Since my last post, there have been lots of "firsts" in our family. Last weekend while at Lake Martin, Carter transformed from a fearful boy who could barely stick his face in the water to a brave and adventurous swimmer who leaped off the dock (with a life jacket, of course) and swam around to the ladder as if he'd been swimming for months! It was unbelievable to watch. I think all the instructions and instincts just finally clicked together, and he realized he could control himself in the water.
Carter and cousin Tripp
Another first was the meeting of Caroline and some family from Mobile and Fairhope.
Lily (who is also 12) and Caroline hit it off and especially bonded over jumping off the upper deck ledge! It was really cute to watch them hold hands, take deep breaths, prepare to jump, and then giggle when neither of them took the plunge. We'd have to count to ten several times before they'd actually jump.
Carter and Grace continue to idolize their big sister. The two girls still have daily spats, but I guess that's what you get with sisters.
Part of the issue has been that Grace has become extremely clingy with me and will yell at Caroline if she tries to help her when Grace only wants me. Then Caroline gets made and begins antagonizing her. I know that Grace is feeling insecure and jealous, and many of her abandoment issues come from her subconscious (thus awaking her numerous times each night). And I know that giving her affection and love is what she needs more than discipline (although there has to be balance.) But it's hard not to just get mad and want to lock her in her room for an hour. (Which is what you're told NOT to do with an adopted child!) I have to pray hourly for patience!! At the same time, Grace can be such a cutie. Lately, she's been standing on the fireplace to perform, saying "Ladies and GIRRRLLLLSS!!!!!" with a sweeping arm gesture. Then she'll lean forward and whisper, "Clap your hands."
Grace and Cece listening to Justin Beiber on Caroline's iPod
Speaking of entertainment, Carter caught a TV clip of JP proposing to Bachelorette Ashley. When he asked what was happening, I said they were going to get married. (I guess we'll see. LOL) Anyway, he ran to get dressed "just like that guy on TV." And he informed me that he was going to get married. When I asked who the lucky bride was, he said, "Mommy!" I was delighted! He put on his "suit" and ran outside to get a flower to put on his lapel. No roses in the backyard, but a pink snapdragon worked just fine.
Oh the details he picks up on! I melted when he took my hand, smiled intently up at me, and walked us forward singing, "Duhhh duh-duh dah!!" He later referred to me as his "married girl."
Caroline had her first day of homeschooling last Thursday. She had expressed interest in staying home with me for a couple of months, and we were going to focus mostly on her learning English. I worked out lesson plans until November, when we planned for her to begin 5th grade.
Just an FYI to all of you parents who are using Google Translate...it's not as accurate as I thought! I had translated a few chapters from The Jesus Storybook Bible and then thought I should translate the translation to make sure it was correct. Well, let me advise you to leave out any type of metaphor or analogy. One sentence translated back as "God is a kitten who chases her tail." The original statement was that you can learn about God in the way a kitten chases her tail. (I know.... you need the context of the chapter to understand.) I had also typed out a brief version of my testimony. I had written that I understood my life had not been as difficult as hers but that I had experienced pain and loss as well as redemption and restoration through God. I was horrified to see that my sentence was translated back as "My life has not been bad because your life has been." OH MY GOODNESS!!! Totally not what I said! So to make a long story short, I had to keep reworking the English sentences, translating them, copying and pasting the Chinese into the translator, and then seeing how it translated back to English. It was a long process.
While I enjoyed teaching Caroline on Thursday, she had decided just days before that she actually wanted to go to school. But we were worried about her just sitting in class all day and not understanding anything or having any way to communicate with her teacher. Well, Thursday morning, the ESL teacher called and gave us some information (that would have been helpful weeks ago). They proposed giving Caroline an iPad to have at her desk so she could use Google Translate. They had also placed another Chinese student in her class who already knows some English. And on top of that, they placed some other kids from the summer ESL camp so that Caroline would have some familiar faces. So, we went up to the school and let her peek in her class and look around. It was an amazing blessing that a girl she had met recently and clicked with was also in her class! So Friday morning, my girl had her first day of "real" school, as she called it.She loved it!! We'll see how she feels after this whole week. But I think she'll pick up on English faster. And I also think she'll be more motivated to learn the language as she makes friends. My cousins, Leigh Ann and Ashley, have been wonderful as they've helped me navigate the carpool lines, had their own 5th graders (Mary Katherine and Tate) walk Caroline into school, advise me from backpacks to clothing trends, and been prayer warriors and encouragers each day. I couldn't have made it through Friday without them, as it was a huge change to jump into with less than 12 hours to plan. I am really thrilled for Caroline and admire her courage. But I will say I'm sad when I look at all the work I had put into her lesson plans and think of the time we would have spent together. However, Caroline is very social and independent. In some ways, we may bond faster having time apart becaues she'll see me more as a refuge when she comes home from school vs. the teacher/mom/disciplinarian that she can't escape from.
Another thank you goes to my sweet friend Susan who watched Carter and Grace for me ALL day Thursday as I homeschooled and then spent the afternoon visiting the elementary school and finishing Caroline's registration. She had four kids on her hands!