You know how you are sitting there scrolling Facebook and enjoying your morning cup of coffee in peace? Well, you would if you get up super early before the kiddos are up and the day starts. It is the only time our home is quiet. Then everything starts to come alive at 6 am. While scrolling one morning, I came across a t-shirt with a cool saying on it, "If my kids are dirty it's because they actually play outside. So mind ya business." Of course I wanted this shirt. A wonderful friend of mine reached out to me. Thank you, Cynthia. She made one for each of us, changing the wording for the children. Anyone needs a custom gift should reach out to her. Amazing quality work.
We have plenty of dirt, mud, and grass stains. There is never a shortage of supply on those items here on the farm. Immediately after getting the family picture taken, Connor did a cartwheel and landed right in the mud. Ha! True to the shirts saying. We have days that they are pristine clean. Other days might have bed hair and smudge paint on their cheeks from the art we created. All in all it doesn't matter as long as they are healthy, happy, fed, and safe.
Oh boy! Looking at our little guys it isn't surprising to see that they are completely competing against each other for the shaggy puppy contest. It is a close tie between the two of them. However, momma is tired of asking "did you use shampoo?" and having to send them back in to do it again. Check out the pictures and let us know who looked shaggier, Connor or James.
Connor's hair is thick and course. He has a lot of it, too. It isn't surprising that in two weeks time it will look like a trim is needed. That is why this little guy is our monkey boy, along with ears and cute smile.
James has thick hair but finer then Connor's. Still we were way past hair cut time. He definitely needed to be found as the banks were getting ready to take over his eyes. What a handsome boy our young man is.
What length do you like to keep your little guys hair at? Do you taper cut? We are still getting used to the clipping techniques. Not in love with the new Conair clippers that I picked up. What is your favorite brand?
"That need for chaos may never go away for them. Particularly, children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder experience this."
~W. R. Cummings
As many of you are aware that our 5 little ones were added to our family after having their start at life in another family. The journey to us was through 2 to 3 families from their biological family. The first parts of each ones childhood was not easy. There was trauma to be experienced in different levels for each one. We had thought that the last one being so young when she left her biological home might have escaped it. However, something is amidst from either in uteri or the experience of being in foster care.
In our home we have our highs and lows. Kind of like watching the stock market on Wall Street. Just like certain stocks rise up fast and some crash right down to bottom out. That is what our family life is like. Each day is something a little bit different. There isn't a crystal ball to help us see clearly what the day is going to be like.
After reading this article, 'Kids Who Need Their External World To Match Their Internal Chaos' by Wendy Cummings. I highly recommend reading it if you or someone you love has a child who thrives in chaos. It helped shed some more light with what might be going on with our little ones. They love it loud. The chaos, the noise, the hands on each other, telling on someone for something they did or even for something they didn't do. Of course with our first two children we had a little tattling and bickering but mostly calm. Though we had been around children who had behavior tendencies it wasn't every day. Our every day environment is not the one that we lived in for the past 17 years before we opened our home for fostering.
Donald and I appreciate calm and thrive in it. However, we are going to need to embrace the chaos we have been trying to push back against, or at least accept it a little better. Each of our five little ones look like any other kiddo.... just cuter. LOL Just kidding! Children are beautiful. This shed's a light on why one always tries to stir up something when nothing is going on. Why another fights so hard to pick up the simplest thing to put away and then goes into an hour long screaming tantrum. It just might be more than impulses for our RAD child when he places his hands on someone. Our daughter who likes to be the "boss" of everyone and control the situation where she has no control. Then the last one, she is a whirlwind of destruction but taken out of the chaos at such a young age of just over a month. She doesn't like all the loud around her but instead is static cling to myself or her daddy.
We get tired. Our home is not organized. Ha! Laundry needs to be caught up and definitely all put away. The idea of everything having a place is fleetingly flying out the window. It will come when they all leave the home at 25 or 30 years old.... At that time we will be 60/70... Great time to declutter and let it go.
At the end of the day we still love each one of them immensely and couldn't think of a day without them. They might be unbiologically ours, however, they are the missing parts of our heart. We give them all the love and hopefully the skills to help with a stable life through the chaos.
The above photograph was captured by our dear friend, Gina Johnson of Gina Johnson Photography. I am so happy with this image of our Bigs and our Littles.
“Children raised with good boundaries learn that they are not only responsible for their lives, but also free to live their lives any way they choose, as long as they take responsibility for their choices. For the responsible adult, the sky is the limit.”
― Henry Cloud, Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, How to Say No
I shared a post the other day about why we are strict. It was "My Parenting May Seem Strict, But I Have a Few Good Reasons For It" by Mike Berry. The post was shared after it had came to my attention that there are a few individuals who have mentioned that we are too "strict" of parents. Another comment that came to us was one that we are "raising little soldiers." This came as quite a shock due to the fact the individual who said it was one that I looked up to. That just shows in the end who really supports you and your parenting choices.
A disclaimer of what is "strict" if anyone is curious. In our home we expect no running through the house and to keep our feet off furniture. If you can't keep your feet off furniture after two warnings then you are off it. Our hands, feet, and mouth do not belong on other people in a harmful way. Chores need to be finished that are their assigned chores. School work needs to be completed each day when school is in session. We use our manners with please and thank you. All this we like to call "morals" and not being strict.
At this moment, I would like to give a little bit of a statement to this morning and some behaviors we have been having the last few weeks. You see, Donald and I have let up on a lot of our boundaries. We have given multiple chances throughout the day to different actions that our littles have done. In this aspect, we were taking on a peaceful parenting approach and talked it out, then sent them on their way to continue the day.
If there were behaviors, the child having them was still allowed to go to the "fun" event that was going on. Our family has been staying out past bed times and having to come home and still do chores before bed and we rise early in the morning. (We love when we visit and never want to leave or cut it short.) This makes for some tired kiddos and tired kiddos are cranky wildlings.
All of these slips are on Donald and I for trying to let the kids be a little more like neuro-typical kids and not so atypical. However, our littles are atypical. They need structure, routine, and boundaries. All kids do, except atypical children need it just a little bit more. When we are going places, surprises don't work well and just causes extra anxiety. On the other hand of that, if a certain one of them is told a head of time (like days), that is all she can think about until the event.
We have had an increase in defiance, in lying, in hands on each other (for a few of them), and just being down right disrespectful. Some of that disrespect has spilled over to our close friends and family from a certain little man of ours (normally he wouldn't dream of that).
What has changed? Loose structure and too many chances. Not to mention saying they can't go and then letting them. We have to stay home or one of us does to follow through. If we are lucky we could find a sitter on a last minute notice. This is such a fine line to walk and not step on the landmines that can set off a series of meltdowns. Sometimes you hold your breathe to not wake the sleeping lion that is inside of them.
Today, I had those big meltdowns from one of our little guys. He was upset that he couldn't go to the beach. This was decided after multiple different behaviors that couldn't be over looked. Examples hands on siblings three times before 10 am and leaving the house without permission to go outside after he was told to stay inside. (We own a farm and need to know where our impulsive children are for their safety and the safety of others and property.)
He was sent to his room to calm down due to the fact that once he is in that state of mind he doesn't come out of his meltdown until he is ready and no amount of consoling will help him. His room is the safe place for him and we keep it as such. When he calms down he comes up and we have a discussion on the actions and the decision. If we are lucky, it ends with understanding. If not we go right back to step one and repeat the procedure that is in place for him. This is grueling and hard. He isn't able to regulate his emotions like most people and these moments can cycle over a few times until he gets to his baseline. (Again atypical children) On this day that total was five times.
Once he was at his baseline we were able to talk without him melting back down again. He understood what he had done wrong and why he couldn't go. I explained that he would be dropped off to his Dad on our way through to the event with one of his sisters and brother. (Yup! It was that kind of day. I would post theirs, too. However, you most likely have things to do.)
Little man tried to say what he did wasn't as big as what his sister did a couple of weeks previous. I explained to him that she didn't go to the event that night either. Plus we don't compare actions. In life that isn't something you can do. As parents, we don't want them thinking that they can weigh the choices others make that are not right to their own poor choices.
All five of our little ones have some specials needs that take a toll on their young lives. We work really hard to teach them the skills that they will need to be successful adults that we know they are capable of being. The fact they are atypical does not define who they are as an individual. Each is so much more. They are sweet, kind, loving, smart, creative, adventurous, helpful, and spirited. Each one along with our bigs are our world.
Currently we are working on more evaluations to get to the root of what is going on with our young ones. After answers are found (or confirmed to our suspicions) then we can get the services that they need. It is just a long road to get there. If you are a parent who struggles, know you are not alone. I am here for you. If you are a "strict" parent and have set boundaries, keep it up. You are doing just fine. In the end our children will thank us for it. Keep on parenting. It is the toughest job ever but the pay rate is one that is priceless.
"Alone we could do so little. Together we can do so much."
Today we went to the Canton School and got on a bus for a trip over to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office. They were having an open house for 4-H. It was bound to be a great day. The 4-H club offers so much to the children and the community.
There was a demo cow that the children got to milk. Each one enjoyed that a lot and loved seeing the "milk" come out of the cow. They wondered if it would run out? We talked about the fact cows have four teats and goats have two teats.
Of course there was some amazingly cute critters all around the farm. Goats with does and kids. The kids are bigger than our adult goats. Loved this little chocolate Swiss baby. A dream color for our herd. The piggies loved getting their ears scratched and greeted us all with happy oinks. The cows were just chilling, but we know they were thinking about being outside and having the sun on their faces. Happy cows are important. When we traveled out of the barn there was a field of sheep. Ewes with their lambs who were not that old. They were cute little cotton balls.
We learned these sheep have multiple purposes. They are used for wool (though not the best quality wool), meat, and milk. The flock is numbered to help keep track of them. Due to the fact that goats and sheep have different mineral needs we don't have sheep. If we did they would be baby doll sheep or Suffolk sheep. Maybe some day.
At the open house they demonstrated sheep shearing. They don't shear any of the sheep until they are a year old. This is a year old ewe and she is doing a great job. All the wool is collected into a huge plastic bag that is taller than Donald. Then it is sent by truck over to Canada. There they go through the wool and process it. It is a very messy time consuming job.
Of course there were a few candids to be had of just good old fun. We met up with some of our tribe members. I didn't capture as many photos as I could have. These two littles are a riot. Diana was hiding behind Oliver. Chloe loved all the animals, especially the sheep.
The last activity that I captured for the day was the green house and planting their own seeds or transplanting a plant. Jazlyn was the only one to transplant a plant and she did celery. The others planted cucumbers or pumpkin seeds. Donald would love to put in a hydroponics system to our homestead. Someday we will make it happen.
To finish it all off, each one of the children received a huge bag of maple cotton candy. They of course ate it all gone before heading back to the school. Jazlyn shared her's with me. What a sweet girl. Last event that they did was the Paws Club for pup agility. They were fascinated and everyone of them walked a pup through the course. Our little Umma Lumma would be awesome. She cannot join due to the fact she is half pit bull and doesn't qualify to be in the club. We will just have to train at home.
If anyone has ever thought about 4-H with their families, I greatly suggest looking into it and signing up. There are so many options for different things to do. Plus, it teaches great skills that will last a life time.
Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension for more information.
A child born to another woman calls me Mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.
Even though my day was amazing, my heart hurts for another whose day that I know was not. Another momma had empty arms and didn't get to enjoy the hugs and the smiles of our children today. There was no laughter that filled her home. She didn't get to unwrap cute little homemade gifts.
The ache that she is feeling I can only imagine and have been lucky that it isn't something felt in my heart. So many memories and moments that are happening and we are blessed to witness. While each year ticks by and she is missing out on all of these events and milestones.
Dear First Mom of Our Children,
You might not know this at the moment but you have created some very amazing children. They each are extremely creative and sweet. Every day it is astonishing to how smart they are and how hard they work. Each night they loving give hugs, kisses, and love yous.
We know that you love and miss your babies very much. That it hurts not having them and seeing them. Please know that we love them just as much and even though they are not made of our flesh, it is a fierce kind of love.
It is an honor and a true gift to have both your's and also our children in our life. We hope in time as the children continue to heal from all that has happened that we could have some contact. However, until then , please know that we are keeping them safe, loved, and cared for. They are a huge part of our hearts.
Always on our minds,
The Second Mom
Our one little guy refers to us as "first mom" and "second mom" when he is talking about both of us. This makes it easier for him to put his feelings, thoughts, and emotions into order. Now it just kind of sticks. The emotions that run through our little ones are big. Each one misses their first mom and each one loves us immensely.
The only thing we can do for now is continue our healing process. Work on our family bonding every single day. Give them a home filled to the brim with love and laughter, while working on the basics of life. At the same time sending prayers from my heart out to the woman who created these precious angels the we call our daughters and sons.
"Most mothers are instinctive philosophers."
~Harriet Beecher Stowe
Pretty little butterfly enjoying a flower on my walk.
You might be wondering what could possibly be wrong for a Mother's Day celebration with your children and spouse? Well this is being written from two different hearts point of view. Grab a cup of tea, bottle of water, glass of wine or a cup of coffee if you are a night bird. Get comfy with your blanket and start reading.
Today was a pretty amazing Mother's Day for me. I got to sleep in this morning to a little after 7 am. Normally I am up first thing in the morning. The option to sleep in a little bit was great. Then it was a delicious breakfast of French toast made by Chloe with our own farm raised eggs and milk from our goats.
When the tummies were all full, it was time for chores. Outside some of them went (Donald and the kiddos) while the Jazzaroo stayed inside with me. A whirlwind of activity happened around the house. Outfits were double checked that we had everything. Tights, shoes, shorts, t-shirts, hair bows, oh my! (Missing one hair bow that went MIA at Expo time.) Showers were quickly ran through and hairs were done. Everyone loaded up in the car. We are off to the last part of this year's dance adventure at Julie's Dance Studio, LLC. Wish each of them luck!
After the littles danced their numbers in the recital we then went to Phillip's Diner for a mixed bag celebration, Mother's Day and the success of another dance year. The food was delicious and we were all stuffed afterwards. Each little one used their manners and were so polite. They talked and joked together. Conversed with the waitress. It is amazing how wonderful they are. As I watched them laugh and smile and glow, my eyes teared up. These are my babies.
After dinner we headed home. Everyone changed and it was time to go out to the barn and get the chores done for the night. Which of course meant also playing with the baby goats. What a great way to end the day. :)
The only thing that would have made this day better was to spend time with my oldest daughter and see her smiling face. Kaitlynn did send me a Happy Mother's Day text. Understandable due to the fact she had to work. Devion joked with me. He is a goofy kid. All my children are loved with all my heart. My day was not bad. The flip side of this is in part 2 .
I hope you all had a blessed Mother's Day with your loved ones.
"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."
Christmas is always a whirlwind of festivities. This year was no different. We had to pick our tree and cut it down. Many festivities of being with family we were born into and family we choice. There was tons of laughing, sharing, hugs, and warm hearts just by being together. Oh, and there were cookies, too!
We normally do a ten gift under the tree and ten stocking stuffers. This year we changed a little bit. The kiddos got something they wanted, needed, to wear, to read, to make, to eat, and it was just enough. They were not overwhelm. Plus one new added toy. Less packaging, wrapping, and waste for toys they want for five minutes and than toss aside.
Us with the littles.
One of our big and the 5 littles.
Our book ends, Kaitlynn and Sophie.
The love of my life and the other half that makes me whole.
The joy that was on the childrens' faces as they unwrapped their gifts was wonderful. The fact that they didn't get a ton of toys didn't phase them at all. Devion got all of his little siblings bath items that they can use and their own caddies. Kaitlynn searched for Dungeons & Dragon books for them and added their own set of dice. The gift that Donald and I received from our dear friends, Melissa and Joseph Bellinger. It means a lot to us and we can't wait to get a photo in it to hang up.
There are so many more photographs that were taken. We haven't gone through them all yet. The ones here showcase our home and our full hearts. Blessed be to you all.
“What! Would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give?”
~The Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge, Charles Dickens
It never, ever fails when it comes to the holiday times. The grand plans that bounce around in my mind get bigger and bigger each year. I make a list and write it down on paper saying this is what "WILL" get done. Then adding one more thing to the list with a smile and a complete it by saying "I got this".
It starts with planning the Christmas card photograph. I always do these myself. This year the bright idea was going to be an Ugly Christmas sweater craft and than photographs will all nine of us together. One child has moved out and works insane hours, and we haven't had time to get the sweaters or design them. (And I don't want to pay $20 a sweater that we wear once.) That idea was scrapped and we used the beautiful family photos that we had taken by Gina Johnson Photography this fall. (You can see the family photograph on our R.A.O.K blog post.) The first part of the fail for the holidays or so I feel like it is. Second part would be not mailing them out due to I need to find our address book. *sigh*
The next part is the Christmas tree. Still don't have one. Not even one little evergreen bough. We cut down our tree and then bring it home from Bear Dance Christmas Tree Farm. There is something to be said about the smell of a real tree. We are aware that you can get those scented sticks for the tree, but it isn't the same. We will get one this weekend. Promise! (I hope.)
Then I make the ornaments by a theme for the Christmas tree. This year is Devion's year to pick and he surprise picked Video Games. I have the material for the ornaments, however haven't started a single one. There is still time. We got two weeks. Oye! (Who comes up with these bright ideas?) Yeah, please don't answer that one.
Last minute gifts need to be finished up. Wrapping them all pretty and perfect. I was going to make the nice cotton reusable bags that my dear tribe member, Sara makes. Except that means stopping at the fabric store, buying the fabric, thread, ribbon. Digging the sewing machine out that I have used only one time. Scrap that for this year and start early for next year. We did purchase wrapping paper right after the holidays that I forgot about. Win. Win.
Don't forget the class gifts, teachers (we still have dance and co-op), the mailman, garbage man, and the littles we like to do something for. The R.A.O.K. we have been working on. Other things that I might not be thinking about right at this moment.
I might or might not be starting to get a little bit cranky pants right now. The pressure is on and I am tough on myself to make it perfect. Making it magical for the littles. Giving is something I like to do and I love to see the smiles on peoples faces. Wanting to spend time with those I love. Annoyed beyond get go that I don't have our home all organized and ready to go for the season.
Kaitlynn's Tiny Dancer
Now this is what I need to remind myself. The holidays are not about the gifts but the time spent together as family and friends. If you don't get the cards out until after Christmas, that is alright. Your loved ones love you and want to see you more than one more thing in their lives (I got gifts anyways). Two batches of cookies are better than none. The ornaments to be added to the front of the tree.... Shhhh Don't look in the back.
Just remind myself that I did not fail. Over reaching is something that I need to work on. The littles will love what they receive and spending time with us. As for the home, it took 25 years to accumulate everything. It will take more than a few days to get rid of it.
Do you feel the extra weight of the holidays? What is the one thing that you would want done the most? Blessings to all of you.
“...freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin - inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night...”
~ John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
We haven't yet gone to cut down our Christmas tree. This will be the third year that we have done this together as a new family tradition. There is just something to be said about the real Christmas trees. They smell amazing. There is no storing after the holidays. We don't use tinsel or sprays on it. The tree is appreciated by the goats after the holidays. It is actually an amazing help in keeping worms at bay. We get our trees from Bear Dance Tree Farm. Very friendly family and it is located right around the corner from our home which means getting the tree is quick.
Super Sid is getting a little impatient with us. Can you tell by his hint? He really would love to be smelling some evergreens about now. The naughty, creativity he got into during the night.
The littles LOVE play-do and we go through quite a bit of it. So Super Sid decided that he would create a homemade play-do recipe that smells like a forest. Sneaky little bugger got into my essential oils while I slept. The surveillance cameras took these still shots of him caught in the act.
*Note it was really late when this was being made. The mixture was sticking to my hands, I mean Super Sid's hands, so more flour was added. I hear laughter that sounded hysterical coming from the kitchen. So much for trying not to wake anyone up. Then the different colored sections were molded into trees and wrapped with clear wrap. Put aside with their labels telling what tree they represent.
Which tree do we choice?
There were five different essential oils used, Pine (Pinus sylvestris) by Young Living, Idaho Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) by YL, Blue Cypress (Callitris intratropica) by YL, Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) by YL, and Peru Balsam (Myroxylon balsamum) by Plant Therapy. These oils all provide an amazing sent that is pleasant as the children play.
You can order Plant Therapy directly. Young Living has a great selection of oils, too. Click on either companies names and it will take you to their pages to find out more about essential oils. They have so many purposes.
Essential oils for the trees.
Super Sid created this beautiful card for the littles. Has everyone seen those fun glitter markers? The ones where you are writing and the glitter just flows from them. The Dollar Tree has them in four colors, two in each package. SCORE! Yes I am glitter happy. Plus I love pens, markers, and notebooks. Almost obsessively. These made my day. Of course, Super Sid likes them too. I guess that I can share.
James read the note that Super Sid left.
Below are photos of the littles playing with their scented playdo. They were having so much fun with the toys and creating different items that their imagination thought up. One of the toys that they really enjoy is the Star Wars playdo set.
Connor and James are both busy creating.
Sophie and Jazlyn were working on shapes and hair designs.
Chloe created this beautiful mermaid.
After this activity I have to ask myself why I don't make homemade playdo more often. It gives you quite a bit. The kids seem to like it just as much as the store brought stuff, if not better. There are many different recipes out there for playdo, kool-aid, peanut butter, and gingerbread just to name a few. If you have a favorite recipe that you use I would love to hear about it. Or a tip to help the dough not stick to your hands so badly when you are kneading it, please share below. Blessed be.