Saturday, October 4, 2014


Wynn had a sleep-over with 3 friends.
Lots of laughter.
Lots of fun.
(This was before Yenny officially moved in.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

School Update

The blogs are sadly neglected, mostly replaced by Facebook.

I needed to come back and update Wynn's school journey as the year is ending. Since my negotiations with the school resolved before Christmas break, it has been so much better! Wynn is doing a program called Read 180 (a Scholastic program) which has been very helpful in encouraging her to read in English. This program has components for remedial reading instruction and for English Language Learners. We still do vocabulary homework together, but not with quite the ridiculous lists as before. Wynn practices and practices spelling. (I love it that she comes to me for help, insisting that I explain the word meanings better than her teacher. Something Mom can help with!)

Because she is spending so much time and effort learning the basics - reading and writing English - I worry that she is not getting enough content classes. "We" haven't taken enough History or Science. We are going to take an online Biology class this summer.

Aside: We were told that she had to take the Biology EOC test. Washington State law: Students in the classes of 2015 and beyond must pass a biology EOC to graduate. We had already been told that she had to take all standardized tests, "no exceptions," after she had been in the US for 12 months. This EOC exam was last Friday, and Wynn, who has never had a biology class, was STRESSED about it. I got a text from her in the middle of the day, "Something is not cool!!! The school wants me to take the Biology EOC on this Friday. I don't understand why and what is about." I tried to tell her that 1) I'm sorry. 2) It's just a stupid law; the school doesn't want to make you do it either. 3) It 100% doesn't matter how she does on the test, so don't worry. (Ha! Not likely). I contacted both counselors and her math teacher, who is one of her favorite people and asked them to talk to her and try to ease her anxiety. Several conversations and a couple of days later, I got this text, "I was at office to talk about test. I will not take the test." Yay! A victory! I don't know how they arranged to exempt her (until after a biology course, at least), but I thanked them sincerely.

On another note, family life has been smooth and delightful. We have had, of course, normal ups and downs of moods and sibling squabbles - all of them, not just Wynn ;) - but we have not had any recurrence of the challenges of last August/September. She is 100% part of the family in all our hearts, and she has been behaving as if she feels the same way. She certainly likes to be busy! She has big plans and is always making more and trying to figure out how to fit it all in. We can't keep up with her.

As the school year winds down, Wynn has been collecting her awards and certificates. Having never held a tennis racquet before, she went out for the tennis team. Not knowing how to read a note of music, she joined the band, playing pep band, concerts, marching band and earning her "letter." She is brave and amazing. Her awards include most improved at tennis, meeting the reading standards for her level of Read 180 (reading in English!) and having the highest geometry grade. We are so proud!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

School Advocacy (?)

Wynn's English class has been troublesome for her.  We went over her vocabulary lists nightly. She would have me read them (regular pronunciation, slow diction, definition, example sentence, regular pronunciation again) into the recorder on her iPod so she could listen and study.  She was still failing every vocabulary quiz.

It is my opinion that the words were ridiculous.  Though fine for a sophomore English class, they have absolutely no practical value for Wynn at this stage of her language learning.  They were learning vocabulary in sets related by Greek or Latin root word.  I think the first one was "graph."  Words like "biography" are probably fine, but what use is it to try to learn the definition of "hydrography" or "chirography" at this time? The same goes for the root "phone."  While "microphone" and even "phonology" can probably make sense to her, when will she really need the word "optophone?"  

I contacted the teacher asking for modification of her expected vocabulary lists, and the teacher said no.  She told me, "Actually, learning root words is very helpful in learning English," to which I responded in vague agreement but tried to point out that this was an inappropriate level for someone who does not yet have a complete handle on auxiliary "do" or "is," and has not mastered comparative or superlative "-er" or "-est."  The teacher assured me that it would soon be better as they would be transitioning to vocabulary units of literary terms.

Along came the literary terms:  plot, conflict, character, imagery, foreshadowing, metaphor, theme, personification, satire, climax, falling action, etc.  The problem with these is not in their application to written material but in the memorization of their definitions.  Personification was defined something like this, "The attribution of a human-like qualities to inanimate objects, concepts,or abstractions." (I would like to challenge this teacher to learn that phrase in Chinese.) We went over each literary term at great length using examples from Island of the Blue Dolphins, Anne of Green Gables, The Hunger Games, even The Simpsons and Veggie Tales. I am confident that she understood each one. On the test, though, she had to match the term with the formally written definition, and she failed. 

At this same time, I was frustrated with the material she was being asked to read.  I posted on Facebook:

I start reading Wynn's English homework aloud to Michael to demonstrate that I don't think it's at her reading level:

"Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.

'Hark at the wind,' said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it."

At that exact moment, Wynn picked up Ari's Grade 1 Phonics Reader 8 and said, "What is P-A-M?" 

As I continued having a going-nowhere conversation with the teacher, it was time for Wynn to pick a novel from the approved curriculum book list.  She picked Island of the Blue Dolphins (which she has read before, but I don't care.)  She was reading the book in Chinese for good comprehension but doing the homework in English.  (Describe the setting.  Use examples of imagery. / Tell how the author uses explicit and implicit characterization to create the main character.)

Then I got an e-mail from her English teacher that began like this, "Hello - I just found out that Wynn is reading a Chinese version of her English reading book.  Having her read it in Chinese is completely the wrong direction we should go.  She needs to read English words in order to learn English. She will have to take the HSPE in English this spring - no exceptions . . ."

Can you hear me screaming?  I understand that the teacher has no say whatsoever over Wynn taking the HSPE, but throwing her in over her head and watching her flounder and fail is not going to help her pass.  The HSPE score just cannot be a priority for her.  (I did look into whether this test is available in other languages.  Yes, but students are only eligible for a non-English version for 12 months.  After that, she should be caught up to Sophomore level, right?)

The "don't let her read in Chinese" advice (accompanied nicely by a suggestion that I hire a private tutor and the teacher would help me find one) was the last straw for me.  Many phone calls to many people at the school, and she is no longer going to be in this English class.  She is going to be doing a Scholastic Program called Read 180 instead.  We will see how it goes.  (Actually, in the beginning, they were going to add Read 180 but leave her in the English class.  I had to be uncomfortably bitchy and say, "I want her out of that class.")

Anyone have experience with Read 180?  I can read about it online but cannot access the portal to work on it with Wynn at home.  I am still very optimistic that it will be a change for the better. Sorry about lowering the school district average on the HSPE! (Not.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Behind the Wheel

Watch out, world.  Someday soon, she'll be behind the wheel!
Drivers' Ed actually started ON her 16th birthday.  Her dad asked her how she got that worked out so perfectly.  She flashed her beautiful smile, pointed at her cheeks, and said, "Dimples are lucky."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beautiful Girl

This is one stunning "selfie."
Good thing she has 4 brothers, a dad, and a whole bunch of uncles to protect her, huh?
At this time, Michael has this picture as his wallpaper on his phone, and he says he just shakes his head and thinks, "Pretty girl" and "Trouble. . . " every time he picks it up.  I said it's a parent's job to think their children are pretty.  He responds, "No.  She's really pretty."  LMAO.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sweet 16

Wynn's birthday celebration was great!  We went to Triple Play, a family fun park, which included mini-golf, bowling, arcade, and water park.  (I hadn't paid for the outdoor activities since I couldn't predict fall weather when I made reservations.  It turned out to be a beautiful day, and it was kind of a bummer that we hadn't included go-karts and bumper boats in our package.)  Wynn even set up an awesome surprise for me, and Travis showed up!!!  We got more pictures of the little kids than the big kids because the little ones don't hide from the camera the way the big kids do.  (That means you, Wynn and Rose!)
The Birthday Girl.

Uncle Travis, Andrew, Dad, Conor, Rose
Nana, Ben, Amanda (Matthew's Amanda, not Andrew's, lol), Auntie, Wynn
Gabrian, Ariana,

After Triple Play, we had dinner at Pizza Hut, and I wish I had a picture of that! We ordered 5 large pizzas, but there was something wrong with the large crusts, so for 3 of the larges, they substituted 2 mediums each. That was a mess of pizzas!

The next day was lunch at Wynn's favorite, Hu Hot Mongolian Grill, and ice cream cake with a minion on it.  This was also the first holiday that Wynn has not seemed sad or disappointed about something.  It was a weekend packed with a whole lot of fun!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rejection, From Those Rejected

Being back in school has helped Wynn's outlook.  Boredom is not good for her!  She has a million things to tell us about school every day.  In general, day to day life together is smooth and comfortable.  Wynn is amazingly intelligent and determined.

Still, behind the daily pleasant conversations are lots of little jabs and pokes, what I've come to term micro-aggressions.  These are the little ways that she tells us each day that she is not going to participate in being part of our family on our terms.  Mild examples of these are scribbling out her birthday on multiple calendars; addressing me by my first name; leaving messages about her anger, some with profanity, on different papers in unpredictable places.  None of them are big, or direct, rebellions.  It makes me sad, though, and I don't know the best approach.  I don't know how much these are just teenage girl issues and how much are adoption issues.  Wynn will not discuss any of the above.
One of my "love notes" from Wynn.  Of course, the correct thing to do with this one is add a "t," because it is obviously a good day to start a diet.
If parents of one of my patients asked me about similar issues with an adopted or foster child, I would likely tell them that there is a normal stage of learning attachment where a child will test the bonds between himself and the family-in-progress.  I would also advise that it is usually the primary caregiver who will receive the brunt of these tests for two reasons:  One, the closeness of the bond between child and primary caregiver is the one that makes the child feel most vulnerable in the uncertainty of whether this bond is breakable.  And two, as a child struggles for independence, the one on whom he has been most dependent is the one from whom he must push away most firmly.  I would advise unconditional and frequently demonstrated love and very consistent boundaries.  That's what I would say if it were someone who is not me. . .  (And if it were at work, I would be speaking of a much younger child.)

It doesn't leave me with any answers about the best approach.  When my daughter leaves messages about me, describing me with profanity, on the password sheet that hangs in the computer room, should there be a negative consequence (as there would be with a bio child)?  Or would that just send a message that you are required to love your family (and do it my way), any anger is misplaced, and further close the door on communication?

I read some articles to try to get some ideas, and there's not a lot out there for stories that parallel ours.  I did find an article about adopting teens from foster care in which this sentence stood out,  "[Adopted teens'] behaviors invariably test the commitment of their new parents." (Pat O'Brien, the founder of You Gotta Believe, an agency that specializes in placing teens with adoptive families.)  

My first thought was, OK, this is not unusual.  Adopted teens will "invariably" test.  My second thought was that this did not apply to Wynn.  This article is talking about young people who have had multiple placements and have lived through the non-permanency of the foster care system.  It says, for example, "when foster youth exhibit typical negative behaviors, it can get them thrown out of foster homes and even some adoptive homes." Wynn has not been through the foster care system, and she is in absolutely no danger of being removed from our family.

As I thought about it, I started trying to understand how much rejection she may have felt in the past and what understanding she might have (or not have) about permanency.  First, she was abandoned at about 6 months of age.  I believe that this was not the choice her birth family intended or wanted, or they would not have cared for her for 6 months; I believe they loved her. However, to the one abandoned, it is the ultimate rejection.  Then, she went to an orphanage, and then to a foster family.  Once her file was submitted for adoption, though it was totally out of her control, she knew why her picture was being taken.  She knew that families could choose to adopt her . . . and she waited . . . for years.  How could that not feel like rejection?  It seems that the school implied that it was because she was not a good student. (This is reflected in her adoption file reports and was told to us by the orphanage director.  They are wrong.  She is brilliant.)  She told us that her foster mom told her she wasn't chosen because she wasn't pretty enough.  Rejection.  Then, she lost her foster family.  They did not reject her; it is clear through their ongoing contact that they love her and believe that an American adoption is the best opportunity that she could be given.  Still, they sent her away.  How can she not feel rejected, and what notion might she have about what we call "forever family?"

Food for thought.  Food for tears.  Wynn, we love you SO MUCH, and I hope that you come to know it in your head and feel it in your heart with conviction and certainty that requires no thought.