School has started. We have 9, 8, 8, 7 and 4th graders now. We have 5 kids in 4 different schools. We have one on gymnastics level 6, one on gymnastics level 3, one in ballet, tap and jazz. We have one playing varsity soccer and one playing JV soccer. We have one on cross-country. And we have two on yearbook, student council, and Junior National Honor Society. In the blink of an eye, life got very busy. Ahhhhhhh!
One week into high school and onnnnnne of my children came home with a big ol’ Valentine looking card. Ugh. The boy (and I use the word boy loosely since this kid is like 17!) was also at her soccer game yesterday. I hate high school. Thankfully this child has a head on her shoulders and is taking things slowly, deciding if this guy is worth her time. Praise the Lord, at least one of my children has some sense!
AG is off to school. I cried like a baby. The first few days were rough on all of us. The girls setting the table “Whoops, no one sits here…” (insert tears here) and me counting to five with a brief moment of panic “Where is my 5th child?!” But after the first weekend, and her making some friends, I think we’re all a bit more comfortable with the situation. She FaceT.ime’s us every night, and her homework is all uploaded, so I can see it and all of her grades. A couple more weeks and she’ll be home. She seems really happy though. She made the JV soccer team and tried out for chorus and a cappella, none of which she could have done at her last school.
Busy doesn’t even begin to describe our lives right now, but, it is what it is. It’s the season we’re in, and we’ll just have to adjust and squeeze in time together. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!
Summer is coming to an end. It was a good one. A low key one. We couldn’t have done it without the help of my mom watching the girl(s) every day.
At the start of the summer, Ayla, Alexandra and I went to Maryland together for my cousin’s wedding shower. We celebrated Ayla’s early completion of homeschool and Alexandra’s birthday. We went to Fossil Beach and found shark’s teeth, and visited an Amish farm for jelly and wooden items. They were excited to see a new state and meet new family members.
Ayla had her first job. She got paid to build a boat this summer. It was a great opportunity, she banked all but about $50 that she made, and in the end, her boat floated!
She will be going back to school this year… Off to high school after a year of homeschool. She was able to complete both Algebra and pre-Algebra at home which opened up more class offerings for her this fall. She is also taking a ceramics class and a technology class. She is excited, but nervous about being in a regular school setting again. Most of all, they will tell her which books she has to read and so far she is not impressed with their choices (Shakes.peare anybody? Blech!) Lucky for her, homeschool days are not completely behind her… The superintendent gave her permission to take a Ru.ssian class via Sk.ype with a woman in Ukraine. So, this will count as her foreign language requirement, rather than her taking French or Spanish. She did the time from April-August and ended up with a 90.5 in Rus.sian II, but a 100% on her final exam!
She recently tried out for the soccer team and made varsity. They had their first game this week and she played all but about 15 minutes of the game in a new position (forward). She really likes the coach and is learning quite a bit from him. She plans to play either basketball or indoor track for the winter, and of course, her true love, softball in the spring. She is also on a tournament league which starts in December and goes until August. This year they traveled to many tournaments, even one in New Hampshire which was a definite highlight of her summer.
Alina Grace had an extremely difficult start to the summer. With much defiance, we saw her probably at her worst. She has a lot of changes coming up I think it was just too much for her to handle, so she kind of self destructed. We made her world small and I think we all came out better in the end. She has spent nearly every day with my mom while I am at work. She gets some one on one time, as well as a lecture or two, and bonus for me, baking time! She discovered that her “bridges are on fire” and only she can put those bridges out. I think she worked really hard this summer, and those bridges are slowly being rebuilt with the people that she has hurt.
We had a neuropsych evaluation done in July. It was her second one since being in America. She improved greatly in cognitive abilities. She went from low average and borderline to high average and even superior in some areas. Her processing speed is now “normal” which is great! But why oh why doesn’t she make the right choices? Well, “Orphan alphabet soup” is why. ODD, PTSD, ADHD, and RAD for starters. “RAD in a non-typical form though”, per the psychologist. Well, that’s not very helpful. She IS attached. She does realize that she needs us. She just can’t for the life of her figure out how to have us in her life in a typical way (by us, I mean everyone- sisters, parents, grandparents, friends, even the boyfriend that nearly destroyed her at the start of the summer). A year and a half ago her psychiatrist suggested trying low dose z.oloft. I was very against it. In my mind, she needed to get to the root of the problem, not simply put a bandaid on it. After the beginning of the summer, I knew this was more than she or I could handle. This was deep rooted, not a “put your big girl panties on and talk in therapy” kind of trouble. That’s when we decided to the neuropsych again. And after we got the diagnosis, we waved the white flag and tried the zol.oft. Turns out, it’s chemical. No big girl panties would ever fix it. Oh.My.Goodness. Completely different child after the medicine kicked in. She is on the lowest dose, they expect that she will need to increase, but even this is a DREAM. The first few days we thought it was mind over matter and that she was just playing us. After a week we weren’t so sure. She went for her first follow up appointment and the doctor said “She’s not strong enough to play you guys like this for 9 days. This is the medication doing it’s job.” AG said she can think straight now- things that bothered her a few weeks ago now make her laugh “Why would that bother me?” I still brace myself before I correct her, afraid that asking her to wipe up the crumbs on the table will ruin the rest of her day… but she just smiles and says “Oops! Ok… sorry about that…” and GASP! Does it!!!
Back in March, before all hell broke loose in May/June, Alina Grace decided to apply to boarding school. She REALLY wants to go to a particular school 9-12 grade and after touring it, both of us realized she would not be ready (life skills wise, or socially). The school she wants to go to is about 30 minutes away but it is very much like college. You are on your own. The school she has been attending, there were 9 kids in her grade. This had a very obvious effect on her education (positive), but was not great for her socially. She often spent Friday nights choosing to be in her room alone, drawing, while the other 4 girls in her class would have sleepovers. She was never invited. They were nice to her at school, she sat with them at lunch, but she was never really part of their group. (add that to her emotional issues). So, she’s almost 14, but really doesn’t have much social practice. She’s more 11/12 socially. Even with her sisters she will stomp off shouting “That’s not fair!” or “I quit!” which is not really age appropriate. Fast forward… long story short, we found another boarding school that accepts 8th graders. She applied, interviewed, and was accepted! This is “boarding school with training wheels” to get her ready to go to the school she really wants to go to for high school (it’s now our plan that she will go there after 2 years, if all goes well this year). Choosing to sit in your room is not an option. You have to sign up for activities. You have to get out there and be involved. She has to play sports. She really wanted to try soccer last year, but because when we tried when she was 9 and 10 she sat in the middle of the field and cried, she missed the foundations of the sport, and everyone else passed her. She couldn’t just walk on to the varsity team. But now, this school has 4 soccer teams, and she will get to learn and possibly have the chance in high school to play, which would have never happened here at home. She wants to try out for the dance team, again, it’s hard to just start at 14 years old when most girls have danced since they were 3. She’s undecided about the spring.
Boarding school was very much her decision. I am a mess thinking about her leaving. She will only be a little more than an hour away and she will come home fairly often. In her words “I’m a school kid, I’m not a home kid…” (RAD- institutionalized mentality… aka it’s safe at school and I don’t need my teachers to love me). Her recommendations were glowing “The most organized 7th grader I have ever met” (who couldn’t/wouldn’t wear her uniform properly before school because it was a great way to start an argument before school). “Never missed a homework assignment” (because her mother had to sign off on her agenda each night to make sure each assignment was completed). “Very willing to help out!” (I can’t even ask her to flush the toilet after she uses it!) She is right, school is safer for her. And after nearly 5 years, I just have to accept that. We see a big change in her lately with her new medication, and she is very compliant and sweet. I am hoping between that and the distance, our time together will be more peaceful and we can work on family relationships and not have her just hide in her room avoiding reality. She leaves on Wednesday and what I was looking forward to 4 months ago, I am now really dreading.
This summer she did a month of sailing camp, which she really enjoyed. She thinks she may try to be on a sailing team in high school. She also spent a week in the White Mountains. She hiked several mountains and canoed the lakes of Maine. According to her, they didn’t even have toilet paper! She was the only girl in her group of 5, and she made some great guy friends. These are “her people”. She is no longer afraid of daddy longlegs spiders or moose. She is very grateful for her time with the Appalachian Mountain Club.
And of course, most importantly of all, in a middle schooler’s life… after 2.5 years, she got her braces off!!
Maeve… oh Maeve. Miss Bolshoy went to the doctor this week. She is now 4’9″ at almost 14 years old. She is STILL not on the growth charts, but she grew at least 2″ over the summer. She is most excited that she is no longer a “little per.son” because the height cut off for that is 4’8″. She has exceeded that and is quite proud. Ayla’s joke about Santa hiring her as an elf was still not appreciated though! LOL
She will be going into 8th grade this fall. She finished 7th grade with straight A+’s (minus one class when she earned an A, maybe Art?) and was inducted into the Junior Nation.al Hono.r Society. She recently got up and ran 4 miles and the next day decided to try out for the school cross-country team. She is loving it. She is also in gymnastics still. She got her back tuck AND her back walkover on high beam this summer and moved from Level 4 to Level 6. She hopes to qualify for Nationals this year, mostly because they are in CA and she really wants to go to CA. If there’s one thing I can say with certainty if she sets her mind to it- it will happen.
She and Alexandra did surf camp this summer. She got up on the first day and did really well! It was the highlight of her summer (along with going to her usual week of sleep away camp).
Alexandra will be going into 7th grade, AND returning to ballet, tap and jazz this year. She took last year off to play school soccer in hopes of making more friends, hated every second of it but did make friends. She has grown quite tall this summer as well. I think she will end up being the tallest of the bunch!
Alexandra’s favorite thing to do is putting her nose in a book and read read read! Good thing she got contacts this summer, it makes it easier for her! She also enjoys putting together shows. The girls recently performed the Summer Concert 2015 in our backyard for their grandparents. It sounds silly, but you would not believe how much work they put into these shows. Choreographing, script writing, costume changes, lunch during intermission, program design, etc. It is VERY detailed. They spent all summer on it and it was awesome!
She too attended surf camp, and also stood up- though she’s not nearly as strong and balanced as the gymnast Maeve. I was still incredibly impressed with her abilities and most of all, determination when it was not as easy as she thought!
Big news in her middle school world, she chopped her waist length hair off and donated it. She smiled with delight and declared that she loved it. I asked if she would keep it short from now on and she said “No, I’m going to grow it out again. I mean, I love it short, but I also know someone else would like to have long hair, so I need to grow mine out to donate it again.” I love her heart.
And that leaves us with just one more… My little monkey, Brettyn. Brettyn turned TEN this summer. And with 10 brought a lot of changes. Brettyn is now also a book worm (on her terms, don’t tell her to read a book, she will not be happy about that!). She has been enjoying the fairy chapter book series and recently started the Americ.an Gir.l doll chapter books. I am so happy with how far she has come academically. Her new school is awesome! I wish I could afford for all of my kids to go there. She recently started 4th grade (she’s the only one back to school yet) and on the first day, it was like a family reunion. All of the kids her hugging, and it was just HAPPINESS!
She is also on the gymnastics team. I was actually going to suggest she quit this fall because while she’s very strong, she progresses through the skills at a pretty slow rate. Well, didn’t she show me!!! Just two weeks ago she got two new skills! We’re not sure where that leaves her for the fall… Level 2 or Level 3? Either way, she says she will not compete… she still thinks she will be too embarrassed.
She finally, FINALLY, FINAAAAAAAALLY learned how to ride a 2 wheeled bike this summer. Did I say FINALLY!? She can start it by herself most times, but she can ride pretty comfortably up and down our street (which is a hill) Oh Lord, I’m not sure why it took her so long to learn?!
She has big news this summer… After wearing her glasses every day for 2.5 years, the doctor has said she no longer has to wear them. Her eyes have mostly corrected themselves (muscle issue) and what they are now, is what they will be. She was very responsible remembering to wear them each day, but is pretty happy to kiss them goodbye!
This summer she was happy to spend her days at the beach, sleeping in the tent in the back yard, and sleep in really late. Sleeping Beauty sure does love her sleep!
Brettyn is just such a joy- she dances through life, does whatever you ask her to do, and works hard at everything. I am blessed to have this monkey!
This morning I woke up an hour early… I knew I would have a line at the Mom salon… and I did. Everyone wanted their hair done for Valentine’s Day (the at-school-version anyway…)
Here are two of my clients- the heart lace braids (we added a red bow), and the more mature version (it IS middle school after all…) with a heart loop pony tail.
I’m not a fan of the store bought Valentines. “Happy Valentines Day to my best friend”. Gag. My kid spent so much time worrying about which one would go to which friend, and that one can’t go to him because then people will think I have a crush on him, blah blah blah. So, photo booth it is!
She’s the only one young enough to do Valentines at school. Sniff.
We had a good time goofing around last night…
Over 2 years ago I got in contact with Alina Grace’s ex-stepfather. I asked him if he had any young photos of AG. He asked “Why would I keep photos of a kid who isn’t mine?” Ok. I asked him if he had any photos of her biological mother. He asked “Why would I keep photos of a woman who walked out on me and my son?” Ok. I asked if he had even a wedding photo of her- anything? He said probably and that he would look and send me a copy. Two years passed and nothing (other than a request for me to send him 3,000 euros- right). Earlier this week I got a notice that he visited my social media page. He sent me a message that only said “hello”. I responded and also asked him about that photo (I’m kind of persistent…) He said he would send it “soon”. I thanked him. A few days passed, and nothing. Today I woke up and was flooded with photos of my first girl. I was flooded with emotions. She has asked for these photos for four years, and I never had anything to give her (even though we have photos of some of her sisters). She wasn’t the favorite at the orphanage, so I only got one photo from them. This girl makes me loopy some days, but she will always be my first kiddo. Seeing her smiling in these photos make me so happy. Her memories of Ukraine are all bad. But now, I can show her that there must have been some happiness.
Part of me is afraid to show her. She’s been so good lately, I am afraid to rock the boat. I know she needs to see these photos, and really I’m thisclose to going to picking her up from school so I can hug her. She’s so stinking cute!
This is mostly for Milena… Here is Brettyn’s dance show from yesterday!
We just closed Ayla’s first term grades. I have to keep grades for 2 reasons A: She plays school sports and B: She hopes to go back to regular school full time in the future. So, I kept the weight of assignments the same, and scored her just as her teachers would. The biggest difference for me is that if it’s wrong (grammar, spelling, etc.) I do not mark it right (her school used to just mark it right- she’s an ELL student after all…). I have her go back and correct it until it is right. She works really hard. She ended up with AWESOME grades! I have noticed a real improvement in her sentence structure. No one told her what she was saying before was incorrect.
When I pulled her out of school, she had an F in Math. At the close of the semester, she had a 94 average. Her math class is 100% computer based. I help VERY little with math (I’m terrible at math!). She GETS it now. She can rewind the lessons and listen to what she doesn’t quite understand.
I am very happy with her homeschooling. I am very impressed with how hard she works.
And then…. we still have our moments. Like last night…. I opened her ESL workbook, and checked her work. And this is what I found:
Oh bless her heart! I laughed so hard, I was crying! We still have a long road ahead of us!