Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year approaching

Christmas has come and gone in a flash! Xiao, our exchange student 08-09, came to stay with us for 10 days, and once again our house was filled, almost to the brim with stinky boys! We went skiing for 3 days, and visited an indoor water park. Our routine was disrupted, and, really, everyone survived. This mom hasn't worked-out in over a week (and that's a big deal in our house!), but life goes on. We are all celebrating, and also relaxing. Happy New Years!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Schooling older adopted children

I've had several people who visited my blog ask about schooling our children after their adoptions. Ben was 6.5 and John was almost 14 when we adopted them March 2010. If you read our first blog, -- I stopped blogging when the children were just going to begin public school. Well, public school was a big, big mistake. Really. IF it is at all possible, do NOT send your older adopted child to public school. First of all, John had to spend a week testing, as mandated by the state of NY and our Federal government. He didn't understand two words of English, of course, so the testing itself was upsetting, confusing and frustrating. Then, the school decided to place John in 6th grade (age 14--normally 8th grade), and (because of his test results) he was required to take 3 periods of ESL a day. His ESL class was made up of Spanish speaking migrant workers' children, and it was a complete and utter waste of time. I sent in several hundred of English/Chinese flashcards that I bought, and I purchased an English language learning program for Chinese speakers for $500.00. The teacher basically babysat the kids all day and did not even look at the resources that I provided. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the only English he learned at school, in  the 10 weeks he attended, were profanities. His first full English sentence was to tell his brother to "F off." In addition, John latched on to the kids who would readily accept him, and naturally they were the losers, dealers, and delinquents. John was almost 14 years old upon adoption, but, like most institutionalized children, he was several years behind socially, emotionally and academically. He looked an acted like a 10 year old. Also, attending school all day really slowed down John's English acquisition. Sitting in a classroom most of the day with kids who did not speak English (and had no intention of learning English) only made John resist us more. In addition, it took away from the time that we had with him to establish our bonding etc. In June, we called a meeting with the administration, guidance office, ESL teacher etc. I have never seen my husband go absolutely bonkers (he is an attorney), but I thought his head was going to explode when the vice-principle bluntly announced that John would never graduate high school. He'd be 21 (and age out first) because John was going to miss 3 core subject classes a day, in order to attend his federally mandated ESL classes. John would not get enough credits to graduate, according to the administer, in four years. I had to almost physically restrain my husband. Then the principle said that, by the way, HE was going to make the educational decisions for John, since John was at school 6 hours a day and ultimately the principle is responsible for the child's education and the principle knows what is best. Umm. No. Sorry. You just happen to work here right now. Our son's education is way more important to us, than it is to you, jerk. You might have him for a few years, but he is our son forever!! And we know him better, understand his needs, and you know virtually NOTHING about children adopted from China, or their needs! I am certified in NY to teach Reading K-12 and English 5-12, so I could at least speak the school's lingo, but the administration was practically trying to bully us!  As I said, I'd never seen my husband go ballistic, but he went nuts when the school told us that they were going to make all the decisions because they knew what was best. And that John would never be successful because it was just too late for him. The next day I started a search for a private school. Our oldest son (now age 16) has been attending an all-boys college prep school, McQuaid Jesuit, since 7th grade, and at that point I was homeschooling our son who was 10. McQuaid, however, has rigorous admission requirements and costs 2 arms and a leg. And I just didn't feel up to homeschooling an angry, defiant teenager who didn't know English. We knew that McQuaid or homeschooling wouldn't be an appropriate education for John. Then, I found Lima Christian School that offers K-12. The school works with several agencies in Asia (China and Korea) that sends students to Lima Christian to master English so that they can get accepted into American Universities. The school knows how to work with Asian students, and the other ESL Asian students in the school are highly motivated to succeed. The school placed John in 8th grade (only one grade below age appropriate), and arranged his schedule so that he had the ESL teacher all to himself for one period a day. He also had a study hall where he was peer-tutored every day. The teachers hold him to the same standards as the other students, but they do provide extended test taking time when necessary. We receive weekly progress reports, and we spend hours with him at night doing homework. The school jumps through hoops to make certain that we are happy, and they check with me before adjusting his schedule or giving him modified assignments.  Now, John is in 9th grade and he works independently( most of the time) at the 9th grade level. He maintains a B/A- average. At my request, we continued the one period a day with the ESL teacher.  She makes certain that he is "getting" everything. Next year he will join the regular English class and will no longer be considered an ESL student. Ben (age 8.5 now, 6.5 upon adoption) never received ESL classes. He's completely fluent in English, and at grade level in math, and reading at Kindergarten level. He receives a double dose of reading class, and receives tons of extra help. At the private school we are the consumer...they will adjust the curriculum to meet the child's needs because if they don't they know that we can find another school! Our son Connor, who was home-schooled for several years, would be in 7th grade in public school because of his age. He is in 8th grade at LCS, because of his abilities, and in 10th grade math and science. Of course, he has a 95 average too. With a graduating class of only 16, the school can be flexible and meet all our children's needs! Hooray!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mid-life decisions

On the way home from taekwondo class last night, Connor (age almost 13) happened to mention that one of his friends spends most of his hours, days, and weeks, completely alone, except for when he is at school.  Then Connor mentioned that two more of his friends are in the exact same situation. These parents all had a late-life child (all big families), and the last child is virtually raising himself while the parents move on to their retirement lives. The whole conversation just reinforced for me that we are absolutely doing the right thing adopting more little guys! Otherwise, I'll be in my early 50's when the three teens graduate, and Ben will be the kid who is just left behind. We want to keep the laughter, the lessons, the chaotic dinner around the table every night for Ben.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I800 correction

We received our corrected I800 approval today! I actually forgot that the first approval had Dang Tong's name spelled wrong and that we needed to receive a new one. Now, our DS230 can be submitted so that we can move to the next step. Hooray! This past weekend I joined another half-dozen yahoo groups for parents adopting (or who have adopted) from China. I was thrilled to finally find the group for Heilongjiang province. I searched once before and couldn't find it, but this time it popped up! I also found a group called DTC2011. All the people on this group are on a similar timeline as us. Maybe, just maybe, we'll meet up with some of my online friends when we travel!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our boys will be boys

This weekend, I was reminded how different everything will be once we have two more little ones. For instance, I organized a Christmas caroling party for Sat. evening. The teens shunned the caroling, and I had to drag them to the car (figuratively) with a promise to take them skiing on Sunday if they cooperated. So the teens (and their friends) trudged along the roadside, but did not sing and they did not cooperate. Ben excitedly rang the doorbells and tried to get into the spirit of the carols for awhile; then the teens convinced Ben that caroling wasn't cool, and he began to hang back with the spoilsports. Next year, we'll have three little ones and the joy will NOT be contained! I also realized that it will be much harder to have our movie nights. As it is, lately we are watching movies I do not think are appropriate for 8 1/2 year old Ben (Harry Potter, for example); once we have three little guys, it will be darn near impossible to find movies that everyone in the family will enjoy. Hmmm. Tonight we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Xiao, our exchange student 08-09. He currently attends University of Chicago, and he is going to stay with us for ten days. We can't wait to see him!! He came to visit last Thanksgiving, and he also stayed with us in Beijing during  our adoption trip in 2010. Hooray for Xiao. Now off to cook a mountain of food!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do They Know it's Christmas

I haven't been writing much about our adoptions because there hasn't been anything new to report. However, I DO think about, worry about, pray about and prepare for our adoptions every single day. I read other people's adoption blogs constantly, and I ponder why our adoptions are taking soooo darn long. It's been a year since we submitted our pre-approval paperwork, and we truly thought that we would have the boys already. In fact, we thought that by reusing our dossier, we might even travel to China the summer of 2011. NOT. I read a blog yesterday that listed the homestudy date six months after ours, and they already have their new children home! But I keep reminding myself that this is not in my control. I have to grieve and relieve. That is the term I learned today in the workshop I attended, entitled, "Power and Control...Who's Really in Charge Here Anyway." We need to grieve our loss of control, and then relieve ourselves of the need for control. Basically, give it up to God, because it's not in our hands. So..nothing new on the adoption front, but I am buying presents for Sam and Leo to send to China every time I Christmas shop. On another note, I've convinced John to write down his "story." John is motivated to make money, and I told him that he could author a book about Chinese orphanages etc. from his perspective and list it on Amazon. Finally, John is motivated to write in English!! And, maybe, just maybe, we will learn more about his past. We've heard little tidbits, but not about all the trauma he has suffered. Writing down his story, I'm convinced, will help him in endless ways. Every once in awhile I get a brilliant idea! Hooray!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I 800 Approval

Our I800 approval arrived the other day, dated December 1st. However, our little guy's name is spelled wrong (Tung, instead of Tong) and we have to have it corrected. No big deal, since there is now NO Way we are going to travel before the end of this year. In fact, we are not in a rush at all anymore since the earliest we can travel is April. Our next step is to submit the DS230 form to China. In the meantime, I've been buying Christmas presents for the boys at home, and I'm trying to decide when it will be the best time to send gifts, photos and letters to our boys in China. Our caseworker said that it is NOT appropriate to send multiple packages over the course of the next five months. I see on blogs that parents often send lots of letters etc., but our caseworker said that the orphanage staff finds that practice upsetting. One particular child then gets showered with goodies and the other children simply wait. I'm now leaning toward sending things at the end of January. The Chinese New Year is at the end of January this year, and gifts are welcome at that time. I will pick up a few things to send after Christmas. I've already purchased a few toys to take with us when we go to China, including a marbleworks set. The four boys (we have decided to take Ben with us now too!) can play that for hours! I've also purchased overnight diapers (on sale) "just in case." It's easy to assume that 5 year old and a 6 1/2 year old boys would be completely potty-trained, but lots of little boys wet the bed at night and I want to be prepared. I can always donate them to the orphanage later if we don't need them.