Saturday, February 25, 2012

Differing Views on Continuing Education

Anyone who has ever met me or talked to me about my views on raising children knows that I value education. Not only do I value education but I also expect my children to excel at school. I have seen children who school was hard for succeed with a lot of hard work and determination. Children who could not read at grade level in early elementary school later making honor roll in high school and being admitted to colleges and universities. School seems to come very easy to my children so I expect that they will do well and eventually go to college. Not going to college will be seen as a disappointment. Even now my kids know they will someday go to college. That's why the following conversations touched me. The first one made me chuckle since he can't really believe I would ever allow this to happen. The second one made me beam with pride and hope that his dreams really do come true. Both of these conversations were on the same morning and occurred about 30 minutes apart.

1st Conversation:

Me: Matthew, I registered you for kindergarten and kindergarten screening.
Matthew: I'm not going to kindergarten.
Me: What do you mean? Of course you are going to kindergarten.
Matthew (laying on the ground): I'm not going ! I'm staying in 4K!
Me: You are going. It will be fun.
Matthew: I'm only going if I can go to this school (not our neighborhood school for grades K-5).
Me: We can argue about this in August.

I then told his wonderful teacher about our conversation. She agreed to talk to him and help him see how much fun it will be.

2nd conversation about 30 minutes later:

Jacob: Mom? Where will I go to middle school?
Me: I'm not sure. They are making a lot of changes right now. It will depend on where we live and what schools and programs are available (they are starting new charter schools as well as planing on starting a lot of new programs in the school district).
Jacob: Where will I go to high school?
Me: I don't know. Maybe the one by our house. We will have to see how you are doing and what our options are then.
Jacob: Where will I go to college?
Me: Where ever you want! I will take you to visit and tour colleges when you get to high school. You can go where ever you want.
Jacob: I want to go to Wisconsin Badgers school!
Me: Then you can. I'll work with you to help you get ready and get accepted. It's a hard school to get into but you are doing great in school. You just need to keep working hard.
Jacob: I'm going to Wisconsin Badgers school!

Update: Matthew later talked to his teachers and my parents about kindergarten. He is now willing to at least try it in the fall. He now says he's just not willing to learn how to read.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Five Years Ago

Valentines day has never been one of my favorite holidays. Probably because I have spent most of them single and none of them in a committed relationship that I thought would become a marriage. Valentine's day is a reminder that I have never found that special someone and for a long time was pretty depressing.

Thankfully, that is no longer the case. I now love Valentine's Day. It is still not my favorite holiday but it is a day I look at with fond memories and a smile on my face. It was 5 years ago this Valentine's Day that everything changed. I received a phone call that my son was now mine. Legally. His case had passed court and the Ethiopian government had officially declared him my son. No one knew when I would be travelling for sure but we all knew it would be soon. A matter of a few weeks rather than an unknown number of months.

I will never forget coming home and finding that message on the machine. Then the next day I received another phone message stating that I would be travelling in March and meet Jacob on March 10. Wow! My first emotion was pure excitement and joy. I couldn't wait! I quickly began making phone calls to start to prepare. Then as evening fell and things began to slow down, I experienced the weirdest feeling I have ever known. The reality that I was a mother to a little boy I had never met who lived in an orphanage on the other side of the world. Was he really as sweet as his picture looked? Was he really as happy as he appeared? Would he scream when he met me? Would he want to be my son? Would I like being a mother as much as I thought I would? What if I hated being a parent?

I can say after 5 years that those questions are now all answered. Jacob is as sweet and smiley as those pictures showed him. He was also (and continues to be) much more mischevious and sarcastic. He loves to make people laugh and just his smile and laugh are contagious. He is as smart as I could have dreamed. He didnt' scream when he met me. He cried when I left him for the night. He wanted to be my son and I wanted to be his mom more than anything else in the world.

As far as if I would like being a mother? I don't just like it. I love it. Being a parent is the best thing that ever happened to me. I am now lucky enough to have two wonderful little boys who both challenge me and entertain me. Jacob has been asleep for 11 hours now. Much longer than he normally sleeps. Why is he so tired? Because he ran non-stop with his brother all morning, spent the afternoon with his Big Brother (aka mentor) and then ran all evening with friends from the Ethiopian community in our city.

I have loved watching Jacob grow and mature. He is now 6 years old. He can read, write and is great at math. He loves sports but loves just playing and running with friends even more. Everyone loves Jacob and I love that about him. I still remember the anxiety and worry I had that I had just made a huge mistake five years ago. I can now say it wasn't a mistake. It was the best decision I have ever made.

While Matthew's adoption process was much more difficult than Jacob's and he challenges me in different ways, his adoption was also a wonderful experience. One that I also worried about. After all, I was making a lifelong commitment to a little boy. Now I am dreaming about a third (and final) child to add to this family. The fears and anxiety are the same. Will I love this child as much as the first two? AmI making a huge mistake? Will I like parenting this child also? Of course, the answers are yes. Just like the first two times. My next child will also be loved and actually already is. I will love parenting three children just like I have loved parenting two. I love having three little boys in this house when I babysit our friend Aidan and I will love parenting three children as well. So when will this next child arrive, that has yet to be determined. As with all things in life, sometimes the best things come to those who wait and are patient.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

First Report Cards

Ah, report card time. This is a time of great anticipation and a little bit of nervousness. Waiting for someone to issue a piece of paper where they judge you. Yes, I know they call it evaluation and they are evaluating performance but the truth is they are judging academic progress and to some extent academic potential. I'm not saying the judgement is fair or accurate, it just is difficult to wait to hear that judgement.

Jacob and Matthew first received their first report cards yesterday. The report cards both said basically the same things. The kids aren't perfect but they are smart and ahead of grade level in several areas. I can't really ask for much more. Well, I can ask for perfection but I'll never get it.

More important than the actual scores the children received is that they gave me some insight in areas to continue to work on with them. Matthew will continue to work on basic preschool skills such as listening and following classroom routines. Jacob will continue to work on reading and writing. While he is at or above grade level in these areas, it doesn't hurt to continue to work on these skills and get just a little farther ahead. It will only help him as he continues to go through school.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hard Semester

This is going to be the toughest semester of my college career. The course work isn't too bad but the internship is going to be very difficult. It's not that the actual work will be difficult. It's that it will require me to be away from my kids for 4 evenings a week. I absolutely hate being away from my kids. I miss them and really miss watching all of their activities.

I have often wondered if getting my MSW is really worth it. I received my social work certification which is what I really needed to change careers. I've changed careers and now I'm just finishing my last 2 semesters of school. The MSW will allow me to get licensed as a social worker in the future if I ever move to another state. Without it, I may not be able to get a license since my BA is in Criminal Justice if I ever have to move.

So I am left wondering if 6 months of not seeing my children 4 evenings a week is really worth it. Or if I should just quit now so that I can enjoy this time with my children and be happy with the education that I have received. The only other catch is that if I quit now, I would have to repay a $14000 grant I received my first year of school. So is it worth $14,000 to spend a few extra nights with my children or do I just suffer through it?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Prizes and Surprises

Matthew loves attention and he loves to be silly. This often translates to lots of preschool drama and phone calls. I have been struggling to find ways to counter the phone of getting attention and making his friends laugh with my desire to keep him at day care and teach him that he needs to behave. I have tried many things but nothing was really working. I have now found the magic answer. A prize box.

Jacob, Matthew and I went to the store together last weekend and bought a bunch of little toys for a dollar each. I put them in a basket and told the kids they get them for when I catch them being extra good. The result? Matthew and Jacob are competing to find ways to get prizes. I haven't gotten calls from day care or school and both kids have been volunteering to do extra cleaning and chores at school and at home. Why didn't I think about this sooner? They will do anything for a prize!

So what was the surprise for me?

I got a new couch and a new love seat. I havde wanted to get a new couch for a long time but couldn't justify spending the money. Then I pulled on the edge of the couch to move it and a support bar broke off the bottom. That resulted in a broken couch and an emergency trip to the furniture store. I now have my new couch and I can justify it.