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We had some family portraits done today. The only one missing is my sister's husband. He could not make it this weekend. Eventually, maybe, we will have a family portait with all the guys in it. Sheesh.

Everyone...


Grandkids with my parents...


Just the grandkids....


My Luci...being my Luci...


I thought the photographer was crazy to get the girls to do this, but I actually really like the picture. Because Zoe BEGS Maria for hugs on a daily basis and she gives them very grudgingly and it has become something of a joke in our house. Maria sometimes even barters her hugs for favors. It is hilariously bad. So the picture sort of captures a reality in our lives. This one in a collage with the one of Luci above in black and white is priceless. It is getting a spot of honor on my wall.
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Christmas this year was simultaneously one of the best and one of hardest ones I've ever experienced. If I ever get the pics downloaded off my dad's wonderful camera, I'll post about it in more detail.

Did you know rats have nine lives? Or maybe more. I don't know. But I'm seriously ready for the passing of one of Zoe's rats and she is hanging onto life with a tenacity that is astounding. She is two and half years old. About two months ago she was really sick, we took her to the vet and I expected to be told there was nothing they could do as she was not eating or drinking and was breathing hard and heavy and barely moving and just generally extremely ill. However, the vet gave us not too expensive antibiotics and said she would either die or be a lot better in 48 hours. She was a LOT better. Then about two weeks ago she started walking with her head tilted to the side, breathing hard again, and falling over. I was loath to take her to vet and pay for antibiotics and the visit again, so I put it off and then I ran into the holidays and the vet down the street went on vacation. Her sub didn't see "exotics". Finally, I called another vet because I saw what I took to be some kind of bugs crawling on the rats. Looked too small to be fleas or anything I could see. Yesterday, I took them both in. Turns out they have really immature, brand new baby fleas all over them, in addition to Lily's issues (she's probably had a stroke at some point and a recurrence of the chest infection she had earlier). During the exam, Lily went totally limp and the tech said "Oh doctor, I think she is passing!" and the doctor ran for...wait for it...an OXYGEN tank! I just stood there in shock while she put this mask over the rat's whole head and she...again...wait for it...jumped right up!! Yeah. I came home with antibiotics for both rats as the other had some infected flea bites and instructions for getting rid of the fleas. We brainstormed how they could of gotten them and came up with nada. The dogs are treated with Frontline faithfully, we haven't gotten new food or a different brand of bedding, they haven't been outside...then the vet tech called me on the way home to tell me that she found some blog postings about an "epidemic" of small mammals with fleas that are apparently coming from the brand of bedding we use. So the bedding went in the freezer overnight, the cage got bleached like crazy tonight, I vacuumed the basement where they live thoroughly and threw out the bag, and the rats got dusted with flea powder stuff. And I have to do it all again every week for three weeks.

Good grief.

But Zoe loves these rats SO MUCH. And Lily, at least, loves her right back with something akin to almost human adoration. It is eery. And bizarre. And so I have to do what I can. Love is a powerful thing.
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Homeschool fail or win? While reading aloud to the girls about the "End of the World" fears of medieval people around the year 1000, I read a paragraph about people turning to cannibalism and eating clay and dirt because because no one planted any crops due to believing the end was nigh. I got absolutely NO RESPONSE from my kids. Blank stares out the window. I reread the lines. No response. I yelled "OH MY GOSH, THEY WERE EATING EACH OTHER!" They woke up. "What? What are you talking about?" We haven't stopped discussing it since. See kids? Pay attention and history can be really interesting...and gory.

Also, these t-shirts are great.
http://www.best-reviewer.com/best-review-top-9-snarky-answers-socialization-question-homeschoolers.htm
[livejournal.com profile] altarflame, I went looking for the tshirt your friend was wearing in that picture you posted and found these. I love them. Especially the one for the kid "I'm supposed to be socialized?!"


This is a link to videos of Luci's TKD yellow belt test and videos of Zoe's latest gymnastics meet.
http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v335/braddama/Girls%20activities%20winter%202011/
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I don't know if I can type all that I want to say on this phone, but Luci won't let me escape to the basement and the real computer until she is asleep. Most of the time I'm asleep before she is so I don't get computer time anymore. Just iPhone time throughout the day. See this is why I want an iPad. Or maybe I just need to figure out a place to put the computer upstairs. Heh.

This has been a crazy weekend. Friday was our homeschool co-op which runs from about 9:30 am to 3:30pm. At 5pm Luci had a TKD class and then her first belt test. So now she is a yellow belt. She was adorable and surprisingly shy. The belt test at this level is really more show off for mom and dad than it is a true test. They really do most of the testing as they earn stripes on their current belts. Luci seems to truly love TKD and I really hope she sticks with it because it is extremely good for her. The discipline and even the movements themselves are exactly what she needs. After the belt test we went out to dinner with my parents and then I dropped Maria off at my sister's house to spend the night with her cousin who is also currently her best friend. They have so much fun together which is funny given how much they fought a couple of years ago. There is another girl their age on my sister's street and the three of them are a great group. This other girl seems to smooth things out and just make them all work together better.

On Saturday, Zoe had her second gymnastics meet. Because this was such a large meet and they did not have a fancy electronic scoreboard showing us standings, I honestly had no idea how she did compared with anyone else except her teammates until the end. I only kept track of her team's scores. And even at the end they only handed out the all around stuff. Event ribbons were handed out to just the girls and I did not know until we got in the car what ribbons she had won, if any. Ok...so there were 19 girls in her age group and she tied for 4th place all around. But when she got in the car she had gotten two 1st place ribbons (floor and vault) and two 2nd place ribbons(beam an bars). I really am not the sharpest tool in the box but how does that work? Ties for 1st in the events she placed 2nd? Whatever, her ranks don't mean a lot to me, I just love seeing her have a good time and I love watching gymnastics. These kids are amazing.

Today I did not manage to get us to church. For no good reason. So I spent the day feeling terrible. But this afternoon Zoe and Luci had their American Heritage Girls Awards ceremony and got their first badges which thrilled them. Maria quit AHG. She said it was just not fun. Which is so weird because she loved it at first. I cannot get any details at all out of her and gave up and let her quit. We had dinner with my sister's family at my parents' house this evening and then came home and cleaned up MY trashed house.

After a weekend like this I really need a vacation.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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I've written a lot about Zoe lately, so I felt like I needed to update about the others.

So we just got through a month of hell with Luci's asthma. Seriously, it was terrible. We were in the ER once and at the doctor's office twice, in the chiropractor's office every week, trying EVERYTHING and she was still wheezing. Even a round of oral prednisone didn't get rid of the wheeze. She was using her inhaler six or seven times a day. But, eventually, she fought off the virus or whatever was causing the underlying issue and got better. She was on Advair for awhile, but that just scared the crap out of me, so now we are using Qvar which is "just" an inhaled steriod, an older generation one with a more comfortable track record for me. My BIL, the chiro, is working hard with us to get her cleared of toxins and adjusted well, in the hope that we can wean her off the Qvar in the future. She has her OWN MEDICINE DRAWER in the kitchen LITERALLY OVERFLOWING with meds and supplements. It is really kind of insane. And frightening at times. I mean, I've known she had asthma for years, but it was not until the last year or so that I finally admitted that she has SEVERE asthma. When your kid can't breathe...yeah. Scary as hell.

But other than that...Luci is doing phenomenally well. Her schoolwork just keeps improving. Her ability to work independently amazes me. I no longer have to sit right next to her the entire time, redirecting her attention every five seconds, and helping her find her place because she loses it every time she looks away. She really, truly only needs my help for normal stuff now, like "What is this word?" or "What does this mean?" or "How do you do this problem?" Truly normal stuff. I don't know what the key was. More dietary changes, the Brain Balance program, taking some of the stress out of her life, just growing up a bit more...I don't know, but whatever it was I thank God for it every single day. Or I feel thankful. I forget to say thanks a lot. For her sake and everyone in her life, I'm glad she can engage in life in a more productive and healthy way. Luci is and always will be the quirky one, the funny one...but now we can all SEE it and love it instead of trying to decipher what is wrong and what is just Luci. I love that. I LOVE THAT!!
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Thanksgiving weekend was strange...but good in its own way. I was childless, as Brad was in town so I gave him the long weekend without interference. I had a lot of all adult time. The food was wonderful. My sister and I did all the cooking as my mother had another surgery last Monday (there was another small tumor they discovered). We did good. :P I did a lot of shopping with my parents on Friday and Saturday and feel good about my purchases. This is a difficult shopping year for me. My status as a DIL and all that entails makes it confusing. Anyway, it was pretty good regardless. I enjoyed my adult time.

A few minutes ago....
Me: It's awfully quiet. I'm scared. What are you doing?
Zoe: I'm sewing up Poochie
Me: Doing what? To whom?
Zoe: Poochie got a hole while we were wrestling. I'm fixing him. (She holds up a stuffed animal that looks like a small Westie)
Me: How?
Zoe: With the STITCHING SKILLS Grandma Margaret taught me.
Me: Huh? What are you using?
Zoe: Needle and thread from your sewing kit.

Okay, first, I did not know she knew what a "sewing kit" was as I've probably only sewn something in her presence two or three times in her life. Second, I've never seen her with a needle and thread in her hand. But she did a darn good job of "fixing Poochie". So...yeah. Whatever. She can "stitch". I'm less concerned about her grammar, frankly, as mine ain't much better.
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Zoe's first gymnastics meet was today. It was a small meet and it was low key and it was perfect for a first time competing. She did really well. The best part was that even though she totally messed up the vault, her best event, and I fully expected that would be the end of it for her, she screwed up her courage and marched right over to the next event, bars, with her team and placed first on that one. Heh. So much for worrying about her giving up. It was truly fun to watch. I'm proud of my girl.

Some videos...
This is her beam routine. She placed third on this one.


This is her floor routine. She finished too early and thought she'd screwed this one up too as you can tell by her attitude at the end, but then ended up placing second. Silly girl.


And her first place, after vault mess ups, bar routine.


That's my girls. Now I need some video of Luci at taekwondo. She will be testing for yellow belt soon, so hopefully I can get that on video.
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Some recent events:
Read more... )
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One day a few weeks ago, I looked at Maria and she was...someone new. Still Maria, but new. Older, wiser, sweeter, softer...I don't know. All that and more. Amazing.



I know this is horribly blurry, but it is incredibly hard to get a real picture of Luci. She is always making some kind of goofy face. " My funny valentine, sweet comic valentine, you make me smile with my heart...."



Zoe's quirky smile. She is a bundle of contradictions. Fascinating, strange, beautiful...I can't look away sometimes.



My girls were junior bridesmaids in their uncle's wedding. Very western themed. They did a great job.
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I want to discuss this with someone. But I really have no one to watch it with and talk to about it. Any takers?



Putting aside all the complex and confusing issues brought up in this short film, it was hugely exciting for me to see Madre Ines and the Hogar Rafael Ayau again. And to hear her speak her mind unashamedly and without editing. I love her.
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This should be interesting. It features Madre Ines, the woman who runs the orphanage where our Maria spent the first two years of her life, the Hogar Rafael Ayau. It airs tomorrow.

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Yesterday, in a parking lot, I saw three young teenage boys walking together. Two were dressed in jeans and "normal" shirts, the third was wearing a blazer/sport coat, jeans and a red bow tie. His hair was pleasantly long and "mussed". I had to clap my hand over my mouth, literally, to keep from yelling "Long live the Doctor!" out the window. It is so much fun to have such a cross generational show be so popular. It is much like the Harry Potter phenomena. My dad, in his sixties, young teens, and I, mid thirties and all love this show. Even my tweeny bopper kids are very aware of it now. I don't let them watch it as it scares the hell out of me sometimes, so I imagine it would give them nightmares.

The girls and I are all fighting colds right now. Everyone is lethargic and whiney, including me. I can't get them to eat or sleep very well, which makes this like torture. *sigh*

My parents close on the house today, so we will start moving in this weekend. It is going to take some time as we have to wait for the windows/dry rot/mold issues to be taken care of. I've never moved in small stages like this and I have a feeling it will annoy the snot out of me. I've not exactly enjoyed the holding pattern we've been in for the last four months. I'm used to moving in a matter of days. Packing and unpacking in less than two weeks most of the time. This is a very different experience. On the pro side, I can take my time and decide where I want things and if there are things I want to do before I move things into a room, I can do that. Usually, I'm running around like crazy trying to be in all rooms at once as movers set up furniture and ask me where I want it.

I can't think of anything else to say. :P
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Zoe and Luci were doing an little improv with my mom; she was changing their "channel" with the remote control and telling them what channel or show she wanted to see next. They had done a wrestling contest, a soap opera style show...mom would say things like "now I'm watching a show about the jungle...now I want singing and dancing...now creatures in the desert...." etc, etc. Then mom said "Now I'm watching a show about making potato chips." The girls sort of paused, looked at her blankly, and then Zoe said, in a deadpan voice "This channel is currently unavailable".

Laughter is so good. It is so so so so so good.
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Luci completes the Brain Balance program next week. Since she began, these are the changes I have seen (keep in mind she is 8 1/2 years old):

--can tie her shoes.

--knows the days of the week and can tell you what days come before and after any day

--knows the months of the year

--seems to truly understand place value and can maintain it in calculations

--when she writes a number or letter backwards she can almost always identify it and correct it

--can read smoothly and quickly enough to enjoy it

--reading comprehension has gone up exponentially

--can put a group of words in alphabetical order (even using the second letter of words that all begin with the same letter)

--sleeps better

--can walk a more normal distance and has a much stronger body

--can remember and respond to more multi-step directions

--can spell words more than three or four letters long (LOTS OF THEM RATHER SUDDENLY!)


None of these are things they work on directly at Brain Balance. They did not show her how to tie her shoes. I've been trying to teach her that since she was four. They did not recite with her the days of the week or months of the year. We've been singing songs about those and writing them out and listing them since preschool days. They did not have her walk long distances to practice walking. They did other stuff, stuff that apparently stimulated missing connections. They had her walk on a balance beam in specific ways, use monkey bars, do strengthening exercises, stand on one foot with her eyes closed...they had her do math and reading exercises specifically designed to stimulate weak areas in her brain. She did visual tracking exercises. She did auditory exercises (two words said at the same time in opposite ears, then have to identify them both). None of these things directly taught the skills I see suddenly developing in her, which is why this program is so interesting to me. I was so tired of being told to try this or that method of teaching a skill I had already taught in multiple ways, teaching to multiple learning styles. It was not a matter of finding the perfect way to teach her to tie her shoes. She could not follow the steps in order. There are other things that are harder to categorize, but the changes are pretty substantial. I think this has been a great experience and one I would definitely recommend to anyone.
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Just another day at the races.

Thought I'd share this link since I got some requests: http://pinterest.com/damaj/
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Okay, I'm having a ball over on Pinterest, decorating my house by proxy. Heh. If you want to see what I've posted and don't know my name, leave me a comment and I'll get back to you. However, I think most of you know my name. Heh. Keeping all of these pictures and plans together in one place is really nice. And it is cool to see what others post too.

The girls seem to be having a ball with their dad. I'm really glad about that.

I'm enjoying my time alone.
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The girls left to spend the weekend with their dad today. They will be back next Tuesday night. So six days. It feels like a terribly long time. I miss them already and they've only been gone for an hour. And I'm not kidding.


I'm going to go shopping for a dress for the two weddings I am going to in October. Wish me luck. I'd rather be hitting up reclamation places for home decor.
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In my quest to "find myself" during this massive transitional phase in my life, one of the things I've given a lot of thought to is my "style": clothing and decorating (as in home). After years of trying to be more traditional and mesh my actual likes with my husband's very modern/traditional and clean design leanings (he likes a woman in jeans and a t-shirt or a fitted suit style dress and his houses uncluttered), my new found freedom has allowed me to be totally honest about what I really like for maybe the first time in my life.  For years I've said I liked French Country style in decor, but as soon as it got really "country", it lost me.  What I really liked about it was the painted woods, the elegant finishes, the colors and textures.  So I've been on a hunt to find out what I REALLY like.  I think the moment of epiphany was when I was standing in my grandparents cluttered, chaotic house and noticing all the little things sitting everywhere that drew my interest and made just being in a room an adventure. My grandmother is a collector...of dolls, dishes, toys, pillows, anything she finds lovely. And I think I started out that way too, as a kid. I wanted a label for this "look", this style...one that would make it a little easier to find.

And I think I found it. I think we'd call it "bohmemian" or "boho".











I want beads on everything including my neck. I want chandeliers in every room and hanging from my ears. I want color everywhere. I want nothing to match and everything to "go together". I want pretty and soft and feminine and drapey. I want sensory overload.

This is something I forgot about myself. Actually, I'm not sure I ever even knew it.
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So...

A home is in the works. If all goes well we should begin the move in a couple of weeks. The house is two doors down from my parents home. There are a lot of pros there and very few cons.

Maria is doing rec soccer this year, but also going to a soccer "academy" run by the biggest competitive soccer club around here in an effort to prepare her to try out next year. I should have had her try out this year but she was unsure and I did not want to push. Watching this rec team struggle and her reactions to it made realize that was a mistake. Oh well, hopefully she will be well prepared next year.

Zoe is enjoying the new gym so far which has truly surprised me as it is much more intense. The coaches' are very exacting but kind and they make things fun. I do not know where this is headed for her, but I feel good about the decision to move her. She will be competing but the level is somewhat in the air. She practices all the level four skills but the coach says she may have her compete at level three for this first year as she is so new to this.

Luci has started taekwondo and is truly loving it. It really demands discipline and I think it will be so good for her. Another plus is that it is hilarious. She is also doing great with Brain Balance. Eight sessions left. I think it has been exactly what we needed to do for her.

This is so far our best and most organized homeschooling year. Three weeks into Ages of Grace and I really can't praise it highly enough. The coop starts soon as well.

We are very busy and have a lot of happy, peaceful moments.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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I have signed the girls up for the Orthodox Christian coop. And signed myself up to help coordinate service projects during one of the Friday meetings. I've been thinking a lot about service and how I needed to get the girls out more, helping others, and this seemed like an answer to a prayer I had not really even prayed yet. Those two Fridays every month will be full days. Morning liturgy or akathist, lunch, and three hours of classes. Art, Chemistry, and an intro to Russian language and culture. Russian is not something I would have chosen for my girls and I realize they are unlikely to learn much language, but if we are going to be part of this OCA parish for the foreseeable future, an understanding of some Russian culture and a few phrases of the Russian language will not be a bad thing to have. On the second Friday of the month there will also be a time for the kids to do presentations for the group and on the fourth Friday of the month we will do the service projects. I'm excited and happy and at peace with this decision. I think it is the right one.

Maria's soccer season is getting off to a slow start with all the heat. The first practice was canceled because of the heat and the second was miserable. Tomorrow will be the third and I'm so hoping it will be cooler and more pleasant. She also starts the soccer academy soon. Lots of soccer going on, as we are also periodically attending Sporting KC games with my dad who has season tickets. That is really a lot more fun than I thought it would be. If only the stadium didn't feel like a boiling cauldron.

Zoe is working out with a new gymnastics team tomorrow. The rec team I originally signed her up with was not a good fit. She did an evaluation with this new gym last week and will do a trial workout with the team tomorrow. I like their cautious approach. I hope she likes it and keeps going as she is fairly good at it. I tried to keep her going to the rec gym as long as I could because it was so cheap, but she was miserable and it was either get her to a new gym or quit gymnastics altogether. She still may quit, as I'm not sure all her issues are just with the coach or the club. Some of them are just the nature of the sport.

Luci is doing well with Brain Balance. She had her second progress report and is steadily moving ahead levels in sensory motor stuff, most of it almost up to age appropriate levels now. Academically she has made some HUGE strides. At her last progress report, she had not moved in math at all, and she jumped ahead two grade levels this time. So she is working at second grade level now in most everything. Since she is just starting third grade, that is definitely something to cheer about. I see the progress more and more since we started homeschooling back up too. Her reading progress is just nothing short of phenomenal. I'm so proud of her hard work and so impressed with the Brain Balance staff and program. I just HAVE to get the nutritional testing done now!! ACK! She will also be starting Karate in September. Should be fun and she is chomping at the bit to get started.

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