Doctor, School, and Hair


This morning we went to the doctor.  I have to give a shout out to Dr. John Billharz at Priority Care Pediatrics!  We feel so lucky to be his patients.  Kansas City has an International Adoption Clinic but I’m not even sure we’re going to use it.  Dr. Billharz has done a lot of work with missions/immigrants/refugees and has a good idea of what to look for in patients from overseas.  He told us that he had been looking forward to our visit all week and we could tell he genuinely meant it.  He had researched the exact area our kids are from and was prepared to discuss potential issues with us.  He spent over 90 minutes with us going over our game plan.  He did a physical examination on the kids- all good besides some minor things- and is going to talk to his counterparts at Children’s Mercy to make sure our kids won’t be poked and prodded more than necessary.  Then we’ll go in for some blood draws and testing to see if they have any diseases and to see if they have any antibodies from previous immunizations.  The kids did okay during the appointment.  They were both a little shy and quiet.  Smiles was in tears, tried to escape the room a few times, and turned away when it was his turn to be examined…but not to the point where he had to be restrained or was embarrassing at all.  I wonder if we’ll ever know what happened to make him so terrified of the doctor.


The real adventure of the day had to do with school.  We happen to live in one of the best school districts for English Language Learners (ELL)!   The district supports students that speak over 100 languages! Our elementary school has 500some students and 70 are ELL students.  There are 3 full time ELL teachers on staff just at our elementary school.  The principal seems super fantastic.  She is interested in our family and patiently answered all of my questions.  I had a call scheduled with her this morning and found out that kindergarten round up was tonight, so our plans quickly changed!

We brought all 4 kiddos to kindergarten round up.  We watched a short video and then toured the school and met the kindergarten teachers.  We even got to take a short ride on a bus, which was pretty much the highlight of Wiggle’s life.  The kids all did well.  Prior to bringing the kids home we were really wondering if we would start Diva in kindergarten this fall or wait a year (she’ll be 5 this month).  She was interested in school tonight and did not seem overwhelmed at all, so if her adjustment continues to go smoothly we will definitely start her in the fall.

On to Smiles.  I am really wondering what to do about him.  In my utopia world, he would start school soon to get acclimated to that environment.  He would go to the summer program they have- they even have one specifically for ELL students- and then continue on in the fall.  That utopia came crashing down tonight.  After observing him for just a few minutes the principal said she has some real concerns about him being ready to start before the summer program.  Obviously he’s behind in knowledge, but she could tell that he also is behind in basic school skills like following a routine, sitting still, paying attention etc.  She said she would feel very differently if it was earlier in the year or even the semester, but starting him this late worried her for a couple reasons.  One, he will normally be pulled out of the normal classroom twice a day for ELL.  However, the ELL teachers won’t be doing pull outs for 2 of the remaining 7 weeks because of state testing (they have to administer them to the ELL students).  Two, this late in the year the kids are already into a good routine and are winding down their lessons- it would be a hard time for someone starting new.  Her recommendation is to work on basic, preschool type things at home and then start him in the summer program.  And when I look at things objectively I have to say I agree with her.  The other bummer is that the summer program geared towards ELL students is full.  They said they are trying to “pull some strings” to get us in but that we shouldn’t look forward to it.  If he doesn’t get in he will go to the normal summer program.  I’m sure it is a good program but there are no ELL teachers there and the lessons will not be geared towards someone with his needs.

Here is my problem with waiting until summer to start him in school.  I know my limits and I cannot be home with this child all day every day.  I love him, I have been working with him and plan to continue to do so, but his academic needs are so great and require so much time and patience that I feel like it would be bad for our relationship and my sanity to have him home full time for the rest of my maternity leave.  Which leaves me stuck.  I have been planning on sending Diva to a Parents Day Out program or a preschool for 1-3 days a week starting in a couple weeks.  I’d love to do that with Smiles too, but those programs don’t exist for 8-year-olds.  So what to do?  Do I enroll him in school even though the administration has advised against it and I kind of agree with them?  Do I suck it up and keep him at home?  Are there any in between options that I’m missing?  I’m not sure what the best option is and my head spins thinking about it.

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The other adventure of the day has to do with Diva’s hair.  She got it styled in Ethiopia and it has been that way since she got home.  It’s been about a week now and her braids are getting frizzy.  If you know me well you know I can barely do white-people hair, so African hair seriously intimidates me.  Luckily I have great resources in this area.  Tomorrow my friend Natalie is coming over to teach me a few things.  She told me to unbraid Diva’s hair and maybe wash it.  I don’t even know how to wash it so we had planned to do that tomorrow too.  Diva had other plans! She helped me take the braids out, hopped into the bathtub, and made the motion that she was ready for soap.  I gave her the usual body soap and the next time I look over it’s in her hair.  I quickly washed that out and then without thinking gave her white-people shampoo.  She lathered up and had a grand time with her loose hair.  I had no idea what to do.  Do I dry it?  Does it need product?  Does she need to sleep in a cap?  Luckily Natalie quickly responded to my texts and hopefully I didn’t mess it up for tomorrow.  Can’t wait to learn what Natalie has to teach me!


Wouldn’t this intimidate you too?

I feel really lucky to have the support network we have- I’m truly learning the meaning of “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Between our pediatrician, the school district, Natalie and a friend of a friend named Crystal who are helping me with hair, our moms who give us the occasional much-needed dinner out and away from the kids (and who travel halfway across the world to help with the kids), our coworkers and bosses who have been so understanding through all 4 years of our family planning, all of you who have brought us meals or sent cards and gift cards, all of you who have given our kids “welcome home” presents, all of you who have texted or facebook messaged or emailed to say you are praying for us or thinking about us- we have been so blessed by your support.  Thank you for making sure we’re well fed, taking care of ourselves, and helping us take care of our kids.  We seriously could not do it without you!



Filed under First Weeks Home

3 responses to “Doctor, School, and Hair

  1. Christina

    Could you hire Smiles a tutor that could come to your house and teach/distract him from you for a few hours a day?

  2. Judy

    Any consideration to a home schooling program for smiles? They have coops for many parents
    Who do this and they have socialization things they get together and do like play, tours etc. he definitely would grow leaps and bounds with a one on one program but NEEDS socializing too. I never was one to want to home school but all the parents
    Who do spend fewer hours on education and kids are amazingly advanced. Would get him used to structure at home. You might see if there are any colleges or high school kids that have education majors who would come in for a few hours to help with ELL. Do you have any services or student teachers in your church. I would think a student teacher would even get credit hours for taking on a private student and wonderful experience. Coops also share videos and other learning materials

  3. Hi! We met a long time ago in KC – our daughter is Zinash, and she is now 7. When it comes to the school issue, I think what your little guy probably needs most is you and your husband right now. Keep in mind that your kiddos have been in group care for a very long time, and some kids handle that better than others. I was just at a child welfare symposium, and the stats are that 25% of kids adjust readily to their new situation, 50% adjust but need a lot of help and work (my Z is in this group), and 25% will have lifelong struggles related to their trauma. If Smiles is not in the readily adjusting group, then sending him to school sooner rather than later will be a serious hindrance to him. I think that Christina’s idea of having a tutor come to the house is an excellent one. I would also say, on the back of Judy’s comment about socialization, that solid attachment is actually a precursor to healthy socialization (you want him to attach to you, not to peers), and so I wouldn’t worry at all about the socialization piece of the puzzle yet. And honestly? I wouldn’t worry about the academics too much either. If a child is struggling emotionally, it makes it hard for them to learn, and if they are in fight/flight/freeze, then they literally cannot learn, on a physiological level. So if he goes into the classroom terrified, then he’s simply not going to learn. I’d pay a lot of attention to his cues and his discomfort level. He is telling you what he needs, even though he can’t say it out loud.

    We are currently homeschooling Zinashi, because it is best for her and the way she has handled her trauma. I know this is not possible for everyone, but I’d love to talk with you more about how trauma responses and attachment affect learning if you want to know more. It sounds like your school district is excellent and will be very responsive to both Diva and Smiles’ needs. Feel free to email me anytime if you want quick info without having to do a lot of research on your own – I know you have your hands full. 🙂

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