Monday, October 15, 2012

Learning Never Stops, and I LOVE It!

The blog has been veeeeery quiet the past week or so.  We've just been super busy, life moving at the speed of light!  Let's see if I can catch up here, because I hate going so long between posts.  I am always afraid that if I let too much time go by, I will get out of the habit of blogging, and since I am NOT a good scrapbooking sort of Mommy that would mean our life would go unrecorded, and that would place me in the Bad Mom Hall of Fame or some such thing.

We got George, our new van, it is awesome in a million ways and will be perfect for our needs.  What was sweeter was the time we spent with George's previous owners when we went to pick it up.  Over dinner, we talked for about 2 hours about life, our families, and adoption.  I love how God puts things together perfectly.  We haven't taken George out much yet, but might this weekend. We really wanted it for all the longer trips we have to take, not to be our daily driver.  The kids are looking forward to our first road trip in it, and will really appreciate feeling a little less like sardines!  Hahaha!  We have decided we will take photos of George at all the state road signs and share them with his old family, so they will know we are getting him out and about :-)

Let's see, what else?  There was so much crammed into last week!  My brain is totally fried, as I am in the midst of a lot of learning myself.   I love learning new things, I love following those "rabbit trails"  when things grab my attention, and I love love love reading and researching things online.  It is not about being "online", it is that I have access to the world's largest collection of information...the largest library really, so how could anyone not like that?   I could be a total library junkie when I was a kid.  In fact, and this is the God's honest truth, when I was in elementary school my mom got a call from the school because they were concerned that I spent my entire lunch hour reading rather than playing. I was so lucky to have a mom who said, essentially, "And the problem with that would be...what?"

The learning is in several different directions.  I spent all of Wednesday in the class I mentioned prior on the blog, which was about iPad learning from .!!!  There were about 40 or so folks there, as far as I could tell there were no homeschoolers, only district staff.  A retired teacher friend went with me, and we were blown away as we saw how some are using iPads in the classroom.  Some of the presentation, of course, was not applicable in a homeschool setting, but some of it would be even easier to use in the small group setting we have.  We learned about using the iPad with QR Codes for learning, about how to author iBooks if you were so inclined (I am not!  But if I had time...), about projection options for the iPad which I really did need to learn more about.  We also learned about ways to evaluate educational apps, discovered some really cool special ed apps that are not really anything I would need but were amazing to see (and if you have a child on the autism spectrum there are TONS of great apps!), using, and a lot more.  One thing I did realize, is that I had already taught myself a lot just by exploring and reading various web sites.  I was pleased to discover that, as that means I was further along in my own education that I had thought. There were few in the room who were familiar with a lot of things the presenter was talking about, and I was familiar if not well versed on most of it.  One thing I really, really want to spend some time learning is Keynote, which is Apple's version of Power Point.  I want to be able to teach the kids this application, but I need to challenge myself with a little project of my own first so I can learn the ins and outs of it.

On overload, I walked away having gleaned a lot of interesting things...and on to my next learning challenge which is a 5 week course I am taking along with our Pastor and another member of our congregation on church growth.  We are doing this virtually through webinars, reading (on my iPad with a Kindle app), and forum posts.  This is my way of learning, baby!!  It is going to be superb, and I am going to really enjoy the assignments and discussions that will surround the texts we are reading.  you know, there is nothing like digging in deep into subjects you are really interested in.  So often, our "official" learning is forced so we can get "credits" and very often it is not all that engaging.  But when you are seeking to learn about something you are passionate about, all you want to do is dig in ever deeper.  I see this more and more with the kids.  Just today, Joshua was asking me all kinds of questions about how gas was used in WWI and how the body reacted to it.  When I told him I didn't know a lot about it he furrowed his brow and said "That's OK Mom, you can' know everything.  That's why we have Google!", and off he went to look it up.  Olesya has two cake orders to fill, and she has been scouring the web looking for ideas for fall cakes.  She is passionate about it, and therefore she will seek out the information she needs.  We all are like that, aren't we?  The best motivator to learn is passion, then you can wrap all kinds of extended learning around it.

I am also studiously working on outlining our hoped for spring field trip, which will take us along the Lewis and Clark, and Oregon Trails.  This is all new to me, I have never really been in this area of the US before, and I have no idea what all is available for us to explore.  I am also trying to find additional things to do and see aside from the westward expansion theme. How grateful I am to our school program that allows us to have such a wonderful opportunity to have more experiential learning!  While every child benefits from it, our 3 adopted at older ages really, really need it to cement things.  Kenny will always find it easier to recall information learned outside of textbooks.

Learning also is happening in almost every single speech session I attend with Kenny.  Man, his therapist has him totally nailed!  I wanted to share another amazing resource she has let us borrow which has been eye opening.  This is a link to Super Duper Publications, where you can find this:

This has been unbelievable.  There are actually two books with 3 different levels (book 2 has level 2 and 3), and it is incredibly easy for a parent to use in working with their child on increasing their processing speed...or discovering exactly where the breakdown is occurring for them.  At first Kenny whipped through some samples of Book 1, then his speech therapist took him to pages in Book 2 which he also did well with.  I sat there a little stunned because that is not what I see at home with him.  As I flipped through Book 1 while she was working with him, I realized that each page works on a little different skill, and I instinctively felt there were a couple he might struggle with despite what he had just done.  So I asked if I could just try one or two pages.  Bingo!!  My gut was right, there are very distinct areas of processing that are extremely difficult for him.  She sat there in total shock, asking me how I knew.  I don't know how I knew, I just did.  We tried other pages in both books that worked on similar tasks, and sure enough, there are specific areas where his brain flat out can't do it...I mean seriously can't do it at all.  There are pictures and you ask him to point to specific ones with very carefully selected building block sort of questions, such as "Point to the red bear with large buttons." and he has a choice of 4, 6, or even more on the same page (You can see samples on the web site linked here).  Because this works on various different sorts of auditory and processing work, one task might be super easy while another subtly different one is a big challenge.  So we have both books at home and are going to work with them a bit, and I might try them with Olesya as well as she really struggles with very specific, key areas of processing but I can not narrow it down.

As if all this "Mom School" hasn't been enough, tonight we did something I have wanted to do for years and years...we traveled to Ridgway to participate in a small African Drumming Circle!!!  I can't tell you how excited I personally was about this, as it has appealed to me for years.  Living where we live, it is not something available to us usually.  At first, only Angela was enthusiastic about going, but later in the day Kenny and Josh both decided it sounded like fun although they weren't at all sure what to expect.

Oh My Gosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was the COOLEST thing I have done in years!!  Our teacher, Fara Tolno, is from Guinea, West Africa, and has a Masters Degree in dance from UC Boulder.  You can find a link to his web site here: .  This man radiated pure joy, and his love of music and movement was impossible not to catch.

We had a very small class, about 13 or 14 of us, and our kids being the only children there learning.  Everyone had a drum, and we played for about an hour and then taught some African dance.

It was powerful for me in terms of watching the kids in this group setting.  I have often joked about how none of the kids has any real musical talent, about how they can't carry a tune, etc.  I mean, what are the odds that 5 different kids from 4 different sets of birth parents would all be so unable to work with music??  Is there a common denominator?  Dominick and I love music, we sing, have the radio on all the time, sing in choir, sing doing the name it, we have music around while doing it.  The kids all have an appreciation for music, with Josh dearly loving the soothing feel of classical, Matthew being our 70's Rock and Roll kid, and the girls thoroughly enjoying any sort of dance/pop music.  Kenny even loves music!  But...but...but...they can not figure it out.

Watching this evening as Angela and Kenny both struggled mightily to catch a beat, and Josh tried but then couldn't tolerate the sound of the room...something I stupidly hadn't anticipated (He ultimately had to leave the classroom after 10 minutes with his hands covering his ears.) heart broke a little. It might sound stupid for me to feel so sad over this, but both Kenny and Angela tried so darned hard to follow even the simplest rhythm patterns of just a handful of notes, and neither could get it.  They were the only ones in the room who were so completely unable to hear or even feel a rhythm, it was almost startling how hard it was for them.  It explained so much to me!!!  Words are rhythmic, poetry is rhythmic, life in its own way is rhythmic.  The instructor was so kind, he knelt down in front of Angela and sang it to her, he patiently beat out the rhythm on a much louder drum so Kenny could hear it over the noise of the others, and I even got up several times, got behind each of them and got their hands in mine to tap it out for them so they might get the feel of what the pattern or rhythm was.

Nothing worked.  Nothing.

I am totally curious to know if other kids adopted from institutional settings find this to be such a challenge in higher numbers than the standard population.  I mean, I know this could be heredity, and for some of our kids I am sure that accounts for it.  But ALL of them?  Tomorrow Dominick is going to head back to Ridgway with all of them to see how Olesya and Matthew do with it, and to give the others another go at it.  This is obviously something we are going to work with a lot, now that I see what a huge deficit it is for all the kids.  We have the chance to take classes throughout the week while he is still here, so we will take advantage of it.

As for me, I could do this forever and wish there was something like this close by on a regular basis...I'd be there constantly.  Although my palms are actually bruised as I type this, I found this to be so spiritually connecting for me, that it exceeded all my expectations.  Even when I was a don't laugh over this one because when I say "kid" I mean 13 or 14, not mom bought me a set of bongo drums, and I beat those suckers constantly!  I loved them, and thought her to be quite intuitive on that gift.  I never had the desire to play drums in band when in high school, but this is different somehow.

To round out Cindy's Excellent Educational Week, on Sunday I had the privilege of preaching in a small little church almost 2 hours away from here, in Collbran, CO.  I really, really find it hard to preach.  I am not a natural or comfortable public speaker, and it is actually almost painful for me to do it.  I gave up on it for a year or so, thinking I wouldn't put myself through it again, but when I was called and asked if I would do it I decided to say yes.  I never feel intellectual or deep enough, I never feel as if I am offering anything someone will carry with them that is of any value at all.  I will never be good at it, and am at best only marginal.  But I did it, and it wasn't awful :-)  Notice I am not saying it was great, but maybe not being awful is the best I can do without much practice.  I wish I was one of those deep, insightful, inspirational types, but I am not, and if I try to be it comes across as truly inauthentic. So I elect to be just me and God can do with it what God wants.

What is important to me though, is that the kids see both Dominick and I trying and failing right alongside trying and succeeding.  They need to know that you don't have to be perfect at something to do it or give it a try, they need to know that many things in life will be challenging.  They also need to see their parents unafraid to publicly make a fool of themselves!!  Preaching is something they all know is painfully hard for me, and tonight after they tried so hard to drum and it just wasn't happening for them they saw me try to do African dance and look like a big ol' oaf!  I mean, seriously, it is not my thing and is terribly hard for me.  Angela, on the other hand, was quite good at it!  Kenny was a drummer so he didn't get stuck dancing, which he was happy about.  And you know what?  When we left, all four of us were raving about how wonderful the evening was, how we had SO much fun and want to go back again before he leaves.  It wasn't about being perfect, or looking good.  All of us are good at some things while others are harder for us.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't do them!!  Angela and Kenny both loved the evening, and raved about it to Dominick, Matthew and Olesya when we got home (Olesya would ROCK the African dancing!), and talked them into going tomorrow with them.

I want to show the kids that taking risks is worth it.  I want them to learn that perfection is not the goal, participation is.  I want them to be less inhibited than I was/am.  Whether its drumming, dancing, cake decorating, Civil Air Patrol, or hard at it, play hard at it, and enjoy it to the fullest!  The laughter on the 45 minute drive home was so worth it all, hearing Angela say over and over again "I just can't stop thinking it, Mom, that was SO much fun!" was worth it, and seeing Kenny's ear to ear grin as he was pounding on that drum on every off beat was worth it.  Poor Joshua, we have GOT to find some sort of solution for this auditory/sensory discomfort he is experiencing to such a degree right now. Oh yea, guess I better finish writing this and go learn something about it!!!


Mishelle said...

My oldest spent 5 years in an institution, and though she loves music she has absolutely no rhythm. I'll be interested to hear if this is a common theme.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you had so much fun with the drumming, Cindy! I figured you would. It's neat to hear that the others did too, despite their challenges there.
Re the preaching .... if you share with the congregation as you share in these posts, your real-ness, your insights .... that congregation will be truly blessed, even if you don't feel as though you have offered a whole lot. You have SO much to offer, Cindy!
Love, blessing and shalom!

Anonymous said...

Road trip???? Did I hear road trip? Just sayin' ...your Kyrgyz family!

Lindsay said...

There's a strong link between dyslexia and inability to detect rhythm. I would say it is definitely worth pursuing it in more detail. Obviously children who have been institutinalized have learning difficulties/deficits. Dyslexia and dyspraxia are closely linked. Dyspraxia is often seen as 'just being 'clumsy' but it has a huge, huge impact on the ability to plan multi step activities and many other things. Good luck :)

Anonymous said...

You rock--even if you don't roll at African dance. Delighted you love the African drums. One of the great joys of life is learning, that spark that comes when you realize you've just learned something new, that "aha" moment, that total immersion and then the coming out of it not knowing whether you've been gone minutes or hours or days and not caring. Even reading you blog makes me excited to try the next thing in my life. I'm off to ?

See you later,