Thursday, September 5, 2013

Summer Recap & 5 Months Since Adoption Day

I've had 10+ blog ideas over the past 2 months and just can't force myself to forego sleep to update the blog! These are my thoughts from the past 2 months. We are slowly breaking ourselves out of the "adoption cocoon." We've had a lot of fun - and some growing pains too. We're all growing in some form or fashion. I've been amazed by Hannah's progress in her language and in her relationship with us and her brothers. The boys have been so sweet and helpful.

Summer English School
We committed the month of June to helping Hannah at ESL camp. We did not commit to anything else as a family. We were thankful to have a sweet friend stay with the boys every morning, so that I could stay with Hannah. Auburn City Schools organized the ESL camp for all of the international kids in the community. There were kids from all over the world learning English together. 3 hours a day for the entire month. I stayed with Hannah a lot, and slowly backed off towards the end of the month. I think she did well. She learned a lot about the basics of school - sitting in a desk, following instructions, playing with other kids, listening to the teacher, finishing a task, sharing, giving other kids privacy in the bathroom (seriously!), etc. These were all foreign concepts to her. Her English skills improved as well.
I love Auburn Schools and their ESL program!!

There were some struggles as well. Hannah was on sensory overload. All of the lights and noises and people were very overwhelming to her. The teachers and aids were very patient and helpful to her. She was exhausted when the day was done. Her brain seemed to be overworked.

We committed 5 weeks to "summer homeschool." We have been working on 1 letter of the alphabet every day. Each day, we would focus on 1 letter - go on a hunt for objects that begin with letter, handwriting that letter, eating a snack that has that letter, and making a craft based on that letter. Today was the letter R. We went to the flower nursery and counted all the different "Red" flowers. It's been a lot of fun! Even little Elijah said "I want to do our school stuff."

We also committed to swim lessons for Hannah and Elijah. The water has been extremely calming for Hannah.

We had a good visit at the UAB Adoption Clinic for a follow-up. The therapist gave us some good direction regarding school for Hannah.

We decided to enroll Micah at a local Christian school for Kindergarten. I am fighting back the tears even now as I write this. This was a big decision for us. We waffled back and forth between homeschool, private and public for the loooongest time. This school seems to be the best fit for us this year. We will re-evaluate again next year.

Hannah's awesome teacher, also a friend from church.
Only the Lord could work out these details!!!
Second Grade
We decided to put Hannah in public school. It was a difficult decision for us, mainly because of our desire to build a stronger relationship with her. But as we searched through all of the facets of her
needs, and our needs as a family, we are certain public school is best for her. She is receiving so much support from the ESL teacher, the Special Ed teachers and her peers. Everyone has been so accommodating and helpful. I've always had the idea in mind that I would homeschool, but it is free-ing to trust the Lord with the unseen.

We've found that boundaries have helped with so many of Hannah's behavioral issues. If we don't set boundaries, life gets completely out of control. There has been a void of loving discipline in Hannah's life, and I think the boundaries help with security and her anxiety.
  • Social boundaries - we wave to strangers; shake friends' hands; hug family
  • Time boundaries - There are certain times when we are quiet; when we can be loud; when we rest; when we play
  • Talking boundaries - We play a game at dinner time called "The Talking Tie." Each person wears a necktie for 1 minute (set a timer) and only that person can talk. Take turns with the necktie.
  • Good behavior/Bad behavior boundaries - Our reward system. Each child has an empty jar and gets 1 pom-pom ball for good behavior. (ie helping each other; no meltdowns; doing chores) A ball must be removed for bad behavior. 10 balls gets you a prize in Mama's treasure box.
  • Respect boundaries - "No touch" things that do not belong to you; no interrupting when Mama and Daddy are talking; use your words instead of having a meltdown to get what you want; no touching other peoples special belongings
  • Privacy boundaries - enough said :)

Some other family milestones
Micah's First Day of Kindergarten
  • Hannah lost a tooth (the first one with us; the first one she is able to keep!)
  • Elijah is out of his crib. Tears. After getting his chubby legs stuck in between the bars and having awful bruises, I figured it was time.
  • Micah is reading!
  • Our first grocery store outing with Hannah, and our first outing to eat at a friends house. Both were successful with no meltdowns!!!
  • Todd and I had our first date night since before we went to China, and the kids did great with Granny

So we've definitely come a long way in 5 months! We are slowly getting into a groove. We still have some really difficult moments. There are still a lot of tears. There is still a lot of frustration. There is still a lot of misunderstanding. Outings are still difficult if Todd is not with me. But I can usually understand what's going on now when there is a meltdown. We have built enough trust and Hannah has learned enough English that we can communicate better.

Hannah is beginning to dream for herself. She has hope. She is beginning to blossom. What a privilege to dream big with her. What a ride, this journey called adoption. I'm so thankful for God's grace that has sustained us. I'm so thankful for coffee and chocolate. I'm so thankful for our family and friends.