Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thurs April 8th--almost a week home

We have been home almost a week already, and it's time to wrap up this blog. Ben continues to be an absolute delight! We love him more everyday. And what a smart boy! He's already working hard to learn English, and we predict that he will be fluent within a month. John is starting, ever so slowly, to warm-up to us. He still prefers Cheng's company to ours, and we feel as if we constantly need to watch him to make certain that he doesn't go on QQ (a chat service on the internet) or call China. Funny, we expected all sorts of adjustment problems, but we never expected to have to closely monitor the internet! John showed his memory/scrapbook today to Cheng. According to Cheng, all of John's friends wrote on the pages to make sure to "instant message" them etc. I explained to Cheng that we feel that John will not make an effort to bond with us if he keeps in constant contact with his friends from home. It's like going to summer camp; the kids who call home during the week are the ones that go home. We told Cheng to tell John that he can write letters to his friends and we will mail them for him. Cheng also said that in the scrapbook several teachers wrote comments about John having too many friends, talking, and not studying hard enough. He sounds American already! I sat with John for awhile today and helped him with a English matching game. Tomorrow, I will show him some English learning websites with games. We did have a small "incident" yesterday, that I only learned about today. Cheng invited John to watch track practice at school. John did this on Monday too, and he seemed to enjoy seeing the other kids and the school. Well, today I received a phone call from the principal of the school. Apparently, during practice, John just got up off the bleachers and headed up to the road (Rt.39). Mr. Henchen noticed John's disappearance, and sent Cheng running up there to fetch John. John told Cheng he was going to run home. Yikes! Poor Mr. Henchen was in a tizzy thinking that a young child (John looks to be about 11 years old), who doesn't speak English, was going to disappear on his watch. The principal told me that the school has a liability issue with John watching track practice, since he is not enrolled at the school yet. I pointed out that the registrar is not there this week, therefore we were unable to register the kids, but we would on Monday. Basically, the school doesn't want to have to assume any liability. What was surprising is that Cheng (our 17 year old exchange student) didn't even think to mention the issue to me. I don't know if the school is blowing it all out of proportion, or what, but obviously I can't let John go with Cheng anymore. Today, I was going to let John stay with Connor at the library while Connor worked with his Chinese tutor. Instead, I made John come with me (and Ben) to the hair salon. I was afraid, after yesterday's incident, that John might decide to leave the library when Connor wasn't looking. It sounds worse than it is though. John is a great kid, he's just testing his limits a little. I think he is not used to constant supervision. Overall, we are seeing small improvements each day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tues. April 6

David asked me last night when I'm going to stop this adoption journey blog. I decided that it should be at the end of this first week home. There will be many challenges ahead, since the journey is really just beginning, but this blog does need to end. My intention is to add a ton of pictures to compliment each entry, and then "blog to book." I hope that a published version of this adoption journey will prove valuable to the boys later in life. So, let me blog about yesterday and today. Yesterday, Connor had schoolwork to do, and Cheng, Austin, John and Ben got to play. It was hard on Connor, but he missed 2 1/2 weeks of school and he simply has work to finish. Connor, Ben and I left the house for Tae Kwon do at 12:30, went grocery shopping, and picked up Connor's guinea pig. The three big boys hung out, watched TV, played pool, played ping-pong, drove the riding lawn mower (blade up) and just "chillaxed." By the end of the day, they were all pretty bored. I'm letting the kids watch a whole lot more TV (DVDs--we don't have regular TV at all) than I normally would, only because people tell me it helps with language acquisition. But even the kids grew tired of movies, thank goodness. I put Connor and Ben to bed early, and the three big boys and David went to go watch the basketball finale, Duke vs. Butler. Basketball is a big deal in our house this year, although I am completely out of that loop. This morning, Tues., I took the boys (John, Connor and Ben) to the college library to work with the Chinese/English teacher. Ben and I had a fabulous time digging through all the puppets, science kits, globes, puzzles, and other teaching manipulatives (on the educator's floor of the library), while John and Connor met with Meng. While we were playing, I noticed that Ben is making great strides with his English, repeating the names of all the animals and other toys. We read a ton of picture books together, and, in general, had a fabulous time. John sat with Connor and his tutor and just listened. Cheng (our exchange student) spent most of the day translating for John today. We are starting to make John repeat words in English now too (even when he resists). We know that too much translating will only hold John back from learning his new language. We don't want him to be a burden or too dependent on Cheng either, since he's leaving in a few months. Ben, on the other hand, is a little parrot. He is parroting everything we say, and he often points to things, tells me the name in Chinese, and then says, "Zhe shi shenme?" which means, "What is this?" I tell him in English, and then he repeats the English word. What a smart boy! Speaking of smart, today I printed (and Cheng translated) a math test for John. We want to see where he is academically, so that we can find an appropriate school for the fall. John scored at the 6/7th grade level in math. He is only one grade level below where he should be at age 14, which is great. He can easily catch-up. He's obviously intelligent, and we are confident that with extra help he will meet the age appropriate grade-level without a problem. And tonight John smiled and said hello to Alice (she delivered dinner for us!) which is a huge improvement. After dinner, Ben vomited all over the kitchen table. I told the other kids to turn their heads, and removed the offending plate, and replaced it with a bowl, that Ben also filled (and then another). Yes, Ben often reminds me of Austin. When Austin was little, every time he had too much of a yummy thing he ate it too fast (and too much) and he got sick. Alice brought us cupcakes and Ben wolfed it down (and it promptly came back up). No big deal though; all par for the course. At least it didn't set off a chain reaction!! A few minutes after cleaning up Ben, I told Connor to get a bottle of water so that we could head out to Tae Kwon do class and John readily understood the word water. He repeated to me, water--shway (however its spelled). Great! John is listening to our conversation and picking up a few words! Everyday we see small signs of improvement. Overall, although we know there will be many challenges ahead, things are improving. As David says, this is not a sprint; it's a marathon. We're in for the long haul.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ben and Sharing Don't Mix

This is Connor!
Yesterday, mom let me buy more Nerf Gun bullets and a new Nerf Gun. Well, after I opened the Nerf Gun and added the bullets, Ben somehow got the gun, and is never letting it go. It was bad enough when I tried to get a few of the bullets; he cried as if the world was ending. After I finish school today, I am going to take the new gun and all the bullets from him, whether or not he cries. Don't get me wrong, Ben is as cute as heck, and he loves me a ton, but he can sometimes be a pain.

Today (still Connor!)
Today, in the morning we went to church. I asked Ben if he wanted to go, and he agreed readily. Ben is so cute, but, as I already said, he is not big on sharing. I then asked John if he wanted to go to church. I had to look up the word for church in Chinese in a book. I asked John and he agreed to go too. After we went to church and came back, John was yelling at me in Chinese. I asked Cheng what it meant, and he said, that John thought he was going to go buy dumplings, not go to church! I guess my tone was wrong when I said church in Chinese. Oh well, John still enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Wow! Today, day two at home with our new sons, was fantastic.David made pancakes and bacon for breakfast, which was a fantastic start to the day. The boys LOVED pancakes. The sun was shining, and we went to a beautiful Easter Mass. Alice and Father John came over to chat with us (and meet the boys),and Austin and Connor were altar servers. We found out just before heading to church that John "used to be" Christian. Cheng translated that John was raised for many years in an orphanage run by a Korean Christian organization. John had never been to church,until today, but clearly he understands the idea of Christianity.Church wasn't overly long either; Ben was restless sometimes, but was great overall, and the feeling of Easter was in the air. Ok. I'm being a bit melodramatic, but it was a wonderful day,really. After church, I took John, Connor and Ben to Wal-mart for sneakers and bikes. Yesterday, the three oldest went for a bike ride, but John's bike was too small and it doesn't shiftgears. And it is Connor's bike. So, for Easter, I bought John and Ben new bikes. We didn't do Easter baskets or eggs or anything else--bikes instead. Cheap Walmart ones, of course, since we're broke after the trip. The boys spent the rest of the day shooting pool, playing soccer, playing lacrosse, hiking in the woods, building a bonfire, bike riding, and a ton of outdoor activities. Again, I'm so grateful that God blessed us with great weather. I just know that God wanted us to have a good day, after a rough start yesterday. At 7p, my brother, Steve, and Mindy brought us dinner. They brought the boys helium balloons saying "Welcome" and we ate and chatted for a few hours. It was great to see them. During dinner, Ben fell asleep. Poor little guy was exhausted; probably tired from his earlier temper-tantrum. What happened is this: when we were at Walmart, I bought a package of Nerf bullets for the half-dozen Nerf guns the kids own. I let Ben carry the bag with the bullets,and apparently he decided they were just for him. When Connor tried to use one of the 100 bullets, Ben had a major tantrum. I literally had to hold Ben on my lap and restrain him; he was going to try to kill Connor--biting him and everything!! It was kind of funny, in a warped (if you laugh when kids-go-nuts)way. I asked Cheng to explain to Ben that the bullets are for all the children, and he couldn't keep them all for himself. After a few minutes, Ben calmed down and all was well again. Really, that was the only issue today, and it only lasted five minutes. The rest of the day was what I had hoped for and more, considering the boys have only been in the US for two days and they don't know English! Again, I have to say, I am grateful for Cheng's help. I think John is doing much better today because he has Cheng to translate. They spent a ton of time shooting pool today, and Cheng is off school this week too. A much better day overall.

(Photos by Connor Peters)

Day one at home

April 3 2010

Our first day full day home with our new sons was quite the rollercoaster. Like a rollercoaster, it was fun, in spite of the sometimes scary ups and downs. First of all, I had trouble with Austin, our bio 14 year old son. If you know Austin at all, you know that he is a complainer. No matter what anyone says or does, he always can find something negative to say. I woke him up at 8am, and that started the first crisis of the day. I didn’t want anyone to sleep-in too late because we need to get back on US time, which means an early bedtime the first few days. We headed out at 8:30am to pick up Luke (the dog) and Cheng (our exchange student). Austin complained and had attitude the whole ride. I pointed out the school to John, and Austin corrected my lousy Chinese accent, using his most sarcastic voice. When we got home, I told Austin that I decided to switch his room with Cheng’s room (to give the two boys that are sharing, Austin and John, both age 14, a room double the space), and Austin had his first real fit of the day. He didn’t want to move his stuff, and he certainly didn’t want to share a bed (queen-sized) with John. Ok, we will bring in a second bed (twin-sized) for John, since the room is three times bigger than Austin’s original room. Cheng, bless his heart, was totally upbeat and positive about moving into the very smallest bedroom, and he got right to work. With Austin, lots of arguing ensued, and at 10:20am I called John, Connor and Ben to head out the door to Tae Kwon Do while Austin stayed home to re-arrange rooms. John was silent and sullen the entire car ride. I did notice that John did snag the front seat though. Both Ben and John watched Connor intently during the hour Tae Kwon Do class. After class, Connor asked John (in Chinese) what did he think of the class. John simply ignored Connor. Connor asked again; John refused to respond. Sigh. This will be a long day, I can tell already. After Tae Kwon Do, we stopped at Tops to get a few groceries. John asked me to buy Cola (Coke) and I told him no. In our home, children don’t drink soda; I spend way too much money on their teeth, so our children drink milk or water (unless it’s a special occasion). That did not go over well at all. John pouted and sulked. When we arrived home, I was pleasantly surprised that John did help unload the groceries without being asked, and Cheng put them all away. In the meantime, Austin still had not finished moving his stuff into the larger room, and we’d been gone over 2 hours. Another big sigh. I go upstairs, yell some more, and get the task done finally. I decide that I had better unpack our suitcases, and I sent the boys all go outside to play. We were very lucky that the weather was unseasonably warm. In fact, it was a record high of 86 degrees! The boys dragged out the water guns, and for the first time in several weeks, everyone was happy all at the same time!! Even Cheng joined in the water war, and my vision of a big, raucous family was briefly fulfilled. One thing I haven’t mentioned is David’s frustration with Connor. Connor has regressed several years in age since adopting Ben. For instance, Connor has a newfound interest in matchbox cars, and he needs to relearn some basic rules, such as we don’t run in the house. We both know that playing with a six year old is part of the problem, but we also know that Connor was the baby of the family, and suddenly he’s the big brother. A little attention-seeking behavior is not uncommon when a new child arrives in a household. Austin, on the other hand, is trying to exert his independence. Sharing a room has never been a problem for Austin. In fact, until a few years ago, we kept trying to put the boys in their own bedrooms and they kept sneaking into each others’ rooms during the night. We gave up, and put them back together in a room (and made the extra bedroom an office). Suddenly, now Austin is complaining about his lack of privacy. I told him to get over it; he’s a member of a big family and we all have to share a bedroom, including me! I pointed out to Austin that he’s lucky that our house is over 4000 sq. feet, and he has lots of elbow room, in spite of having five children in the house. I know lots of big families who live in smaller houses. At 3pm, the big boys (Cheng, Austin and John) decided to bike into town. Hooray!! Have fun, don’t get hit by a car, and here’s some money. Go for it! Whew. If they can do an activity together, the three big boys, maybe John and Austin will be able to bond. Connor and Ben also went outside to play, and I started dinner. At 6pm, we all sat down to our first family dinner. I had to rearrange our “spots” for eating because Ben needs to be next to an adult. As I’ve mentioned before, he is a picky eater, and he has the table manners of a 3 year old. We said our prayer, ate, and went through our normal “good thing” and “bad thing” conversation. We have a tradition at the table that each person says their one “good thing” that happened during the day, and then their one “bad thing.” Austin’s bad thing is that he had to come home from his Aunt and Uncle’s house. We have always had a hard time with Austin’s behavior after he stays at their house. They buy lots of junk food, let the kids stay up all night and sleep all day, allow endless gaming (and rated M games!), and basically have no rules or structure. It’s like a paradise to our kids, since it is the exact opposite of how we live. Since the kids were little, we would spend a week getting them back to normal after a weekend at Linda and Victor’s house. Here we go again. After the English speakers said their good thing and bad thing, I asked Cheng to ask Ben and John to say their good thing and bad thing. John, at first, refused, but Cheng kept encouraging him. Finally, John said his good thing was the water fight, and his bad thing was the bike ride. John rode a bike that didn’t shift gears, and it was quite a workout for him. Ben said his good thing was playing. He didn’t have a bad thing. It was cute and Austin said that it reminded him of when we had our four foster children. Logan used to say, “My good thing is…, and my other good thing is…, and my Other good thing is…” He would list 10 good things, and he could never come up with a bad thing. He was almost six years old, and we simply adored him. Chasin, age 2 ½, would say the same thing for his good thing and his bad thing. He never quite figured out what we were trying to accomplish. Skylar would always say, “I don’t know.” Yep, even with five children in the house, we still miss our foster children and talk about them almost daily. For the 30 minutes of dinner, things were looking positive. Not too long after dinner, at 7:45, I called the kids up for bed. Austin had a major attitude, and I lost my temper big-time. We traveled 30 hours, had jet-lag, and needed to get the kids at least in the direction of bed. I told Austin that he could read for awhile (he has a book due for school anyway) and he still fought me. I really, really, lost my temper with him. He is not being the role-model I had hoped, that’s for sure. Five minutes after everyone grudgingly went upstairs Ben, Connor and John were asleep. An early bedtime was the right thing to do. Day one at home--