Hello to all,
Thank you to those of you who are still following. I needed to take a break for a bit to down stress, and this was an easy thing to drop out of my loop of 'Have to's'. Heather.
We've done a lot of things, been places, learned a lot, and laughed a lot. We've been giggly, grumpy, gleeful and glad. We've stayed in Fancy Hotels and camped where there was no running water or electricity, and the kids were up for all of it.
Calliandra has grown so much this year, In every way you could think of; It's almost incredible to watch. Last May we found out that the school that she and Acer were attending, wasn't going to be hosting the VI classroom anymore; it was a schools of choice school in a different district so we needed to find them new schools. We decided to have Calli attend the local school, which she could walk to once her canework skills were up to it. This school Really Kicked into gear to get ready for her. They totally went all out, gave her equipment a room slightly bigger than a closet, started having her books and assignments Brailled right away, assigned her a teacher (unheard of I know, but they did this so the teacher could prep well). Last year, I'd enrolled her in Brownies at this school, so she went in knowing a few girls already. She Loves it. Her teacher is more strict, which is more in line with what Calli's expectations of a teacher are, the kids are better behaved, and she has friends who are as active as she is. It's been fun listening to her tell the tales of learning how to jump in to the jump rope, and then challenging the SE teacher and the Principal both to a jump off. She's chugging away in school, with 1-3 hours of homework a night. She's on the A-B honor roll and has worked hard for those grades. Her hardest subject is Social Studies because almost all the concepts they are teaching are brand new to her. She is very happy there, and making friends who live close, not 45 minutes away. She even decided to run for Student Council and made first alternate for her class. Not bad for someone who just started at the school. This was a particularly good year for her to start there too, as there were many new students because of a district wide restructuring. She didn't stand out as THE new kid, she was just one of the bunch. She and Acer go to different schools, and that is a good thing, as she would be known as Acer's sister as I am known as Mrs Acer's Mom at his school, being her own person is just great for her.
Physically, wow, she is growing and growing, it's about a steady half inch a month. Last Year she was a size 6, this year, she's a size 10-12, but very slim. Her hair has gotten longer and we've grown out the bangs into a face frame style that is really flattering. She's finished losing all her starter teeth and now has all her permanent ones. She'll need braces because she has an overbite, but it doesn't detract from her beauty. She has always been beautiful, and it looks like she's staying that way. It's a bit disconcerting for a parent to be constantly told how beautiful their daughter is in this day and age, so I'll be glad when she qualifies for a guide dog. Even though they aren't technically guard dogs, just having one around will ease my mind a bit. Calli is also physically very gifted, she masters concepts like balancing on the bicycle or turning a cartwheel in an afternoon. Blows my mind, one afternoon and she's turning a better cartwheel than I ever did.
Mentally and emotionally she is just incredible, she is a smart, funny, caring girl. She put up with sharing her bedroom with Mum for 8 months, They went along well enough, but having Mum around did give Calli some bad habits, and we're working on stopping them. I love my Mom, there are just somethings that she never seemed to have learned about arguing with people (don't turn it back on the other person, don't dig up past events etc) and also how to respect people's choices and belongings. We did survive, and Acer loved having Mum here because he shrugs off things that would reduce Calli to tears, and Granny Pat would play piano for him to drum along to. They played band a lot and he misses that.
Back to Calli, she loves her family, her little brother best of all. They are best friends, they argue, but they would be lost without each other. When Calli went to summer camp for two weeks this summer, he missed her, and was happy to get back to 'Our Normal Family'. Calli teaches him, encourages him, berates him and is his biggest cheerleader. She taught him how to swing up onto the trapeze bar on the swingset; she'll cook him an egg for breakfast or oatmeal if he requests it; play piano or sing to his drums and play band with him; she'll read him books, and snuggle with him (about half the times he asks for) .
Calli had an incredibly busy summer; she had a day Goalball camp for a week which she loved; Summer camp for two weeks, which she loved; a Life Skills Day Camp for two weeks, which she loved. We went camping as a family up on Drummond island for a week, and she was the number one help for the cooking chores. We camp where there is no running water or electricity, and she did great, adjusting to the terrain changes well. This is another reason to get her a dog, the dog would help guide her places, and she'd be able to explore the area even better than she did this year.
We were blessed this year by a friend of mine, who gave Calli piano lessons. She has worked very hard on her lessons, and Heather her teacher, has worked at being able to teach Calli, her first blind student. Calli puts in about 1/2 hour - 45 minutes a day practicing. It was good when Mum was here as she could really help Calli with the notes. I don't play piano and barely read music, Mum's been playing for 70 years! This fall Calli added voice lessons, in a short time I could hear a difference. She wasn't sure about taking them, but as she is asked to sing a lot I said she might as well learn how to make the best of her voice. We decided to talk about it again after the Christmas recital, to see if she wanted to continue. She did a great job in the recital, and has really enjoyed learning the songs and techniques Heather has taught her. Her piano technique has improved loads too, her recital piece was really a 3rd book level, she mastered it despite being in late 2nd level book in her lessons. She'd chosen her piece, and was determined to get it down. She has decided to continue with both piano and voice by the way.
This year and last year wee have been blessed by our local thrift store, particularly when it comes to finding things for Calli. This year for Halloween, Calli was going to wear last year costume, and was not complaining about it it was a bit small on her, but she was okay with it . I was looking for something else in the store, and I found someone had donated some dance costumes. I called her and let her choose. She chose a ballerina outfit and it was just a lovely cream with gold, with a longer flowing skirt, not a fluffy tutu. She looked great, it was a perfect fit. God was good to let me find that. We all went out for Halloween and she lasted twice as long as Acer, and when we all came home, she asked Uncle James to take her out for longer! She was on fire for trick or treating!
Calli actually had both her Church Christmas Pagent, and her Piano and Vocal recital on the same day both at our church. In the pagent, she read a piece, and then sang a solo, 'What Child is this?'. I was so proud of her, she'd only know she was singing tit for two weeks, and worked at it hard to learn the unfamiliar (archaic almost) words. She forgot part of the second verse, stayed up in front of the church, listened to the Piano and Violin and joined back in when they got to a part she knew. To me, that was even better than if she'd done it perfectly, She stayed calm and used her head, and kept performing. Moments like that show you the mettle of the person, and our girl, she did well.
We dashed off for lunch with our favorite family from Church, and then they came back to listen to the recital. Josh, their 14 year old son is Calli's best friend at church. Despite his being older and sighted, when they cruise around hand in hand through the church (Calli's mode of walking with any friend is hand in hand) Calli is leading. (Josh and Calli played Silent night last year in the Christmas Musical show, he played Violin to her Piano)
At the Recital, Calli played 'What Child is This' she'd been practicing it on the piano for a month longer than she had for singing it, and did okay, she started in the wrong key for some reason, and that threw her off, but second verse she recovered. She sang 'Mary Had A Baby', and did much better, she has a good voice for that song, clear, not the heavy vibrato that is frequently used, but it was perfectly in her range. Check out her performance in the video post below this one.
Last week, was the Christmas Musical show at church, anyone can sign up to play music, we had a bell choir, the church band, other people doing solos, and Calli and Josh playing a duet of 'What Child is This'. She played extremely well this time, the music director at our church was extremely impressed with the complexity of the music, and how well over all she played. No mistakes at all this time!
We're down for Christmas Break right now, and Calli is happy because she loves the snow. Last year I wasn't able to find any snow pants for her, so she'd wear jeans and long underwear out to play. This year, wow does she love her snow pants. She has better mittens, a small pair of mine, and has learned how to wear her scarf over her nose and mouth for warmth, and with the snow pants is quite happy to play outside for a long long time. I've also taught her how to make tea by heating the water in the microwave, so she'll come in and make herself a cup to warm up with afterwards. She goes out and she's all pink and black. Pink Hat, scarf, boots, and accents on her coat, everything else is black. All you can see of her face is her eyes, but she's warm and happy.
Emotionally Calli has come so far from the sobbing Little Girl we met in Hefei. She loves us, and gives us big hugs and smooches before bed, snuggles right up beside us when we sit down. We've talked about how great a job God did in matching us up as a family, how her sense of humor, and love of music fits right in with us, as she is constantly fitting new words to songs we know, whenever the mood strikes her. China is still 'Home' for her, but she knows we are family. She worries about things to, relating to us in the future. When Mum was sick in the hospital, and we were visiting her, Calli started to worry about how she would get me to the Dr's if I needed it when I was old. It let me know she was planning on being a part of this family for a long time, not just until she was old enough to move out on her own. She is always trying, always learning, loves helping out. She loves being a part of the family unit, and that includes doing chores. She is still learning things about living in a family, but I am totally sure that she is more and more starting to think of America, and not just our house, as home.
Wishing you the best of the season, report on the Little Man to follow hopefully tomorrow if I'm not running hither and yon on errands.
7 years ago