AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Meat and Potatoes, Sofia, Tess

Raising Readers: Book Club, Full Plate Style.

Last July, I started a book club with some of my besties.

I chose three of my kids who had a similar reading level and I crowdsourced a book that they might all like. I downloaded the reading guide for the book here. We had multiple meetings at local restaurants where I had gift cards or coupons. Y’all, it was the highlight of the summer.

So, when summer was dawning on the horizon this year, these three lobbied to have a book club again. But, this time, all of their besties jumped on the band wagon. Initially, I divided the kids into two groups. But, once we got going, the tiniest of Full Platers also demanded their own book club. Now we have three going.

The kids are obsessed. When is our next meeting?!? Can I read ahead?!? Oh my gosh, mom! I can’t wait for you to find out what happens in the next chapter.

The “bigs” are reading Children of Blood and Bone. Here’s the free teacher guide I found to help prompt our discussions.

Juliana is the youngest of this group. She is a rising 7th grader, but reads at a high school level. Ally is not joining us this summer because of the aforementioned internship she has at an on campus preschool. Her internship includes room and board at a local dorm. We send her snaps like this one to let her know she is missed.

Their meetings were first. We’ve had three so far, because this book is a brick. The next meeting will be our last for this book. We’re taking suggestions for the next TBR (To Be Read). The kids love Black authors, and their favorite genre is definitely fantasy/magical realism. Dystopian novels are okay.

The “middles” are reading George. Juliana chose this for them. I love that an older kid is curating the bookshelf of the younger kids. I am using the reading guide from the Anti-Defamation League.

A note to readers of this post: Don’t message me with any outrage over my children being “exposed” to a book of this variety. That is my intent, all you haters. I want my children to know about people who are different than they are. Understanding the life experience of others is what combats hatred and cruelty. Reading this isn’t going to make anyone anything other than more compassionate. We need a little less hatred in the world these days. Should you choose to post a comment with malicious intent despite reading this warning, I will simply not approve it. If you continue to send ugly comments, I will start blocking IP addresses. The end.

Then the “littles” demanded a Book Club. Let’s be honest, they really just wanted the treats and the time with mom. Whatever gets you reading, right? I structured their club a little differently, because it includes two Deaf kids and I sign like a rising 1st grader.

Their Book Club occurs at home. It does involve a dessert. Last week it was a brownie bowl. We choose a brand new picture book. I practice signing it, in ASL, and voicing it simultaneously. That’s a stretch for me to focus on correct ASL grammar while voicing English. Lots of times I try that and slip into SEE (Signed Exact English). This week’s book was the new Pigeon book by Mo Willems!

We adore Pigeon around here.

When the book is done, everyone in our little group has to sit for three questions that check their comprehension. Gigi struggles with that because her language is so delayed. ‘Why’, ‘What’, and ‘How’ questions are hard for her. ‘Who’ and ‘When’ are easier. This time she nailed both though. ‘How did the Pigeon get to school?’ ‘The bus! Same as me!’ ‘Pigeon was scared of school…why?!?’ ‘Maybe, friends…none. *insert sad facial expression*’ Nailed it.

They are loving this. I am loving this. It is a great way to connect with my kids.

–FullPlateMom, who is all about the connection, especially with her less than chatty teens.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Sofia, Tess

The Graduates

We’re one week into summer break now, and adjusting to our new schedule. It has been an extra adjustment to have me back home again, and in charge of moving the children place to place. Oh the places they need to move. So many places. We lost our 3rd driver last week.

Ally has a summer internship at the university. She is working at campus’s early childhood center in the Toddler Room. She is so happy about that, but the littles all miss her terribly. Isabel asks about her less than we thought she would, but that’s good. First, she is sure Ally will come back. Second, she is used to Ally coming and going. Ally has her own life. When you live in a large family, and have a huge heart, it is really easy to make your younger siblings the center of your universe. We want our bigs to have their own lives. Ally does.

Cam has a job at our local pool and is waiting to take Driver’s Ed until such a time that he can prove himself responsible enough to handle that. We have high standards in this house, especially when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. And, I have big feelings about 16 being the driving age. It seems so young to me. That’s just me though, I’m sure. Some kids are so ready. Some aren’t. He’s not.

Brady is playing tons of local venues with his drum line and his bands this summer. He just played at the Union Terrace last night. That makes him an official Madisonian, I think. He leaves for Band Camp tomorrow. He has few to no responsibilities in this house other than being the great entertainer that he is. We will miss that for the week he is gone. The house always feels so quiet when the great entertainer is gone.

AJ just graduated 8th grade. He is so ready for high school, especially for the athletics part.

Jax and Jules are now completely adjusted to middle school, enjoying swim team this summer and waiting for Sofia to join them next year. She is so ready, and she is SO done with 5th grade.

Bowen is getting ready for Paralympic Junior Nationals again in mid-July. He’s competing in short course swimming and made it on to a relay this year!

Tess is my crazy reader and can’t wait to continue passing reading levels and logging her books read this summer! She has dreams of her own Good Reads account.

Cate bid farewell to Kindergarten. With her went our constant enrollment in Room 4. This man has become like part of our family. To him, we say ‘aloha’, which is hello, goodbye, and we care about you all in one word. How does one say thank you to a man who taught all of your children?

Isa has completed 4K, and will move on to full-time Kindergarten in the same center-based Deaf education program that Gigi is in. She can’t wait. School is definitely her jam.

I am looking forward to a summer of them. I spend so much of my school year focused on meeting the needs of other people’s children. Now it’s time to focus on us.

–FullPlateMom, who is summer lovin’

Adoption, Bowen, Cate, Gigi, Tess

You Came Before Me.

There are 11 mothers out there whose hearts are probably wondering. For me, every Mother’s Day starts a little early. The kids are too excited for any sort of festivities, and after all these years, I make a big deal out of it too. A low key deal, but a big deal. I accept all of their handmade gifts with excessive glee, even when it’s 12 hours early. They’ve already brought me treats to eat, and hugged my neck and told me “Happy Mother’s Day!” even though it’s not yet my day. Some of them have told me in ASL, that’s a first this year, and it has made my heart burst.

You came before me though. For me, this day is yours. Wherever you are (and I do know where some of you are), I want you to know that today is yours. We know 7 of your names. 4 of you can only be honored through hope, a hope that someday we might get the privilege of knowing your name.

I think about you all the time. Every day, but today especially. Every time one of them comes to me with their first lost tooth, I think of you. Every time they win an award, I think of you. Every time they ace a test, I think of you. As they move toward adulthood, I think of you. I wonder if they look like you. When did you lose that first tooth? Did you win similar awards? Did you ace similar tests? Is their smile yours?

In the case of Tess, I often wonder if you know she’s alive. Do you know that the sacrifice you made got her the care she needed? She is alive. She is one of the happiest, most optimistic 8-year-olds you will ever meet. If we never meet in this life, I think about the day we’ll meet in the next. I think about what it will be like to hold your hand and say “We did it. You fought, then I fought, and she is there, alive.”

For Bowen, I wonder if you know that here he is allowed an education. Because of the sacrifice you made, he is allowed to attend school, and so much more. How proud would you be to know that he is a Junior Nationally ranked Paralympic swimmer? I wish I could tell you.

Cate is well and whole. The medical care here allowed her the surgery she needed to no longer feel the pain she did when you left her. Her face is beautiful, but we both know it always was. There is probably no one else in the world outside of us who loved her face just the way it was. I truly believe that had you been given the opportunity to stand alongside me during all her reconstructive surgeries that you would have mourned the loss of her “bubble eye” with me. It made our Cate, our Cate. She is a sassy sweetheart then and now. Is there any way you know that?

Gigi has language now. I can tell her the story of YOU. She attends school. She reads. I fight every single day for access to everything she deserves. I do that in honor of the sacrifice you made. Can you possibly know that?

I hope that somehow, someway, you know.

I don’t have any way to honor you other than to keep the door open for you. I will. I promise. We’re here. We hope to find you. And until then, I will fight for them every single day, to give them every opportunity on this earth. I do that because you came first. In this house, you are sacred, and I am grateful.

–FullPlateMom, who is a better person because you came first.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, Dessert, FPD, FPM, FullPlateBupa, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Sofia, Tess

Disney 2018: All the things I want to remember.

Hi Kids!  It’s mom here.  I’m writing to you at the tail end of our Disney 2018 adventure.  We haven’t been here since January of 2017.  We were supposed to come in January of 2018, but your sister’s impending arrival put a little crimp in those plans, so here we are, ten months later.  Isabel is with us, and we all agree the delay was so worth it.

I wanted to commit to memory some things about 2018’s trip.  Sometimes, years after we take these trips, when we’re back in the most magical place on earth, and your favorite place to be, I get flashes of memories and I think ‘I should write that down before I forget!’  So, here I sit, on the patio of our Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, writing it down before I forget.

First and foremost, I want to remember what it felt like for all of us to be together.  This is Ally’s Junior year of high school.  It is a little bit of a question mark how long she will be able to come with us.  Although, she insists it is forever.  I want to remember that, because forever is a hard promise to keep.  I want to remember what this little girl looked like when she met her beloved Mickey Mouse.  This was her first visit, and it didn’t disappoint.  She RAN through the parks with reckless abandon, searching for that mouse.  We finally found him at a character breakfast.  A $900 character breakfast that Disney paid for because of a mistake they made with our reservation.  Let’s remember that too, not because of the mistake, that made me cry, because it was a doozy, but because sometimes mistakes are huge blessings in disguise.  

I also want to remember this face.  Gigi finally had the language to understand ALL of what was happening around her.  She marveled at the interpreted shows we saw.  Thank you Disney, for providing ASL interpreters, it means the world to this girl.  She has named all the characters, this one is ‘Carrot Nose.’  She was THRILLED to meet him.  She knows he is friends with ‘Princesses, Frozen’ and I interpreted as she asked him all about them, in ASL.  ‘Princesses, Frozen, where? You are friends! Tell them, COME!’  Carrot Nose, couldn’t make them appear, but she was cool with that too.  Hugs and onto the next thing!  She has grown so much in her time in our family.  What once would have caused a complete meltdown is now explained to her and she simply moves on.  Thank God for language.  

I want to remember how the Christmas decorations were just going up as we got here for this trip, how we’ve never seen that before, and how excited all of you were.  They appeared overnight and you all declared it ‘magic.’  I want to commit to memory how you all believe, so wholeheartedly, in magic.  

I want to remember that this was the year that Cate posed for photos with a sass that only she could pull off, and only at this moment in time.  I took about 1000 pictures of you, Cate, because of this moment in time.

I want to remember that this year, at the age of 8, was the year that Bowen FINALLY reached 40 inches tall and got to ride a rollercoaster.  I want to remember what that did for his self-confidence, and how he declared himself no longer little.  He is now ‘a middle’ in our family.

I want to remember our bigs.  I want to remember how Ally spent all day wrangling strollers, without ever being asked, she just did.I want to remember how Cam, Brady and AJ set down their phones, chose not to venture off on their own when offered, and spent all day in the Magic Kingdom riding all the little kid rides with their younger siblings, because they believe in magic too, just a different variety.

Kids, I want you to remember me at this moment too.  Because, the days are long, but the years go by so very fast.  I want you to remember how much fun this was for me too, even when I had to yell “WALK THIS DIRECTION!” in my drill sergeant voice to get us to the next ride.

I want you to remember that you all are my joy, my magic.  All 12 of you.
I also want you to remember that I can whip a tea cup better than ANY of you.–FullPlateMom, who got her teacup whipping ability from her dad, and who plans to keep passing that on to future generations.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Phineas, Tess

It’s The Great Pumpkin!

Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to.

Say, Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football…

I got a popcorn ball.  I got a fudge bar.  I got a pack of gum.  I got a rock.  

By the way, whatever happened to the world war I flying ace? Oh, he’s probably getting ready to take off in his Sopwith Camel on the next dawn patrol.

You kept me up all night waiting for the great pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle!

Maybe not only a beagle!

–FullPlateMom, who hopes you all find your Great Pumpkin too!

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

We Made It.

Tomorrow we’ll start week 3 of school.  Last week was our first full week.  They are ALL back at school now.  

We’ll pretend this one says ‘first day’, but I’m not changing it, because this is SO Jax.

All the sass.

It was my first day of school too.  In May I applied for a job I never thought I would be accepted for in our local school district.  I am a School Nurse at two schools that are ‘Behavioral Health Schools.’  We are focusing on Mental Health outcomes for our students.  I am so proud to get to be part of this.  Working with teams who focus on how poverty, past trauma, and race affect student achievement in school.  But, I also get to see kids who have fallen on the playground and scraped their knee, or kids who have lost their first tooth.

It’s crazy hard, but just like most things in life, it is worth it.

And, the health insurance is really great too.

–FullPlateMom, who is stocking her office with some great tools for mindfulness.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

DC Day 2–Their History and Culture

Today was the day!  The kids finally got to see the African-American Museum of History and Culture!

We rode the Metro to get there.

Those four were quite excited.

Then we walked through one very famous mall to get to the museum.

The museum was amazing.

But the absolute best part is, none of it was for me.  Because, you see, when this was written, it was meant for me.  Well, not me exactly, because I’m not a man, but this was written for people who look like me.  This museum was devoted to the history and culture of people who don’t look like me.  I was their as a guest, to appreciate that history and culture, to learn about it, but not to belong to it.   It is good for me, as the majority, to be in a space that feels that way.

After the museum was over, we headed to China Town, where we ate in a tiny little restaurant with some great friends.  Photo credit on this one goes to Reece.  This might be the only family photo we have since Colombia!

–FullPlateMom, who is taking this babies into space tomorrow, thanks to the Smithsonian.  DC, we love your free museums!