Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fun at the Beach - schooling

The girls loved seeing the ocean for the first time.  What a blessing to watch them squeal with delight, jump the waves, and build sand castles.  Sarah's personality can be summed up in the word, "delight" as she finds everything - even the smallest things - an exciting discovery.  On the way to her dance class, she informed me that all her sisters were "hao jiajia's" or "good sisters."  She listed them off one by one so that I'd be sure to understand.

Jenny wants to please and works hard to fit into her new life.  Her English skills are amazing already after one month home.  Both girls really work hard at trying to say things properly - they WANT to get it right and repeat it over and over - I'm so proud of how hard they work.  I'm not sure I'd be as diligent if the tables were turned...

Jenny's math skills are terribly behind.  She knows most of her math facts except division - but has no understanding of math.  The connection between multiplication and division is lost on her - and place value is something she never studied.  So we're around 2nd grade level in many things and we're working slowly through a Grade 3 math book. 

After one month home, she is able to read the initial 3 Bob Books, and understands that letters make sounds.  She knows many of these sounds from China - but is working on mastering all of them.  I think she will read very quickly and this seems to come easily to her.

Sarah does not know ABC's or letter sounds.  She is so young, however, that she will catch up easily.  I will work all summer with them to get ready for school next year.  I wish I could get resource teachers to help them with deficiencies - but I think they have to be tested and show lack "officially" first.  Putting them in school was a good decision as the ESOL program has been very helpful.  They are able to see a variety of American families and things - almost like a culture camp.  I do not have the energy or ability to teach all of the kids the way I'd like to at this point - and I'm thankful for the help the school has given us. We are blessed with strong Christians in leadership and in the classrooms.

I am using BJU Press books with them - Jenny is using the 2nd Grade Handwriting book to learn cursive and the Math 3 book.  Sarah is using K5 Phonics and Math - but she already knows most of her addition and subtraction facts.  We skip quite a bit, but are plugging holes with mostly ESL and critical thinking issues such as place value, shapes, measurement, etc.

It is difficult to teach a child who does not know English.  My twice a week teen English tutor is FABULOUS with creative ideas about how to convey ideas.  Having multiple perspectives and fresh ideas from school, home, and tutor really is helping the girls stay interested.  I am fresh to work with them when they get home from school as well - and am thankful for this multi-pronged strategy.  My home girls have respite from the very busy pace of keeping up with older children that are like toddlers around the home in many ways.

Last but not least, I'd like to acknowledge Joyce Meyers' help with my Christian walk each day.  I watch her show for daily exhortation in the Word, and am thankful to have the perspective of someone who's walked longer with the Lord than I have.   Her enthusiasm to serve others and joy in the Christian life is contagious, and it helps me to be urged on to put time in God's Word first, to prize peace in my life (something that has been difficult this week due to unexpectedly and IMO unfairly large taxes due), and to do good despite any wrongs we're experiencing.   So instead of becoming bitter about the money the government has taken, I'm going to try extra hard to be generous despite their withdrawal of my charitable deductions.  I know many folks take issue with her ministry - but she bears more fruit in a week than I have in my lifetime. 

I got "preached at" this morning, and know I need to speak out about government waste - but leave the bitterness behind.  (2 Timothy 3:23 - thank you, God, for your Word)  There is too much to do to waste time fuming - life is short.  Blessings, Kim

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Coming home essentials

I read a LOT of blogs before I left for China - hoping to glean experience from those before me who were adopting two children at once.   Many were veteran adoptive families - and expressed the difficulty and sheer exhaustion of adopting two at once.   Others blogged about the unique challenges of adopting older children - some of which we had experienced - and some we had not.  I am so thankful for the preparation these families gave us as well as some good ideas to help the new children adjust and keep the family at home on track during the big changes.  So I'm going to list the essential list for coming home:

First and foremost - God's Word.  Don't take this lightly!  Getting up, however early (or late depending on the day) and getting wisdom and encouragement for the daily challenges is essential.  I read this before, during, and after our trip - and use it every day to address any difficulties that may arise.  Most of my biggest issues with the girls are God's biggest issues with me - and Biblical perspective is extremely helpful when looking in this mirror daily.

The Bible in the pic above is from Guangzhou.  It is parallel English/Chinese and helps me point out words of wisdom for my older daughter to read.  The Proverbs are FULL of good stuff - like how smart your parents are, you should heed their advice, etc., haha!!   The "love chapter" of I Corinthians 13 is fabulous also.  I routinely have her read the Matthew parts about "not worrying" about tomorrow, that today's troubles are sufficient.  "What's happening next" is always a worry for new adoptees.

Secondly, the blogs of other adoptive parents - notably that of Katie Davis, missionary to Uganda.  If you read her book or blog, you come away with a renewed perspective of "difficult day."  I've never really had one.  I've had irritating days, annoying moments - but nothing really worthy of complaint. Perspective is a marvelous thing.  Most of my bad days are the result of my own bad attitude - not the actual circumstances.  The worst day can be improved with a mindset of trust that God is working it all out through the daily stuff.  Isaiah 26:3 - 'nuff said.

Get help - preferably of the teenage, same gender kind.  I hired this fabulous girl to work with our daughters twice a week.  She teaches them English, goes over homework, and works on cartwheels and somersaults with them.  While doing this, she's a terrific role model of an "American Girl" who loves Jesus, values schoolwork, and speaks and behaves in a refined manner (and who's clothes match).  It's better than finishing school - it's "every day girl" stuff - and worth the small cost per week to help take the load off mom for a few hours and provide a mentor worth emulating.

Physical exercise -for them and for you.  This can be at the same time.   Getting outside in the sunlight - especially when you first return - is great for jet lag and great to tire out really stressed out kiddos.  When they're really tired, they sleep better - and everyone feels better when they exercise.   Some folks think we keep a tremendous pace - but it has been to our children's and our benefit.  The girls have LOTS of developmental catching up to do, and swimming and tumbling has been very helpful with this.

Vitamins for everyone.  The trip and arrival home are BUSY and fast paced - and the kids may be low in vitamins due to their previous diets.  Plus, I just love gummies in the morning - and so do they!

Google translate.  REVERSE TRANSLATE EVERYTHING!! You would be surprised at the misunderstandings sometimes.  I didn't figure this out until about a week home and several puzzled looks later....

These can be found at Walmart - two berry "pies" for about $2.  I put one in the microwave for 50 sec. after the kids go to bed and load it down with Breyers vanilla ice cream when it comes out.  No matter how hard the day was, this revives me, haha!   If your thing is Dove Chocolates, popsicles, or *whatever* -splurge and keep some around - the exercise takes care of most of the fallout (but not all) on the hips.

I buy the kids the little ice cream cups that don't require a bowl (to overload in the dishwasher.)  They are just the right size and they love them.  They can get them out of the fridge on their own, and I don't have to do anything but give permission.  By 7pm, I don't want to go back in the kitchen (except for MY little treat above!) I announce their availability from the sofa and they all thank me profusely - while I'm still lying in a prone position.  Perfect.

Early bedtimes.  Don't think you're doing them or you a favor if you let them stay up late.  They need structure, and you need a wind down time at night to be fresh for the next day.

Legos and puzzles.  Think younger than their age.  These are GREAT for helping with small motor skills and teaching creativity.  My kids loved puzzles in China, and graduated to Legos once they got home.  They have cute girly sets now - the kids love them.

Lots of paper, markers, colored pencils, and crayons.   You should have heard the oohs and ahhs this first time they saw my stack of printer paper. 

Other notables: buy Walmart clothes or ask for hand-me-down clothes.  Many kids are careless with "things" when they first get home, some kids wipe their mouths or hands on their clothes (napkins are hard to come by in some places) and you won't want your beautiful smocked dresses trashed in the first few months of table manners teaching.  While this wasn't the case with all our new kids, it is with most, so spare yourself the regret and use "disposable" or washable type clothes.  Same with toys and jewelry - save the good stuff for later - and ask folks to hold off on expensive or fragile gifts.

Corelle dishes - if your family is larger, these stack compactly and make emptying the dishwasher a breeze.  I don't worry about the kids helping with these as they're easy for them to handle and aren't costly to replace.

Chores - my girls were not excited about this - but they feel part of the family and some ownership over the home as they participate.  We all take pride in a "job well done," so this is a nice thing for new kids to experience.  I buy the stick vacuums and let them help with anything within reach.  Drying dishes is a nice way to spend time together while you wash.  Even if you have to re-do the task when they're not looking, it helps them feel like they're contributing.

These may sound like silly little things, but they have really made my life easier since we arrived home.  Reading about missionaries puts the busy days in perspective, and the tiny little luxuries of a favorite snack at night really cheer up a sometimes exhausting day. 

If this sounds disjointed it's because I've been interrupted a zillion times while typing this, haha!  I hope this helps a little - and will write more **when I find time** lol!! 

Blessings, Kim

Monday, March 12, 2012

Aunt Benny's Visit

With the boys on spring break, we're having lots of fun outings and visits this week.  Last night we went to Nanny's house to see the Lawrences and of course, Aunt Benny!  She had just "jet setted" back from the Emmy's or Golden Globes, or one of those fancy things she does and brought a basket of nail polish, lip smacker, hair bands, and other fru-fru goodies for the girls.  They loved it and all left for home later with sparkles on their fingernails.  Somehow I only got demure pink - I must be getting old.

The boys love chatting with Benny since she's business savvy with her position at Audi and history in marketing.  She warned them about long hours, strict deadlines, and lots of travel - but that sounded like fun to young men without families to worry about.  She had plenty of sage advice, and they were happy to listen.

We got home late providing us with a painful wakeup call at 6am - really 5am. (I'll continue on with this illogical and pitiful lament all week - I have issues for about a week after daylight savings time)   We love seeing old friends - and these are friends of 40 years time frame.  Benny is one of the most thoughtful and creative women I know- even with her incredibly busy schedule - and I wish I had her talent of knowing "just the right gift" for anyone and any occasion.  She is a keeper of childhood memories for me, and I love remembering and laughing with her over our youthful exploits.   Thank you God, for the blessings of good friends.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

First Birthday Party!

We had a great time today watching the girls celebrate their first birthdays in America!  I decided to keep it low key with just family and our neighbors (who are like family!)

The girls were so excited about blowing out the candles!  We lit them each separately and sang the Happy Birthday song!

They got hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, pillow pets, and the hit:  a baby doll for each!

They're precious the way they take care of the dolls and had them all bundled up this morning and in their crib that their friends gave them.  They just love these dolls!

We're so blessed to have our families close.  For years they were far away - we never take it for granted.  I'm thankful our boys are able to come home every weekend also - the girls are thrilled when they walk in the door - it's so fun to watch them clap their hands and give them big hugs.  They're great big brothers!  

We finished off the day with an easy dinner (thank you Publix for Rotisserie chickens) and a quiet movie night.

I can't believe how well the girls have done in such a short time.  Jenny's English is coming along quickly - but Sarah's has gone backwards.  She has a Chinese student in her class who is now translating for her at school.  She has no real need to learn English and it shows.  Jenny is "sink or swim" in her school environment, so she has had to speak English to communicate.  I bought her a cute necklace this week as a reward for learning all of her English words - she's working very hard and seems to be a natural at languages.  Sarah has the best pronunciation when she tries - but for now she's content to let others translate for her. (sister and fellow student)  I'm just going to give it time for now - but hoping we can find some encouragement for her to learn as well.

Every day is a new opportunity to count our blessings.  Happy Sunday!  Kim

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Reality Bites" -and ESL tools

"Reality Bites":  We had our first incident of "being noticed as different."  A little guy put his hand over his eye and made fun of Sarah.  He didn't "mean to be mean," but she didn't like it and was not amused.  I shook my head "no" to him and he stopped - but it gave me some insight into why this little one may have a hot temper and is fairly good at defending herself.  

We don't even notice it, oddly enough, so it takes you by surprise when others do.  Most people are curious, including kids, but this was our first experience of unkindness.  Sarah is a tough cookie - so I was more worried about the offender if she decided to take action...  but it still makes my heart hurt for her.

On the English front, the girls are doing SO well!  It's very interesting to see them picking up words, and much of their acquisition is similar to a toddler's.  I'm starting to understand that much toddler defiance has to do with lack of communication skills - interesting. 

Our ALL TIME FAVORITE ESL TOOL:  Better Homes and Gardens or Good Housekeeping magazines!!! We stumbled upon this during a boring wait at the dance studio and it has been FABULOUS!  The mags are all about pictures of faces, clothing, furniture, colors, flowers, dogs and cats, and food!  All the typical family stuff!  Even the ads help a lot!  The girls find it more interesting than the same old picture word books - we're really excited about using these.  We may go to the library to find some more - sports, animals - so much to find in the terrific pics they put in magazines!

I can't get over how much the girls adore their brothers - they had no fear of men whatsoever and must have had good relationships within their foster families.  I found out yesterday that Sarah slept in a common bed with the family - so that is something to ponder.  I'm glad she's sharing with her sister and not alone in a room.  Jenny is starting to sleep in - HOORAY - still working on Sarah!

We're still working on social graces with our Tomboy Jenny.  She's starting to enjoy getting dressed up for Church, and I finally bought her a pretty dress.  Both girls are fairly rough with material things - spills, etc., so we won't be buying anything expensive just yet.  I couldn't resist the one Church dress for Jenny as it really filled out her skinny bones figure - a balloon type dress.  Don't you wish you had that problem??!! haha!

Anyway, here are some pics before Church - hopefully we'll become a little more fashionable shortly once we don't need "wash and wear" so much! :)

We are enjoying the girls so much - they are brave and smart and want to learn.  I'm so proud of them and how hard they're working on their English and just "learning the ropes" of family living.  Katie and Rachel are so patient with them and only have had a day or two (like I have) of irritability with the high energy and tremendous daily needs.  Even the smallest things have to be attended to - despite their ages - as they didn't know so much about how we do things (like turn on/off faucets, wash hair), where to find things, (cups, forks, combs)  - silly stuff - but things that take time and experience of daily routine.   We're so thankful for them and see God work daily to make even the smallest details work well for them and our family.  I'm thankful for my mom who has made doing all of this possible as she helps me to be in more than one place at one time OFTEN!  She hasn't complained once about missing a Bible study, golf, or event - and willingly offers to sit home with some while I drive others where they need to be.  It's a busy first couple of months with medicals, swimming lessons, and shopping for needs.

Praising the Lord for His daily provision through His people (friends, teachers, and family) Blessings, Kim

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sarah's favorite thing

Sarah's favorite thing is being held upside down.  It's the funniest thing!  She's always coming to me and asking for me to hold her upside down - starting in China after I had done it once!  Too funny!  I'm glad to have my big guys home this weekend to help with the upside down holding. 

This kid is HIGH energy - up and dressed at 6am this Sunday morning.  We gave her permission to wake up her sisters at 7am!!  They were not happy, haha! 

Here are some more historical pics of upside down holding, haha!

Praying for energy to keep up with this one!! Blessings, Kim

Friday, March 2, 2012

Foster Families, Kitchen Aids, and Medical Appt's

Things are getting back to normal.  Rachel is back to real practice on the piano - not the time warp, jet lagged, stupor kind of practice she did last week.

Kids are back to chores and not playing exclusively with their new sisters - it's nice to have my helpers back!  We've had a GREAT but crazy week - and I haven't taken many pictures to make a post worthwhile. :)  I had the life altering crisis of my year old dishwasher breaking - 2 mos. after the warranty expired...Beware of Kitchen Aid - it never worked well anyway.  Quiet means "not powerful."  I replaced it with a $359 work horse that uses TONS of water and is very loud while it scours my dishes.  There's a very loud food grinder in it also that doesn't require me to wash dishes prior to putting them in a dishwasher...

Here's an update on the girls and their adjustment:

Jenny decided not to mock my prayers any more after I took her bike away.  Worked like a charm!  She still thinks it's funny - but at least it's good-natured and not ugly.  She's beginning to work hard on English - but is still shy about speaking it.  She gave her teachers a bit of a hard time about wearing headphones (or her single ear bud for her one ear) as she wanted to play the computer loudly for the class to focus on HER.  The bike was threatened again, so I don't think we'll have any more issues with that.  The greater problem is the lack of respect or even acknowledgement of any authorities in her life.  Apparently, she was very independent in China.  I am working hard on teaching her the reality of benevolent authority in life so that she will have an open heart to God some day.  I don't want to pay my OUTRAGEOUSLY UNFAIR taxes to this outrageously unfair administration, for example, but I do it because they are my authority. (albeit hopefully to be replaced before I have no savings left whatsoever....) We all have to learn to come under authority - a lesson I learned too late in life.  But I digress.  Jenny is a smart girl, a hopeless tomboy, and very happy with her life.  Her only issue is distribution of wealth amongst the children ("she has more toys than me")  I can't stand that garbage - but don't want to wax political again.  I hope she doesn't grow up to be a democrat.

Sarah is behaving beautifully in school - still quite wild at home.  She's a VERY happy kid with apparently no sadness over leaving her long time foster family.  Perhaps that will come later - but she is full of affection for both sisters, mom, and dad even!  To those who are worried about the transition from foster families - we have had three very easy transitions (so far).  Read, become informed, but don't worry about something that may never happen.  Isaiah 26:3 comes to mind.  Philippians 4 sustained me through my wait.   I'm a little concerned about her lack of grief - but will never have my many questions answered.   Jenny, likewise, has no sadness - but I think her family prepared her well.  Sarah's move was much more emotional for her family.

Big brothers came home from college today.

The girls were so excited and caused quite a ruckus.  The boys are very patient with their fan club!

Things are going very well, but I'm up late tonight getting the many medical appointments (7 more made today) on my calendar - along with swimming lessons (safety issue!) and other important events (like a birthday party for both girls)  I'm back to devotions and Bible study in the morning - good stuff - instead of the abbreviated fare I've lived with for the last month.  Life is good.  The boys brought some kind of yucky cold home from school - so next week might get challenging - but for now everyone is doing well.

Blessings, Kim