Monday, April 26, 2010

Calliandra and school

Calli showing off the ornament she chose herself on the Christmas Tree. I had already made sure she had ornaments of her own, one ornament for every year, an angel theme, plus a couple extra special ornaments. I give the kids ornaments every year and so when they're out on their own, they'll have enough to start their own trees off well decorated.

School was a big culture shock for Calli, to have so many kids, about as many in her one classroom as in Bethel altogether. She was dismayed at how unruly they were, and how long it took for them to calm down in art, gym, music. She had trouble with math, evidently the symbols she learned were not the same as used here, once that was translated off she went, she loves math. She has since blossomed, excelling and having fun. Every term she has made the A-B Honor Roll, the Citizenship Honor Roll and the Principal's Honor Roll (for making both of the other two) After each report card, the Honor Roll kids have had a field trip, Roller skating, to a Bounce house, and to the movie Oceans. She had an excellent time roller skating, never fell down once, despite it being her first time. When she would start to fall, she would move into a squat position, and then pop back up. By the end of the time, she was even able to skate backwards - That's our athletic girl!
The trip to the Bounce House was chaos and fun, She dragged around the boy who was supposed to be leading her, too impatient to go at his slower speed. It was a blast for her and she was all over the place, going down the slides bouncing in the trampoline like area. It was great.
Later her class went to Pewabic Pottery, Bill accompanied them, and made plaques. It was really cool because the teachers had applied for a grant so it was a free trip for both third grade classes. Bill said if he ever decided to go on a bus with 55 screaming kids again, just to shoot him first! I'm not supposed to know, but they made the plaque for me for Mother's day, I can't wait to see it.
She just went last week to see the film Oceans, she enjoyed it, and enjoyed learning about the different sorts of life in the ocean. Neither Bill nor I were able to attend with her, so I can't say exactly what it was about, her Parapro went with her.
The first month of school, before her math Braille was straightened around, Calli had to take the MEAP, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program Test, she had to read the questions and then her Teacher would fill in the scan tron. She did so well, we are really proud. Her Reading score was 297 out of 421, partially proficient, 300 would've been proficient. Her Math score was 300 out of 425, Proficient. Incredible, and I know her scores would be so much higher if she were to take it again today, she has come so far.
The first term, Calli's English skills were not graded, but everything else was, and after that term, English was graded too. Her grades on her report cards, for all terms, are; Oral Language, 1,1,1; Writing NA, B-, B-; Spelling A, A, A, Reading, she went up 10 levels, she is still behind her age group but is catching up rapidly; Reading NA, B, B; Math B+, A, A; Science A, A-, A-; Social Studies, the class that is the hardest and most foreign to her, B+, B+, B. Her Other classes were only graded at the end of the second semester and she got Art, B; Music, A; Global connections, A; Media, A, Phys ed, A. Her citizenship grades were 1's across the board in all her classes.
We got these notes from her teachers on the report cards: Calli works hard every day. She has shown nice improvement. Keep up the wonderful work Calli! and Calli is a polite, kind and well mannered child.she makes an effort to learn in all subject areas. Keep up the great work!
Calli was also given the 'Polite and Proud' award for her class this last month. It's just incredible, she gets so many awards we've started a binder for her to keep them in.
Calli also joined her school choir, it meets every Tuesday, and this year the concert has a patriotic theme. Yep, Star Spangled Banner, Fifty Nifty United States, This Land is your land, America the beautiful she's learning them all in one fell swoop. she even has a solo verse in This land is your land. She's also in the school district choir, this is probably her toughest bit, these are some fast songs, sung faster than she can read the words. We've taken her other music off her MP3 player, and only put these three songs on so that she can practice and not get distracted. It's very tough for her but she's up for the challenge.
That's our Calli, loving a challenge, learnign all she can, and still being well behaved and happy. She is a joy this girl of ours.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Little joys in life

By Heather
Calli and Acer in church. She takes very good care of him, and he fell asleep on her.

Calli has been home for almost a year now, and hasn't really had much luck finding friends. There's Josh, the 8th grader at church, whom she sees 3 times a week, but they aren't anything more than buddies; McKenna also from church, probably her best girl friend, but who also lives further away and goes to a different school and is already booked with acting and dance lessons; Brianna a 5th grader at school who is also blind, but who is not an active running and jumping and having physical fun girl like our Calli.

Calli's been in Brownies, meeting once a month at a local school, since October. Some of the girls still don't talk to her, but others greet her with a shout when they see her come in. We come in about 15 minutes late because of Calli's bus ride home from her school. Still, there weren't any great overtures, until last month, when a Mya mentioned she thought Calli would make a great friend. This was a good meeting to begin with because it was the day before Calli's birthday, and they sang to her, adding Mya's comment, and finding out they lived a couple blocks away - Hurrah!

I emailed Mya's mom, and made plans for the girls to get together some Friday for Bike riding. Mya's backyard faces a large church parking lot, and I knew they could have lots of fun. This afternoon, after school was the day. We all went, Calli, Acer, Mum, Me and walked over. As we approached the house, I remembered meeting the husband and talking adoption with him while we were out with Acer. Yes, it was the same family, and the kids are adopted. The husband even works IT like BIll does. It's so cool to find someone who gets it, and to find such similarities.

It was nice, Mya has a little sister who is almost as tall as Acer even though she's only 3.5. The littles played together, and the older girls had a great time, we went in their back yard where they have a swingset. Mya taught Calli how to flip backwards off the monkeybars, Calli taught Mya how to use a hula hoop as a jump rope and jump it frontwards and backwards. We parents talked, and directed and encouraged as needed. A good time was had by all. When it was time to go, they walked back with us, so they now know for sure where we live. Both families are now looking forward to summer fun between the houses, they have the trampoline, we have the pool. So nice to click with someone, even the girls play styles - active!, match well. I'm looking forward to their being in school together next year.

As an aside, I was pleased to see Calli having fun on their monkeybars as she misjudged them today at school and faced her face on a post - bloody nose and a bruise near her eye. Somehow she didn't even get any blood on her white shirt. Guess a kid playing with her told her to keep her head back. I thought she might be nervous, but she'd shaken it off and learned some new tricks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reading breakthrough for the Little Man

Acer, just because it's a cute picture.

When a sighted child learns to read, they are constantly surrounded by letters, words and numbers. They are everywhere on signs, mail, cereal boxes, all over, you can look and see letters. For a blind child, it's the result of hours and hours and days and days of hard work and physical practice, they have to learn how to follow lines of dots across the page (not as easy as it sounds) , they have to learn how to differentiate between the six different dots of a Braille cell, they then have to learn the combinations of dots and how they translate into letters. Braille is only available in Braille books, homework sheets, and the occasional elevator. You can't just go to the cereal box and start reading the ingredients, you can't go to a Hallmark store and read the cards there, you can't even read what's on the shelves in grocery stores. You just have to practice, practice, practice.

Furthermore, as you get more advanced, you start to learn contracted Braille. Yup, Braille takes up a lot of space so they use as many shortcuts as possible. For example, td=today, tm=tomorrow, tn=tonight, so there are 189 Braille contractions that are use commonly. That's where Calli is, almost all the way through learning those. She learns those as she learns to spell the words, and then spells them both ways during practice for her spelling tests. I'm learning them too, as I translate her spelling words into print, but it's not an easy thing, it's just something I need to do to help her with her homework. BTW she generally gets 100% on her spelling tests, 2 wrong is about the most she's gotten wrong on a test.

The other end of the spectrum, learning wise not smarts wise, is Acer. He has been in the VI classroom for two years now, and I am happy to say that he now knows how to read all his letters! PLUS, he is now understanding that letters are put together into WORDS, yes, Acer has now read words to me. Granted, they were all the same word, and those words were one of two or three words on a page, but he found them and read them! He could also read all the letters on the pages, one letter at a time, but the word he could read, thanks to author David Carter - BUGS! yes, 'Feely Bugs' is our new favorite book for Acer to read to us. and, what is more appropriate for a child of mine, than that the first word he reads is Bugs?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hurrah for technology

Okay blog buddies, I admit it, I've been leaving you and spending time on Face Book instead of here. It was short and easy, and fun. Now, however, I have the ability to have my posts here, show up there! Yes, I can do both things at once. Thanks to Bill, I am back. Also, thanks to no longer being post adoption depressed, Thanks to having more of an interest in life again, and thanks to so many things that make me feel like normal, and feel like I have the time and energy to type.

Please forgive me, I know it's been so long since I've done regular updates, and far longer since I've posted any pictures, I think that now I can be both here and on FB things will be much smoother.

Piano Recital

Thanks to the generosity of a friend of mine, Calli has been taking piano lessons for the past few months. Calli has the ability to play by ear, and can generally play all the praise songs our worship band sings, at least the melody line. She's now adding in more left hand playing, and learning how to properly move her hands over the keyboard to where she needs to be next. She is very good about practicing her songs four times each, every day, and Acer usually will accompany her on the drums if she playing when he's around. So, I started calling them the Cold Spaghetti band, after a favorite song of theirs.

Calli's first recital was saturday, and she played two songs on her own, and one song as the CSB, accompanied by Acer. For Calli's songs, she did well, and remembered to bow afterwards, and showed no signs of nerves. Acer almost fell asleep during the performances, as there were six others singing, playing tenor sax, playing piano, but he made it through to the end, when he was performing.

There were a few mix ups before the program which left us not enough time to get Acer's drum set up all perfectly, and when it came time, there were a few pieces not making any noise at all, His bass, high hats and snare were silent. Sigh. I told him he just needed to play without them and to keep going and he did. I was so proud of the both of them, they came, things weren't right but they kept on and did what they needed to do to support each other as a band. Calli's version of 'Ode to Joy' on an $80,000 piano was just lovely, and Acer's semi-silent drumming kept the beat as best he could. What, you didn't know 'Ode to Joy' had drum accompaniment?

Calli got a bouquet of flowers from Granny Pat and Uncle James, and Acer got a boutonniere. YeYe and NaiNai made it out to the performance despite my almost sending them off in the wrong direction about an hour away, and NaiNai made TWO blueberry pies, one for each child, to their great delight, and ours too of course.

Bill had to work that time, and couldn't even take a long lunch because of staffing issues so he missed it entirely. Uncle James was sick, so he missed it, despite physically being in the building. I even forgot to put batteries in the video cam. However Cousin Brandon made it, and video'd it on his phone, so hopefully, we'll have video for you to see, sometime.

I was most proud of the kids, not for their accomplishments, but for their perseverance, that was what made the performance great.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Russian Adoption issue = BIG talk with Miss Missy

Yes, we've changed her name, Miss Missy fits her better. :)

So, because of the issue, I had a serious sit down LONG talk with MM. We talked about it seriously, and she came up with good questions, and logic of her own. I said that the lady had made very poor decisions, hadn't planned, and that now many people - both children waiting to be adopted and parents in the process - were hurt. I wanted her to know about this in case people asked her about it, or said something hurtful like 'your parents will put you on a plane back to China'. Yes, I've actually heard of another child being told that.

I assured her that we were prepared in case something happened, that we knew where to go to get her help if her brain got sick - how I described what might have been wrong with the little boy - and told her I didn't believe it would ever happen to her, but just in case we were ready. I also made sure that she knew she had access to people to talk to too, our Social Worker, Peggy, will always be available for her.

We talked about different countries' policies on adoption, and how we talked about how Bill and I had come to decide to adopt and then decide on China. We covered a lot of topics, mental illness, preparation for adoption, how there were many resources available for people, and others. All these issues were discussed with her right by my side, glued to me almost by her own choice. I was glad, the physical contact actually reassured the both of us, me that she'd put herself there because it was reassuring, and her because she could snuggle up and be safe while she discussed scary issues.

She was most upset that the families could not become families now, because one person hadn't asked for help. She kept coming back to that, so I know it was important, and I reassured her that we would get her help or us help if any of us needed it. She even commented on how the boy, who would have had trust issues to begin with, now would be even less likely to trust anyone. I was pleased she thought of that one on her own.

I felt this was a good, and important building block, she now has tools to respond to people if they say something mean. "My parents KNOW where to go for help, and will ask for it, they would NEVER send me back" and she won't be blindsided by someone asking about these issues.

Note: I wasn't able to finish this post yesterday because a friend came over. This talk was so important to Calliandra that she told my friend all about it. It makes me double glad to have done it.

Calli's a thinker, a worrier almost, so knowing this will help. An example of this is; Mum fell and hit her forehead twice on the bathtub due to a slippery bath mat. She went to emergency and then stayed for 8 days because she was also running a bronchitis related fever that wouldn't go away. After she was released, she came to stay with us because we have recliner she could sleep in. The recliner is a small one, and is under Calli's loft, so they have been roommates ever since. Calli is looking towards the future though, and started to worry about how SHE would get ME to the Dr's when I was old and sick. I was touched by her concern, and said there were ways for us to go places, and that when the time came, she would know how to use them already because she is smart and competent. I mentioned the small buses just for that purpose, and that seemed to appease her worries. It was just so Calli, to be worried about the future, and taking care of me, now when she is only 10.

Friday, April 16, 2010

We weren't there, we don't know.

A lot of press has been spent on the actions of one ill thought out plan about how to deal with a disturbed child. People wonder, as we've adopted internationally, what is my take. So, here it is. The lady and her family's actions were wrong. She was over her head, but didn't contact her agency, and didn't contact the authorities in her state for help.

It is not unheard of for children with problems like this to exist, but they are as rare in the adoption world as in the bio child world. Why the woman didn't follow the normal route of help in situations like this, I don't know, I wasn't there.

Did the woman do her prep work, check out all the classes on adoption parenting that are available, pour over attachment websites like I did? I would think so, there is a lot of time, money and effort that goes in to any international adoption, I would think that she did all those things that the agencies and governments require. I don't know though, I wasn't there.

Did the Russian agency hide existing conditions? they might have, it's been done before, I'm sure it will be done again. Sometimes it's done with the best of intentions, to get children homes, sometimes it's done for the orphanage donation. I don't know, I wasn't there.

I do know that adoption is an extremely personal decision, almost more so than the decision to conceive. Conception, after all, doesn't require loads of paperwork, classes, proven financial stability, good health, and a myriad of other items that add up to fulfilling the regulations of a government, including a State Gov't for domestic adoptions. I know that, I've been there.

I do know that the wise go into adoptions, of any age, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Happily, we've been blessed by our two, but we were prepared for issues. We are prepared for issues because they can still come up, especially as the kids start to learn more about life. We have a plan for that though, we know where to go if we need help, we know we aren't experts and can't handle everything on our own. Know that, and have a map made to get us through the worst conditions.

But, Isn't that what all parents should have? We aren't promised healthy, intelligent children even if we are healthy and intelligent and give birth to them ourselves. When we give birth, does that somehow make any issues that come with the chid easier to handle than if we adopted a child with issues? Almost, the reverse, if the issues are known. we chose to adopt children who are blind, we knew that going in. We didn't have to deal with the issues of if I would've done this, would the child have been born okay?

So you as you read this, if you're a parent, what's your roadmap for the future look like, does it have paths to all the places you'd need in worst case scenarios? Are you ready for your world to crash down if your child becomes mentally or physically unstable, and it's more than you can bear. Have you ever thought about how far you would go to protect your child's future? For example, would it be better to sign them up immediately for a group home for long term care with many visits from you, or would it be better to be totally dependent on you until one of you dies? I've played through these scenarios in my mind, and I know what sort of actions I'd take to protect my child's quality of life.

Maybe, this mom never thought of those sorts of problems, ones that would shatter her life and the boy's. I don't know, I wasn't there, but I know that she should have, every parent should have, no matter where their child was born, and to whom.