Day 13

I must admit that the last three weeks have gone by surprisingly fast. I had no idea that homeschooling two children would be so simply complicated. Yes. Simple and complicated at the same time. I don’t understand it either.

I remember my brother’s kindergarten year. I was in third grade and pretty offended that his work took less than half an hour to complete. I prepared Liam for this possibility. Thus far, he hasn’t been upset about Sylvia doing her work and leaving the table while he plugs along. Let’s take a moment and raise our coffee mugs in gratitude, shall we? She rejoins us when we do science and history and so far, it’s a system that is working very well.

While I type this, Liam is doing his phonics worksheets. He’s also lecturing me about the habits of hummingbirds. We have bird feeders outside the dining room window and often suspend our work to watch the hummingbirds zip back and forth. We may need to add another feeder or two in the spring. I haven’t witnessed any territoriality, but I’d like to keep encouraging their visits as much as possible!

One of the things that surprised me the most about school this year would be how much Liam is enjoying our world history study. We are using the book Story of the World and he is just absorbing every detail. I’ll admit that it makes the class so fun for me because we are currently studying the ancient Egyptians and that was the first historical period I remember studying and thoroughly enjoying.

I think one of the most complicated parts about homeschooling for me is the time. I love my children and spending time with them, but when we are in school mode, I can substitute our school time that we spend working in place of playing. So then life becomes all about work. I’m an all about work sort of person, so this doesn’t bother me, but they are too young (and mentally healthy!) to be like this, so they crave play. It’s probably a sad state of affairs that I have to learn how to play. But, to be fair, I don’t think 80s parents did that so this super-factual and old-souled mom has to be her own example.

We are really focusing on read-alouds and legos and playmobil and dolls. Those I can do. We played in the pool a lot this summer, often with me being the oddball mom doing cannonballs off the diving board or chasing them around the deep end. But the pool is now closed, so I’ve got to be more creative. I’m learning.

So school is simple. Life is complicated. But it’s all good. Really. The kids have their first day of co-op tomorrow and uniforms have been tried on and waistbands adjusted. I’ll pack lunches tonight and we will walk to the school building the morning, taking photos and waving goodbye. And on Monday, we will start it all over again with our math books and stories about the ancient Egyptians in our pjs.

First Day

Today was our first day of school. I got up early, showered and did my hair. I felt like I should start the school year off on a good note. A together note. I also took myself to Starbucks for coffee. It’s the first day of school, I should celebrate in my own way, right?

School went well. Liam is working through second grade and Sylvia is in Kindergarten. We have repurposed most of the dining room furniture for our school room. I often wonder what my Grandmother would think if she were to see her buffet filled with books and supplies, the silverware drawers housing stickers and notecards and extra pencils. Would she be horrified that I recovered her gold brocaded chairs in navy blue duck cloth for easy cleaning? I know she would faint if she were to ever see the art projects that take place on the table.

But it’s what works for us. I’m learning to do what works for us without apology. While I sit here typing, sauce for spaghetti is simmering on the stove and brownies bake in the oven. I’m thirty-five years old now and have just finally figured out what sauce is for our family. I’ve been working on the recipe for 10 years. TEN years. I’m Italian, you’d think it would be easier. But it’s not. And you know what else it isn’t? It’s not fast.

Turns out, the key to making sauce we all want to lick off the plates is three hours. Just three hours of simmering and slowness. Efficiency is my love language and I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to make everything quick. But sauce is not quick. And it seems I should not be either. My life, my breath, is so much more when I am slow.

These days, I start supper hours before we plan to eat it. Our food is slow. And in accepting a slower pace for our food, we’ve invited the Slow into the rest of our lives. Someone asked me what my schedule for the school year would be. I don’t know. I know how long it should take to cover all our materials, but it doesn’t matter. The beauty of our Slow life is that we don’t have to be chained to expectations. If we need an hour for phonics today, then so be it. If we need to put our nose in the books and power through five math lessons, we can do it. I don’t have the weight of I should have hanging over my head any more.

The brownies are almost done baking. They are from a mix. They are gluten free and guaranteed to not hurt anyone’s tummy. And that is good enough. I like to bake. I like to bake a lot. But gluten free baking can be so temperamental, I decided to cut myself some slack. Yes, I’d like to be able to do these things from scratch, but it’s not in the cards right now. So I am grateful for those people who have the skills to create mixes that turn out perfectly every. time.

Today was a good day. I think we hit a rhythm that could be sustainable. But the season will change and so will our activities. With that shift, we may need to alter the rhythm, as much as I enjoyed today’s. But if I have learned anything in the last 7 years of parenting, the schedule is not worth the drama.

Garden of Weedin’

I know, it’s not the most amazing title you’ll ever read, but right now, that’s exactly what it is. We’ve been pretty faithful about watering, but I tell you, the weeding gets me every year! This year, we planted shallots, leeks, 4 kinds of lettuce, kale, jalapenos, lunchbox peppers, Sicilian peppers, Roma tomatoes, Big Boy tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Royal Burgundy Green beans and carrots.

Lessons so far:

  • Leeks are really tiny seedlings
  • Vito won’t bother the shallots – they smell onion-y already
  • Vito still really likes green beans – he’s been rooting through all the leaves looking for the harvest already!
  • Carrots take forEVER to grow
  • Weeding around leeks and shallots is incredibly time consuming.
  • We are doing to need more supports for the tomatoes. There are so many blossoms!

Every morning, I get up and drink my coffee while I water. It’s such a peaceful routine. I put a lot of effort into the soil this year, finding good compost and adding soil to the areas that were too clay like. That alone has helped the herb garden immensely. Our own compost is pitiful, so I’ve gottena ton of books out of the library to hopefully remedy that!

Jump!

“Oh he’ll grow out of it.”

In seven years, I’ve heard that more than I can count. But in seven years, there have been moments when I’ve thought “Nope. This isn’t a grow-out-of situation.” That thought is shortly followed by a story about how their child used to be afraid of some inane thing and how they were able to tell their child to just buck up and get over it. Good for them. That’s not how it works here.

Liam was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year and now I understand why fear and anxiety have been a far more constant presence in our lives than the lives of our friends. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve got everything under control, but I can see his reasoning behind our chaos much more clearly now.

For instance, we started Liam in swim lessons when he was two. He just started swimming this summer. In the space between then, he’s screamed and cried, clung to the wall, the instructor and myself. This year, he’s been doing private lessons and group lessons. In the last week, he’s had two panic attacks related to the pool. We keep working at it and have spent a great deal of time making goals and talking about how we are going to accomplish them.

Today, at the end of swim lessons, the lifeguards told the kids they were able to jump off the diving board. Every child except Liam jumped. At the end of his private lesson, his teacher again told him he was ready to jump. He walked over and I ruined it. I realized what was happening, wanted to catch it on camera and spooked him. He tried twice over the course of the next hour. Half of that time I spent treading water in the 12-foot deep end trying to provide the security he needed.

After supper we returned to the pool, this time with Liam saying he was ready to jump. Ready to jump for him meant an additional 15 minutes of him standing on the edge of the diving board shaking and trying to work up the nerve to jump while we filmed. And cheered. And encouraged.

He did it. It took years of encouragement… this is not hyperbole, we’ve been working to get him to jump for years. A little girl did not get to jump because he took so long and her mom wanted to leave. The pool’s diving coach got into the water and waited for him for almost ten minutes.

When you have a child with an anxiety disorder, every little challenge that is met graciously by a stranger is a beautiful moment. I’ve had many moments of frustration and embarrassment, but tonight, I watched two lifeguards show my son love. He looks so normal that people see his fearful expressions as him being spoiled or whiny. They don’t hear his whispered fears in between the sobs. They don’t realize how wiped out he is from the effort to even try. He can’t see his hands shaking in fear.

Today, Liam jumped off the diving board. I asked him if he wanted to do it again. He said no. And it’s ok. When he’s ready to, it won’t be his first time. He’s already done for the first time. Sometimes, the first time is the hardest. And I have it on video for him to relive whenever he wants.

Orange Stripe

As I type, I’m hiding in my bed. The kids are watching tv and Matt’s grilling steaks. I’m tired. I anticipate being more tired tomorrow. Severe storms are expected to roll through after 11 and with those, I always find myself awake for hours with frightened children. Such is life, no?

Liam was awarded his Orange Stripe tonight in his jiujitsu class. I’m proud of him. We’ve been in a cycle of testing and analyzing and figuring out for months now and it was nice to walk in, sit down and know he would take his test and pass.

Yesterday, drove back up to the neurologist for a full report on the testing they did for him last month. As Liam has gotten older, the effects of his brain injury at 22 months have become more obvious. And as school has become more complex, I’ve been concerned. Overall, I wasn’t really told anything I didn’t already know, but at the same time, it confirmed that I need to make some changes to some things, but celebrate that others are exactly what he needs.

Liam was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder last year and works regularly with a cognitive behavioral therapist. She has really helped his quality of life and while he still struggles a great deal, he is no longer obsessed with having a stroke, so for that I’m grateful. The days can be very long and on ones like today when he is pushed beyond his comfort (albeit for something valuable like a swimming lesson), he is miserable to be around because he struggles with re-centering his mindset and continues to function at a very tense level. At least 4-5 nights a week he cannot sleep for hours and I’m working on his routine to try and help the insomnia without having to medicate him for sleep.

During the evaluation, they discovered that he has a language processing disorder and ADD. I will admit that the ADD diagnosis took me by surprise. Even though I know he has trouble concentrating and is very unlikely to focus for any length of time, I’ve accepted that as part and parcel with the head injury fallout. It’s our life. However, medications can help to straighten out those neural pathways so that instead of his brain jumping all over the place, it can actually complete a thought or task now. Taking a pill was a hard task for him and continues to be, however, his medication has improved the quality of his life immensely (and by default mine as well).

Prior to medication, he would take 10 minutes to struggle through reading 3 sentences. Now, three weeks later, he is reading chapter books. I showed him how to “carry the 1″ while we were doing math last night and he grasped the concept. And it wasn’t a struggle. We have been trying to help him adapt to the effects of a brain injury for 5 years, and finally we are on the right path.

Next on the docket though is to get a spine MRI done to check on the nerve development. His somatic response to pain stimuli is extreme and he is still highly monitored for intestinal function. He also is in for another OT/PT referral since the dyspraxia/hypotonia is worse having discontinued therapy. I also need to reassess his math curriculum to see if I can find something that is more effective for his learning needs. He’s been doing Saxon and is about 3/4 of the way through the second grade material, but he is not retaining the math facts. Anything logic based, he can do and do well, but when it comes to the rote memory, it’s not so hot.

I had envisioned writing this post with great joy and excitement that we had all the answers and knew what steps we were to be taking next. I don’t quite feel that way. Dyspraxia. Sensory Integration Disorder. Attention Deficit Disorder. Language Processing Disorder. Hypotonia. I have read the diagnostic sheet over and over. Each child is different and while there are recommendations, there aren’t set-in-stone steps… I want that, but I won’t get it just yet. Instead of feeling like all the proverbial ducks are in a row, I feel more like the ducks are headed toward the row. We can do this. We will do this.

In light of all, I decided to start documenting our life again. I’ve been wanting to return to blogging, but didn’t know what I’d talk about. Here it is: Life. We will beginning our third year of homeschooling in August, this time with a second grader and a kindergartner. Liam is learning to play guitar. Both kids are swimming. Liam is in jiujitsu. Sylvia is in ballet. Our garden is growing. I killed my sourdough starter. There are things to talk about and milestones to celebrate. So I will do just that.