Know why Jesus would be great at blogging?
If you correctly guess the answer, I’ll write a post involving your blog. 🙂
Just a little follow-up to Testing, Testing, 1-2-3:
After days of angst
Hours of horror
A sleepless night and
Billions of butterflies in both our stomachs
I found her on the bleachers, sitting next to a new friend.
“It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I think I did okay.”
I think I did okay, too.
Tommorow, she tests for…
Here we go again…
This week, the girl participates in her first annual testing session since we’ve been homeschooling.
It is less a test of her abilities and more a measure of my prowess as a teacher.
I’m a bit nervous. Possibly more than she is.
I actually had trouble sleeping, which is not unusual, but I don’t usually worry myself awake. Most nights, my brain spins stories or posts destined to never see an audience because I fell asleep halfway through.
Before we adopted, I didn’t understand when my friends bemoaned their children’s test anxiety. You’ve heard the phrase “pulling out my hair” in frustration…I’d never seen it in action until one of our little friends showed up with no eyebrows. He was anxious about testing and pulled them out, bit by bit. (There’s a disorder called trichotillomania, but they ruled that out and said it was just anxiety.)
I’ve always loved school and am a geek-tacular stay-up-all-night-crammer. My test grades were rarely less than stellar. (Not bragging—just explaining why I didn’t understand how tests might be scary. I just saw them as a challenge.)
Might not remember any of the material a week later, but as long as my grades were high, everyone seemed happy.
None of my peers ever talked about test-taking anxiety. On occasion, someone admitted being nervous about passing a certain test or achieving a certain grade, but no one was pulling out their eyelashes.
When my friends discussed their children’s test-taking anxiety , I thought it was hyperbole.
And then we adopted our kids.
The boy has no such thing as test-taking anxiety, mostly because he doesn’t care.
He likes good grades, mostly due to sibling competition. He doesn’t like it if his sister’s grades are higher than his, but he has an innate ability to both put in minimum effort and get fairly decent grades. In general, he displays an incredible lack of concern about school (the exception: history studies…the one time he has the legitimate ability to learn about war in a setting in which discussing weapons is taboo).
Our girl, on the other hand, wants to “get everything right the first time” and doesn’t understand why memorizing information requires so much effort on her part.
She should be able to assimilate it by osmosis, of course.
I’ve tried to help her understand that very few people can view text once and remember everything they need to know, but I am—thus far—unsuccessful.
Her expectation of perfection frustrates her. It often trips her up during testing, because the moment she sees a question she doesn’t know, she starts freaking out. She doesn’t necessarily have any external physical reaction, but she begins making mistakes and overlooking obvious answers.
Any information she might have known flies away like pigeons from a coop.
To prepare her for the upcoming annual test, I gave her a practice test 3 grade levels below her own. I thought it would bolster her confidence.
Instead, she stumbled over one question and spiraled from there. She ended up answering one-third of the answers incorrectly.
She KNEW all of the information.
I asked her the questions verbally and she answered all answers with 100% success.
But put that paper in front of her, and she freezes up.
Hoping to alleviate her fear, I explained the test doesn’t matter. The results are less about what she knows and more about highlighting anything I still need to teach to keep her on par with her peers. (Or, if I have my way, to get her ahead of her peers…but I don’t say this. No pressure. We’re still catching up. But I tell you, this kid is brilliant.)
I keep telling her I don’t know of anyone who takes standardized tests for a living.
None of it seems to sink in.
I am a bit concerned that the test results won’t be accurate because she may miss answers she truly knows after confronting a difficult question.
I’m fighting my own version of test anxiety,.
I want her to do well for her own sake. I want to show her that she can do well on a test. I’m hoping to help her overcome the stress induced by the public school system yearly testing.
I’m not on a witch hunt and don’t have anything against public schools but they put so much pressure on the kids with constant drilling, remedial groups before and after school, prizes for doing well and promises of ice cream for those who participated well in prep exercises.
One mother opted for her child not to take the test, which is allowed, and the school tried to fight her. Her daughter is extremely smart and would have done very well on the test, reflecting positively on the school and raising their scores.
I didn’t even know skipping the exam was an option until it was too late.
Because they drilled the importance of testing into my daughter, her already perfectionist personality can’t handle an error. Once she knows question is incorrect, it’s over.
I’m praying she does well, but to be honest, I have personally seen her growth this year and found that she is much smarter then they gave her credit for.
She just needed to hear things in a different way. Sometimes I have to explain things more than once, but once she gets it, she gets it.
I’d like to instill in her that the point of school is not to get good grades but to learn the information we need to be able to do well in life and to interact with others in a positive way.
Math is important. Most of us will never use trigonometry, but basic math, algebra, and geometry are all important for most careers.
Language is one of the most important subjects. You might be an amazing genius, but if you can’t communicate your ideas, no one will care.
History is her favorite subject and I’m so thankful for this. Learning about history and taking it to heart gives us compassion for others, helps us recognize dictators before they take over, and allows us to see the mistakes we as people have made in order to avoid repeating them.
Hubby and I also want to give our kids a love of science. Curiosity and willingness to problem-solve are key to lifelong learning and success.
We were fortunate to find a fabulous art class this year, in which she studies some of the masters and has an opportunity to try to paint in his or her style. She likes to sketch and color but has never shown much interest in painting until now. She’s very talented.
I was in grad school by the time I realized the point of school was not to cram one’s way to the highest grade possible, but to ingest and comprehend the greatest amount of information to then translate into real-life application.
Creativity, curiosity, problem-solving ability, and the knowledge that you can find the answer to pretty much any question if you look hard enough: this is what I want my daughter to learn.
Testing this week won’t even affect her by next week. The true test will be life.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to find out what she has learned and what she still needs to know to keep up with her age group…or surpass them.
But I know that this test will not measure her ability to live a happy, successful life.
For that, we will have to rely on the test of time.
I just read a blog post from a dad who is committed to making sure he stays connected with his kids. (Click the link; his blog is super.)
His thoughts led me to a few of my own.
We so often focus on getting “quality” time with our kids and doing special things they will remember.
But what do you remember from your childhood? If you have memories of your family doing things together, what is your strongest mental image?
Most of my early memories don’t involve anything elaborate. Many relate to simple things we did each week.
Digging in a sandbox.
Swinging on the backyard set.
Board games on the floor.
We wanted to create similar happy memories with our kids.
When they first came to us, I would have argued that “board games” should just be called “bored.” Or, more accurately, “the quickest way to give yourself a migraine.”
In the beginning, they had zero focus and fought us at every turn (get it…because in games you take a turn…), even when something was supposed to be fun.
However, Hubby and I have fond memories of playing games like Risk and Monopoly, and we’re nothing if not determined. Our kids WILL play games, doggone it.
Brain-numbing (to us) choices like Memory and Guess-Who gave us our first tentative game connections with the kids, and eventually they could make it through a full round of Sorry or Trouble.
Doing puzzles also interested them, although we had to buy puzzles several levels below what you’d expect for their age. As confidence built, the number on the puzzle box rose.
Thanks to my aunts and mom, who often jigsaw when together, the kids saw puzzles as a fun hangout time for adults. This, of course, made the activity more desirable.
Our kiddos recently shocked us by asking for family game night instead of family movie night.
And we played Risk, without any actual casualties.
I call it a win.
When you have children, you finally appreciate all your parents have done for you.
You’ve heard this phrase, I’m sure (possibly from a frustrated parent when you were a teen).
For me, adopting the children did not bring the magical instant awareness, mostly because my parents never dealt with this brand of crazy or needed to make the kind of decisions we do. (That’s why I started this blog, because almost no one I know in person can say, “yes, I understand exactly what you’re talking about!”)
However, when we began home-schooling this year, I finally realized the level of work my mother did behind the scenes while teaching four children at home.
Sometimes I believed I was homeschooling myself, even in elementary grades.
I’ve seen a specific expression on my daughter’s face when I direct her to go back to the textbook and look for information. I recognize the look because I remember the way it felt from the inside of my face.
I was less forward about communicating my feelings. My girl… Not so much. She actually says the words sometimes. With that tone.
Why don’t you just teach me instead of making me look it up? Since you’re my teacher…
I smile and explain she needs researching skills.
Almost everything I do these days is with an eye toward the time she no longer needs me—which will arrive even sooner than I expect.
Being needed is a powerful urge. I find myself stepping toward my kids when I see them struggle, even for just a moment. I’m learning to stop, fold my arms and wait.
When I was 6 or 7, I read a story about a little girl who lived on a farm. She and her father were waiting for chicks to hatch. He left the barn for a bit, instructing her to leave the eggs alone.
After he left, one of the chicks managed to create a hole in the shell but struggled to break free and seemed to give up. The young girl cracked the egg for the chick. When the father returned, they cheered the birth of their first chick, but the celebration was short-lived as the chick passed away.
The man asked his daughter if she had helped the chick. When she admitted she had pulled the shell apart, he explained that the chick needed to struggle out of the shell on its own in order to be strong enough to live outside the shell.
The story was actually about obeying parents even when children don’t understand exactly why they should. However, now that I’m the parent, this story holds different meaning.
I watch my friends do things for their children (even grown children)…and in spite of my best intentions, sometimes I catch myself “doing” as well.
Tying the 10 year-old’s shoes. Cutting the 12 year-old’s food automatically. Helping the 14 year-old with the math problem before the child has attempted solving it alone. Never teaching the child to cook, clean up, work a dishwasher or clothes dryer, run a lawn mower, or change the oil. Driving a licensed teen to work or school, not for the lack of an extra car but because we can’t seem to let him go on his own.
Hamstringing and handicapping our kids with love.
Sometimes we can’t seem to fight that strong urge to be needed. Watching them grow up SO fast is a bit too painful. Tying the shoes “one last time” reminds us they are still our children.
I’m not suggesting we should never help our kids, nor that an occasional helping hand will keep them from learning. (Also, definitely not advocating a completely hands-off approach. Children require healthy boundaries and guidance.)
However, since my kids experienced a rough start, I found myself falling into the habit of “doing” for them. Trying to make up for their tough beginning.
About 6 months after the kids came to live with us, I was still helping them dress in the morning—using the rationalization that although they were five and seven, they were emotionally closer to two and four.
Hubby put a stop to it one morning, telling me, “the kid is capable of putting on his own underwear. He’s five. Stop holding him back.”
Disgruntled at Hubby’s interference in my fabulous parenting, I handed the boy his clothes and stepped back to prove that the child needed my help.
And I suddenly realized I was “doing” for them to try to make up for all we had missed. Innocent and loving intent, but in the process, I was actually hindering their development.
I fight the urge to over-help every day. I can’t speak for dads, not being one, but I think this is a struggle for most mothers and possibly all women. I’m not being sexist—I just think that we as women are wired to care deeply and sometimes we take it a little too far.
Allowing them to be children for as long as possible is fine. However, even children can learn to do things for themselves.
And they should.
Once, when I interviewed candidates for an open position, a mother arrived with her son and sat through the interview with him. She handed me his resume. She answered a few of the questions. She presented her unsolicited, glowing commendation of his best traits.
The young man seemed pretty sharp and appeared uncomfortable with his mother’s presence. Based on her personality, I got the feeling she didn’t give him a choice regarding her involvement.
I’m sure she thought she was giving him his best chance. She probably assumed, “as his mother, I know all of his best qualities and can vouch for his worthiness of this position. Who knows this kid better than I?”
Guess who didn’t get a second interview.
That was an extreme case, but she probably started out by tying his shoes when he was 12. The desire to be needed is difficult to release.
But I strongly believe we need to let our kids fight their way out of their own shells.
Require them to have experiences that make them uncomfortable. Allow them to fail while they still live in our house and are able to come home for support and advice.
I’m doing my best to keep myself from cracking that shell. To let them struggle. To allow them to develop the strength they’ll need to survive without me.
Especially since, some days, I’d rather duct tape the shell and let them remain children forever.
This is a week of appointments.
Ever since we adopted the kids, my life has involved appointment after appointment.
Doctor’s appointments, counseling appointments, dentist appointments, psychiatric appointments, eye appointments, in-home counseling appointments, testing appointments, occupational therapy appointments, speech therapy appointments…I see you’re getting the idea.
They used to get in the car after school and cheerily ask, “do we have an appointment today?”
They were (and still are) a little bit addicted to appointments because having one meant they got 100% attention from me, hubby, and whatever doctor or therapist might be involved.
They even love the dentist (now THAT’S just crazy).
Thankfully, as the years passed, the number of appointments have diminished in both intensity and frequency.
I added a number of appointments to our calendar over the last month. They all landed on this week, which is beginning to feel something like a flashback.
I managed to schedule routine visits with the doctor for hubby and me, the girl’s eye appointment and counseling appointment, and neurology and rule-out testing appointments for the boy almost all at once.
No idea what I was thinking at the time.
However, this little flashback has given me a moment to realize how thankful I am our life has slowed a bit. I’m not really sure how we survived those first 5 years, when this hectic week was our everyweek.
I am thankful for the reminder that life moves through seasons and everything will change in time.
Writing used to be cathartic, therapeutic.
If necessary, I’d write in the middle of the night.
For the last few months, I’ve struggled to force it. Until this week, the reluctance to record has baffled me.
I don’t easily admit, even to myself, “I have a problem.”
As you may know, the last 6.5 years have been a true roller coaster. When I scrolled through a few posts from a couple years ago, I read HOPE. I read PROGRESS. And I realized
I’ve been living the last few months in 3D.
But not the thrilling “let’s see a movie with those fun glasses” 3D.
Discouraged. Depressed. Distracted.
These three D words have ruled my life of late—and I didn’t even realize until now.
I drive Hubby a little nuts sometimes. I am the Optimist who makes everyone roll eyes at least once in our friendship.
Hitting every red light? Maybe God knows if we get to point X in ten minutes, we’d be crushed by a falling tree. He’s slowing us down on purpose.
Traffic is at a standstill because a tree is blocking the road? Well, thank goodness it didn’t crush us.
Cashier had a horrible attitude? Maybe she just found out her mom has cancer.
Lost that job (this has happened to both Hubby and me)? God’s got a plan. We’ll be fine.
I have an immune disorder? (This one took a few months to find silver lining…) Well, I guess this will force me to take better care of myself.
Our boy is in residential treatment? This will give me the ability to focus most of my attention on helping our daughter excel in school.
Give me your worst scenario and I can find a silver lining or a probable reason it can all turn out for good. It’s a gift and a curse, because sometimes I can come across as flippant, but I generally have this belief that God will work it all out in the end.
I’ve always applied this belief to our kids. I still believe.
But this boy is wearing me out.
He doesn’t seem to care about coming home.
I’m resigned to the knowledge that he’s not coming home anytime soon. And that even if/when he does come home, it’s likely many of our dreams for him will never happen.
All that is okay, but without even realizing, I’ve become discouraged.
The discouragement has pressed down on my soul for weeks. They say expectations are the death of everything. Our lives would be better without the word “should” in our vocabulary.
Unmet expectations destroy relationships. Bring destruction to the best-laid plans. Decimate optimism.
Underneath it all, here’s the narrative my heart wrote when we brought these two kids into our home:
Siblings experience trauma and too many re-homing disruptions until they are 5 and 7. At that time, they find stability with a loving couple who provide them with everything they need. Although the first year is terrible, subsequent years grow easier and within three years, they are well-adjusted, happy, bright, inquisitive children in love with learning about the world around them. The entire family enjoys traveling, playing together and finding ways to help others. When the kids turn 10 and 12, the family travels to Peru on a missions trip, where the children are thrilled to bring love to others who may have had an even tougher early life than the one they experienced.
I have recently confronted this narrative I didn’t even know was lurking under the surface of my thoughts.
This is not our story.
Right now, our girl is flourishing, although she periodically reminds me (usually when I praise her for progress) that “it’s all still in there, in my head. It might come back.” And it might, but we’re prepared.
Our son has been in residential treatment since October 1 and shows no sign of wanting to come home. Although I do understand that trauma played its ugly part, on some level he’s choosing this.
In recent conversations, he’s informed us that he wants to stay at the center because they “let us watch lots of TV and you don’t” and he likes to play basketball. Ironically, when they have gym time, he usually plays in a corner by himself—something he can easily do at home with our hoop. (His TV complaint…totally valid. Not going to change.)
He also informed us that he sees the situation in the following light:
You’re putting in a lot of effort, and I’m not putting in any effort.
At least he’s honest.
The death of my narrative has depressed me more than I was able to acknowledge until now.
Discouragement and depression are not my usual modus operandi. I’ve felt a dissonant fracture within…and been unwilling to address it.
Giving me relief for a short time: Once Upon a Time, a series about happy endings.
I’m a sucker for fairy tales rewritten, as well as pirates in leather and guyliner. Win-win.
The show is true Brain Candy; almost a soap opera with fairies. And SOOOOOOO distracting.
As I watched Emma Swan learn to BELIEVE, there was no room for discouragement or depression.
As Regina the Evil Queen became my favorite character (the reason for her Evilness was underlying trauma and heartache), I forgot my own heartache.
Finally realized I had a problem.
Hubby went on a business trip and I watched the series until 3 am.
Used the Netflix app to watch in my spare moments.
And I didn’t really want anyone else to know, which was my first clue I needed to quit.
The second clue? Realizing I’d burned through hours of the show, time I could have used for…ANYthing else.
Sometimes I’m a little slow, but when I finally get it, I get it.
This week, I faced my 3D life.
I listened to an audio version of the Bible to fight the Discouragement (audible.com is fabulous—and no, they don’t pay me to say it).
I admitted to Hubby that I’ve been dealing with Depression lately. He’s incredibly supportive, giving lots of hugs (my favorite) and a package of amazing cupcakes (my less healthy favorite).
My Distracting Netflix app went the way of Candy Crush (an earlier addiction I needed to delete from my phone).
And now, I’m ready to go
Discouragement, Depression and Distraction will always be with me, but I’m also
I’m sure the 3 D-words will sneak up on me from time to time, but I’m Determined to stand my ground.
Letting go of “my” narrative will likely be a battle I fight for the rest of my life. Remaining vigilant and keeping myself focused won’t be easy.
Admitting my flaws and weaknesses is always frightening, but one of the great lessons in Once Upon a Time is this: your flaws hurt you when you try to hide them. Out in the open, they simply make you human.
Our son described us to his counselor as “The Grizzly and the Pit Bull.” Hubby is the Grizzly Bear, fiercely protective of our family. I’m the Pit Bull, ferociously hanging on to keep us together and make sure the kids get whatever services they need.
This week, I live in 4D.
New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.
*Verse from BibleGateway.com
I’m sitting next to a family.
Two parents with three most-likely-bio sons. I watch the oldest roll his eyes as the youngest runs around the cafe, repeating with gusto,
“I spy with my little eye…”
The middle boy colors quietly by himself.
I don’t know the names of the older boys.
The youngest is definitely named Liam.
Father and mother halfheartedly chase the towheaded toddler in turns, calling his name.
He expertly ignores, then evades them.
It is a blissful scene of family togetherness, childhood glee and parental exasperation.
Sometimes I watch other people with their children, heart aching.
I am not the woman who gave my children life.
Every so often, I wonder whether things would be different if I’d held them in my arms from birth.
a few days ago
I saw a lady watching as my daughter and I walked through the store
arms wrapped around each others’ shoulders
being our goofy selves
The woman’s eyes sparkled with tears.
I wondered about her story.
And it hit me.
We all watch each other.
Grieving our personal losses.
Assuming others have a better, happier life.
She has no idea of the depths of hell from which my girl and I have fought our way back to be mother and daughter.
She can’t imagine the years of despairing whether we’d ever have a relationship.
I reconsider some of my wishing.
Maybe Liam’s family lets him have run of the place because he’s recently had his third round of chemo and they don’t know if it will work. Maybe they seem happy together because it might be the last time.
None of us has any idea what the others’ lives are like, and yet, we wish.
A few weeks ago, I talked with a friend I’ve always seen as the epitome of happy and positive. We lost touch after college for over fifteen years. Three minutes into the phone call, our friendship was all caught up. She’s the same sunny girl.
Five minutes in, we’d spilled our guts.
Our adoption journey. Their many miscarriages.
Everyone has a difficult patch in life to overcome.
We all have our own battles, and none of us really knows what others endure.
I’m a born advocate; when I read Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8 and and Isaiah 58:6-11, I feel they were written to me personally.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
8 Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Speak up for the rights of all those who are poor.
I can fight for what others (e.g., my kids) need all day long. But if I’m honest, miscarriages would utterly destroy me. God knew what I could handle.
God knew beforehand this was going to be my life, so I’m fully prepped to fight, love and pray my way through the hard times.
Maybe I just need to focus a little more on being thankful I’m equipped for this life, instead of wishing for someone else’s battle.
Isaiah 58:6-11, NIRV
Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
That’s because I always do what is right.
You will call out to me for help.
And I will answer you.
You will cry out.
And I will say, ‘Here I am.’
Get rid of the chains you use to hold others down.
Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
Stop saying harmful things about them.
Work hard to feed hungry people.
Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.
Then my blessing will light up your darkness.
And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.
I will always guide you.
I will satisfy your needs in a land baked by the sun.
I will make you stronger.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.
You will be like a spring whose water never runs dry.