Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Glimpse of What Might Be

"Gazing out of our kitchen window I noticed interesting cloud formations advancing toward our 'humble abode', leaving nothing but soaked ground and startled expressions from the fierce lightning dancing in the sky, followed in close succession by the low roar of the aching thunder.  The clouds now releasing their precious drops of rain, free falling to earth with nothing to stop them from falling onto our own dwelling, giving Mother Earth more and more water, faster and faster with more water in each drop until the clouds moved to a different place, still giving their tidings to Mother Earth until nothing is left to give."

Last week I assigned the kids a quick writing assignment, to craft a paragraph that described the storms that had passed through the day before.  All took at least a half an hour to write, and I was so happy with the initial results out of all of them!

Many people do not understand our day to day challenges.  We have a multi-layered learning situation within Team LaJoy, sparks of brilliance mixed with wit and language learning, special needs all over the place and daily corrections of the simplest things.  We are all learning how to adapt to meet our needs, how to succeed in spite of struggles with things that may never be corrected.

And sometimes, honestly, it is just really, really hard to remain upbeat.  Then along comes this, what is written above, and I think to myself "Maybe we really are getting somewhere!".

The above was Matt's first draft, typed on a computer, with spelling corrected with spell check.  This is what I mean when I say that this kid can write, but he can't edit...ever...and he definitely has some sort of dyslexia/dysgraphia/who-knows-whatia style disorder.  The only thing I touched here was punctuation, but he actually got capitals correct for the whole paragraph, which was great to see for a change.  Is it perfect?  No, and it needs some work for a final draft, but clearly, this kid can really put words together well.  I was so surprised, as he has never really written anything like it before.  He read it out loud to all of us, and Angela's eyes widened as she said "Matthew, that is the best thing you have ever written!  That is SO GOOD!", and he beamed with joy at her compliment.

I sat there quietly, realizing that despite his very clear writing challenges, Matthew indeed can write and just might write something amazing one day that touches hearts in a way he can not do verbally.  And for a moment, we catch a glimpse of what might be

Josh was so creative, writing quite a long story as he asked if he could go longer than a paragraph.  He tied the storm to a battle between Zeus and Hades, even creating a simile using "Zombie Apocalypse"!!  "Rain drops came from Zeus, who was sweating from the fight!" was definitely a memorable image as well. But when we are sitting around the table and discussing something we have learned about politics, and his hand shoots up and he offers an insight that surprises all of us as he carefully explains, using his hands as any good Kazakh-Italian should do.  As he leans over an animal carcass, as unglamorous as that might be for some, we wonder if those hands carefully dissecting are providing us with a glimpse of what one day might be.

Daily, we see our failures, and sometimes it is hard not to focus on them.  I need to remind myself of how far we have come, regardless of how far we still have to travel.  Angela is an INCREDIBLE reader, who if tested on reading ability alone would easily be at high school level.  It came so easily to her, so smooth, and she instinctively "gets" phonics.  Now,we have to build her vocabulary to match her reading ability...and that will, of course, take years.  But she blows me away every time we sit down to read, and I think "Has it really only been 2 1/2 years of a new language??" and I catch a glimpse of what might be.

Olesya is slowly coming into her own, as she gains confidence and a greater sense of self.  For her, academics come fairly easily other than the dreaded math, which clearly she has a glitch with numbers of a similar sort that Kenny has with language...it is absolutely not a kid who doesn't "get math", this is a child who does not have the ability to process numbers at all, to visualize things like time lines, clocks, number lines or even really "get" what comes almost oddly supernaturally to Josh, that 4x6 is in reality four 6's or six four's.  However, she is a startlingly good researcher, my first kid to run and Google anything she wants to learn about.  She takes notes, she saves them, and refers to them later...something many high schoolers can't or won't do.  We are curious where her unique interests and talents will take her, and as we see her writing her first cake order from a friend, we wonder if we are seeing a glimpse of what might be.

Then there is Kenny, dear, sweet Kenny whose every single day is filled with difficulty.  Recently he had to write sentences again for not remembering to change his clothes or brush his teeth in the morning.  Well, not just for not remembering, but for ignoring using his checklist to help him remember things.  Pretty hard to remember to use something to help you remember when you have a brain that is dysfunctional in some ways and can't remember.  But we keep plugging away, and the successes are there, we just have to seek them out.  He used a metaphor in his writing for the first time during this assignment, which I can't find to share because he probably threw it away on accident :-)  Although his reading needs an enormous amount of work, he is still way farther than he was 3 years ago when he was completely illiterate.  His comprehension is at the 5th grade level, and his spoken vocabulary is far higher than that.  Where is Kenny truly successful?  That kid is a total mental math whiz, calculating things in his head like no body's business, and he has a depth of spirit that is unmatched....and sometimes, when we look really carefully, we begin to catch a glimpse of what might be...even if it is far in the distance and we have to squint really hard to see it!

In Facebooking with a mom of a newly adopted 14 year old, when reading of her feelings of being so overwhelmed as she discovers at 14 he doesn't know times tables and has never encountered division before, I know exactly how she feels.  Those of us who adopt children are not so different from those who give birth.  We want to crow about our kids' accomplishments like any other parent does, even if that isn't quite as humble as we ought to be...it's human.  We just sometimes have to look a little harder for it, we celebrate the little things.

And maybe...if we look really carefully, if we work hard on ourselves, we can let it all go and just love 'em for who they are.  And then we might just catch a glimpse of who we might be.  Maybe that is the most important glimpse of all to catch.


4texans said...

Can I quote from your last 2 paragraphs? You are so eloquent expressing what it is to parent an adopted child.

Anonymous said...

Deep and perceptive thinking, creativity, and curiousity characterize your family. I wonder if the world of electronics will someday assist Matthew in compensating for his dyslexic challenges, Kenny with memory and reading, each of them in their own challenges. I foresee Kenny reading at a much higher level, but also learning and enjoying the world of books on CD and oral ways of learning and expressing.

If I had a crystal ball, I would predict more struggles and many successes. That's not a bad life. We all have the struggles. We are fortunate when we can overcome the struggles. You are preparing strong children to be contributing citizens and delightful friends.

Delighted to be watching you all grow,