What a ride it has been! The last 14 months have been probably the most challenging of our lives. In the last 3 months alone, our emotions have run the gamut from frustration to despair to hope to sheer joy and back through it all again. It reminds me of a country dance, the 2-step. In tandem with your partner, you take two steps forward, one step back, two forward, one back, but always moving in a forward direction.
Watching Ning emerge little by little from his self-imposed cocoon is a tremendous thing to watch. This boy who had been essentially ignored by the adults around him in China is finally realizing that, for the first time in his life, there are people who genuinely CARE about him and who he becomes. And not just us, his family. Our friends the Sanders and Verhulsts, his friends at school, his teachers, his tutors....a whole wealth of people invested in his future where before there were none. There have been times when we wondered if we did the right thing bringing him home (even if it was his choice) because of his slow, sometimes difficult adjustment. But lately, we have seen more and more signs of the sweet, funny boy Ning really is.........just in the last few weeks, we have seen more smiles and heard more laughs than in the entire first year. He seems to have turned a corner in his own mind and perhaps is finally beginning to believe us when we say he is loved and here to stay for as long as he needs and wants.
Now for just a few updates on our summer events...........August 8 was our one-year with Ning. Even then, let's just say it was NOT the joyous occasion it was with our girls, simply because the celebrant still wasn't sure he was happy about his decision to come here. We kept it very low-key; went to Chinese, and I wrote him a letter about the miracle of how he happened to be in our family and close to his friends. Then just the other day, Ning and I had the occasion to have a long conversation about many things. He admitted having a good relationship with his foster parents, but mainly because by his own admission, they never bothered him about school, and imposed no rules or expectations on him. They provided a place to sleep and food to eat and that was pretty much it. He said the hardest thing for him besides learning English was getting used to the way we Americans "teach" our children by assigning consequences to actions. This was a totally foreign concept for Ning, but once I explained WHY we are involved in school (because we care about his future) and WHY we discipline (because we care about WHO he becomes), he just seemed "lighter" somehow.
Then on August 18th, we hit another milestone........we sent our oldest, Jessica, off to college. We all went to move her in to her dorm room, and we couldn't believe our first baby was all grown up. Ning seemed particularly interested in the goings on, and Jazmin said she couldn't wait to go to college! Thankfully, as I'd hoped, Jessica has settled in well, made many friends, is doing fine with her grades, and overall enjoying her freedom.
School has started for the rest of the kiddos (I will post school pics soon); James is a junior (gasp), Ning is an official high-schooler, Jaz is in 5th grade, and Judi's a big 3rd-grader. All the kids are doing well, though James is chomping at the bit to get to graduation already. How do you tell your kids to slow down, to not want to grow up so fast? Ning continues in his ESL program, and we have him in extra tutoring 4 additional hours a week. Some of it is through our college's Speech clinic and he is making amazing progress. He has even, finally, begun to use English in sentences and spontaneously answer questions; you can tell it makes a huge difference in his attitude to be able to communicate even that little amount. He has gone from just learning phonics during the summer to 2nd grade level stories and books already! And the most amazing thing is that he has begun working extra hard on his English at HOME; that has made so much difference in his progress and his ability to interact with us.
Other news is that we got a "real" piano just this last weekend! Ning didn't like our 20-year old keyboard for some reason, and I have to admit I love having a piano......I have always wanted one, a childhood dream of mine. And the bonus is......Ning has practiced every day without me saying a word; yahoo!
Between piano, dance, and basketball, the kids keep us running. James will start varsity basketball in early November and then things will really get interesting! And I'm already looking forward to Spring baseball and both my boys playing; that will be fun to watch them both play on the same team.