Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flower Child

Monday, April 19, 2010


Four weeks after starting school I got a phone call that really should have been made much earlier. The school district had to test Claire's proficiency in English so they can offer services if they are needed. I was welcomed to attend so I did.

Claire was tested in four areas but definitely the hardest one was the auditory section. It was determined that Claire is just below or right at the kindergarten level of a native English speaker. To me, I think that sounds awesome. She obviously qualifies for services but we declined them. If we chose to have her be in the ESL program it meant that she would attend a different school than Emily and Matthew.

I am 99% sure ESL services would be beneficial for Claire but I've already witnessed that being in the same school as her siblings is even more beneficial. If she were our only child I would bus her to the school that offered ESL services. If ESL was offered at our home school, I would definitely have her receiving services; but it is not offered due to space issues.

I made sure that declining services now wouldn't affect the possibility of needing ESL services in the future. So, if our school does get an ESL program in the future we can have Claire start receiving services. She assured me that we can reevaluate anytime in the future and she can still receive services, if needed.

We were told by the adoption doctor that most children are fluent in age-appropriate conversational English in six months. The disconnect comes in academic English. Someone who is fluent in conversational English can have poor academic English skills. ESL works to close this gap and bring them up to grade level academic English. Since Claire will not be receiving these services at school, I will be working with her at home to try and close the gap.

It is amazing how much she has learned in only two months. She can recognize all the letters in the alphabet (upper and lowercase) and she has learned all the phonic sounds for them as well. She can sound basic words out using phonic skills and has started to read. She is starting to learn sight words and I hope to have her finished with the kindergarten sight words by the time school starts again in July.

Today on the way to school I heard one of the sweetest sounds. The kids were listening to a patriotic CD with their headphones on and I heard this tiny voice from the back of the van singing something. I listened for a bit and then realized she was singing "My Country Tis of Thee." Oh my goodness; it was so sweet. Then when the song was over she said "Emily, you know what? I like-uh America."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Two months home

I've put this off for some time; always coming up with something else to do because putting up these posts usually takes quite a long time. I tell myself that I'll do it once the kids are in bed but then I just want to sit. So, here we are; one week? Two weeks without a post? I've lost track.

Claire pretty much refuses to talk in Chinese to us. I think she still understands some but when we say something in Chinese that we know she understands she looks at us, shrugs her shoulder and hands and says "I don't know?" in her cute accent and inflection. Today I asked her if she wanted bing jiling (ice cream) and she tried to act like she didn't know what I was talking about but then after some prompting I asked her what it was and she said "ice-uh cream." So, it's in there. She doesn't point and grunt so much anymore; she asks for everything in English. You'd probably never guess that she's only been home two months if you didn't know already. She is starting to use pronouns and talk in 3rd person a little bit less.

Family life
Imagine children when they are about 2-3 years old. In their mind they think "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine" and when they want something they just take it. The idea of sharing hasn't formed in their thought process yet. Well, even though Claire is 7 and has the mental aptitude to understand sharing, I think she is almost like a 2-3 year old level with her siblings. Remember when I said it was very much like bringing home a newborn when we first arrived home? Well, she's aging fast and we have issues occasionally with sharing or not sharing I should say. She wants to play with the toys that belong to the other kids but no one can touch her toys and if one of them has something that she wants, she will just grab it sometimes and try to take it away from them. She's gotten upset and cried because she wanted to play with a toy of Emily's that she'd just gotten and was a bit more protective of. I let Emily have her space and didn't make her share with Claire (she had already shared that toy several times) and Claire got upset. I let her pout it out and didn't over talk the situation. We've always let our kids have some toys that are only theirs and if they don't want to share them they don't have to. Claire gets the same treatment with her things but doesn't fully understand yet that the rule goes both ways.
Other than the younger than age appropriate sharing issues, the kids all seem as though they've lived together forever.

Claire really likes school now that she knows I am returning each day. I took her some medicine in the middle of the day this week and asked Emily to walk her back to class. I looked down the hallway and saw Claire telling Emily to stay away because she could walk on her own. I had to laugh and it made me realize that she is really comfortable at school now.

Stories from China
We learned last night that the story of Claire attending school in China is not what we thought. When looking at a photo album I had kept with the pictures we received during our wait she said "school" when she saw the orphanage pictures. I said "Beijing?" (what she called the orphanage before) and she said "yes, big big school." Well, now that ALL makes sense. Other families who adopted older children shared stories that their children were taken back to the orphanage much earlier than Claire was and were told it was so they could attend school. Her "really big school" was the orphanage which would also give a lot of insight into why she really freaked out when I told her she was going to school. I also think it has something to do with the melt down when we walked into the Sunday school class a few weeks ago. In her mind, school is where she was taken to when she left her nai nai.
Claire has also started talking more and more about her house in China. She calls it "China house" or "China home." She says it was a little house with three beds. The harder things for me to hear are that her older brother cried "where is my sister" when she left. I asked her if nai nai cried and she said yes and Claire said she cried too. These tid-bits have made it hard for me because it makes me question if bringing Claire here to the US really was the best thing for her. What would have happened if nobody selected her from the list? Would she have stayed with her foster family forever? When she aged out of the orphanage at 14 years old would her foster family allowed her to stay and keep her in their family? So many questions which simply have unknown answers but it makes my heart question if taking her from her China home was best. I know we love her, I know she will have a good life in the US, I know there have been so many times in this journey when I know we are experiencing the hand of God and it makes me think this is the best thing for Claire. But, the lingering questions are still there.

This week was long and I'm sure very scary for Claire. She had her first visit at the dentist on Monday and it was to extract one of her upper teeth. The dentist told me it was the easiest and quickest thing to do so that is why we started with it. It didn't go as planned. The dentist was able to get one tooth filled but when she attempted to extract the tooth it cracked and the noise freaked Claire out. After that she was done and would not open her mouth to allow a second try. We left there with her in tears saying "I no like the dentist" and half of the tooth still in her mouth.
Two days later I took her to oral surgeon to have that tooth removed and three others. She was very nervous and repeatedly told me "I no like the dentist" and I just told her "I know" each time. They put her to sleep to do the extractions and thankfully, she doesn't remember any of it. She was groggy and grumpy for a few hours afterward but was running around the back yard by evening time. She's rebounded quite well but knows we have to return to the dentist to get her "new teeth" (space maintainers). She tries to tell me no but I keep a happy face and attitude and tell her "Yes! You'll have new teeth to eat hard things!" I'm going to win an Emmy yet, even if it is just for the Mommy Red Carpet Club.

And, I know you love reading and all but what you're really checking here everyday for is pictures. So, without further ado, here are pictures of Claire.
I saved very few of Emily's clothes from this size. Emily wore this when she was around 4-5 years old so that means this dress was in a tote for nearly 5 years. Claire loved it when I pulled out of the closet and insisted on wearing it to school. It is actually too big on her but thankfully it has a tie around the waist so I could cinch it down a couple of inches.
Claire has learned how to spell quite a few words. First was her name, then mom, dad and few other easy ones but the first word outside of family relations she started spelling and recognizing is stop. I had no idea what she was writing on her easter egg before dyeing it so we got a good laugh to see she very proudly wrote "STOP" on her egg.
Claire's first Easter with us; isn't she a doll?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Stories from China

We talked about China more that evening before going to bed and I asked Claire if she went to school in China. We hadn't asked her that yet because we didn't think she fully realized what school was, that is until she started going here. None of the information we received indicated that she'd been in school but imagine our surprise when she told us Yes, she went to school in China! We asked her if it was a small school or a big school and she said "BIGuh, really BIGuh school." She also told us that she had friends there and that her teacher was nice. She finished up the night telling us "I like-uh China" and I told her that I like China very much too. She understands now that when we talk about China we are referring to where she lived before us.

Original Post:
To my surprise, Claire decided to start telling us about her life in China today. She told us that she had a dog at her Nai Nai's house and that he was big and black with a white chest. I asked her if the dog scared her and she said no (which isn't what I was expecting with her fear of dogs here) and then I asked her if he ever bit her and she said no. We have avoided talking about her China Nai Nai too much because I didn't want to make her sad. But today when she started talking about her dog I asked her if the dog stayed in Nai Nai's house and she said no. I asked her if she misses her nai nai and she said yes and then I asked her if she loved China Nai Nai. She smiled and said yes and then I told her that I love China Nai Nai too, to which she responded by giving me a kiss. The last thing I asked her is if China Nai Nai loved Claire and she said yes. I told her that I love China Nai Nai because she loved Claire and took good care of her. I can't wait to learn more about her first seven years.