Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Charlotte (6th birthday)

Dear Charlotte Wray,

You are 6... wow. Most days we stare at you, in awe at how big you've become since you became ours. Whenever we tell you to slow down on growing, you laugh... and say, "no!" and shake your head at us, like what we're asking is something super silly... but we're serious... can you please slow down, a little?

You are 38lbs, and 106 cm tall... sweet girl, your legs are each a mile long. We know that those are going to be T R O U B L E for us, the older you get. Good thing you have a tough Daddy who is super protective of you. Your hair keeps getting longer and longer, and you don't want to cut it.... we're okay with that. You have the sweetest little curls... we can't get rid of the curls. You are on your 4th pair of glasses... but this time, it wasn't you who broke them, it was Daddy.

There's something about Disney princesses, that you adore, oh so much. They are pretty much your current obsession. I suppose, it could be worse. Your favorite color changes daily, depending on what you're wearing, you still love spaghetti with meat sauce, and you love to entertain (you perform musical routines HOURLY). This year, you learned how to swim... you are a fish. We cannot get over, how well you do in the water. You can even do a decent flip off the edge of the pool, into the water. It amazes us.

But the one thing that we knew you'd be great at, but enjoy watching the most... you becoming a big sister. Marley adores you... we knew she would. Every time you talk or sing, her head turns to try and find you. She follows you with her eyes so intently, and is taking in everything you do... she's already looking up to you. It's a tough role to have, but you're taking it on, like a champ. You're such a big helper, the way you ask to throw diapers away, place clothes in the washing machine, place her pacifier in her mouth when she's upset, and rock her. You're already such a big deal to Marley, and you don't even know it. Just wait until she follows you around and mimics everything you do...We'll have 2 singing Pocahontas' in the house. No joke Charlotte, she's already your biggest fan. But who wouldn't be?

Oh sweet girl, keep being you... the Charlotte who doesn't care what others think of you... the Charlotte who never meets a stranger, the Charlotte that sings and dances everywhere we go, the Charlotte that asks a million and one questions, the Charlotte that wears her dress up clothes/ballet outfits at least twice a day, the Charlotte that continually melts our hearts.... 

Happy 6th Birthday Charlie! 

Daddy, Mommy and Marley 

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Like A Team

We are 2 weeks deep into the "homeschooling" adventure... 2 weeks ago we made the decision to take Charlotte out of school, and we haven't regretted it ONE BIT. Do I have less time than I did before to breathe? yes. But who needs to breathe, right?

It's kind of amazing how "freeing" homeschooling is. Thankfully, in the state of Oklahoma, there's no set curriculum that you need to follow, and testing isn't mandatory. That in mind, I asked a general question to all my friends on my Facebook page asking those that homeschool, "What curriculum do you love/hate.." I wanted some honest feedback, because lets face it... as much of a free spirit as I am, I need a little discipline when it comes to schooling Charlotte. Structure is necessary to get things done, in order to not let anything slip through the cracks. So I took a thorough look at most of the recommendations, and have a semi plan in place. The BEST part about homeschooling... is that it's super mobile/flexible. On most days, we start around 9:00, after breakfast... Charlotte journals for about 15-30 minutes, depending on how much help she needs. She loves coming up with her own ideas as to what to write about, and then she draws a picture to go with it. I ALWAYS have to help her sound out words, to write... but slowly, she's getting more and more. I try to not correct her handwriting, it's "her" time to write. For the next 1.5 hours, we've been working on finishing workbooks that we've started, on handwriting, numbers, colors and phonics. We're nearly done with those workbooks, so we'll be starting actual curriculum next week. The best part, is when we do school while we're out and about... like art/science. We've been exploring lots of parks/gardens around the city, and we've found some awesome places. Each time, we lay a blanket down, and take in our surroundings, and have fun with our assignment.

Today's assignment: To create art using something other than markers, crayons, paint...etc.

Charlotte took that task... and nailed it. She splashed in the water, and then created handprints on the stone. genius. that girl of mine. I never gave her the idea... came up with it all on her own. I love when she thinks outside the box. Here I was thinking she'd create a picture out of leaves, or acorns... but nope, completely surprised me, yet again. 

We then made our way to a shady tree, and had fun with some "color by numbers"- those have become Charlotte's favorite. They can occupy her for at least 45 minutes, or until her hand cramps up from coloring. I took in sweet Marley smiles, and familiarized myself with some of the curriculum that we'll be starting next week: 

I decided to go pretty simple/basic... and take it one day at a time. For Phonics and Math, I'm using Horizons. I like workbooks, and Charlotte does too... We'll probably start with Saxon Math for First Grade... but for now, Horizons should do the trick. Both Phonics and Math have 2 workbooks, one for the first half of the school year, and the other, for the other half. I have a feeling, like everything else, we'll be flying through these... and then we "might" start 1st grade material earlier. We're still working on sight words with the girl... so far, she has about 35 words under her belt. A dear friend recommended, "Handwriting without tears"... and I'm LOVING what they have in this book. Although Charlotte knows how to write out all of her letters, both capital and lowercase, this book will help her perfect that. Another dear friend, recommended the "Draw, Write, Now" series.... awesome. Combing handwriting and drawing, is something that I think Charlotte will do well with. She has a difficult time drawing, and these step by step instructions, just might do the trick, to help her out. Along with these workbooks, I plan on doing 1 educational outing a week, science experiments, and of course, art. We'll also be adding library time into the mix, once a week, and gymnastics as well (that might be twice a week). 

Marley was fussy for a rather large portion of our outing today, but we still managed to enjoy it as much as possible. While she took her 30 minute snooze, I treated Charlotte to an ice cream... she's totally rocking this homeschooling thing. She adores the time/attention that I give her... and is completely flourishing... but lets face it, we knew she would. 

And somehow... I'm totally loving it as well. I have my moments... moments where I wonder, "Am I crazy? With a newborn?" But we're making this work... both Charlotte and I, like a team. I mean, what teacher lets you wear your dress up clothes while learning? 
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Thursday, September 19, 2013


Part of the fun with homeschooling... is creating a FUN learning environment for Charlotte... and eventually Marley (yeah, I'm loving it so much, I'm definitely going to be doing this for awhile)... nothing screams FUN to me, as much as COLOR does, and we all know that I am not afraid of color. We have a tough time keeping crayons in one place in this household... and my sweet friend Sara recently introduced me to the idea of painted glass bottles (tutorials are all over Pinterest)... put two and two together, and I created a fun/unique way to contain crayons!

Pick out your jars... and pick out your colors. I went for least expensive acrylic craft paint from the craft store, because you don't need anything special. 

We squeezed a ton of paint inside (We used nearly half of the bottle, but it all depends on how large the vessel is, that you're trying to color)... make sure you cover the bottom of the vessel evenly, and then we flipped the vessel over, and rolled it. We let the paint dribble down most of the sides of jars, before we flipped them over and let the excess paint drip off. Once you flip them over, it doesn't take long for the paint to make its way out. Be sure to flip them before they stick to your newspaper or whatever you're using to catch the paint.

It's super fascinating, so be sure to set yourself up a little audience... I hear Disney characters LOVE color... 

Let them dry, and then sort your crayons into the jars... it makes for great practice with those that don't know their colors yet... Charlotte has had colors down for over a year now, but she still had fun placing them in their "homes"... and crayons are no longer floating around the house.

Doesn't it totally excite you, and make you want to sit down and color? 
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dear Marley (2 Month)

Dear Marley Wren,

2 months... you've been in this world for 2 months... I think we're going to see a theme in these monthly letters, and that's that time surely does pass by quickly. That little newborn part of you, is slowly fading away... and being replaced by a sweet little baby girl who is already FULL of plenty of personality.

In this past month, you've developed quite a routine, all on your own. I kid you not... We didn't do much, but just listened to your needs/demands... and made them happen. On the eve of your 7 week mark, you slept the entire night through for us. We cannot tell you how THANKFUL we are to you for that... and for all of the nights you've given to us since. In the last 2 weeks since that first full nights sleep, there's only been 1 night that you had a "rough patch"... but, you gave us between 7-10 hours for all the others. Seriously, girl... you're a sleeping rockstar. We're so happy that you enjoy it as much as we do... we knew you would. Now, if you can just share that little tid bit with your sister, and try and get her to sleep in, in the mornings, that would be great.

Back to the routine... You typically wake around 6 am or 7 am most mornings, looking to be fed, diaper changed, and will chat for 45 minutes. Between 8 and 9 am, you're ready for a little nap again. By little... I mean 20-40 minute snooze at best. When you wake this time around... you're awake and fresh and ready for tummy time, play time, cuddles with Mommy or just hanging out and watching your sister do her schoolwork. This usually goes on for at least 2 hours, and by 10:30-11, you're ready to be fed, diaper changed, and put down for another nap. This nap however, is your long one for the day. Even if we're out and about, you're asleep for us. Typically until 3 or 4:30. Sometimes you wake up for a little, and peek around... but then you're always back asleep at some point. Usually when you wake from this nap, you're ready to be fed, diaper changed, and then ready for some more interaction... or you like to watch Mommy prep dinner. This is usually the time that your sister, Charlotte, entertains you. Today for instance, she serenaded you with her guitar... you sure did love it. You coo'd the entire time, and gave her plenty of smiles. Thanks for cheering her on... she sure does appreciate a good audience. After dinner, you usually like to soothe yourself into another 20-40 minute napper... which allows us the time to get your sister ready for bed and dinner dishes cleaned up. Once you wake, you're ready to be fed again, and sometimes even sleep for another 20-40 minutes. Depending on the night, around 8 o'clock you're ready for your bath. Seriously, you couldn't smile bigger, every time you hear that sink water go on. The excitement in your eyes as I de-robe you... oh how you love to just have some nakie time before going in the water. We usually splash for about 20 minutes. You don't cry until we take you out... that's how we know you're totally a fish. After getting you all snuggled up in your jammies, you're ready to be fed... as soon as you're done (burp and all), we immediately swaddle you (no kidding, when we swaddle you, you coo a sigh of relief, and even put your arms down for us, into position ready to be snuggled), and stick that pacifier in your mouth. We rock you, and you fall right asleep. Usually you're asleep by 9.... but you're flexible... other nights it's closer to 10... oh how we love the routine you've created. We'll take it, and hope that you'll eventually figure out a longer nap in the morning, and a longer nap in the afternoon... The best part... is that even when we're out, your routine is pretty much standard. You'll sleep in your carseat, or in the wrap (you really like to be wrapped), or even in our arms... you hardly ever stray from this routine.

You are loving your tummy time... but even more so, when Charlotte joins you. You'll raise your head as high as it will go, whenever she's around. You listen out for her voice, and turn it in all directions, until you've made visual contact. You adore that sister of yours... and we can't wait to see this relationship between you and her, develop. She was a little unsure of you at first... but now, she's all about you. She's especially interested in you during your diaper changings. She's extremely curious on whether or not you've made a bowel movement. She's always there to help pass a wipe, and we hardly ever have to dispose of your diapers in the garbage can, because Charlotte is always right on top of it. That sister of yours, she's quite the helper. We pray that she helps you throughout life, always.

We see the doctor this week, so we'll have an update with your stats on it soon... but we're guessing you've grown quite a bit. You're filling in pretty nicely, and we love ticking and smooching your sweet little rolls. There's nothing better than blurping your belly... and looking up and seeing your smile. You think we're funny... and we'll take it. Anything to see your smile.

Oh how you have changed our lives sweet girl... You fit so perfectly into the puzzle that is our family...

We love you,
Daddy, Mommy, and Charlotte

click here to view our letter to Marley for her 1st month.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Shine On...

"This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine... this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine..."

I can't help, but sing that sweet little song to myself, every time I think about our most recent decision to homeschool Charlotte. Just a few weeks ago (we made a whole month before pulling her out), Charlotte attended Kindergarten in public school... but today, I'm proud to say that she's back home... and I'm back to the official role/title as "teacher". Before sending her to school, I struggled... I struggled big time. I wasn't sure if she was ready... I wasn't sure if the decision was made more in a selfish way (so that I'd have more time with Marley during the day and not have to parent both)... I was listening to her desire to "meet friends"... and although a huge part of me wanted to see it work out... it just didn't. We've been praying over the decision to send her for weeks... and finally we have an answer...


Did we need to test the waters? yes. Did she love making friends? yes. Did I have some great one on one time with Marley? yes. Did she struggle? yes.

When we adopted Charlotte, she had NEVER stepped foot out of the orphanage... in her 3.5 almost 4 years of life, she had never, not once, experienced... life. With experiences, comes this maturity... call it social maturity, or social norms. You learn what's appropriate from what's inappropriate... and although we saw all acceptable behavior at home, it was different when Charlotte entered the front doors at school. We're still not certain exactly what happened... but everyday she entered those doors, it's as if she reverted back into "orphanage" mode. She completely zoned out, used unacceptable behavior to receive attention, and ultimately landed herself in the principal's office more times than I can count on one hand.

The first time I received a phone call from her teacher (the second day of school), I was overcome with complete and utter confusion (and to this day, I still am)... she was describing a child that I didn't know, doing behavior that I had NEVER witnessed or hadn't seen since we first met her. After a parent/teacher conference, and sharing "her" story with her teacher, I was certain we came up with solutions to the behavior issues... but we didn't. Every night a behavior chart needed to be signed, and we'd constantly go over the same "do's" and "don'ts" with Charlotte each day. "Do not push your friends..." "Do not throw sand..." "Do not bang your head on the wall..." "Do not roll around on the floor and pinch yourself..." etc. Some behavior we've witnessed before (while walking around and peeking into the orphanage doorways), whereas other behavior was completely new to us. Each time we read out loud what she did, it was as though we were staring at a blank face, a face that couldn't recall each and every incident. It was as if she did it without any recollection... impulsively.

So, before deciding on homeschooling, I decided I needed to see firsthand what the teacher was seeing, and so I sat in and observed a morning. I sat, and watched 21 students, including Charlotte, roll into the classroom... with no aid to help her teacher. All 21... fighting for her teacher's attention...

No one-on-one attention, strike 1. No one there to give specific instruction to Charlotte, who desperately needs guided instruction constantly, strike 2. Vague directions for every assignment, strike 3. Tons of noise and sensory stimulation, strike 4. The list could go on and on... and when asked how I can get Charlotte help, I was told that it could take up to a year to get her evaluated and given an IEP (Individualized Education Plan, which would help get Charlotte the "help" that she needs to succeed or stay afloat). Just watching her in class, I saw a little one who looked completely "lost". A little one who knows her sight words for the month of September already (because we work on those at home each day), but couldn't follow a simple worksheet in class because she wasn't given one-on-one direction. She just looked up into space, and stared so blankly... because no one in the class was helping her.

Each time Charlotte came home from school with the LONG list of terrible behavior... we had to discipline (rightfully so), and that would be all the interaction we'd have most days... because she wouldn't finish her schoolwork, she had tons of homework. So between disciplining her, and homework, we didn't even have time to have fun anymore... no time to play or snuggle. On the weekends, it felt like we got our "old" Charlotte back, only to send her back to school on Monday, and become disappointed in her all over again. It was tedious, and it was time... time to dis-enroll her. Last Wednesday, after my observations were done, I spent a better portion of the afternoon discussing homeschooling with a dear friend and my sister (who homeschools as well)... and that afternoon we said "farewell" to public school... and we haven't looked back.

I haven't completely picked out a curriculum yet... but that's on the agenda for this week. We are for now working out of old educational workbooks that I purchased "just for fun" awhile back, and I have her journaling everyday. She LOVES being home... it means time with Mommy, Marley, and the attention that she so rightfully deserves. When you think about it... we've only had her for 2 years... that's only 2 years of experiences, of learning social norms... etc. This is her struggle... socially maturity takes time... and with Charlotte... I know we'll get there. The girl is unstoppable... there is no mountain she cannot climb...

In this post, I spoke about her being a beacon in school... that my prayer was that she'd be an amazing light for God in school... and while for some it works... it wasn't for us... it was diminishing Charlotte's light. These last few days (2 days last week, and today) of homeschooling, have brought back her light... and I couldn't be more excited for this new journey. Shine on little girl... shine on.

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Some of my favorite moments lately... are those times, when I walk by Marley's room... who I happened to put in there for some "play" time (and when I'm supervising, "tummy" time)... and I witness this...

Never in a million years, did I EVER think that I would have the pleasure of viewing this sight... both of them... mine. Wait, not mine... first and foremost HIS... but to know that He entrusted me with these two little lives... May I always remember to give Him the praise and the glory that He totally deserves... and a heart of thanksgiving for my girls. 

"I lift my life up, I give it all and surrender. I lift my heart up, you can have it forever. All my dreams, all my plans, Lord I leave it in your hands. I lift my life up, have your way with me. Have your way with me... Take my life and let it be, all for you. Take my life and let it be, all for you. " - Lift My Life Up, Unspoken
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