I posted a quote on my facebook page the other day that really spoke to me and shared it below.  The majority of the time I use my blog as a vent.  A vent that allows me to blow off some built up steam to prevent from exploding.  Over the years, I’ve been misunderstood as thinking poorly of my boys which is not the case at all!  The fact of the matter is that you just can’t understand another person’s situation until you’ve lived it yourself.

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Even after being misunderstood countless times when it comes to the adventures we have had with foster/adopted children, I unfortunately find myself thinking I too could easily solve someone else’s struggle with their child.  For example, my nephew.  My nephew has never in his entire life had a desire to eat.  It just doesn’t interest him.  You might think it would just be a matter of finding the right food to entice him.  Yeah…no.  You might think it would just be a matter of holding out not giving him treats so he would eat healthier.  Yeah…no.  It’s easy to think this way when you’ve never had to deal with it.  I’ve made varying foods for my nephew thinking he’d be excited to eat them and show my brother it’s just a matter of what you offer to him.  Nope!  It is normal for my nephew to literally only eat 3 or 4 bites of food for the entire day and that’s only after you ask him to eat several times.  He has zero desire to eat.  When he contracted C. Diff., after having antibiotics for an ear infection and landed in the hospital, the doctor told my brother and sister-in-law it was CRITICAL for my nephew to eat ANYTHING otherwise the bad bacteria in his intestines would start to eat at his intestines.  They struggled for 5 hours trying to entice him to eat.  They got a total of 2 pieces of popcorn and 3 M&Ms in him.  What ultimately saved his life since he wouldn’t eat?  Raw milk.  A lot of research went into that decision and they were able to put some good bacteria back into his intestines after an intense dose of antibiotics to get rid of the C. Diff.  (The raw milk was after the C. Diff. returned a second time since they couldn’t get him to eat anything to help the good bacteria thrive in his intestines.)  I still don’t fully comprehend what they go through and the frustration they have with not being able to get their son to eat especially when he’s incredibly picky on top of it.  To make matters even worse, the medication he had to get rid of the C. Diff. permanently altered and in some areas destroyed his tastebuds.

My point in all of this is that I need to remember how difficult it is even for me to remember I don’t understand everyone else’s situation just like it’s hard for them to understand ours.  I know it’s difficult for everyone else to understand what Les and myself go through on a daily basis trying to not only help our oldest three boys heal but also teach them how to function safely in the world.  My reality is that my boys, as kind hearted as they are, do not understand cause and effect.  I’ve talked about this before and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again.  I just really can’t stress enough how important that first year of life is and the bonding that happens between parent and child.

In an ideal world, my oldest three boys would be able to handle free time.  The fact of the matter is…they can’t.  No matter how much I try to give them another chance or set them up for success, it just doesn’t work out.  I’ll spare the two most recent examples of why they can’t handle free time because again, I don’t want you to misunderstand them.  Deep within, they are good boys.  They just make some really poor choices when Les or myself are not watching over them.  Some of which are incredibly dangerous – as in the last two incidents.

In my never ending attempt to help them learn some independence and lessen the stress of math and reading, I’ve come up with a new organization tool.  I’m calling it “The Timeline”.

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This is the boys’ school area.  They keep their books and binder in the bottom cubby and the work they have completed in the top cubby or inbox.  I placed the timeline above their school shelves and made this the central location for their work.

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There were several reasons for me to go this route with the timeline.

1) I don’t do well with a strict schedule.  I like flexibility and as soon as it’s rigid, I go crazy.  (i.e. Mondays you do X.  Tuesdays you do X.  etc.)  I can change the schedule daily or even in the middle of the day if something comes up.  It’s as simple as moving an index card or replacing it with a different one.

2)  The boys (one boy in particular) have a hard time seeing the end in sight.  This allows them to see the progression through the day and know how much they need to get done in order to reach the most fun stuff, in their opinion, on the timeline.  (You’d be surprised at some of the stuff they look forward to and some of the stuff they dread.)

3)  It allows them some structured independence.  They can move at their own pace and have a sense of independence doing so but at the same time, it’s still structured.  They thrive when I’m constantly supervising them so I’m hoping we can do a gradual shift to appropriate free time and have them be able to handle it.  Baby steps.

4)  It allows them to keep moving during the day instead of waiting on me if I’m feeding Gabriel or doing some of my own chores.  I can glance at the timeline and see where everyone is at in their school work.

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I wrote their names on a clothespin.  They move the clothespin to the next index card after they complete the current task.

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I got the clips and metal line from Ikea.  They displayed it as a way to showcase children’s art work.

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The nice thing is that I can tweak this as time goes on.  I can change the schedule to better fit the day and our family.  I can also have it set up the night before so the boys can get started as soon as they wake up.

The most used cards on our timeline are:

  • Morning Chores – While I’m in the shower and to prevent them from making repeat poor choices while I’m in the shower, I’ve given them morning chores.  Make your bed, get dressed, and pick up your room
  • Breakfast – Mom, dad, or Niki will make you breakfast  (Something that involves cooking)
  • Make Your Own Breakfast – Pour your own cereal
  • Chores – a short list of chores to be completed
  • Language Arts – writing, spelling, handwriting, etc
  • Mama’s Helpers – help mom with something
  • Silent Reading Time – read in your head  (One of the sources of our almost civil war)
  • The Magician’s Nephew – listen to mom read the book and any activities mom has for them
  • Lunch
  • Math – workbook, activity, etc
  • Culinary School – huge unit on food and cooking
  • Outdoor Time with Mom – playing, exploring, gardening, etc
  • Greek – Rosetta Stone
  • Art – drawing, project, etc
  • Dinner
  • Evening Chores – put up chickens, wash eggs, wash table, etc
  • Prayers – family prayer time in front of our family altar (We also say prayers before every meal)
  • Get ready for bed – pajamas, brush teeth, get a drink, go potty, put on your audio book/music
  • Bedtime – means different things to the boys than to the parents
  • Divine Liturgy – We’re going to church
  • Divine Liturgy Unit – Studying the Divine Liturgy
  • Music – piano lessons
  • Co-op – Meeting with our homeschool group
  • Errands with Mom
  • Where in the World is Dad? – The boys mark maps and fill in a worksheet after they’ve asked dad questions about where he’s spending the night on his trip.

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They just read that they were having Culinary School and Greek today.

(I told you, their favorite things to do may not be what you’d expect.)

What’s interesting is the way they’ve chosen to communicate with me via their inboxes.  I’ve shared before that my boys don’t show affection or offer “I love you” to me.  A couple of weeks ago, I found out that one of my boys had left me two notes in his inbox and melted my heart.

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