Tuesday, October 30, 2012

English Progress

Occasionally, one of our friends asks us if Shaling is proficient in English yet. Sometimes they are surprised when I say no. Her communication skills have come so far in 21 months that it is sometimes easy to forget that the reading and writing develop at an entirely different pace. The Chinese language has NO plurals (one cat, two cat, or fifty cat, not cats), only ONE verb tense (I run a race today, but I also run a race last week, I run a race tomorrow, etc.), no alphabet (each character is a word ), no phonics (there are no symbols for sounds ), and no lingual gender differentiation (there is only IT, no HE or SHE, no HIS or HERS, etc.)

Knowing all that, I never cease to be amazed at how far she's come. Yes, it is probably easier for a 9-year-old (now 11-year-old) than an adult, but probably not quite as easy as it would have been if she'd arrived here at a much younger age. Because she is not quite English-proficient (I am guessing her to be at a late 2nd grade reading level), she is still Pass/Fail at school. However, having seen her percentage scores, I know her lowest grade would have been a C, which isn't too shabby for someone still requiring language assistance.

On a side note, Preston's report card was pretty danged good too -- mostly A's, with two B's. One B was a 93% (the highest B possible) and the other was in Pre-Algebra and this is his first year in advanced math. He struggled to settle in to a new routine at the beginning of the year (his first year of junior high -- 7th grade), so I'm thrilled with those grades.

In addition to Shaling's report card, each quarter we receive a Progress Report from Mrs. Bivens (her E.L.L. - English Language Learner - teacher). She receives a rating from 1 through 9 in various categories. 1-3 indicates a Beginning Level; 4-6 indicates a Progressing Level; 7-9 indicates a Proficient Level. Her ratings this quarter were as follows:

9 - Repeats Words
9 - Makes One Word Responses
9 - Knows Alphabet Names & Sounds

7 - Uses English With Classmates
7 - Can Write A Simple Sentence

6 - Starts A Conversation
6 - Asks Permission Appropriately
6 - Uses Context For Reading Unfamiliar Words
6 - Pursues The Meaning Of Unfamiliar Words
6 - Tells Main Idea Of What Was Read
6 - Acquires Concepts In English (Think about that -- she is understanding new concepts in her new language -- pretty sure that 21 months into learning Chinese that would be virtually impossible to me.)

5 - Is A Good Listener
5 - Speaks In Expanding Sentences
5 - Participates In Speaking Activities
5 - Follows Simple Directions
5 - Follows Multi-Step Directions (She may have surpassed her dad on this one.)
5 - Retells A Simple Story
5 - Asks Questions When Not Understanding
5 - Uses Past Tense
5 - Uses Future Tense
5 - Makes Negative Responses Correctly
5 - Recognizes & Use New Words In Context
5 - Decodes Unfamiliar Words
5 - Has Other Strategies For Reading
5 - Read For Answers To Questions

4 - Responds In Complete Sentences
4 - Shares Own Experiences, Ideas, & Feelings
4 - Uses A Dictionary
4 - Writes Independently
4 - Can Recognize Written Errors
4 - Can Write A Paragraph
4 - Can Write A Story

2 - Makes Inferences From Written Text

I know from some emails I received from Mrs. Bivens that Shaling is currently learning some label for community helpers (nurse, teacher, pilot, photographer, police officer, etc.). Additionally, she is using Mad Libs to learn parts of speech. If you aren't familiar, a Mad Lib is a fun puzzle that many kids used to use to pass the time on long car rides. One player asks the other to provide a list of words (as listed below, a type of liquid, something icky, a piece of furniture, an article of clothing, a color, a part of the body, a plural noun, an adjective, an adjective, a plural noun, an animal, a silly word, an adjective, and an adverb). However, the second player has no idea how those words will be used (they haven't seen the story with blanks). After the first player has filled in all of the blanks, a nonsensical story is created. Below is a Mad Lib that Shaling enjoyed so much that she asked Mrs. Bivens to email it to me.

When you go to the beach, you must take along a big blanket, a thermos bottle full of water
, lots of suntan pee
, and a couple of folding chairs
. Then you put on your swimsuit
so you can get a beautiful green
to last you all summer. You also should have a big hat to keep the sun off your waist
. If you want exercise, you can find some beaches
to play volleyball with. Volleyball is America’s favorite nice
game. You can also bring a/an hot
lunch, such as hard-boiled shalings
, a few dog
sandwiches with mustard, and some bottles of laugh
cola. If you remember all of the above and get a place near a/an yummy
lifeguard, you can sunbathe hungry
all day.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Slumber Party Wrap-Up

Despite some dreaded "girl drama", Shaling's slumber party went very well. The girls never cease to entertain me. Brock has an entertaining story for all of you...he shared it on his Facebook wall and I am going to simply copy & paste it here:
 Several months ago Shaling had a slumber party. All of the girls had their sleeping bags laid out on the living room floor. When it was time for them to go to sleep they continued talking and giggling like 10 year old girls typically do. I gave them several warnings to be quiet and go to sleep. Finally, I told them if they weren't quiet, I would sleep on the couch in the living room. When they kept talking, I kept my word and slept on the couch. Shaling and her friends were horrified! So tonight she's having a slumber party for her birthday. She told all of her friends to bring an American Girl doll. When I got home from work, the couch was lined with all of the dolls. Shaling told them all to bring their dolls so the dolls can sleep on the couch. She told me, "Dad, dolls on the couch. No room for you to sleep on the couch. You have to sleep upstairs."

The fabulous cake arrives and she is giddy. She jumped up & down as Julie took it out of the car.

The party table.

One more picture of the cake.

Supper was at her favorite restaurant.

Our table wasn't exactly subtle.

I asked for a thumbs up, but you can see these 3 weren't so sure.

Pretty smiles while their food is being cooked.

Thanks for smiling, Jessie!

Beautiful girls.

Hannah SOOO wanted to be able to use chopsticks.

Shaling is happy.

Lots of chatting & eating.

Her fortune cookie was eerily accurate.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy 11th Birthday, Shaling Annabelle Reynolds!

Shaling turns 11 today (and her Great Grandma Coonrod turns 84). Shaling is excited about having a pink cake and a slumber party tonight. I'm sure I'll have plenty of fun and happy pictures to share. However, this morning I am feeling a bit more sentimental. I found a poem that I'd like to share with you, only I changed the gender of the child to fit my family. You can find the original here: http://poetry.adoption.com/poems/my-childs-birthday.html

It's my child's birthday
She just went dashing by
Her eyes are sparkling with the excitement meant only for today.
Presents, kisses, hugs, cake, ice cream

It all seems so natural.
It's a day of looking back and looking forward.

It's my child's birthday
But there is something different happening inside me.
This should be a day of complete joy
A day for Thanksgiving
But in the midst of all this excitement
I pause, because my thoughts are about someone else for a time.

It's my child's birthday
I have no memories of her life growing inside me and fighting to be released.
Another someone was there
Another someone suffered for my joy.

It's my child's birthday
But someone, somewhere, is feeling emptiness inside.
I'm sure she is wondering
Who she looks like
If she is big or small.
Wondering if she laughs much.

It's my child's birthday
And in the midst of this blessed day that was given to me
I have a prayer.

Oh God, that I may never forget that someone suffered so much to give life to my child.
That someone loved my child so very much that she gave her the right to live.
May I never forget for a moment and especially now, today, to offer a prayer of thanks for that someone.
And that you, dear God, will always be there for that someone to help her through the hurts she will have when she stops to think that today is "my child's birthday."


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A New, Yet Old, Video of Long Sha Ling

I came home late last night from St. Louis (watched the Cardinals beat the Reds) to find a padded envelope on the counter, addressed to me. Exhaustion won over curiosity and I hit the sack. However, I took the envelope to work with me today. During my morning break, I opened it up to discover this:
And this:

Ok, so NOW my curiosity was not only winning, but beating the snot out of me. Unfortunately for me, they turned off our CD drives on our work computers, so finding out just what precious treasure is on this CD had to wait until I arrived home. I knew it would be something good, as Diana, a warm and wonderful lady who works her tail off at our favorite adoption agency, and who herself has experienced adoption from both directions, and her mother got to spend some time with Shaling in China before we went to get her (or ever met her). They supplied me with pictures and videos of my little girl that were all I had to hold onto until I finally had her in my arms.

All afternoon, I was supposing that this CD probably was a back-up copy of those very pictures and videos that Diana and Aleda had already shared with me. Little did I know it would have something even better -- an adorable video of my beautiful daughter I had not yet had the pleasure of viewing. In it, Shaling is singing a Chinese song. I showed it to her and she doesn't remember the video at all. I asked her to describe the song for me and all I can get out of her is that it has something to do with a flower. If anyone knows anymore, I'd love to hear about it.

Here it is: