Friday, April 27, 2012

Grandma Tour 2012

Yesterday was our turn to be part of this year's "Grandma Tour". Each April, Grandma Reynolds flies north from sunny Marco Island, Florida for two weeks. She spends one day each in Mokena, Illinois and Springfield, Illinois. Coincidentally, she just happens to have adorable grandkids in both of those places (oh, sons and daughters-in-law too). She spends a couple of days in Effingham, Illinois visiting her own mother, and then spends the rest of it working on her yard at Grandma and Grandpa's summer home in Monticello, Indiana. She then returns to Marco until mid-June when she and Grandpa make their annual drive north.

Meanwhile, Grandpa remains in Florida, playing tennis, boating, and watching television. Good gig if you can get it. Oh, he has chores to do to, but it sounds more fun to imply that he gets play time while she does the work. Truth is, Grandma loves to play in the dirt, so she probably enjoys doing so without distraction.

Grandma snuck into our house sometime yesterday afternoon. When Shaling got off the bus, she knew Grandma was going to be there and was happy to see her, but apparently was a bit confused. I was next to arrive home and asked Shaling if she was happy to see Grandma. She affirmed that she was, but questioned me about Grandpa. Apparently, she wasn't aware of this whole "it's Grandpa's time to play" deal.

As Dad and Shaling headed off to softball practice, Grandma and I picked Preston up from track practice. Later, we all ate at local restaurant (Razzo's). After homework and showers were finished, Grandma took on the duty of putting the kids to be while Mom and Dad headed off to play volleyball. I'm currently in a league and Brock was subbing for an absentee.

The game was at 9:15. Nine. Fifteen. P. M. My alarm typically goes off at 5:15 (though I pushed it forward quite a bit this morning and skipped a bit of my routine). Of course, being the last game of the night, it didn't start on time. We started at 9:30. Need I mention that there is no sun at 9:30? I'm not quite sure what the temperature was around here last night, but I know it probably started with a 5. It was also windy. We play on sand, but last night I could have sworn it was snow. I thought my toes might get frostbit. Wow. Thank goodness that was our only 9:15 start all season. Phew.

Just because it's fun to post pictures (these are courtesy of a text/email from Grandpa) are some nameless friends that visited Grandpa as he was cleaning the boat yesterday (boating and chores all at once):

Yes, those are manatees.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Future WNBA Player?

Shaling recently drew some pictures for me. One of them was a picture of Brock (wearing a hippie vest and a hat) proposing to me (wearing a shirt and pants with a bridal veil). She had me saying "thank you", like I was abundantly grateful to Brock for saving me with marriage.

Another one (see below) is a tiger. She loves tigers. As you might be able to guess, she loves Tigress from Kung Fu Panda. She drew this particular picture while playing at a friend's house and I'm guessing there just might have been a picture somewhere of a WNBA player (since the tiger is wearing a WNBA uniform), because we've never discussed or watched the WNBA at home. So, assuming her friend explained to her what it meant, perhaps I have a child aspiring to be a professional athlete.

She wrapped up volleyball season last week, but continues practices for a "Girls on the Run" program that will culminate in her doing a 5K run/walk on May 19th. She started softball practices this week. The whole household is getting exercise. Brock plays basketball roughly 3 times a week and occasionally jogs. I have been stepping up some walking to go along with the Weight Watchers program that I'm on. Tonight, I have my first game in a recreational volleyball league. For those who've known me all my life, that might be humorous. I've never been athletic and I've always been a klutz. Preston, who is a lot like me -- far more interested in band than athletics -- is sticking out with track, despite not finishing in the upper echelon of runners. He is doing great at simply trying to continually improve his personal best.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Expressing Empathy

During adoption training, we learned a bit about attachment disorders. Attachment disorders vary widely in their scope and intensity, but are more common in older children. Some of the most severe ones may involve violent behaviors and rebellion. Some of the milder ones involve false attaching. During their time at the orphanage, the children learn quickly how to please adults and use that as a great survival technique, but they don't develop deep, meaningful relationships because the staff changes so often.

Though Shaling's transition into our family has not been seamless, it has been relatively smooth. Our speed bumps were brief and any challenges we currently have are not adoption challenges; they are simply parent-child challenges. Therefore, along the way, I had brief periods where I casually pondered whether her helpful and enthusiastic nature was sincere or simply a coping mechanism. I didn't dwell on it, but even the miniscule amount of time I might have considered it has proven to be unnecessary.

Yesterday, while bringing in the mail, she noticed that there was a card addressed to her, but not one for Preston. She even opened the mailbox a second time to be sure she hadn't missed something. At the kitchen counter sorting through it, I told her that it was probably an Easter card and that Preston's would come tomorrow. She asked me if she could go back out to the mailbox and check AGAIN (a third time) and of course I said yes. I was impressed by how she was concerned about him.

Well, when she finally opened the card, it was a baptismal birthday card (with some cash) from her godparents, Uncle Scott & Aunt Barbara. She didn't fully understand, as when she was baptized, her English didn't include the terms "baptism" & "godparents"; she simply knew she was being accepted into God's family. After I explained everything, she immediately asked me if you could write a thank you note. I found that impressive too -- that she has also now mastered the idea of showing appreciation. Not just yesterday, but her verbal thank yous have become frequent and natural.

Despite the fact that she and Preston both enjoy tattling on each other (in a manner typical of most siblings), she also has begun showing a lot of concern for him. Sometimes she'll see that he's left a toy out and instead of tattling, she'll point it out to him before Mom & Dad "notice". She has also conspiratorially shared some nice comments about Preston with me.

She also offered something recently that deeply touched my heart. I collect quarters in a large cup, then once or twice a year take it to the bank to convert to cash. I use that cash as a "slush fund". Last week, I turned in quarters totally about $130. After work & school, I was organizing several things in the kitchen and asked Shaling to take the money to a certain location in the house so that I could put it away later. A few hours later, I went to put the money away and it wasn't where I was expecting. I called Shaling to ask her where she'd put it. She pointed and said, "right there. Maybe Dad..."

She was thinking the same thing I was thinking at this point -- that Brock had decided to be ornery and hide it on me (which later proved to be the case). However, an immediate sense of responsibility swept over her and she said, "Mom, I can pay you back." She hadn't done anything wrong; she had only done me a favor in the first place, but she wanted to make things right. I was quick to tell her no, that this wasn't her fault, but I was genuinely moved by her offer.

I think any time someone adds a child to their family, no matter what age, no matter what manner, there comes a time when it seems they've just always been there. I can't peg exactly when that happened for us and Shaling, but I can say with absolute certainty that it feels that way for me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

No More Dr. Huang

Today, Shaling took a battery of hearing tests at Dr. Huang's office in order to evaluate how much of her hearing was restored due to her eardrum repair surgery last September. If you were not yet following our blog last September and you are interested, feel free to read about Shaling's surgery day here: I want to go home. The brief recap is that when we arrived home in America, we quickly discovered that she had a hole in her right eardrum, causing some significant hearing loss. It was caused by profuse ear infections, from which she was still suffering. So, we had to get those infections cleared up before we could do surgery. We were thrilled to find out today that her right ear is back to hearing just as well as her left ear.

Dr. Huang is a sweet, kind man who has enjoyed chatting with Shaling in both Chinese & English, so it does sadden me that we won't be seeing him anymore. Shaling? Not-so-much. When he said that she wouldn't have to come see him anymore, she cheered, celebrated, & grinned ear-to-ear. Ornery girl.

Speaking of ornery...

While we were in the waiting room, she spotted a child-sized chair and decided to occupy it. She then came over to me and conspiratorially whispered, "I like using small chair because I have small butt."

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may or may not have gotten a double chuckle out of that. You see, recently, I went to sit down at the kitchen table to help her with her homework when she exclaimed, "Mom, I think you need two chairs because you have big butt."

That's my girl.

Luckily for her, I love her to pieces, so she survived.