Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Good Fences

A strange bike showed up in our back yard.  It was our neighbor's bike, but they hadn't put it there.  In fact, neighbor Denise had been leaving that morning and seen a guy in a hoodie putting the bike in our yard, and assumed it was Ethan.  Ethan was with me on the way to school, and no one had been home at the time.  Along with the bike we found a single shoe on the ground.  Which made it go from weird to a little Twilight Zone.

The best we can tell, some guy was going from house to house after everyone was at work and sneaking into back yards, stealing what he could.  When he found the bike and took it, he had no idea that that was the moment Denise would come out of her house to take her teen daughter to school.  The back tire on the bike was flat, so this guy couldn't just hop on and take off.  He must have ducked behind our garage and pushed open our floppy, broken, held-shut-by-a-bucket-o'-bricks-and-a-trash-can gate.  He stashed the bike.  Since we were gone, who knows how long he was back there and what else he might have been doing.  It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.  

It was creepy.  There have been strangers in our yard before, using it as a shortcut through the block.  We've had our cars broken into, and even had a car stolen right out of the driveway.  But having a bike-snatcher use our yard as a stash is freaky on a whole new level.  I didn't like the thought of him casually coming back to retrieve his loot.

We took the bike back next door and propped a huge old couch against the gate to get us through the night, then the next day I had the boys demo the gate.  We built the new fence and gate that day and got a sturdy lock.  I had every child help in some way.  Natalie was the project forewoman, and expert holder of screws.  It's really my thing to make sure my girls get the same opportunities to use power tools and help with big projects.  

I guess I should thank the bike-snatcher.  He lit a fire under our tails to get that horrible fence and gate fixed.  I wonder if there is anything he could do that would force us to paint the house.

Ellie and Dad

One more!

Hangin' with my sib!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Something Great (times two)

We decided to celebrate 
Adam's great job qualifying for the finals in track.  
And to celebrate Guy's awesome nomination for Teacher of the Year.  

We chose not to wait until after the track finals.  Adam did a great job on his qualifiers.  It was tempting to wait until he had his very last race to see how well he did, but then we realized that we were missing an opportunity to enjoy the "Here and Now".  His success in the qualifiers would be diminished by waiting, win or lose in the final race.

And the same for Guy.  His nomination was special all on it's own.  It was a red letter day, just because it was.

It reminded me of the talk by Dieder F. Uchdorf where he reminds us to "Forget not... to Be Happy Now".

 "If we spend our days waiting for fabulous roses, we could miss the beauty and wonder of the tiny forget-me-nots that are all around us.
This is not to say that we should abandon hope or temper our goals. Never stop striving for the best that is within you. Never stop hoping for all of the righteous desires of your heart. But don’t close your eyes and hearts to the simple and elegant beauties of each day’s ordinary moments that make up a rich, well-lived life.
The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry ofgratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy."
Also, ice cream definitely helps!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Day

It's been a while since I've done a foodie post!
My Honny made me an awesome Mother's Day dinner and we ate it outside, which is my favorite!  
The breeze was breezy and the sun was only blaring in our eyes for the first hour or so.  Guy made stuffed chicken breasts with a bacon cream sauce and rosemary roasted yams, with a yummy cheesecake topped in chocolate ganche and raspberry sauce for dessert.

It was all amazing.  

The breeze created a windchime symphony, and my kids did not fight once!  It's the second time this week.  Somebody pinch me, please.  No!  Wait!  Don't do that.  I'll wake up and they'll start fighting again.  

The Littles brought me flowers one at a time throughout the night, and I received about 12 glittery handmade cards and pictures.

My day was already going great because I got to take a nap.  

(No, the boys are not reading the bible.  I have a phone ban at the table, but this was before dinner, so they feel like it's okay to be anti-social.)

I was gifted with bird feeders and clay, but my favorite came from Guy: Fourth of July Banners like the ones they hang at City Hall in The Music Man.  They are so cool.

Also, he found a Donkey Tail succulent plant for me.  It is a throwback from my childhood.  When we were kids, my dad had several of them, and we evil children would rip off the plump little leaves and throw them at each other by the handful.
When I told my kids my evil-children story, they gasped!  "That's terrible!!!" they all agreed.  I have done a lot of things wrong in my parenting, but I know that at least in the plant department, I have raised my children right.  They respect botanicals.

I am blessed.  Six kids is a lot.  Overwhelming at times, like today at the library.  Not recommended.  But I am blessed to share my life with these small and not so small humans.  Motherhood is so hard.  Most of the time I feel like I'm making this up as I go along, but when I am smart, I seek answers through prayer instead.  On my best day I couldn't come close to God's Plan for my family.
Who better to learn from than a loving Parent.    

Sunday, May 10, 2015

An Honor Just to be Nominated

Guy and the Board of Trustees for Sacramento

Guy was Nominated as Teacher of the Year for the Sacramento County Office of Education by a coworker this month.  Yay, Honey!  

This is such an honor.  Twice he has been recognized as Teacher of the Month in recent years, but this is a very different process.  The nomination is just the beginning.  A reception was held the past week to recognize the nominees and to present them with a certificate recognizing this accomplishment (as his wife, I was bubbling over with pride!).  But next, each of the 15 candidates must fill out a lengthy application with essay questions about their philosophies and work ethic to continue on.  There is an interview process, and finally, the committee of administrators meet to select the Teacher of the Year.

Guy doesn't feel deserving.  He has a laundry list of reasons why he is not "that kind of teacher".  
He can't decide whether he should follow through with the process.  He thinks it would be braggy.  He theinks that there isn't anything to brag about.

Let me tell you about Guy as a teacher.

Guy teaches a class of 10 severely disabled students, each from about 12 to 22 years of age.  Their disabilities range from severe Autism, Down's Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy, to a combination of problems.  One highly challenging student this year has both Autism and Down's Syndrome.  Most of Guy's students are in wheel chairs, most need to be fed, and several have extreme health issues including seizure disorders and feeding tubes.  Many have profound behavior challenges as well.  They need help with EVERYTHING.  And Guy does.  He cares for them with immense respect for their privacy and their spirits, and makes sure everyone of the staff in his room does as well.

This alone would be a full time job, as each must be changed and fed twice while at school, requiring the use of a complicated lifting device for some of his adult sized students, but this is only the beginning of what Guy does for them.  Guy's greatest desire for his students is that they fulfill their full potential.  If they have a skill within their grasp, no mater how simple or how challenging, Guy will develop a program for each individual student to master that skill.  Those skills include washing dishes, doing laundry and dressing themselves, but may be as simple as holding up their head or as unexpected as mastering locating and playing their favorite music on the computer.

But again, these are of the more basic skills Guy teaches.  To me, the most significant things that Guy does for these young people are the intellectual ones.  Guy tries to mirror the academics that their typically developing peers are experiencing.  While some may not understand what is being said, I imagine that some may have great and powerful minds locked inside of bodies that refuse to cooperate with them.  I have read about people who were locked in their bodies due to Cerebral Palsey, or trapped in their own minds due to Autism, until a thoughtful and intuitive person in their lives found the key to that child's communication.  Were it not for computer advancement, the genius Steven Hawking may have been parked in his wheelchair in front of a TV spewing Barney or some other rubbish.  We live in an age where technology makes amazing things possible, and Guy uses them to his advantage.

Guy does unit studies on science, health, art and geography.  He spends a week at a time focusing on different states, teaching the state flag, capital, flower, export and other points of interest.  He does units on other countries, always featuring a feast of delicious foods he makes with his students at the end of each unit.  He takes the kids out on community based instruction outings and gives them the experience of ordering their own food, and paying for their own purchases.  But my favorite thing he does is read.  He reads the classics to his students.  If their typically developing peers are reading Of Mice and Men, so is Guy, out loud, to them.  

To add to all this, Guy also has to arrange and hold progress meetings for each student, coordinating the efforts of nurses, speech and vision therapists, OTs, PTs, and other support services.  He has to deal with parents (sometimes, no, usually not the easiest part of the job), transportation and administration in a far more hands-on way than a regular education teacher would.  He is even responsible to do home visits to check on the welfare of his students.  He must know the law and rights of his students, and to defend them.  He has, on more than one occasion, even had to attend the funeral of one of his students whose fragile health would no longer hold out.

If I were a young student confined to a wheelchair, unable to care for myself; to speak, to make choices on my own - if I were locked in my body and could only choose when to breathe and blink, I would want to be in Guy's class.  I think that in a would where people tend to talk baby talk to students like his, or to ignore them entirely, speaking about them as if they weren't sitting right there, being if Guy's class would be a salvation.  

More than once Guy has been accused of being a glorified babysitter.
That could not be further from the truth.
He is more amazing than the Teacher of the Year committee will ever know, because even if Guy does complete the process, he will never toot his own horn to say how great he really is.

And he really, really is.

I don't know when you will read this, Guy Alan.  Probably weeks or months from now.  But I want you to know that I love you, I believe in you, and I am so, so proud of you.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Littles

Jonah was "the caboose".  That's what we called him.  We knew he was supposed to be in our family, and though it would have been nice to have a sibling nearer his age than is Tessa, we accepted the fact that it had taken 4 years and 3 miscarriages to get him.  We were blessed and content.

Then came, as you all know, the "bonus baby".  It has been one of the many unexpected blessings that she is here to grow up with her brother.  Jonah is often left out because his age precludes him from playing car-crashing video games with The Bigs, and his DNA (predisposed as it is for smashing things), is a hindrance in him playing sweet little pink-lego games with The Middles.

Nanobot can talk a bit now.  It sounds like drunk-monkey-chatter, but somehow Jonah knows what she is saying.  She is able to play puzzles and look at books with J-boy, and they play in the sand pit in the corner of the yard together for hours on end.  Yesterday they squealed and giggled in the bath and soaked the floor.

I'm so glad she has him.

They feed each other from one another's plates.  They sit in the hammock together, and tumble on the trampoline.  They find mischief and enjoy it together.

I'm so glad he has her.

Together they destroy my house, 
crowd my lap,
 and steal all my yummy bites of food. 

I'm so glad they have each other, and so glad that I have them.