Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dori Drives

Dori finally finished all the training she had to do to get a license. She had the last hoop to jump through yesterday. The driving test. We borrowed Sal's small car so that Dori would not have to drive our huge vehicles. Dori practiced an hour or so on Thursday then we drove again right after school on Friday. She was scheduled to take the test at 5 PM but the examinier called and asked us to come early. Dori was a nervous wreck! I tried to make light jokes and tease her a little so she would not take herself so seriously, but she was visibly nervous. When we got there she had to pull up to a line, back into a large boxed area then demonstrate that she could parallel park. She was a little unsteady and very nervous, but she did it. She tipped one cone almost over, but it bounced back into place when she turned. It was good that we borrowed the small car!! On the road test, Dori's biggest difficulty was knowing her left from her right, but she did drive just fine. I got to sit in the backseat and try not to say anything out loud. (I prayed silently lots though!!) The last thing the examiner told Dori was to smile for the camera-- I am sure she will have no trouble with that!!

We topped off the evening with dinner at 'Skip's Supper'. It was a Mardi Gras feast. Lots of sweet, southern cooking. As always, everything was excellent. Pepper and I brought a wine that we got on our weekend trip up north and it was the one that I was looking forward most to try. For dessert, Skip had self-serve Sundaes. The kids loved them because they could put on as many toppings as they wanted... I enjoyed the wide variety of chocolate choices!! We also spent some time planning summer camping trips (which always makes me happy!) and the kids all decided to go ice skating together on Saturday. It was a very nice evening all around. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back to school

Our winter break is over. Went back to work today. It is hard to get back into the routine when you had a really great time off. I have had two very nice weekends in a row. The first was a three day weekend with the kids to Frankenmuth and then a 4 day weekend with just Pepper to Traverse City. Both trips were better than I expected them to be. The kids all had a great time at the waterpark and getting to hang out with both their Mom's and Dad's. I really enjoyed watching them play and have fun throughout that weekend. This weekend was also very enjoyable. It was exactly whatever Pepper and I wanted. We stopped along the way and shopped and ate when we wanted. We went to nice restaurants without kids menus and crayons. We stayed up late and slept in as long as we wanted. We visited with old friends, made new ones and went places we wouldn't go on a 'kid' vacation, like the casino and wineries. But today I went back to work. No kids yet, just meetings... kids start back tomorrow. The school year is starting to wind down. Hopefully, the weather will start to improve and spring break will be right around the corner. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friendly Strangers

I've had a great day. Our drive up to Traverse City yesterday was relaxing and unrushed. It seemed so much quicker without an RV attached or kids in the backseat!! Talked to Dad D this morning and he said the kids are doing great-- that makes me happy. Pepper and I worked out this morning on the treadmill so I started the day feeling proud of myself. We went to breakfast with a coupon from our hotel. It was for 4 free meals and there was only the two of us. I heard the couple behind us talking to their kids about what they could order and how much things cost. It was a conversation I've had with my own kids. Pepper and I decided to give our other 2 free meals to them. We called the waitress over while the family were all up at the buffet and told her our plan. She said, "Sure, you can do that! Do you know them?" I said, "Nope." She launched into this story about the other day... she was waiting an a woman who said she really liked the waitresses earrings. The waitress responded to the woman saying, "Thank you! I noticed your necklace... it is very beautiful." When the women left the restaurant she left the necklace behind with the tip for the waitress. She had been very touched by the gesture. She brought us our bill with the extra meals on it and we left our coupon and the tip for the 4 meals. On our way out, I heard the waitress tell the family behind us, "So did that couple tell you what they did? Well,...." We slipped away before the family knew what we did, but it is amazing how happy the simple gesture made both Pepper and I feel.

We headed out for the local wineries. There were 6 we wanted to visit today. We went up to the most northern one and decided to work our way back to the south (the opposite way that most people go) The first one was very quiet until we were there about 10 minutes, then a large group came in. The cashier was having a rough day... he dropped and broke a bottle of wine, couldn't find his glasses and was too distracted to remember codes for the wine we were purchasing. We noticed another couple waiting patiently behind us and smiled at each other as we passed by. At the next winery the same couple came in and we started a conversation with them. By the third winery we were a party of 4 and we were like old friends. Jason and Stephanie were from Bay City and we followed each other to the different places. We joked about our palates and the different wine names... we all had a great time. At the last winery, Stephanie and Jason invited us to dinner with them. We already had reservations and really wanted to just spend the evening alone, so we said thank you but no. How great though that we met so many new people that touched our lives in such positive ways. What a great trip! :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pinky, Pointer, Thumb...

Every morning things get a bit hectic trying to get out the door for the bus. The girls bus comes early and they are usually able to get ready and get through the morning routine pretty well on their own (meaning not miss the bus!) The boys still need reminders.... eat breakfast, pick up your dishes, where are your gloves, find your shoes, do you have your homework and backpack? These are all familiar sayings at our house every school morning. We also remind them every morning to brush their teeth. I do not understand children.... mine will spend more time hiding and arguing and avoiding brushing their teeth then it actually takes to just do it! Then they leave the bathroom lights on... just to drive me crazy!! And why do I insist on it? Every morning they leave globs of old toothpaste in the sink that I have to remind them to clean up... I should just stop telling them to brush... it'd save me so much trouble and aggravation!! The mother in me just can't do it!

So finally, the boys are dressed, the shoes are in the backpack, homework is found, sink is cleaned, lights are off, dishes are in the dishwasher, lunches are packed and Pepper and Dill and Pete and I all pile into the car to take them to their bus stop. It is a quick 2 minute drive to the neighbors house to catch the bus. The boys then pile out of the car with reminders from us to grab their backpacks and their snacks. Then every morning, Dill looks back at us in the car and sticks up his little gloved hand with just the pinky, pointer and thumb in the air. The sign for "I love you" we taught him almost before he could talk. He waits for both Pepper and I to return the sign then he blows each of us a kiss before running to catch up to his brother. Do I love hectic mornings? Nope. Does it drive me crazy that I have to repeat myself day in and day out? yep! Will I miss these special morning rituals when Dill grows up enough to decide he is to big to blow us kisses and sign that he loves us? Big time! It really is the little things in life that make the biggest difference. <3

Monday, February 16, 2009

Against the odds...

Pepper and I have school today and none of the kids do. So all the kids get to take the day off to spend with Dad D and Dad B while we are at work. It should be an easy day. My two classroom aides are here and only two students came today. (My class has a total of 4.... that may sound easy but they are all adorable little handfuls!) One student did not come in because his Mom thought our school was off today too and the other is ill. The slowness of the day is allowing me time to ponder what I want to do about my job in the near future. I know there are lots of people out of work... many very near and dear to my heart. But my dilemma is trying to decide which job to take. I have a couple options for the next school year. I could stay where I am and do what I am doing now, I can do what I am doing now but change locations, I can go back to my old job, or a similar one and not have a classroom to deal with at all. Last week, I had made up my mind. I had decided to stay with my classroom and change locations. I decided that since the program needed to move (for many reasons) I would help with the transition by staying on one more year. I was almost 90% decided. But, I do not know if I want that anymore. I ran into a snag with a parent that I may not want to fight my way out of. Is it worth it? I have done a lot for my students these last 3 years.... maybe it is time to move on.

Parents of children with handicaps are a tough bunch. They want the best for their children, but the children do not follow the normal protocol that the majority of school kids do. For my own children there is no question about whether or not they will attend Gym, how much Math they should be involved in or what goals should be focused on.... it is all predetermined by their age, grade and curriculum guidelines. However, kids with special needs have their own specialized program.... a great theory and a wonderful way to meet their needs.... but a lot of pressure for parents and teachers to decide what is important. Some parents just roll with the teachers and the evaluators ideas and hope for the best. Some read about one program or one theory and grab onto that with all their might and want everyone involved to get on their bandwagon... and some jump from bandwagon to bandwagon, ever searching.... It is not easy for parents of special needs children, I realize that. There are also some parents who approach the situation in a 'cut off their nose to spite their face' fashion. Can anyone ever really make that type of parent happy? Is it worth it to even try? Having one unhappy parent is not unusual in a regular class of 25.... and 1 out of 25 is not too bad "odd's-wise" but 1 out of 4... yikes!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Splash Village

We brought the kids for a trip to Splash Village in Frankenmuth this weekend. It was a belated Christmas gift from Pepper, Dad B, Dad D and I. We decided this would be a great place because it is supposed to be a german themed place and Kiwi is from Germany. It was amazing how excited Dill was to get here. Every time we passed a billboard about the place he squealed in delight. He is getting mighty fast on the math too.... figuring what mile marker we were at and how far we had to go. Seeing the water slides sticking out of the hotel got all the kids excited.... you'd hardly believe that these kids each swim everyday after school on their swim team for how excited they were! In the car, Pepper announced that last time (and the first time) we came here, she had never gone down any of the slides. The boys made it their mission to get Pepper, not on one, but ALL the water slides the place had to offer this trip. She was a very good sport and joined them at everything they asked (except once when Dill wanted her to go under a cold waterfall right after she got out of the "hot pool". Dill pouted about it for a minute but bounced back quickly.)

I have to say Pepper really entertained me this weekend.... she had me smiling constantly. Now I always find her cute... she is. I know it is Valentine's Day, but she was down right adorable this weekend. First of all, she is much happier being able to sit beside the pool with a good book and wave at the kids and I having fun in the water..... but she did not do that this trip. She was a real trouper. She willingly got dragged onto all the waterslides every time one of the kids wanted to go down, she carried tubes up the two flights of stairs, she wandered around the basketball nets and the lily pads and all the spigots designed to splash as you go under them, but the funniest thing was the giant water bucket.

I came into the pool area looking for Pepper, Dill and Kiwi with the rest of the kids. I searched around all the people in the places I thought she'd be..... with a book at our table or in the hot tub... and couldn't find her. I heard the bell start to sound that meant the giant bucket of water was about to spill and looked up. I saw someone that looked like Pepper standing right in the 'line of fire' for the giant bucket of water and thought..'That can't be pepper, she isn't running away from the water.' Just then the water spilled and I realized it WAS Pepper. The pressure from the water made her long hair fly straight back... for a second it looked like she was flying down a hill on a roller coaster... it still makes me giggle as I type it!! It was so un-Pepper like!! :)

This morning she was the first one up and she went down to the car for a minute but was gone a long time. I tried to reach her on her cell phone (which rang in the room) and saw that her purse was still where she set it... so I got up to get dressed to go find her. She came back a little later with a big smile. She had gone to the game room and hit the big money on one of the games. We walked back down together and she won two MORE big games!! She had tickets spewing out everywhere!! We turned them in and went back upstairs to check on the kids. They were all amazed at how many tickets Pepper had won (697!!) ... Dad B said that he had gotten $50 in coins for the kids and they hadn't gotten that many tickets (Pepper spent $5)! I played a couple games and combined my tickets with Peppers (I won about 12 total!!) Pepper used her winnings to buy me a hat and a couple toys for work, but the biggest gift she gave me was the sparkle in her eye when she was turning in all those tickets and the laughs I got watching her play with the kids.

A very nice Valentine's Day for all of us. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The 'Kooshy' Meet

I really enjoy watching the kids swim in club meets. They are all spread out in the age groups so there is almost always one of our kids in the water to watch. (One benefit of having lots of kids I guess!!) Kiwi and I were timers and Pepper was helping on the computer so our family was well represented. They usually give heat ribbons out to the first place person in each heat, but we ran out of ribbons so instead the kids all got colorful koosh balls for winning. They were definitely a hit and the kids all pushed extra hard trying to get one. Dill ended up with two heat winner koosh balls, Pete got three and Macy, Dori and Kiwi all got one for their efforts at the pool. The ride home was very 'kooshy'!! Some of the kooshes were shaped like donuts so a group of kids and I were playing with them while I waited for my boys to get out of the locker room. I stretched one out and put it on my head like a sweat band... of course all the kids in the area did too. The coach came by laughing and said I must be very secure with myself to pull off the new look!! Since I really need a haircut and dye job... the pink hairy koosh was probably a step up!! :)

Our team won by one point... and everyone had pizza afterward. Its been a hectic couple of days, so this fun family event was just what I needed. :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Snake Burial

Dill handled the snake funeral very well. All the kids helped dig a small hole in the backyard and we found a ziplock bag box to bury the snake in. I really appreciate pets that die when the ground is not frozen! At least our recent warm up meant that most of the snow was melted. The kids all gathered around the little hole and Dill put the box in the hole. It was no where near deep enough. So we dug a bit deeper and mashed the box down a bit to make it fit. The kids all hummed a little song while I covered the box with dirt. (I think the song was the theme song from Star Wars... but the kids thought it was fitting) As we walked back into the house Dill walked between Pepper and I. As we got close to the house, Dill asked "Think I could get a lizard next?" I guess he's over the loss! Kids!!!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What Families Do...

We had a busy day around here today. Started the day with all the kids sleeping in then getting up to get their weekend jobs done. Once our house was in pretty good order we all headed out to Mom and Dad's to help them with their house. Dad hurt his back and Mom is busy helping Her mother and sister who have been homebound since last summer... so they needed a bit of help to deal with things around their place. Pete was a little agitated this morning when he found out that we had plans all day and he wasn't going to get to go to a friend's house. Whining, he asked why we had to go and Pepper announced, "because that is what families do!!! Come on everybody... get in the car." By the time we rounded the first corner Pete was over it and everyone was on board with the plan.

It always makes me smile at how comfortable the kids are at Pepper's parents place. They just go in and know what they can touch, play with and do. They head right to the kitchen for potato chips and dip, open the fridge for soda and head toward the chess board and TV. At one point all 5 kids were laying on each others shoulders on the couch in the front room. I wish I had my camera. Mom had the kids do lots of shredding papers, moving trash out to the street, vacuuming, sorting through things in the basement and I worked on the bathroom. Afterward, Mom and Pepper headed out and picked up pizza. Everyone enjoyed the day.

Once we got home the kids got ready and headed up to bed. Twenty minutes later, Dill came down crying. Not "I'm thirsty" tears or "I don't want to go to bed" tears but real, something is wrong tears. He came into the room where Pepper and I were and could not talk he was crying so hard. Both Pepper and I were visually frisking the boy to see if there was blood or some visible injury. Finally, Dill said his snake was dead. He had touched it and it did not move. I went up to check for a pulse while Pepper held and comforted Dill. After Pete watered his own snake (since neither cage had any water!!) and I removed the corpse, we both went back downstairs to check on the still very upset Dill. Pete didn't say anything, he just waited for Dill. Dill finally calmed down and asked if Pete would sleep in the guest room with him because he did not want to sleep alone. Pete said he wanted to sleep in his own bed, but Dill could sleep with him in his bed. Dill and Pete went upstairs together and are curled up in Pete's twin bed.... because that is what families do.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The one handed someone

This morning Dill could not find his gloves. Since every morning the temperature starts with "negative" something Pepper and I have been monitoring carefully that the boys have gloves, hat, zipped coat, etc before heading to the bus stop. This is the second day in a row he has lost them. Yesterday he had red gloves.... he could only find one. So Pepper gave him a new pair, black ones this time. This morning he had one black glove and one red glove.... both for the same hand. I asked, "Where are you leaving your gloves?!" Dill said someone is taking them. This is a common excuse in our house. Of course, it could not be the person that cannot find something's fault.... SOMEone must have moved, taken, borrowed, hid or misplaced it. I said, "Who? Pete has his gloves!" (Pete was at that moment frantically searching for his coat... he said Macy must have taken it out of the closet without telling him.... yeah, right!!) Very seriously, Dill said "There is someone (oh, no... him again!!) at school taking my gloves." Immediately I responded, "I know EXACTLY who it was.... who is that kid in your class with only one hand?" Dill thought about it and said, "No one, everybody has two hands in my class." Shouldn't my children have a really good grasp of sarcasm since they live with me?!! We found a pair of gloves for him.... I wonder if the one handed someone likes blue gloves too. :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Secrets Revealed...

In the car yesterday the kids asked me to tell them their secret identities for this blog and how I came up with them. I realized I had difficulty recalling how I came up with the nicknames so I thought I should put it down so I won't forget next time they ask. Kiwi was already nicknamed by her sport team friends in Germany. Kiwi fit better on her jersey then her actual name. Dori is after the fish on Finding Nemo. Mainly because Dori is also a big swimmer but a smidge because my Dori can keep talking even when she has nothing to say just like Ellen's Dori in the movie! Macy wanted to be named after her two favorite foods... mac and cheese and McDonald's and I wanted it to be more feminine then "Mac". Pete was so named because he said his favorite food was pizza and I wanted to keep all the names 4 letters (fewer key strokes!!) and Dill because he loves Dill Pickles. He even got them in his Easter basket last year because "the Bunny" knew he didn't like chocolate! 

I haven't let any of the kids read my blog yet, but they keep asking. I think Dori thinks I am saying horrid, mean things about her. The other kids are probably just wondering why I write stuff on purpose when they do not really enjoy writing in their school journals. I don't know when they will finally read this but I hope they like the things I've said and know how important they all are to me. I love them all very much.

:)  Thanks for reading.