This week has been an unintentional therapy and healing week for us as we learn more about fetal alcohol effect and talk about the effects of Les’ previous job on our family.  We completed one of our dye projects (goldenrod) and are continuing with all of our other projects.

Me:

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Big Boys: (In no particular order)

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Life Skills: Relationships

Lord help me.  Three boys going through hormone changes at once.

I decided to have an age appropriate talk with the three older boys about relationships because one of them has a crush on a little blonde at co-op.  I foresee many more talks in the future, especially when Les can be present for them, but for the time being I’m in a good place with the son who has a crush.  He comes and talks to me about her – nothing long, just short snippets – and I will take that for the win!

Back when Les and I were first married, we read a book called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.  I think it was really beneficial for us at the time as we learned what each of us valued most from each other, especially since they were (at that time) not the same.  It occurred to me when I realized I needed to talk about girls with the big boys that it would be interesting to know Zach, Chris, and Justin’s preferred love languages.  The author has a free quiz available on the website which is appropriate for teenagers and children as well as adults.  I promise it’s not super cheesy, if you want to find out yours, it has greatly benefited us over the years.

The basis of the book is that we all tend to have one or two preferred ways of receiving love from our spouse (or parents, etc – as the case may be).  These five love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

So, each of us took the quiz and as I was looking at each of the results, it dawned upon me why I so often feel emotionally drained with the big boys.  It’s not because I need a break from them nor is it that I feel like it’s too much for me.

When we first got the boys, it was physically painful to Zach, Chris, and Justin when I held them.  Literally.  They would scream and push to get out of my arms as if I were torturing them.  They had zero desire to be rocked or snuggled to sleep.  The sensory input was simply overwhelming to them.  Over the months and years to follow, I slowly de-sensitized them to being held and they tolerated it and sometimes enjoyed it but they have never been overly snuggly with me, ever.  Hugs and kisses are awkward and slightly mechanical for them.  So be it.

What is interesting to me though, is looking at their results and realizing why it’s so hard for me to feel rejuvenated with them.  One of my primarily love languages is touch – snuggles, hugs, kisses.  It’s at the bottom of the list for all three of them.  I couldn’t even begin to guess how many times I kiss, hug, or snuggle Niki, Gabriel, and Symeon in a single day let alone from year to year.  I thrive off of it.

I don’t have this with Zach, Chris, and Justin…and I realized the other day that it’s one of the main reasons why I struggle with them.  I want snuggles from them!  I want a hug and kiss from them, just cuz….but it’s not something that they feel comfortable with me.  Sigh.

It leaves me thinking about the conversation Niki told me she had with one of her professors a few years ago.  He had grown up in foster care as well and he told Niki that he never wanted affection from his foster parents – no “I love you” or hugs and kisses.  For him, he wanted his basic needs met and that was “I love you” to him.  That’s what he wanted.

It makes sense then that I feel the closest to the boys when we go on vacation or I put up all of my electronics…because quality time is a common priority love language between ALL of us in our family.  It also makes sense then why this has (so far) been the most phenomenal year of homeschooling I’ve ever had with them thus far.  I’m spending a lot more time engaged in projects and activities with them and a lot less time trying to get them to complete a worksheet.  Quality time it is then!

North American Saints: Saint Herman and Saint Innocent

We reviewed St. Herman and St. Innocent’s life.  (See next section to understand why we’re re-capping, again.)

We also started to learn the folk hymn about St. Herman in the activity packet about the North American Saints.  A friend on instagram emailed me the tune so I could teach it to the boys.  I’m hoping we can finish learning it, record it, and then post it in a future weekly homeschool chronicle.

Teacher Professional Day

Les has been flying quite a bit lately.  We’re all praying he can get the rest of his required hours in before the end of October so he doesn’t have to go through training all over again.  (There’s a time limit to get in his required hours of flying in after going through initial training.  Long story.)

Anyway, the boys had just finished their morning work, we had eaten lunch, and we were all outside gathering walnuts and hulling them when Les pulled into our driveway – home from a trip – a day early.  I was overjoyed to see him!  The day before had been a rough day and I soooo needed a hug from him.

I had given Les the book on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to read on his trip and he had finished it earlier that day while sitting at the airport.  The thing is, I had not been able to finish it yet simply because all of my reading needs to happen after the two littles go to sleep at night.  So often, other things bump reading that book lower on the priority list.

Les immediately starts telling me how much he loved the book and how much he wanted to give me the opportunity to finish it too.  So, he took the boys to the hardware store and then supervised the big boys mowing the lawn while I got some time to read in our room.  It’s a short book so I was able to knock out the rest of it while they were outside.

I don’t know how to describe how I feel about what I read.  How do you explain a rainbow to a blind person?

I’m left feeling guilty, hopeful, numb, peace, drained… it should definitely be required reading for foster parents.

In a nutshell, I’m convinced someone wrote a book about life in our home.  Oh my gosh, I could write so much on this right now –

So, you don’t have to be a heavy drinker to cause fetal alcohol effects.  The boys don’t have full blown fetal alcohol but they definitely have the effects of it.  There’s not a certain threshold of alcohol that will cause damage.  For some babies, it’s one or two drinks while mom is pregnant and for others it’s heavy drinking.  You can even have twins where one will have effects from the alcohol and the other will not.  There just really isn’t a set amount that’s safe or not safe.  Dads can even be the cause of mild fetal alcohol if they were drinking just prior to pregnancy.  It’s eye opening stuff.

The brain damage is permanent.  There isn’t a medication for it.  There isn’t a behavior modification that can fix it.

Memory is affected, especially short term memory.

There’s an inability to make connections, generalizations, and associations.

Therefore, traditional behavior modification with time out, reward charts, natural consequences, etc DON’T WORK for them…because they don’t remember why they are getting in trouble.  They don’t connect that I did *this* and *that* happened.  The examples I could give for this.

They process information much slower than the “norm”.  Think dial up internet connection vs high speed internet.  If you talk too fast and/or with too much information, they can’t process it and have no idea what you said.

Sensory input is affected.  They may not realize they are hungry.  (I had one child who NEVER asked for food or drink.  He would only eat or drink when you put it in front of him.  I have two others who regularly have dehydration headaches because they don’t realize they need to drink even though we’ve tried creative ways to remind them to drink throughout the day.)

Their developmental age will be younger than their chronological age.  You can’t expect them “act their age”.  Instead, I have to think about whether or not they are acting appropriately for their developmental age.

They need constant re-teaching in an effort to send the information into long term memory.  Where it might take 1, 2, 3 times to teach something to most children, it might take 10, 20, 30 times to teach it to a child with fetal alcohol effect.

Where you or I might use only a very small portion of our brain to execute an activity – many times these children are using their entire brain.  They are using an enormous amount more effort to complete a task and it wears them out.

They are very literal and concrete.  For example, I asked one of my sons a couple of weeks ago to “put up the leftovers on the stove”.  I walked back into the kitchen after he had gone to bed to see that he had put the pot of food up on a cookie sheet on top of the stove.

So much of this I’ve known for a very long time through observation and experience but I have a name to it now.  I now know that they can’t help it.  I now know I have to change the environment instead of the behavior.  I have to teach them ways to compensate for something that will be with them the rest of their lives. The huge gaps they experience now will lessen as they get into their 20’s and 30’s but for now they are very pronounced.

So much to think about.

Liturgy & Co-op:

I’ve been making playdough and bringing it to co-op the past couple of weeks.  It’s a favorite among the 2 and 3 year-olds.

Living in God’s Creation: Natural Dyes

We worked on our goldenrod and black walnut dyes this week.  We learned that the hulls of black walnuts will mold if you leave them in a bucket overnight.  They most assuredly need to be spread out for air circulation or need to be used immediately.  The nice thing is that there are plenty more black walnuts on the ground for the taking.

We have the walnuts drying inside.  They sound be ready to crack open in a couple of weeks.  I’m hoping to use them in a cake or bread with the boys.

We were able to complete the goldenrod dye project.  Three of the boys wanted their shirts to be yellow.  The other boys are going to have brown shirts.

The basics of dyeing:

  • mordant is essentially used as a glue that binds the dye to the fiber
  • When staining, no mordant is used but the results will fade over time
  • When dyeing, a mordant is used and the results will have a longer lasting effect

Creating goldenrod dye bath

Goldenrod on 100% cotton

Fabric in goldenrod dye bath

Boys' shirts drip drying outside

Black walnuts drying after being hulled

Exploring Our City: Nature Reserve

I took the boys hiking at a nearby nature reserve for a few hours.  We spent the afternoon being detectives in the forest.