Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So far, so good...

So far, so good. Corazon has been plugging along on her schoolwork while I still refuse to give her any. She even asked to go back to her blog this weekend. She used to post her daily journal prompts there and then lost interest in both the blog and her schoolwork. Now she seems ready to tackle it again. We shall see how it goes but for now I am grateful that she has taken a new interest in her school work. It has been challenging to come up with a school routine with four kids "formally" schooling. We are in week 3 of our schedule and are hitting our stride I think. The biggest challenge is that both Pollito and Corazon demand CONSTANT attention particularly if another one of them is talking with me. It is like clockwork...if one asks a question, the other one (or two if the original child talking to me is Tortuga or Milagro) is right there. It would be one thing if they waited quietly but the shout at me and each other to try and get my attention. I have gotten pretty good at ignoring it until I am finished with the first kid but sometimes it escalates quickly.  Other than this behavior though I think we are lucky. They all seem to know what they need to do, we have time for group activities or lessons, and this year we have started having organized "arts" activities at least twice per week. The kids all love to do crafts and arts but it is not my strength nor my interest. So I struggle to create opportunities for them beyond their usual drawing, coloring, painting activities--which they all love and is their "go to" activity when they have free time.

Pollito is still a very angry little boy. He just turned 8 but still lags about 2 years behind his chronological age in most areas. His anger is directed mostly at himself or his sisters and he is destructive. It is difficult to tell whether the issue is his nature run amok (he loves taking things apart) or he is actively working to make them angry at him. He pretty much destroys (quietly) anything he has--toys, books, stuffed animals, etc and he does it to any of their items he can get ahold of. Yet he is also very sensitive. Whenever the other kids are sad or in trouble (even when he set them up) he feels bad for them and tries to hug them or goes off to draw them "a card." Just yesterday, I sent Corazon to her room for a "break" for deliberately defying me as I was trying to get Milagro to do something she knew how to do on her own. Pollito went off and drew her a card and wrote on it that he missed her so much when she wasn't downstairs with the other kids. This is pretty typical of him.

Tortuga is still having a hard time but we are seeing some slow progress. The meanness and hostility have tapered off and have been replaced by disrespect and attitude. I just reread that and marveled at how I can describe disrespect and attitude as "progress." :-)  For him it is. I still haven't re-instituted his guitar lessons (should have started in late August) because he hasn't demonstrated that he can  consistently follow his most basic routines and expectations. I am not sure what to expect with him because his WORST times are usually between Halloween and mid February. Lots of traumaversaries for him during those months. If what we are seeing is the best we are going to get until next February this is going to be one dreary Fall/Winter and I am not looking forward to this at all. We shall see.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My daughter is mad because I let her quit school...

Corazon has been angry with me because I gave her permission to not do schoolwork.

Homeschooling is full of ups and downs with her because she has so many challenges with organization, attention, opposition, hyper vigilance and perfectionism. Sometimes we go for weeks and everything moves relatively smoothly. Then she just stops doing any schoolwork or doing pretty mediocre work. We have ridden that wave pretty much her entire life with us and I don't sweat it when we have to take a break. When she won't do her work she just gets to help me out and do more chores. We both win. She gets time with me and I get chores I don't have time for done. The challenge is that the other kids take their cues from her so when she is battling about schoolwork they try to battle too.

While she loves learning, her skills vary considerably depending on the day and the attitude with which she approaches her work. As a teacher, I am pretty sure she is close to grade level or just above it in most areas. However, if anyone administered any kind of assessment she would be somewhere around 3rd grade (instead of beginning 7th.) I haven't worried about assessments because I can see steady progress over time. However, sometimes we go through some serious battles for attention because she refuses to do her schoolwork. As with any RAD kid, it makes no difference if I take things away or have her miss out on activities. What works for her is missing out on time with me. If she thinks she won't have access to attention from me, she will often get her act together. Not always but often.

Enter puberty and hormones.

Enter little brother who still can't read at grade level.

Enter 5 year old sister now homeschooling too.

Result:  recipe for disaster.

With a new addition to our homeschooling crew and a need to give Pollito more one-on-one as he struggles with his reading, her anxiety about getting "enough" attention has kicked into high gear. Since we started "Fall school" (we do year-round schooling) she has had a very hard time despite her involvement in selecting much of the work she gets to do.  She will not allow me to give those children ANY attention without engaging in destructive, counter-productive, distracting, rude, unsafe or just plain obnoxious behaviors. It has affected the other children's quality of life considerably. I gave Corazon a choice: do schoolwork while I am working with the other two OR go to her room. Of course, that didn't work. So finally I said I was ok with her NOT doing schoolwork. She could just sit there or do something quietly instead. In fact, she never had to do schoolwork again. I was done. Totally done.

She got MAD. She begged. She pleaded. She wrote me letters. Did I want her to be uneducated? (Of course not.) Did I not care about her learning? (Can learn without schooling.) Did I not care about her future? (Of course!) How could I tell her she could stop school at age 12? Didn't I love her? (Yep, that's why I am not doing this battle anymore.) She wrote me more letters. I didn't cave. Nope. No schoolwork for you.

In the past 2 days she has caught up on all the schoolwork she hadn't done in the past 3 weeks. All of it. She keeps trying to show it to me (when the other kids are getting my attention) and I smile and say "that's nice" and then remind her that the other kids are schooling right now. Today she asked me for more schoolwork. I said I didn't have any but showed her what her older brother was working on. She asked if she could photocopy it. Last I saw her she was busily working on doing an "analysis" of a Helen Hunt Jackson poem. School ended a few hours ago for the rest of the children. I wonder how long this will last.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


How did two months go by so quickly? I didn't mean to stop writing. Just busy and caught up in the day to day. Life is life. We have had lots of ups and downs. Some of which I mean to write about but haven't. Sometimes I feel like the kids and want someone to tell me what to write about. So much swirling around in my head and in my life. The past two months have been filled with activity that perhaps explains why I haven't given myself a chance to write. Here's what I can remember...

Three weeks in MA. This was our shortest and most difficult trip. Tortuga was pretty awful most of it. Corazon was amazingly regulated throughout. We made the best of it and visited with lovely friends who we dearly miss, got to meet our friend's newest baby who is adorable, and visited our beloved ocean as many times as possible. I sprained my knee about a week before the trip and to say that the pain was almost unbearable would not be an exaggeration. I am betting that's part of what made Tortuga even more insufferable.

Birth families. No luck finding the boys' birth mom. She has fallen off the radar since last year. We used to have regular phone call then nothing. I am concerned and I think this is part of what made Tortuga insufferable. That and puberty. He wrote a journal entry about how he was happy he wasn't going to get to see her and he was sad he wasn't going to get to see her. I think that sums his feelings up pretty nicely. We celebrated Corazon's birthday with her mother, sister, niece, nephew and sister's new boyfriend. Her mom had also dropped off the radar screen due to some health issues, economic problems and life stuff. Things have gone downhill for her a bit and that makes communicating regularly more difficult. Except for her sister's boyfriend dropping his baggie of "herb" out of his pocket and Corazon wanting to know what it was, the visit went well. No fallout from Corazon so far...

Birthdays. The three younger kids all celebrated a birthday this summer. Corazon turned 12 in July and we had a lovely party in Boston just before returning to Texas. She was amazingly poised, charming, thoughtful, and just a kid. A friend of ours who has known her (and her issues) since the day we brought her home commented that she had her first "real" conversation with Corazon ever. I think that speaks volumes about her progress and healing. The littles turned 8 and 5 in late August. I am still in denial that my babies are that old. They had a great "under the sea" (think sharks and whales with a few dolphins thrown in for good measure) birthday party.  Milagro spent the day rushing up to me and saying things like "This is too much fun. My heart feels like it's going to burst into a million pieces!" I just love that child's spirit!

Homeschool. We ended summer "school" on August 31 and started fall "school" on September 6. The older kids are presenting some challenges but I think much of it is my fault. I am not feeling as organized as I usually am and my expectations have increased. I probably have some scaffolding to do for them that I hadn't planned on. Pollito is actually in a "groove" so things are much better with him. Reading is still the big challenge. I see progress and know we did the right thing keeping him home. He would be so overwhelmed in public school and already labelled in so many ways because of his reading challenges. I have to remember that Tortuga didn't read until he was almost 9.  The big change is that Milagro is now "officially" in kindergarten. She is excited to do "big kid" school but it really isn't much different than her usual days. She is developing an incredible vocabulary. Two days ago she ran up to me and asked me for 2 paper towels. Worrying that she had made a big mess I asked her what was going on. She answered "I have a hypothesis I am trying to test."

Puberty.  Sucks. Most of what is related to this is unbloggable. Just think 13.5 year old boy with special needs. Enough said.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Whale of a Time...

I kept meaning to post these but time just got away from me. The kids made it easy for me this year. Pollito and Milagro asked for a joint birthday party (yippee!) and Milagro wanted an "orca cake" while Pollito asked for sharks and/or dolphins. Perfect combination for an ocean themed birthday celebration! I kept the decorations simple albeit some were huge and the kids had a blast. It worked out really well especially given that their birthdays are in late August, it's hot as can be it TX, and they are happy to just bask in the sprinklers/outdoor kiddie pool all day.To be honest once the pools and inflatables were set up I don't think they would have noticed if no one else had attended! They had a blast and so did the rest of us!  I cannot believe they are 8 and 5! Milagro is still tall for her age and Pollito is not so we still get questions about whether they are twins. :-)

Here are some birthday highlights....

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