I cannot believe we’ve already been through an entire week of school! They began last Wednesday, and had Weds – Friday last week and we are almost to Friday again! This week has flown by – mostly because I began teaching classes this week, so my normally laid-back days spent casually folding laundry, running errands, chatting with friends at Bible Study, or eating bon-bons (ummmm…I know guys joke about this all the time, but seriously. Does any stay-at-home mom even have a clue what a “bon-bon” is?? I think my Grandma used to eat them when I was a kid. I remember something about chocolate covered ice cream balls…kinda like today’s Dibs…For the record – I don’t like chocolate, and I can’t eat ice cream…so I definitely am not a bon-bon eating, stay-at-home mom) – complete, miles-long run-on sentence, segue-ing into the fact that I’m sitting on the couch trying to write a blog while the kids are watching “SING” a movie which I LOVE and makes me cry every time the adorable elephant sings – so I’m very distracted – and I have no idea what I was talking about. Okay. So obviously I’m super exhausted because stay-at-home mom-ing is super tiring, but teaching Kindergarteners, 1st graders and 2nd graders on top of being a mom is absolute INSANITY. I thought my life was loud before I took this job. This week, I spent three out of the last 4 days teaching kids about “magic (AKA Primary) colors” and inspiring an immediate love for the new art room in every child that walked in – especially the ones that declared their disgust for all things “artsy fartsy” the moment they walked in the door. 🙂 So far so good – I now have 160 or so new best friends who hug me at our rendezvous at the bathroom sink, wave to me in the halls and tell their mommies “that’s Mrs. M-m-m-GRAVY, she’s our art teacher, mommy, she’s so nice!” in the pickup line. I can’t feel my big toes, I have a huge blister on my heel from being on my feet all day in new shoes, I’m pretty sure I will always refer to RYB as “magic colors” for the rest of my life and I’m having dreams about Tempra paint and Trolls singing “Hair up!” with rows of paintbrushes…but I love it.
You want to know the other thing I love? This morning, at my 9am class hour, my little 1st grader came to my room with the rest of his class, sat down at his paper, and expectantly waited for his mommy to begin teaching his art class. He grinned giggled when his picture came up on my power point slide show introducing my family, and shyly nodded yes when all the kids said, “Are you Wesley’s Mommy??!!” and explored the magic of his primary color mixing with the rest of the kids, laughing and working hard to create something beautiful on his page.
This boy never ceases to amaze us – his growth, his change, his adaptation to new experiences and new environments is crazy-beautiful! He started school last week on Wednesday morning, and came home Thursday with his first school worksheet where he colored in the appropriate black and white image that portrayed the emotion he was feeling on the first day of school – he chose “Excited” and in his adorable handwriting below he wrote, “I am excited because I love school!”
I have prayed my dear Lord’s EARS off the past few months pleading with him to change my son’s heart about school, to create a healthy environment, to instill in him a love for learning and friends and his teacher. God has answered that 1million-fold if that is even possible! This little 7-year old has blossomed even more since school began 8 days ago – his countenance is joyful when he wakes, he is always the first one ready to go and smiles all day long. He practically skips out the door to school and gives me a high-five each morning before sitting down at his desk to start his work. He participates in class, engaging in conversation, answering questions, and being helpful to his teacher and classmates. He plays at recess with his new friends, is the soccer-star of the elementary school playground (each student that has watched my intro-slideshow in art class has looked at his picture and said, “hey! I know that boy! He is very good at soccer!”). His teacher loves him, and he respects her greatly, he has 2 other adoptees in his class, from Ethiopia, and even more friends from the states that he jokes and chats with like he’s been here forever. The aides all know who he is and gush about how sweet he is, and all of the big kids tell him hello and give him high-fives or hugs as he walks by (the perks of having older siblings at the school, I’m sure).
To anyone observing, Wes would most likely come across as a student who had been at the school since he began walking – he is at home, at ease, loves to play, but works hard and always does his best. This boy’s attitude has changed in the rest of his life since school began as well! While he was still a normally happy kid at home, his ability to shrug off frustrations, or respond positively to correction has morphed into something I can only describe as a pleasing aroma to our household! He is helpful, quick to be positive or give a smile, and even when he refuses physical affection (still working on that) he is beginning to allow himself to be moldable at times.
For those bringing kids home – we have dealt the past 3 months with something that has been increasingly frustrating – which is that every time he is asked a question, he gives a non-truth answer. Not in a malicious-intent way – he isn’t intending to deceive or lie in order to be rebellious or hurt- he thinks it is funny to say one thing and get someone to believe you (typical for this age)…but it was getting to the point where every question asked of him would get an opposite answer, including when a grown up friend would ask “Hi Wesley, are you having a good day?” and he would say “no” every time. Or mom says, “did you have fun at soccer today?” and “no” would be the automatic answer, even if we know he had a great time! It was getting to the point where we had to correct every time we got a negative answer, or we tried ignoring – and each time it would heap more frustration on the situation. After awhile, the older kids joined in on the “joke” and would start answering with a negative answer in a joking manner when we asked a question. For example, “Did you eat all your lunch today?” “No….I’m just kidding, yes”. UGH. It was to the point of terrible.
So – I had a spontaneous chat in the car with all the kids on the way to school the other day. I just offhandedly told them that we were going to work on ALL telling the truth the first time. I gave them a few examples of questions where they could answer the “truth answer” the first time, and told them that we are ALL going to work on telling the truth the first time – so we needed to all be practicing. I wanted Wes to know that it wasn’t a reprimand or correction targeted at him – but that everyone was going to be working on the behavior change.
I was absolutely blown away by the change. When I picked Wes up from school – “how was your day?” “Ummm…Good!” I seriously think I almost had a heart-attack. Immediately I said, “awesome, I’m glad to hear it! Thanks for telling the truth the first time!” Wes’ turnaround in how he answers questions has been immediate since that conversation and I can see a difference in how he engages in those conversations as well – he is more chatty, puts on a smile when he says “good!” and even told Daddy at the dinner table what we talked about in Art Class today – “magic colors” – with mommy!
We decided that it was time to start making more firm corrections in behaviors that have been annoying and brushed off the past few months due to “making an easier transition” because we were trying to avoid things that created massive conflicts. We have found that at this point in time, he is responding VERY well to firm correction, given with patience, grace and love. We still have to allow some extra beats before he follows a direction – many times – but that’s coming along. There are very few things we still continue to make concessions about – we don’t avoid the conflict, and we are shutting down the little behaviors that are laced with even the slightest malicious intent. Wes has not “shut down” in weeks – He hasn’t even really “shut off” others emotionally or closed off himself to anyone for long periods of time. He had his first stint of going to a friend’s house, with his sisters along, after school while I headed out to a Driver’s Ed Parent meeting with Braeden (!!!!!! HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE!!!???) and enjoyed his first late-night High School football game at school after-hours.
Overall – this week has been a week of firsts, but it has been amazing to watch this boy blossom inside and outside of the structure of school in America. He loves school, loves his teacher, his friends, and the structure of always knowing what is next! He loves everything about the many walls and halls of that building, and even seems to not mind that Mommy is there sometimes, passing in a hallway, or waving from a window!
We are blessed – incredibly. We are so so so so so aware. We have heard others’ struggles with transitioning kiddos from tough places, we have friends who are struggling, and others who are just surviving. Right now I feel like I’m surviving – but not for the same reason that I was “surviving” 5-6 weeks ago. It is finally starting to feel like a new normal – like this school year is just like any other school year – busy, and a tad crazy, with a few more oil pastels and dirty paint-water buckets thrown in.
I’m so excited to revisit this year come June – when he’s been through a year and we get to see just how much he has changed and grown! So far, I’m encouraged, I’m incredibly thankful, and I’m also incredibly exhausted…LOL! So, I’m going to sign off. I appreciate those of you who read through this entire account, because it is SO long – thank you for being you – for being supportive, committed, and our fortress of encouragement!
OH! Before I go – a quick update on my mom’s progress for those who know her and have inquired: she is now at a local rehab facility, where she will be until they release her to go home. She is making incredible progress each day – working hard, and absolutely determined to come out on top. She has a great attitude, perseverance, and grit that would make the toughest men blush! The OT and PT teams are encouraged by her progress and continue to give her new challenges each day! She has an incredible group of friends in addition to her family that are keeping her company, encouraging her and stepping up to take care of tasks that need doing while she’s “out”.
Blessings to you all, we will continue to partner with you in prayer, to lift others up as they have lifted up our hearts the past few years. Thank you for the honor and privilege of your friendship(s)!
~ Laura & family
This room was a complete transformation done with help from my husband, kids, and a couple sweet friends! Every time a child walks in for the first time, their face lights up! I love it!
First Dentist appointment!
He was a Pro!
Warmed my heart – Abby helping Wes with his math homework!
Decided to explore the roller blades today! First thing he wanted to do was figure out “mommy how do I sit down?” Lol.