Monday, April 30, 2012

Diary of a Crazed Homeschool Mom Part II

Today I read from a biography of Thomas Jefferson to the kids at snack time.  As I read that Jefferson married a young woman named Martha, Katherine's hand shot up.  "Why were so many first ladies named Martha?" she asked, mentioning that George Washington's wife was also named Martha.

I love it when they connect the dots. . . and ask questions. . . and draw conclusions. I was quite impressed with my youngest student -- despite the fact that Martha Jefferson died before her husband became president, and I don't think any other first ladies, besides Martha Washington, were named Martha.

We went on to read that Thomas Jefferson and his wife, Martha, had a daughter named  Patsy.  Katherine raised her hand again.  "Martha Washington's nickname was Patsy," she offered.

I could feel myself sitting up a little straighter.  I couldn't help but feel proud of the quality education happening right there in my little kitchen.  My kids have read a lot of biographies and historical fiction this year.  Katherine read a Martha Washington biography on her own.  It was a pretty long chapter book for a second grader.

"But the thing is," Katherine continued, "until you read that name today, I thought it was pronounced, Pasty.   The whole time I read my book on Martha Washington, I thought everyone was calling her Pasty."

Pasty Washington, First Lady.  You know like, " That powdered wig makes you look kind of pasty, Mrs. Washington."

C'mon, summer vacation!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blogaholics Anonymous

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs - anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow. Here's a smattering of posts I've enjoyed lately. Disclaimer: By posting these links, I'm not saying I endorse all the views expressed; but I am saying they made me think.

Is there a blog you read regularly? A website you love? Leave a comment and let me know what it is and why you like it. You can even shamelessly promote your own blog. Gotta feed my addiction.

The Everyday Question of Motherhood  - I needed this.

10 Tips for Stylish Bookcases - We have bookcases in almost every room of our house because we have tons of books.  I threw this one in just for fun.

The Challenge of Trayvon Martin - Insight from a Christian leader I respect.

Bragging Rights - Glennon from Momastery asks the question, "Is it ok to brag about your kids?"

Friday, April 27, 2012

Diary of a Crazed Homeschool Mom

This year Nathan went to the International Community School in Winter Park, like he has every year since kindergarten.  At this university model school, he attends classes two days a week, and his teachers send home lesson plans for his "at-home" days.  So it's kind of like homeschooling, but with lots of outside structure and accountability.  Oh how I love this school!

For Julia, Wenxin and Katherine, however, this was the year I kissed all that outside structure and accountability good-bye and did something I've always dreamed of doing.  I homeschooled.

I chose the curriculum, I set the schedule, and I worried all the time, wondering if we were doing enough.

It's been a little hard for me to "unschool" myself.  ICS is more of a "school at home" model, whereas running my own homeschool program gives me the freedom to choose whatever style of instruction works best for my kids.  I've learned a lot and am still finding the balance.  I'm looking forward to our break this summer so I can evaluate and regroup.  And maybe rest. . . just a little.  I'm tired.

Teaching the children at their own pace, means I won't necessarily finish every lesson in the curriculum I've chosen.  I wish that didn't bother me, but it does. 

The other day I was trying to push through the curriculum, and the kids weren't cooperating.  Honestly, they didn't care that much about the Louisiana Purchase. 

We were all sitting on the floor around our giant laminated world map, when I temporarily lost my mind.

"If we do not finish our school work this year, you will all be attending summer school at Andover Lakes Elementary, " I announced.  "While everyone else is swimming and doing fun things, you'll be sitting over there at the school, doing work."  And then because I was on a roll, I added, "And it will be hot!" 

Hot?  Really?  This is not the 1970s. 

Back when I was a kid, we didn't have air conditioning in school, but I'm pretty sure times have changed. 

Like I said, I was temporarily insane.

They all stared at me. 

Julia glared.  "It won't be hot," she said.  "They have air conditioning over there."

And then, because I just couldn't let it go, I said, "I still think it will be hot."

"You know it won't be hot, Mom.  You're just trying to make it sound really bad to scare us."


Summer vacation cannot come soon enough.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keeping His Chinese Name

Originally, when we traveled to China to adopt Wenxin, we gave him an American first, middle and last name. We followed the advice of books, social workers and other adoptive parents. We called him his Chinese name in the beginning, and then, while still in China, we introduced his American name through our interpreter. The plan was to gradually transition from calling him his Chinese name, to using his American name all the time.

Wenxin, however, felt strongly about keeping his Chinese name. He didn't want to change. We heard his concerns and decided to incorporate "Wenxin" as a "second middle name " in his legal name.  We call him "Wenxin" in everyday life.    If he wants to go by one of his other names later on, it will be his choice. 

"But aren't you worried that people won't be able to say it?"

No, not really.

If you've only seen Wenxin's name in print, you are probably mispronouncing it.  The "x" throws people off.  His name is pronounced "Wen Sheen,"  just like actor, Charlie Sheen.  Once we say that, everyone gets it. 

And the America of today is a nation of many ethnicities and many ethnic names.  We have a president named Barack Obama.  Probably, most Americans had never met a "Barack" before President Obama, but we all learned to pronounce his name correctly.

Older children adopted internationally have almost all their choices taken from them. They have to accept new parents, move to a new country and learn a new language -- whether they like it or not.  He was almost eight years old.  We simply couldn't take his name as well.

Most children adopted from China transition to an American name. I think we are the exception, not the rule.  Time will tell if it was the right move or not.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

If you have an adopted child, did you keep his/her birth name, change his/her name or do a little of both?  What were your reasons?  How did your child respond?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Birthday Post

I'll give you a hint.  Her five favorite people took her out to lunch -- at a kid-friendly restaurant, of course.

The kids wanted to see who could keep a lemon in his or her mouth the longest. 
One. . . two. . . three. . .Go!

The kids were serious about the challenge.

All the kids.

I let them all know I was skipping the "pinch to grow an inch" this year.  I can tell that "50" has a way of adding enough inches on its own.

"50" is not the "new 30" or even the "new 40."  "50" is well, just "50," and I'm going to make myself keep saying that number out loud until I get used to it. 

But for me, "50" is good, really good. 

Thanking God for His goodness in my life through the years!  Celebrating today!

Building Trust

If there's one thing I've learned along our adoption journey, it's that the unexpected tough times -- the meltdowns, the tantrums, the defiance, the whining, the over the top emotional responses that take us by surprise -- are really opportunities in disguise.  They are opportunities to understand our child.  They are opportunities to show love.  They are opportunities to build trust.  When our child is hurting and doing everything in his power to push us away, we have a chance to show him once again, that we're not going anywhere.  This mom and dad are here to stay. 

Last week we had an "opportunity," and of course, it came at an inconvenient time -- a time when I'd have rather been sleeping.

"It hurts!  My throat hurts!  Make it stop!"  It was 1 a.m. and Wenxin could not be consoled.

We weren't surprised because Nathan had been sick for days - sore throat, fever, cough - sick enough that we took him to the pediatrician, something our family doesn't do for every little sniffle.  However, the doctor had no magic pills to zap this nasty bug.  Like most viral illnesses, it would just have to run its course.  When Wenxin began to get sick, we knew he felt awful.  We'd been watching Nathan feel awful for days.

Still, Wenxin's reaction seemed a little over the top.  As we sat up with him in our family room in the middle of the night, nothing we tried helped.

"I don't want to snuggle!  I don't want you to hold me!"  Fighting me on the sofa, he arched his back and screamed, " MAKE IT STOP HURTING!" 

Mike made him a mug of warm water with honey.  "No!"  We offered cough drops and throat lozenges.  "No!"  Finally, he let me feed him a cup of children's ibuprofen.  Of course, that stuff doesn't work instantly.

I tried to calm him with my words.  "Mama knows you feel bad.  I'm not going to leave you while you're sick.  You'll get better."

Wenxin responded with . . .more kicking. . . more screaming. . . huge tears.

I prayed softly over him, asking God to heal his sore throat.

Eventually, Nathan wandered into the living room.  The noise had woken him up.  "I'm afraid something is really wrong with Wenxin," he said.  "I'm scared."  At only 12 years old, even Nathan knew this was not a "normal" reaction to a sore throat.

We reassured him and sent him back to bed.

"Maybe he has a really low tolerance for pain?" I sort-of-joked out loud.  Mike and I both agreed that he was truly sick.  We also agreed that all this screaming couldn't possibly be helping, but that point seemed lost on Wenxin.  We asked each other, "Where is this over the top reaction coming from?"

Exhausted, I asked Mike to get his guitar.  Wenxin screamed while Mike strummed.  Mike and I sang praise songs together.  In a few minutes, Wenxin's volume went down and he snuggled up with me -- just a bit.  Mike, who's a little out of practice, stumbled on some chords, bringing the tiniest of smiles to Wenxin's lips.  Finally, around 2 a.m., calm descended on the room, and we were ready for bed.

Stories like this make us scratch our heads. We've come so far.  Most days, Wenxin's just another kid in our family.  And then something like this happens.  . . something that seems really abnormal. . . .at least, really abnormal for a nine year old.

We've been piecing together what we can about Wenxin's history.  For whatever reason, sometimes the records you get with an international adoption aren't completely accurate.  Wenxin's special need was listed as burn scars, from a severe burn he received, according to his adoption records, before he was one month old.

Wenxin, however, insists it happened when he was in foster care.  He believes he was three or four years old -- old enough to walk and old enough to remember.

He's told us the same story in detail several times.  The last time he told me, I said, "You know, Wenxin, when Daddy and I went to China to adopt you, they gave us some papers that told about your life.  In the papers, they wrote that you were burned when you were a tiny baby, before you lived with your foster mom."

"Fine." Wenxin said sharply.  "I was a baby." 

Then, turning to walk away, he mumbled loudly, "LIARS."

On that night, weeks later, as we  tried to get Wenxin to calm down and let us comfort him, Mike said, "This makes me think that maybe he does remember being burned."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, a burn injury is extremely painful.  If he has a memory of that time, it might explain his over the top, emotional reaction to any type of pain."

It's a possibility.  It's a possibility, although we may never know for sure.

We can, however, be sure that even after a year and a half, we are still in the process of building trust with Wenxin.  Kids who are older when they are adopted have probably had their trust broken many times.  How are they supposed to know for sure -- not just in words, but deep down in their hearts-- that these new parents are any different?  Will we really be there for them when they are sick . . . or upset. . . or out of control?

I think we did OK that night.  Finally, around 2 a.m., I asked Wenxin if he'd like to sleep with us, since he was sick.  That made him really happy.  As we got in bed, he wrapped his arms around me and snuggling up close, had a coughing fit, right in my face. 

So I wasn't surprised a few days later when my throat began to hurt and I began to cough.  By early afternoon, I decided to take a nap on the sofa.  Wenxin brought me his favorite blankets and tucked me in.  Made my heart smile.  Looks like we're not just building trust.  Hopefully, we're building compassion too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chinese Boy; Irish Neighbor; American Melting Pot of Holidays!

Wenxin wore this proudly on St. Patrick's Day. 
I'm pretty sure my neighbor, Kathy, gave it to him.

Made me smile all day.

A couple of days ago, he put it on again, walked up to me and said with a
huge smile, "Kiss me.  I'm Jewish."  Although that seemed to be an
honest mistake, it got such a big laugh from the whole family that he's
since added, "Kiss me, I'm British."  I love that boy!