15…Er, 16 Month Update

(After we had been home for a year I was going to switch to quarterly updates, but it took me a month to get my act together.  Actually, instead of saying I’m 24 days late for a 15 month update I’m just going to say I’m 7 days early for a 16 month update.  So there.)

A couple weeks after we got the kids home, an experienced adoptive parent told me that it takes about a year and a half for things to feel “normal”.  That seemed like FOREVER at the time, but here we are, almost there.

So here’s what normal looks like:

  • Smiles is starting to get really into Legos.  Today’s lego sets come with approximately 50 million pea-sized pieces and a picture instruction booklet for putting them all together. He’s not exactly the most focused kid, so it’s been super great for us to see him put his mind to this.

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  • Both kids played baseball this summer.  Sports are so good for Smiles- they give him a sense of confidence that he lacks in other areas.  He was the star pitcher and his teammates voted him MVP! And Is there anything cuter than TBall?  Diva’s team was made up of 4, 5, and 6 year olds.  She was definitely one of the biggest ones and actually did pretty well too, but it’s hard to gauge her skill level against kids 2 years younger than she is.  In any case, she liked it okay but can’t stop talking about gymnastics.  I think we’ll try that in the fall.

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  • It kind of bothers me that my two older kids fit so cleanly into gender stereotypes.  Why must I have a boy who excels at sports but struggles with school and a girl that likes princesses and art and cleans the house for fun?
  • Diva is a big time rule follower.  We recently went to Worlds of Fun with my family.  Smiles gets motion sickness and he is a wuss, so he spent most of his time in Planet Snoopy riding rides designed for 3-year-olds.  He’s actually too tall for many of those rides this year, so he was a bit bored.  Diva is my crazy thrill seeker.  The problem is she’s 47.5″ and many of the big rides require you to be 48″.  All the adults in my family were trying to help her out.  We were trying to show her how to stand on her tippy toes, stretch her neck, and shove napkins in her shoes.  When the napkins came out she said “is this lying?”  We all stopped, stuttering over our words explaining how it was just a little white lie.  She said “I will tell the truth,” tossed the napkins aside, and settled for not riding many big rides.  I was so proud of her.

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  • We also went to DeAnna Rose Farm.  Girlfriend did not love feeding the goats.IMG_7348
  • Smiles is a really challenging kid, but he’s been so good lately.  He’s been trying so hard and it’s so great.  No one can blame him for having any issues, but man is it more enjoyable to parent respectful helpful kids than ones with bad attitudes who do nothing to help.  Hopefully this is a pattern that continues!
  • We went to the dentist for a normal cleaning and it was a completely normal experience.  We went to the dentist just over a year ago and it looked like this:  The Husband worked so I had all 4 kids by myself.  I had to carry Smiles kicking, screaming, and spitting to the car.  He refused to get out.  I brought the 2 month old baby in, explained the situation, and the front desk ladies watched her while I carried Smiles in (kicking, screaming, and spitting again).  After about 2 minutes in the waiting room they moved us to a private room so he wouldn’t scare the other kids.  I could barely talk to the dentist over his wails.  Eventually, I laid in the dentist chair with him on top of me, holding down his hands, so the dentist could have a look.  We finally finished up and I collected The Baby from the front desk ladies, who watched her during the whole ordeal.  (I had Wiggles, a young 2-year old at the time, with me too).  It was horrible (more so for him than me, I’m sure), honestly one of the worst adoptive experiences we had.  But this year?  Completely normal.  Bliss.

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And some not so normal things:

  • Kids in the English Language Learner’s (ELL) program take the ACCESS test yearly.  It measures English skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  A 1 is the lowest score; when they get to 6 they test out of the program.  Kids are typically expected to progress 1 point per year.  Both of our kids received a 1 last year.  (Diva had an abbreviated version of the test that did not measure reading and writing).  The results from this year are in:  Smiles got a 2.6 and Diva got a 4.7!  Amazing progress, and I have to admit that it feels good to see numbers behind the hard work we’ve all put in.  I was kind of surprised that Diva scored so much higher.  You know how some people are just gifted in language?  They can easily pick it up and don’t struggle with pronunciations?  That’s Smiles.  He can hear a word once or twice and he’s got it.  His conversational English is great.  He often surprises me with the words he knows.  Diva?  Not so much.  We all get a kick out of laughing at her pronunciations.  She struggles to express herself verbally, often taking 5 minutes to tell a 30 second story.  However, the test measures not just their grasp of the language but also how they can apply it relative to their grade level.  Smiles missed so much school that although he speaks the language fantastically, he has a long ways to go before he can, for example, read a word problem and figure out what it’s asking.
  • Speaking of his school, I previously blogged about us questioning if he should repeat the 3rd grade.  Thank you for all of the feedback!  It really helped us make the decision to have him repeat.  The decision was a hard one to arrive at.  I worry that he’ll get teased for being a full year- close to two years in some cases- older than the other kids.  I worry that people will wonder if we held him back for sports.  I worry he’ll be physically mature before the other kids and be a bad influence on them.  But really, all those worries pale in comparison to the benefits that stand to be gained by repeating.  He is So. Far. Behind.  Pushing him through is only going to make that worse.  He already doesn’t love school, and putting him in a situation where he’s even further behind isn’t going to help that.  Many education professionals don’t advocate for holding kids back- they cite these studies that show it has no benefits.  But those studies weren’t done on kids like Smiles.  There are NO studies on kids like Smiles, so we have to go with our guts and our guts are saying repeat.  It really cemented our decision when his ELL teacher and his summer school teacher recommended having him repeat.  It also opened our eyes on the importance of advocating for your children- they recommended repeating, but they didn’t say anything to us until we specifically brought it up.  It taught us that WE need to be in the driver’s seat and not rely on others to make decisions for our kids.  We’re going to have a 3rd grader again, and I honestly think it’s going to be one of the best decisions we’ve made.
  • Do other people make their kids do homework in the summer?  Some weeks our kids go to Adventure Club and I lay off them those days, but other days the kids are home while the husband works in the basement.  They pretty much have completely lazy days those days, so I assign them pages and pages of workbook homework.
  • Diva is such a thoughtful, empathetic little girl.  We have a distant connection to a man who was shot and killed.  She has been taking the news roughly and prays for his family nearly every night (this happened a month ago).  Today she decided that it was not the bad guys’ fault, it was the bad guys’ moms’ fault for teaching him to be bad.  I’ve never had a six year old before, but this isn’t how they usually think is it?

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So that’s it.  Our lives are really not that exciting…just work/school, get dinner around/play, eat, bath, few minutes of screen time, bedtime, repeat repeat repeat repeat.

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