Friday, October 31, 2008

Spidey, Indiana and the Indian

We had a wonderful Halloween, a really enjoyable time. I spent much of my day on the run, volunteering in Matthew's class in the morning, running home to grab adoption documents for the FINAL batch of notarizing (Yea!!! Still feel like I ought to be celebrating that one, but how?) for the dossier, then back home to cook up some chili for dinner tonight then off to school for parties in 3 classrooms. Whew! This evening we got together with some families from church for dinner, then group trick-or-treating. It was so relaxing, with no stress and good company. Joshie lost it for a little while, mainly due to exhaustion I think. He was worn out before we even left school!

Awhile back we went to get costumes and I was appalled at how expensive they were for items that will fall apart the first time the kids wore them. So when we had a family trip to Grand Junction, we hit a thrift store where we found the perfect items. It took a bit of thinking outside the box when we drug the boys to the women's section to look, but once we took it off the rack and started talking about what could be done, they caught on and soon thought it was the best idea ever!

So we had Matthew as an Indian:

We had Kenny as Indiana Jones, and a dashing one at that!:

And Joshie as Spiderman in a store bought suit as Mommy has neither the time nor tine inclination to learn how to sew.:

Dominick has a tradition of trying to take off part of Halloween from work and going in costume to the kids' school. He couldn't do it last year, but this year he did and he kept it a secret from the boys. They also had never seen his costume before, but I was the same one he had worn in high school before we even started dating and it gave me the creeps even then! He went to Matthew's and Kenny's class and was a huge hit! I love the look of sheer delight as Matthew discovers it is his Daddy under that strange, scary costume. He didn't go to Joshie's class as he was afraid it might scare them too much.

Matthew is often a pretty serious little guy. He knows how to have fun and when he lets loose he really has a great time, but more often than not he can be found quietly playing something less boisterous. I think that is why I loved this photo of him I captured today in his class...the kids had formed a loud and crazy Conga line and he was having the time of his life. He still looks a bit like my little boy in this picture, the little boy who is fast slipping away to be replaced with a more mature version of himself. While I really like the young man who most often appears today, I have a twinge of loneliness once in awhile for this little guy who has almost completely disappeared.

I thought for awhile our day was going to be marred by some behavioural issues with Kenny earlier in the day, as "Control Man" reared his head yet once again, and he had to be spoken with pretty sternly about it. I have a funny feeling we are in for a bit more of it over the coming week but hopefully it won't last long and we'll be back to the old Kenny quickly. Luckily, these phases are further and further apart and much shorter in duration than they once were. That doesn't make them any less frustrating to deal with at the moment. I actually asked him today "When was the last time you were a Mommy?", and he gave me a strange look and said quietly "Never...", to which I responded "Then I think I know a little bit more about that job than you do since you have never done it before so I think you need to leave me alone, not tell me what to do, and let me do the job I know how to do.". Don't get me wrong, it isn't anything really major, but it exasperating to be told every step of the way what to do, how to do it, and why I should do it! Maybe this is just good preparation for the teenage years when I will no doubt loose at least 50 IQ points in the eyes of all my kids.

I know Kenny is also dealing with some feelings of inadequacy right now, as he made the comment two or three times yesterday evening about his poor grades this last report card and how he did not get the A's that Matthew got on his. I feel caught between a rock and a hard place with this one, as Kenny's grades WERE lower than I think he should have had and he admitted that he wasn't working quite as hard as he should have been, but after speaking with his teacher, acknowledging where he is, etc. I think his grades were really more of what I would consider a "B-" average rather than a "C-" average...if he were to be a standard student who could be graded on appropriate work. But his lack of skills coupled with his less-than-ideal focus this past quarter led to a lower than expected grade.

Both Dominick and I sat him down last night and reiterated what our expectations were of him...that he bring home no C-'s or lower as long as he was truly trying hard and it wasn't a subject where the work was simply too far over his head (none is right now), and that he work as hard as he can, regardless of the ultimate grade he receives. I explained to him that we realized there was no way possible for him to get the kind of grades Matthew currently gets, as he is simply too far behind and will be in "catch up mode" for several years to come. We also let him know that we felt that if he got straight C's that would be a real accomplishment and would be equivalent to Matthew getting A's. We talked about how we know it isn't fair that this will all be so hard for him for so long, but it wasn't our fault nor was it his fault and all we could do was work hard together as a team to help him succeed. While I didn't pick up on any real competition between the two, I sensed more that Kenny is disappointed in himself that he can not perform at a higher level over all. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be at moments to think at a 3rd or 4th grade level if not higher, and only be able to provide "output" that is barely first grade level work. While we all know this is temporary, it is a long road to pull him up to where we all know he can be.

I also explained that even though it took him longer for his homework and the other boys were out playing while he was stuck at the table, it would not be fair of me to tell them they couldn't play just because he wasn't done yet. He seemed to easily understand and agree with this, seeing the logic in not punishing someone for something they had nothing to do with. Again, we reiterated that we knew this wasn't "fair", but we all had no choices in the matter and school work was terribly important at this stage. I also said that we will celebrate when ANYONE works hard, and it would not be fair to Matthew if we didn't act like his good grades were important just so Kenny didn't feel sad about his own grades. He very quickly said he wouldn't want that to happen, and he is proud of Matthew's good grades too...and his sincerity was clearly evident in that. I think this is all about disappointment and frustration in himself rather than jealousy of Matthew.

It is going to be very hard on all of us to have so many kids struggling on so many levels with school work, and to have 3 of the 5 coming from behind and learning language. We have to make it clear that each child will have their own independent expectations based upon their individual ability, and we will need to find a way to somehow move away from comparison (which we have never done but they will inevitably do) to encouraging each child to do their very best, whatever that level might be. I have some doubt about our ability to do justice to this, to get a clear message across to them about the bigger picture of their education. The natural tendency to compare yourself with your siblings and others around you will be a hard one to combat, and this is an area I am giving lots of thought to so we can come up with an effective approach.

We are looking forward to what will hopefully be a relaxing weekend with a few chores mixed in. I know we had 3 very tired, very happy little boys tucked into bed tonight...well at least until Joshie had a nightmare while I was writing this and ended up snuggled in our bed across the room from me. We have no big plans other than church, and we'll enjoy one of our few remaining weekends together before ski season begins and we are booked for 4 months solid. I am not complaining this year though, as it will make the time pass much faster as we wait to learn about adoption travel.

I hope all of you had a great Halloween too!


Anonymous said...

Love the effective re-use of Central Asian souvenirs...go Indy!

Also - I was thinking that perhaps you could set up a sliding scale of rewards - and give each kid their own goals for that if they accomplish what you set forth for them it is a great feeling, as opposed to relying on the school's grades....each according to his means... and all that other "socialist" junk we Dems are so fond of - gotcha Dom! ;-)


Lenore Ryan said...

LOVE the boy's costumes....for someone who claims not to be creative, you've really come through, Cindy! They look great!!

I keep trying to put myself in Kenny's shoes....coming to a strange country, dealing with a new language, at a new school, with new kids! All I can say is, "WOW!" As an adult, I find all of that totally overwhelming! Kids are so amazing in their ability to adapt and he's doing such an awesome job! With his family's love and support, he'll be successful with all he does, even if it takes him alittle bit longer to accomplish it! You and Dominick are going to be such pros at all of this, especially after you go through it once again with your girls!! You are truly wonderful parents!!!

Alethea said...

Love the boys' costumes--and Dominick's too! Would hate to meet someone like him on the street late at night...:-)

About Kenny's grades: As a teacher, I try to get my slower students to understand that as long as they are trying their hardest, they need not feel bad if they don't make the same grades as the ones who easily make A's. If he understands that his best IS good enough, and that's what you expect of him, then he can feel like he is making progress, even though he doesn't make as high grades as Matt does.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Alethea.
I tell my students that if they do their best work then I will be proud of them and they should be proud of themselves. Academics you do not have control over if you are doing your best. The area that they have control over is behavior (Life skills in my school system). Any poor grades there are the kids' fault.
Kim in Seoul