Now that you know how the house is set up, what does a typical day look like here?
My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and I hit the snooze a few times. Usually once too many! At 5:50 I wake up Angela. She gets dressed while I head to the kitchen to get her breakfast ready and seizure meds out. Most of the time Angela gets her clothes out the night before but occasionally she does what us girls do and changes her mind! This will add a few minutes to our routine. ;-) Eventually she comes out of her room with her gym clothes already in her backpack, grabs her school planner off the counter and takes her seat at the island for breakfast. This is our time, when the whole house is quiet. While I'm preparing breakfast for the boys who are still sleeping she tells me whats on her agenda for the day at school, who her boyfriend is this week, and we go over her sports practice schedule for the week. When she's done eating we move to the bathroom where I help her brush her teeth (she has a very difficult time with this) and supervise getting her hair brushed, face washed, check hearing aid batteries and clean glasses. She heads to the front entry to get her coat on while I go to the boys' room to wake them up. This is also about the time Dean gets up.
Most of the time the boys, well Abel for sure, are awake when I go in there. The little boys head to the breakfast table while Axel stays in the bedroom to get dressed. I go back to the front entry (it is next to the kitchen) and help Angela zip her coat and make sure she's dressed for the weather. The kids each have a specific place to put their hats and gloves so its not very often we have to scramble for that kind of stuff. Once she's all set I'm in the kitchen dishing up breakfast for the boys and packing Asher's lunch if needed.
Because its so early, and pitch black outside, Dean is the watchful eyes for kids getting on the bus. When it's slippery in the winter on our very steep driveway he walks Angela down the hill since she can be a but unstable. He waits with her until she gets on her bus. Once the days get longer and its more light outside he watches from the top of the hill because she does NOT want mom or dad at the bus stop! She is 17 after all! Still Dean always stands out on the driveway to make sure the she gets on the bus without incident. And besides, I'm paranoid about someone kidnapping my kids or something while they're at the bus stop!
Axel soon joins us at the breakfast table and the three boys eat together. We talk about their day and whats ahead, etc.
Abel is *always* the first one to finish eating and he races to go get dressed. Getting dressed means you'll probably get to go somewhere! Asher is quick to follow and Axel, as always, takes his time. I hang out in the boys room, supervising/helping little boys getting dressed while Axel gathers his backpack and coat. Axel is able to zip, snap, tie...everything, so Dean is just in view when Axel getting his coat and outdoor gear on. Axel is able to go to the bus himself this year, but still Dean is out on the driveway keeping an eye on things.
While Dean and Axel are doing the bus thing, I'm in the house helping Asher get his outdoor gear on for the bus. He needs snow pants and the whole shebang. Dean comes in to retrieve Asher and off they go to the bus stop. Obviously Asher is too little to be at the bus stop himself. By this time its plenty light outside and I can see the bus stop from the front windows of the house. I love watching them out there together. Asher *always* holds his daddy's hand, and I can tell when he has convinced Dean to sing the jumping song because Asher starts hopping. Sometimes they work on new signs together. But seeing them standing there at the bus stop, side by side, father and son, gives me warm fuzzies.
And then we're left with just Abel! For now anyway.
**Whenever we have a new kid come home we wait a few months before putting them into school. Especially for these kids out of an institution who have really high anxiety about being in an institutional setting again. Abel has had the most difficult transition. We spent all of Sept and part of October getting his assessments done, then he had his tonsils out the end of October. In November we started him at school, with me going along, but it didn't work out. The staff and I met again and we came up a different plan for Abel and I think it will make his transition much easier.**
I have a confession to make. When the other kids all leave for the day, Dean hangs out with Abel while I go back to bed for a bit! I know, I know. I'm already napping by 8:00 a.m.! Abel loves this time with Dean, and I love my quiet time. Usually Dean empties the dishwasher and loads the breakfast dishes. Abel LOVES this job. LOVES. (he also likes to put groceries away and clothes down the laundry chute) Sometimes when I get up I find evidence they have already shared a snack. ;-)
Dean doesn't leave for work until mid-morning. When he leaves Abel and I go down to the therapy room for some time on the swing, or he likes me to pick him up and throw him into the ball pit. If he really needs to swing a lot that day (and I can tell when he does by the noises he makes) I'll let him keep swinging while I take a quick shower. (the bathroom is right next to the swing area.)
And here is where our schedule has recently changed! On Mondays and Fridays, Abel gets on the bus at 12:00 for school and I drive over in the car to meet him. At school he eats lunch, has recess, and adaptive phy ed. By next week I won't be meeting him there anymore. On Wednesdays school staff comes to the house to work with him in his own environment and so Abel can get used to the staff he'll be working with at school. By the beginning of Feb the goal is for him to be in school full-time without having me or Dean go with him every day. It is time and he is ready.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays Abel stays home with me most of the day. We alternate between doing a chore here and there (he loves to help me in the laundry room) and doing a learning game on the iPad or with manipulatives, sometimes we do crafts at the table in the basement. We got the kids a new touch-screen computer for Christmas and he is just learning how to use it. Abel only works a few minutes at a time, so my goal is to increase the time he will work for me without needing a sensory break. Right now, every 5-6 minutes, he's either jumping on the trampoline, swinging, or jumping in the ball pit! Then we eat lunch and leave to pick up the other two boys from school early. After picking them up its time for therapy! My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE all their therapists!! They get speech, physical, occupational, and Asher gets feeding therapies. While the boys are working with their various therapists I float between them, seeing what their working on so I can incorporate those same things into what we do at home. This is especially true of Asher's feeding therapy. There is no way that 30 minutes a week with the feeding therapist is going to improve a child's ability to chew. The techniques have to be carried over at home. Asher is almost ready to be excused from feeding therapy! We're at the therapy center two hours a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
When therapy is done we pick up Angela from whatever sporting practice she happens to be attending. When she gets in the car she tells me all about her day. On days she has games the boys and I enjoy watching them together. For some reason, during soccer season in the fall, the game schedule didn't work well and it was hard to make the games. During hockey season the games are later so one of us can always make the games.
By the time we get home from picking up Angela Dean is home. Sometimes he has started dinner, other times he's catching a quick nap in the quiet house. He deserves it!
The evening is full with dinner, (we sit down together as a family every night.) showers/baths and getting everyone to bed. Abel usually ASKS to go to bed around 6:30. He's wiped out by then mostly because he doesn't sleep well at night. The other kids are quick to follow and everyone is usually asleep by 7:30. Seriously! Dean and I have several hours alone together kid free. It's good for us. If I was really good I might fold a load of laundry or clean the kitchen, but I prefer to hang out with my honey.
How do we do it? We have a schedule! Our kids do best with a schedule that is predictable and not rushed. Our mornings are quiet and easy. They are a well-oiled machine! Everyone knows what they need to do, which makes it easy to help the ones working on dressing skills. If there is a problem its when Angela has decided whatever she has chosen to wear for the day is somehow not right and must be changed! Missing a bus just doesn't happen here. I wouldn't freak out if it did, but none of the kids like missing school so they'r usually pretty motivated to get out the door.
Like mornings, bedtimes are calm and relaxed. The kids all get plenty of sleep (well, they have plenty of TIME to sleep. We have two who don't sleep well.) and because they're in bed early Dean and I get lots of quiet time to ourselves.
One of our adult sons, Tyler, does PCA for us occasionally, and during the summer months we have a pool of college kids who love working with our kids. They really enjoy going to movies, or the beach or some other community things if we don't have something else going on. Tyler is the only one who does PCA for Abel because we only want family involved with him right now. All the kids love the big brothers and its nice to have them close by.
So that's it. Thats how our days go. Of course, summers are very different! I think they're mostly normal and just like any other family with four kids. We have systems set up for various situations, like a run to the grocery store. All the kids know where they should walk (Asher and Abel hold the cart, Axel and Angela follow behind.) Sometimes Angela asks to have one of the little kids walk with her and hold her hand. On the rare occasions I make a list (ha!) someone gets a turn to carry it. It is not crazy wild here. It is calm and usually pretty quiet (that happens when three of your kids are non-verbal, two of them being nearly silent.)
Don't think we don't ever get frustrated with any of the kids. We absolutely do. I recently had a medical professional tell me that Dean and I make this look easy. Ummm It is anything but. I guess this professional only sees us out in the community, and all the kids are usually really well behaved. But Dean and I are not people to get really worked up about something. We "get" trauma and how it affects kids. We get that finding the steps for each child to work through takes time. We know that not every child loves their adoptive parents. We know that not every adoptive parent loves their new child. We get that sometimes the sibling mix can be a problem but so far we have been lucky in that respect. Its pretty rare that I feel stressed about things.
This is our life. Every day. We have room in it for one more.
This is our life. Every day. We have room in it for one more.