Time for School

All summer long I debated what to do about school this year. I knew for sure I wouldIMG_20140909_122125 continue homeschooling Raine. But what about Athena? Her teacher was very honest in the final Junior Kindergarten report card. Things weren’t going well for her at school. Athena was withdrawn and eerily quiet. Generally when teachers or children spoke to her she either ignored them or walked away. It was impossible to assess what she’d learned because Athena would not interact with the instructors.

In March of last year the dentist informed me that Athena’s habit of skewing her jaw was creating lasting effects. Her mouth was beginning to grow incorrectly. At that point it was correctable. I started keeping her home from school most days and we worked on putting her mouth the right way among other things.

Based on those two factors I was planning to homeschool Athena this year. Still, as the summer wore on, I wasn’t sure. Her primary interest became making her sister scream. Raine’s come a long way in her ability to interact with other kids. It took a great deal of effort to get her upset. But Athena devoted herself to honing that skill. Our days were filled with lots of angry shouting from Raine followed by riotous laughter from Athena. I was not amused.

Then there was the actual school part. We kept working a bit over the summer. I would give Athena a task to complete – for example a page of the letter K. After writing one she would shout, “I’m done!” My request that she wait a minute fell on deaf ears. She’d continue shouting, “I’m done!” until I looked at her sheet.

“You’ve only written one letter. You still have lots more to do there.”

“I know,” she’d answer with a smirk. “I just wanted to tell you I was done one.”

After the next one the scene would repeat.

So……I decided to send her to school. It wasn’t my proudest moment. As a mom, I like to think I can make every decision based on what’s best for my child. This choice was in favour of what was best for me and Raine. Based on last year, I had no reason to expect school to be good for Athena. It was with a heavy heart, I got her ready to go on September 2nd.

Excited for Senior Kindergarten.

Excited for Senior Kindergarten.

Surprisingly, Athena was eager to pose for pictures. Normally she refuses to and hardly ever smiles while I’m snapping shots. This morning she was beaming. She walked to school carrying her backpack. And ran into the fenced kindergarten yard without a second look at Raine and I.

When I picked her up, Athena was happy. Last year she was always miserable at the end of school. Never did I know what was going on because she’d angrily tell me, “What I do at school is not your business.” This year, she chatted all evening long with story after story of what went on.

Her good mood and eagerness to share have continued. Even her teacher has noticed a marked difference, commenting that, “Athena is a completely different child. She’s talkative and interacting with the kids.” The teacher and a few friends have asked what changed over the summer. Nothing that I’ve noticed. She’s remained herself – a little more bothersome at times.

With Athena my focus has been confidence. She arrived very insecure and fearful. Time and prayer have brought her to a better place. I didn’t expect going back to school to increase her confidence. Honestly, I expected her to be shy and withdrawn like last year. Instead she’s confident and self-assured.

The information I had while making the decision didn’t indicate such a positive outcome. Yet, sending her to school felt right. Guiltily, I thought it was only going to be right for Raine and I. We would get some much needed quiet. Maybe if I’d taken the time to listen a little more to Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t have picked up that guilt. He knew going to school would be the best thing for Athena. Glad I at least listened to that nudging.


1st day of school


Friendship… is not something you learn in school.

But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship,

you really haven’t learned anything.

Muhammad Ali
Athena opting out of Kara's attempt at t-ball with the crew

Athena opting out of Kara’s attempt at t-ball with the crew

Friends are my greatest earthly treasure. I can’t imagine life without them. Some have been around a long time – like Erin who I’ve known since I was a toddler and Kara came along when I was 13. Others I’ve met more recently and we share a more immediate history.

My sister, born two years after me, was my first friend. Through out our lives we’ve always been good friends. I am excited to have her back in relative proximity. Instead of across the country, she’s now living only 3hrs away.

Often, I’ve wondered if my girls would have the same joyous experience of having each other and a close circle of friends to see them through life. There were times when Raine’s behaviour made me mournful. She couldn’t see how vehemently she was pushing away her peers – including her sister.

Raine and Kara's daughter, Ruth

Raine and Kara’s daughter, Ruth

This past year in homeschooling, my focus has been socialization. Yesterday Raine got a passing grade!
We went to the Christian campground I grew up at. Erin and Kara were there with their kids and another friend with her foster children.
There were a few moments requiring correction, but all in all both my girls did great. Athena was talkative and engaging – often she becomes incredibly shy in these situations. Raine was inclusive and patient. Still she emerged as the leader, but had an uncommon flexibility.

a quick dinner along the Grand River

a quick dinner along the Grand River

In the shallow wading pool, Raine organized a game where all the kids lined up at the edge. When she said go, in unison everyone ran into the water. Half way through the pool, at the deepest point, all the children dropped down and began splashing. They did this for what seemed like forever. Though leading, Raine didn’t get bossy. She patiently listened when the other kids talked to her. When discouraged, for whatever reason, Raine responded to her friends with kindness.
It was a beautiful scene. Previously, Raine could only tolerate friends in short bursts. But we were there nearly the entire day. And her good attitude continued as we picked up a foster child to join us for the weekend.
Even I was refreshed after our long day.

Even I was refreshed after our long day.

In the daily grind it’s easy to loose sight of how far we’ve come. Last year we were at camp for a week and it wasn’t so rosy. Sadly we could only go for the day this year, but it was well worth the hour long drive. I loved seeing my girls so happy interacting with friends. Some day they may be sitting at the edge of that same pool with those same friends watching their kids play together.
I am a rich woman, blessed with amazing friends – a few of whom I got to see yesterday.

Lesson Learned

Lately on Wednesdays, Raine and I have been going to craft & story time at chaptersChapters (one of my favourite places). A friend of ours comes as well with her 3yr old. He’s not much into the story and craft hosted by a very dedicated staff member. Raine, however, loves it. I must admit the crafts are somewhat advanced for the other 2-3yr old children. Being 6, Raine does them with ease and comes away with a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

My friend lives nearby so we head over there for lunch most weeks. That’s what had me making loaded baked potato soup yesterday evening. While it boiled, I was blogging. Writing makes my spirit come alive in a unique way. But I’ve realized it’s not something to combine with cooking. Wanting to get back to my thoughts erupting in yesterday’s post, I hastily threw the soup base in the blender without letting it cool properly. I just wanted to be done so I could get on with writing.

After a moment of blending there was a crack. Then the glass split. Pureed potatoes and broth spilt everywhere! If you’ve been to my house, you know the kitchen counter is a catch all. Previous weeks’ crafts from Chapters were there along with a button bracelet Raine had made, a brand new notebook, and a big bag of Easter treats, among other things were soaked in the mixture. Grabbing a few dishcloths, I dumped everything in the trash – broken blender included – and tidied up.

My counter’s now clear of clutter. Sadly this is how it generally gets done. This isn’t the first time the blender contents have ended up all over. It is, however, the first time I’ve shatter the glass because something was too hot. The other times it was for other reasons.

I’ve learned one important lesson, not to combine cooking and blogging. That’s why today, I decided to make gluten free zucchini cookies after posting.

See you tomorrow! (have some exciting adoption news to share……)

It’s Sunday

wonderful life
Welcome to my new site – Wonderfully Unusual. I had a post in mind to welcome you to this new space. It had to do with the quote above and the name of my site. It was complete in my mind. But I’m having a difficult time recalling it. Let me tell you why.

The kids and I have been hit pretty hard with colds this week. This is our first round since last winter, so I’m not really complaining. In the midst of designing my new blog I have some deadlines to meet. I must get my income tax done to prove I still qualify for the adoption subsidy I currently receive. Sometime this coming week a social worker is doing a home safety inspection. I have yet to be informed when. All the safety’s in order, but the house is a bit of a mess especially since I haven’t been feeling well.

This morning I pulled myself out of bed at 6:45am. Promptly I called 4yr old Athena’s school to leave a message saying she wouldn’t be in today because she’s unwell. When the kids finished breakfast I started them on some school work. I sipped my coffee and thought the radio must have made a mistake when the announcer mentioned it being Sunday. Or, more likely, I misheard.

I debated texting the neigbour to tell her Athena wasn’t going to school. Instead I waited for her daughter to arrive. Normally she walks Athena to and from school.

“I guess Natalie has forgotten about you,” I commented.

“Maybe she’s sick too,” Raine offered.

We explored all the possible reasons Natalie hadn’t arrived which wasn’t a big deal since Athena wasn’t going to school. Then I realized, It’s Monday and I haven’t posted my Sunday blog! With all the work on the new site, I was quite disappointed at my oversight.

After an hour of school work, the kids went to play in the backyard. I fervently hoped the home inspection wouldn’t be today. Needing a quick distraction from all the housework looming around me, I picked up my phone to scroll through facebook. That’s when I discovered it’s Sunday.

I nearly fell over laughing at my mixed up mind. Can’t recall ever having made such a huge oversight. Let’s blame it on the cold that’s starting to lift. Really glad I didn’t text the neighbour. I’m so happy I had today to tidy the basement and nearly complete my income tax. Best of all I got to post on my new blog. But I don’t have any fancy words to welcome you. I’m still a little jumbled after my false start. Maybe next time.

What I Accomplisehd Today

Forgive me for posting again so soon.

As a stay at home mom, most nights I go to bed feeling like I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. For everything I did do, there are twenty things I didn’t get to.

Today, I decided to make a list of all I did. I’ve also included a few snap shots of the thoughts running through my mind and some of the action going on around me. You don’t have to read it all. But making it the list did help me feel marginally more accomplished than I do most days.

Today I:

Got up (long after the alarm went off)

Picked out clothes for two kids (picked out the other two last night)



Got one kid into the shower

Dealt with Sloane’s rude attitude towards her sister

Got breakfast for four kids

Made lunches for three kids

Brewed coffee

Got four kids out the door

Dropped four kids off at school

Came home with one kid (have been driving the neighbor girl in addition to my three who are at school)

Made marinade for tomorrow’s roast

Drank coffee

Ate breakfast while formatting a bi-monthly newsletter I send out for a local minister

Checked facebook

Checked to be sure I had paid the natural gas bill (which I had)

Worked through two early reader books with Sloane

Put in a load of laundry

Encouraged Sloane to take down streamers from foster child’s birthday on Monday (she was super eager since it involved lots of climbing  and problem solving)

Put away two loads of laundry from the other day while facebook chatting with a friend. We brainstormed about marketing our small businesses.

Watched two videos on parenting adopted children while putting laundry away and facebook chatting

Started another load of laundry

Encouraged Sloane to finish with the streamers (She insists upon putting them into a tiny candy machine and carrying that over to the garbage. This is taking forever!)

Made a raw chocolate mint pie

Made gluten free banana muffins

Start some organic bread in the bread maker

Made lunch for Sloane (gluten free toast with homemade organic peanut butter)

Loaded the dishwasher

Got Sloane started on some math work

Put in another load of laundry

Worked on rhyming words with Sloane

Put some laundry away – discover one of the foster children peed the bed last night (feel like a failure for not noticing sooner. Really, what have I been up to?)

Strip foster children’s beds. Bring sheets to the basement to be washed (may not have mentioned I live in a two story house with a basement laundry room)

Edit a friend’s first blog post.

Suddenly feel incredibly overwhelmed and in need of a bath (not something I usually indulge in)

Work with Sloane to tidy up her school work and colouring items left out from days past (sometimes I hurry the kids off to bed instead of making them clean up)

Watch some profile videos from an adoption funding program in the US. Contemplate the ridiculous cost of international adoption. Remember my sister saying years ago, “These countries should cover all the costs. In the end it will save them tons of money.” I consider the long term cost of children in orphanages who grow up to be struggling adults.

Take dough out of bread maker. Shape it into a dozen buns and one loaf of bread. Set it to rise.

Announce that I will have a bath.

Sloane decides she will not watch a movie after all. She’s been talking about doing so all afternoon. Now that I’m going to be doing something, she decides she won’t go to her room (which is the spot for movies)

I check on the rising bread and buns.

I run a bath and decide to finally give Downton Abbey a chance. People who know me are absolutely shocked that I’ve not seen it yet. I’m expected to be an avid fan.

Sloane goes to her room with much fanfare. After some choice words, she looses the “privilege” of watching a movie. She screams for her window to be shut (I’d been airing the rooms on this first nice day. Did I put that on the list? Sometime this morning I opened most of the windows.)

I shut Sloane’s window with a reminder that there’s a proper way to speak to me.

I check on the bath. It’s nearly ready.

Sloane screams for her window to be opened again.

I close and lock the bathroom door.

By the time I turn the water off and get situated – with my computer perched nearby so I can watch Downton Abbey – Sloane is happily playing in her room.

I think of all the things I should be doing: dishes, vacuuming, mopping floors, organizing my room, organizing the basement, working on my coffee/tea business, working on my income tax for last year, shopping at Ikea because the coupon I have expires this week.

I remember why I don’t bother taking baths. It’s not relaxing in the least.

I continue messaging a friend about her new blog. We discuss names.

I get out of the bath and hastily dress.

Summon Sloane out of her room.

Put the buns and bread in the oven.

Get out the door to pick up kids from school.

Remember the volunteer driver coming for the foster children (taking them to birth mom’s to celebrate a birthday) will likely be there a moment or two before we turn.

I go back inside, write a note, pin it to the door. It blows away. I secure it better.

Drive to the school. Park in the adjacent church parking lot.

Run across the field in pouring rain. Sloane decides with my glasses getting wet, I can’t see properly. She tries to guide me.

The bell rings. I locate the foster children.

I can’t find my own child. The neighbor girl usually brings her out. They’re nowhere to be found.

I herd the other children toward the car. Flora* worries the driver will leave without them if we’re not back soon.

Sloane ignores my instructions to leave the snow alone. She doesn’t have gloves. Her hands are freezing. I try to get her to walk with me. She resists and falls backwards into a pile of slush.

I don’t have time for this. I can’t find Elise*.

Putting the foster children in the car, I head back towards the school. There I discover the neighbor girl went home sick. Elise is waiting by the door with her teacher.

We trudge back across the field. Sloane again starts picking up snow. Again I try to take her hand. Again she makes a big scene. I talk to her. She refuses to comply. I pick her up. She kicks and screams. I put her down. She throws some snow at me. I pick her up again.

Eventually we make it to the car.

I calm Flora’s fears and assure her I really am trying my best to go quickly. I buckle Elise.

We drive home. The volunteer driver is in our driveway.

I park on the street. I get the foster kids out of the car. Three times I tell Flora to go get the bag with her birthday outfit from the house. Finally she understands me. (Although we went over this plan endlessly last night, before school, and on our short drive home she’s still unclear.)

I greet the driver, explain where Flora’s headed, get Marcus* into the driver’s car.
When Flora emerges from the house, I get her into the car.

They drive away. I pull into my driveway.

I get Elise and Sloane out of the car.

In the house, I get the bread out of the oven.

I talk with my daughters while they eat some fruit.

I serve up raw mint chocolate pie.

Sloane spits out the first bite. She wants to try more. I insist she doesn’t because I don’t want anymore spit all over the place.

Elise makes a mess of her pie – insisting she likes it but not taking a single bite.

I eat some pie. I check emails and facebook posts. I continue chatting with the friend I’ve been in contact with all day. We discuss her employment prospects.

I announce we will go out for dinner.

Elise and Sloane announce they must change from track pants into dresses. They bring down an assortment of their fanciest. I try to explain where we’re going – a local independent, diner. They go upstairs and come down with another assortment of formal wear.

Eventually I get them appropriately dressed.

My friend I’ve been chatting with suggests we go for dinner with her.

We drive to her nearby town.

We have dinner. Sloane is less than well behaved. She’s angry I won’t let her have pop.

I discuss who I can possibly get to watch my kids when I go to California for a week in May (need to do some training for my volunteer position at the church)

Elise drinks ketchup from her plate with a straw. Somehow I miss this at first.

I pay and discussing with Sloane how long the waitress we had has been working there (the woman mentioned she was new). Elise wipes the specials off the white board beside us.

We drive my friend home.

I drive home. Elise tells me repeatedly she hopes the volunteer driver drops the foster kids off before we get there. I assure her that won’t happen, but then start to panic. What if they come back early?

I stop to get the mail.

We go home. Elise and Sloane decide not to come out of the car. After several giving several rational reasons for them to, I go to the front door alone. Reluctantly they follow.

While they get their pjs on I make the foster children’s beds with their sheets fresh from the dryer (obviously went to the basement to get them).

I brush Sloane & Elise’s teeth. I put them to bed. I hug and kiss them. I make sure they know they’re loved.

I start doing dishes.

The foster children return. I hear about all the fun they had at their mom’s. I assure them I’m very happy and interested in everything they have to say.

When they’re done, I send them to put on their pjs.

I wash a few more dishes.

I got upstairs to get the foster kids to bed – no hugs or kisses, seems a little soon when they’ve only been with me a week. But I make sure they know they’re cared for and wanted. (Not that I want to keep them from their parents, or rejoice in the calamities that brought them into foster care – but you know what I mean and so do the kids)

While washing the rest of the dishes I watch a short video from someone in the Ukraine. I realize I should find out what’s going on there. I wonder how the political unrest will affect adoptions that are underway. I worry about children languishing in orphanages. I wonder if my life of fostering and raising my two adopted daughters is really enough. There’s so much more I could be doing. Maybe I should move to the Ukraine. I tidy the kitchen.

I decide that’s enough for today. I’m ok with the fact that the floor isn’t swept. I’m going upstairs so I don’t have to look at it.

I write this lengthy, useless blog. I post it. I watch a bit more of Downton Abbey. I eat some more raw mint chocolate pie. I hope it’s healthy.

I go to bed.

Tomorrow I get to do it all again.

*name changed