saved! So, this is a quick update for those who have been asking on how we are doing.
We are all doing well...if you count the lack of sleep and that Luke and I were joking about the other night. We feel like we're back in college. We sit in the hallway after kids are in bed and before we go to our respective rooms at night. We reminisce about the day: stuff we need to know, how each other is doing, etc... Yes, we are in separate rooms now because Little Miss Mermaid thinks that her favorite time of day is night and has the night life of a drunken partying college student who forgot they are in school. No worries, the child still gets sleep. She just does a chunk of that during the day when the rest of the world is going about their everyday lives. We've tried to get her switched. It ends up causing fairly significant medical issues. Think heart and oxygen monitors going crazy and keeping the whole house busy instead. So, we take her good days when they come and at times she can get out for short trips into town and she's a happy little girl. The kids have adjusted to her wacky life and Nater Mater has taken full advantage of her night life. The other 5 year old (Nater Mater) who we had just sleep trained has now figured out that mamma's too tired to care if he crawls in bed with her every night while she keeps an eye on his little party friend. If I'm dozing but she is quietly watching Curious George, he can crawl over and join her and the two together can watch numerous episodes of their favorite cartoon at 3am. I am looking forward to the end of Pre-school when he will no longer take naps. That way we can wear his little 5-year-old self out during the day and he should go back to sleeping through the night again. Maybe. And, maybe his love of Curious George will keep his night life going.
Speaking of Pre-school, Nater Mater has LOVED this year. His teachers have been fabulous and in spite of my apprehension of having him in full-time pre-school all day, it has been wonderful for him. He's the only child I've done this with. I like having my kids home until Kindergarten and I've never liked the idea of full-time pre-school because I still view it somewhat as Day Care. But, his school and his teachers have instilled in him a love of learning and he is already trying to pick out words and write letters to people and tell me that he can count to 100...even though he routinely misses #16. He would have been bored out of his ever-livin' little mind if he'd stayed home with me this year. Little Mermaid can't exactly run around with him and I don't have any Day Care kids now. At his graduation I was a little teary. My last baby on his way to Kindergarten and somehow every time my kids move up from the fabulous teachers they've had, I feel the loss as well.
Good Lookin' has done phenomenal this year as well. His teacher has also been a wonderful fit for him this year. She was constant, firm and structured and full of sweet compassion.
His reading has taken off and he is excitedly reading chapter books to Nater Mater when he feels generous enough. Gone are the days Luke and I can spell in front of him so he doesn't know what we are saying. We had a rough patch in March right around the time some beloved friends were moving and we had also gone through a Care Giver change with Little Mermaid. He liked hanging out in her room with this particular Care Giver and when he lost both in the same month, he seemed to revert back about a year in behavior. After discussing it with his school counselor, we figured out it was honestly just grieving and he was having difficulty expressing it (unlike myself and other openly emotional criers in this house). His grief came out in hiding in closets and me having to drag him out by his feet every morning and hauling him to the car to go to school only to have him scream and kick and punch anyone who was within arm's reach. Which is nearly everyone when you drive a mini-van. His counselor started meeting with him and gave him some goals to focus on and work towards and we also worked on getting him to cry instead of hit whenever family came within 5 feet of him. Surprisingly on his last day of school when we were saying goodbye to his teacher, he got teary and said he didn't want to leave. This is the child who begged every day to home school! His teacher and I assure him he could walk downstairs and visit her before school.
Mr. Smiles has wrapped up 2 amazing years in the all-boys class at his school. These 2 teachers make putting your kids in Public School an amazing experience. For this Lego-loving indoor-preferring child, having these male teachers and their personal love of the great-outdoors and experiential learning, public school has been the best choice we could have made. We had originally been told not to put him in the all-boys class because of his difficulty with being easily distracted and that he was already so far behind in reading. But Luke and I knew these 2 teachers and decided to request it anyway. Hands-down best decision ever. He has blossomed in the last 2 years. I cried when we left his school building as well.
Precious Jewel had the hardest start to her school year and the most shocking. She had gone from all girls to home school and recovery back to Public School and was placed in a rough class full of some pretty difficult boys. We debated the entire first semester whether to pull her back out and bring her home and I spent many hours praying and crying my own tears of frustration that things weren't progressing. However, we didn't have a peace about bringing her home either, so we continued to pray for her and help her walk through it all. Two things happened that helped her. First, around her birthday we started her on an Essential Oil that helped her regulate anxiety levels and calm her down and second, in January her teacher started an after-school tutoring class for students who were struggling. Much to her horror she got the "you could use some extra assistance letter." She begged us not to humiliate her and send her, but we did and we all discovered that the handful of kids who were in tutoring were the better behaved kids who were struggling because of the chaos of the classroom. The teacher did this on her own time after school. From then on, she loved school, was able to find a solid group of friends and the tears virtually stopped. Can I get an "Amen!" for that teacher?
What does our summer hold? Not sure. I am really happy that school mornings are over for a time. Does anyone else hate getting everyone up and ready and dressed for the day on a time schedule? It is doubly hard with Little Mermaid. I never know if she is going to be sleeping, awake or having a medical issue while I'm trying to get everyone fed, dressed and ready. Good Lookin' and his morning antics drive me to distraction and many days I want to scream and cry. But our last school morning was just plain hilarious. Everyone was their usual cranky. I was my usual "lets get going and guess what? It's your last day of this!!!"  I was headed down the driveway feeling smug and confident that no one had yelled at or slugged anyone else and that this was our last chaotic morning when Abigail started frantically smacking the back of the driver's seat and yelling (as if I couldn't hear her right behind me) "MOM!!!! Alli is running after our car!" Alli is our morning help that arrives in the middle of the chaos of getting my kids to school. My heart dropped. I thought, "this is it. This is the day we've been dreading. Why today of all days?!?!" I yanked the van into reverse and sped backward down the driveway.
"Mrs. Haak! You left a child!" is what I heard when I jumped out of the car. I looked again into the backseat and noticed that a certain curly haired child was missing. I mean seriously, I've made it to school without his shoes before, but I've never made it to school WITHOUT him! Such is the life in our house this year. Keeps me very humble...or is that humiliated? Meh, whatever. Here's to summer!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

New Year

Since it's been over a month that I've written anything, I thought I might want to give a little update on our family.
It's a New Year and almost Valentine's. Life has begun to settle into a tentative routine with our new family. We are getting the hang of parenting 4 crazy and active kids and one sweet, little, bed-ridden girl. Our kids are beginning to settle and even Good Lookin' who has always taken a stand-offish view with Little Mermaid has begun to warm to her.
Yesterday he walked into her room where I was sitting rocking her in the recliner and reading her Brown Bear Brown Bear. He perked up and asked if she liked that book. His kindergarten teacher last year had read it to his class and he had apparently really liked it. He walked over to her hospital bed and picked up her new little Elephant Toy and handed it to me. "She likes this mom. Let her play with it while you read to her." I nearly cried because it seems that he goes out of his way to avoid her most of the time and I had no idea that he had noticed that she liked her knew toy. I asked if he wanted to play with it with her while I read. He did a quick jerk of his head and stepped back then sat on the floor to listen and watch while I continued reading. I think he's beginning to actually like Little Mermaid! Baby steps. Baby steps.
I had my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Luke took me to Broadway on Ice with some dear friends. I could have died and gone to heaven. Dear Luke is not one who really goes for the artsy side of life. He doesn't dislike it but it's not really his thing either. So when he surprised me with these tickets for my birthday and then also told me that he'd invited friends because he knew I'd like a double date, I about had a heart attack! I could hardly wait! Best night ever! Luke's parents took our kids and Little Mermaid's Case Manager came and stayed the evening with her so that we could get out. It was nice just being out and carefree for an evening knowing everyone was cared for and we could just "be" and have a fun evening.
When I look back over our past year, I am amazed. God has taken us on an amazingly difficult and yet rewarding journey. I read an article that a friend had posted on Facebook a short time back that made me pause and think. The title was "God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle. I Guarantee it." I'd always heard the opposite: God will never give you more than you can handle, but I could never find that in Scripture. I know it says He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able but I always wondered how to explain the other phrase. There have been many times in the past 5 years as I've struggled with depression that I thought I might not be able to take another breath for fear of falling apart and cried out in utter desperation for God's help to just make it through the next 5 minutes let alone the rest of my day. And after this past fall I have definitely come to believe that He WILL give us more than is humanly possible but that's what makes it so beautiful in the midst of the desperation. We are placed in a position of absolute TRUST that He has our Best in mind. And like any parent who has to explain to a child that they truly know what is better for them and they need to trust even though they don't understand, we are like that as God's children. It may seem too hard, too long, impossible to go on yet another day with the way things are, but we can TRUST in Him and His carrying us over the hot sand is the best place to be. He's got a greater plan that what we can see.
We've been told by several people "you are amazing for what you've done. Or, you have to be great parents to do what you're doing." In reality I end many days in exhausted tears and looking at the ever-expanding circles under my eyes from lack of sleep and want to quit it all. Many days are just too hard. Little Mermaid still has the weirdest sleep patterns of any child I've ever know. Last week she went a record 30 hours awake with a 1 hour nap. I am finding that my idea of sleeping during the day since I am the one awake with her most nights, is much harder than it sounds. The rest of the world is most active at day and if I want to get anything done it most likely requires daylight. That leaves me with an average of 2-4 hours of sleep at night and sometimes even less.
We have support staff that comes to our house during the day and that has been a tremendous help. But I find that even with them helping to care for her, I still need to take care of my house, cook food for my family, take kids too and from school, etc... It's hard to do all that while sleeping. I yell at my kids just like anyone else only I have people who aren't a part of our home hear me. Luke and I fight just the same as before only now we have to be extra careful about what we say because we're both so tired. So when people say "you're so amazing," I really just want to smack 'em and prove to them were not. We've simply been called to love on a little girl who desperately needed someone to care for and about her. We stepped out to answer that call and He's taking us on a roller coaster of a journey.