Friday, September 30, 2011

Halloween is Coming!

With Halloween just a month away, I have noticed something in Lin... This year, she totally gets it!

Dave and I really love Halloween. To say Dave loves horror movies would be the understatement of the century, and I just love all the childish stuff about Halloween -- the candy, costumes, Trick-or-Treating, carving the pumpkins... It's just my absolute favorite time of year.

So last year, we were so excited to share Halloween with Lin. She had been home just over 4 months at that point, so our communication was still tricky. We hoped she would be excited about picking a costume but, while she looked around quite a bit, she ended up just dabbing a little goofy make-up on her face. She was less-than-thrilled to go to the pumpkin farm we always go to, but she seemed to enjoy carving her pumpkin. And the trick-or-treating was... well, disappointing. (If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll remember that I have written about this before.) After struggling to make her excited about trick-or-treating, she finally said to me, in her very broken English, "What if you were 13 and you went to China. And everyone in China was telling you that you have to do this and it's so much fun. But you didn't understand it. How would you feel?" And I understood her point and I backed off.

Well, that was a year ago. Lin is a different girl now. She's more comfortable, more confident. Her understanding of conversational English is nearly fluent and her spoken English, while still "broken" and heavily-accented, is coming along wonderfully. And, by gosh, she's excited for Halloween! If we see a display of Halloween stuff in a store she wants to go look at it. She is excited to get a costume this year and has been circling her favorites in the costume catalogue we got a couple weeks ago. She's excited about doing Halloween crafts and has been getting ideas from books and magazines. She just seems to get what we were trying to explain last year.

I didn't think about it back on the 4th of July, that she was starting her second year of American holidays. It didn't occur to me until talk of Halloween started a few weeks ago. She's got one full year under her belt, and now she gets to start connecting the dots and making memories. For the first time, she will be remembering our family traditions. When we open our box of Halloween decorations she will remember the things we pull out. She will be able to say "Hey, I remember that!" or "Oh, I forgot about that one!"

Lin's first year in America, in our family, had so many wonderful moments, sharing with her all these new experiences. But maybe this second year will be even better...


And speaking of making family memories, we're off to Disney World on Sunday!!!! We can't wait!! I'm still debating whether to take the laptop and blog while we're there. I think it would be kind of fun to blog about each day just like we did on our trips to China. But do I have enough interested readers who would really want to know how our vacation is going? Leave me a comment and let me know... or if I don't have enough interested readers, I'll try not to let my feelings get hurt...  : )

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rainy Sunday

Well, it's just a rainy Sunday around here, and sometimes it feels like it's raining inside our house as well. Ruby is sick on the couch -- nothing too major, just a cold with a rough cough. She's slathered in Vapo-Rub and we're keeping her inside today. In fact, she's still in her pajamas and will probably stay that way.

And Lin is being, well, a teenager. She went to Sunday School this morning and ever since, she's just been kind of in a rotten mood. The girl just has days where she wants to "pick" at people, push our buttons. Most often the target seems to be me, but fortunately these days are fewer and farther between, and I like to think I'm getting better at dealing with them.

How do I deal with her? I ignore her. She's a teenager. She's hormonal. As long as she doesn't get too disrespectful I just let it roll off my back.

For example, the whole way home from Sunday School she questioned me about God. "Why do you believe? I don't believe. I don't want to learn." which then turned into "You don't love me. I don't love you. I don't love Dad." A year ago I would have cried and tried to reassure her, tried to figure out exactly what's going on, is she thinking about China, about her birth family... ??

Now? Yeah, not so much. She's a teenager. She likes to pick on me. She'll get over it.

Do I sound heartless? Maybe a little. I don't really mean to. I just mean that over the last year I'm confident that we've developed a loving relationship, so if she tells me she doesn't love me I know she's not serious. She's just trying to get a reaction from me. And I've come a long way in learning how NOT to react.

Yep, I'm the mom of an ornery teenager.


After struggling through homework with an even more ornery teenager, during which I actually walked away from the table because she was not listening to me, I decided I needed some Me-Time and I headed out to the store for some odds-and-ends. I came home to find this:

Yep, even when she's ornery, I've still got a pretty great kid!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Very Sad News

A family who was in our travel group when we went to China to adopt Lin, lost their beautiful daughter yesterday.

We only were together for a few days in Guangzhou and I regret that we did not get to know them better. Their daughter, Vivian, was born with the same heart condition as Lin. Vivian was only two years old when they adopted her, and had not had the corrective surgery yet. They knew that she would need surgery as quickly as possible once they were home. I remember pointing to our Lin and telling them, "Look, this is your future! Vivian will grow up to be a perfectly normal, healthy girl, just like our new daughter!"

Vivian had a long struggle the past several months with many complications, and passed away suddenly yesterday. Here is a link to their blog if anyone would like to send condolences.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Smartypants, and a little bit of history

Remember yesterday's post, about how Lin will have two hours of English back-to-back, and how great that was?

Yeah, Lin doesn't like it.

Turns out the other students in that 2nd hour of English are all boys. 4 boys, to be exact. 4 boys in 6th grade, leading Lin to believe (somewhat jokingly) that she must be stupid if she's the only 7th grader in a special English class with 6th graders.

I keep pinching myself, wondering how long can this possibly last... I have a 13-year-old daughter who wants school to be harder! She doesn't want two hours of special English! She wants to be in regular English! She actually wants to be thrown in the water with the rest of the 7th grade and be forced to swim her way out. She is trying to refuse the small life jacket we and the school are attempting to provide. (Like my metaphor?)

So, what to do? I guess our first step is to contact her English teacher and find out exactly where Lin is in her English skills. Does she need two hours a day? Could she keep up if she attempted another regular class like 7th grade English or Social Studies?


All this talk of Lin's education here in America reminds me that I never did tell a story I alluded to in a post several months ago. I think now is the time, as it greatly explains Lin's determination in school.

As many of you may know, Lin was born with a severe heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF). She had life-saving surgery at two years old in Shanghai. She lived in the Shanghai Children's Home from the time of her surgery until we came to bring her home 10 years later.

We'd gotten some information that Lin spent quite a bit of time in the hospital as a young child, years after the surgery. When we asked Lin about it she swore up and down that it wasn't true, she'd never spent time in the hospital. We were confused, but we let it go. As adoptive parents, we learn to accept the fact that much of our children's lives before they came to be our children will always be a mystery.

Back in the spring Lin and I were talking, I don't even remember what we were talking about now. But Lin was talking about China. And she told me how she had had to live with "sick kids" from time to time. I immediately realized she was talking about the so-called hospital stays we had been told about. According to Lin, she wasn't in the hospital, just in another section of the Children's Home. And while she was with the "sick kids" she could not attend school. She spent months living with the sick kids, missing out on her education.

Then she told me a story about how she had an opportunity to go to public school, school outside the Children's Home. I don't know how old she would have been but I'm guessing around 7 or 8. She told me that only the smartest kids could go to public school, and she knew that she was smart enough to go.

She told me how she wrote her name down, or maybe a teacher wrote her name, on the list of kids who were going to go to school.

And then she told me how, on the morning of the first day of school, she was ready and waiting to go, and her name was not called. She watched as all the other kids went off to public school and she did not. She blames it on "being sick." 

Can you even imagine?

It explains so very much about her hatred of doctors and all things medical, and her sheer determination to make the most of public school here.

What a great, brave kid I've got, huh?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of School

The first day back went fine for Lin. It was nice to see the confidence in her stride as she walked into the building yesterday.

Her schedule had some errors which have now been fixed. She had two math classes and no ESL (English as a Second Language) -- that won't work! She also had been put in a "regular" 7th grade English class. Fortunately her ESL teacher tracked her down yesterday and told her that her schedule was wrong and that they would fix it. Isn't that nice? I'm not sure Lin would have realized anything was wrong otherwise.

So starting today she has the right classes. We are very fortunate that our public school district not only provides daily ESL classes for Lin (some districts only provide an hour or two a week) but her counselors have also agreed to delay putting her in Social Studies in order to give her a second hour of English learning class every day. Yes, she gets two hours of special English classes every day! Not all schools do this. And this year her two hours of English are back-to-back, so that will be really nice for her.

Of course, Lin is worried about putting off Social Studies; she knows the longer she waits the further behind she'll be. But it's more important that she become proficient at reading first. It's sometimes easy to forget that when we talk about Lin's education, we're not just talking about one class schedule. We're talking about years of special treatment for her, not matter how intelligent she is. She'll likely always learn at a slightly different level than other kids. But it's so great that she is smart, she does like to learn. Last night she was even counting up how many years she'll be in school -- she was working out that she has two more years of middle school, then four years of high school, and then with a huge grin on her face she triumphantly threw her hands up and said "And then college!!"

Hmmm... how long do you think this educational euphoria will last...?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And so it begins... again

This morning, Lin leaped out of bed at 6am, hit the shower, slammed a quick breakfast and headed off to the 7th grade! Here's to another great school year!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wrapping up Summer

We are officially wrapping up Summer vacation! One more weekend to go before the chaos begins again... Ruby will be attending preschool 3 days a week and Lin is going into 7th grade. In addition, Ruby will be continuing her gymnastics and Lin is now adding martial arts classes into the mix.

We took a few days off and headed back to Michigan's Adventure. We went there the first week of Summer vacation and decided to wrap it up there as well. The girls absolutely love the water park and the thrill rides. We got there before the park opened and were one of the last cars to pull out... soaking up every minute of fun. Funny thing, the last ride Dave and Lin hopped on... broke down! They were only stuck on the coaster for about 10 minutes and had quite a laugh. The next day, we went to Lake Michigan to soak up the sun. We were too lazy to attempt to climb the dunes, we played in the sand and water for hours and hours.

We'll spend this weekend shopping for school supplies, lounging in Grandma's pool, and firing up the BBQ.


We also attended a baby shower for our good friends Juile and Chris who leave on Wednesday to bring their baby girl, Margot, home from China!! (Juile is an amazing photographer who has taken family photos for us, including the one at the top of the page.) Here's a link to their blog, if you'd like to follow along and support them as they become first-time parents!