Jessica - Jessica is 20! Can you believe it?! She will graduate from her community college in May with an Associates in Applied Science and is coming back home to attend our local college to finish her degree in Biology (her choice so far). As James will be off the Navy, this will work out well :) She has a very nice boyfriend of more than a year, and we expect certain "announcements" at some point. But Jessica, (who apparently does listen to me sometimes), says she will get her degree before settling down, as I did. He makes her happy, and loves her for who she is, and isn't that the best thing of all?
Jessica and Joy have become close as well, which is great.....Jessica loves having a "sister" close to her own age. I don't have a lot of pictures of her because she rarely comes home and she spent Christmas with her boyfriend's family this year, her first away from home. I guess I have to get used to that, as we don't know if James will be with us either next year (sigh).
James - our oldest, a senior this year of course. In the throes of basketball, aiming for state. He is, as of tonight, 204 points away from making the goal of 1000 points, which puts him "on the wall" of our school. But the main thing is going to state if they can and working together towards that goal. The big news for James is in November, he signed up for the Navy, following in his grandpa's footsteps. We are so proud he chose to serve his country! He will graduate on May 15 and ship out to boot camp August 11; I know already I will miss the great discussions and debates he and I have.
|Warming up before a game|
|From 3 to 17 - my, how they change|
|Our Navy man|
Joy - our lovely Chinese exchange student. She is sweet, intelligent, definitely has her own ideas about the way things shoud be, and is somewhat unorthodox in her approach to learning, and ADORES music and art. She excels at the piano. Coming from a traditional "teach to the test" format in China, she is non-typical in that she believes that true learning cannot really take place if children are only taught to regurgitate material in a test format. Chinese students are steered from an early age towards the gaokao, the all-important college entrance exam. Stories abound on how students spend their lives preparing, the hours of study, and the ultimate prize of a good score, thus entrance into a good college. In China also, so Joy tells us, one must choose their field of study upon entering university and cannot change once begun. Joy decided not to enter college this year as she would have in China, but instead to challenge herself by coming to America and experiencing a complete culture change. Let's just say the complete culture change is definite! She loves some aspects of America (she loves Casey's pizza!), us, and the people she's met. She has also found some disappointments...in that our own public school system is not so very much different...our teachers do not really have time to sit and discourse over art and music and other abstract interests, and our students as well are often "taught to the test", ending in an overall pigeon-holing by state-mandated testing each year.
She is also learning going from being an only child to living in a large family, respecting others' space, working around others' schedules, sharing parental time with other siblings, have their own challenges. She hopes to return next fall to attend college in the states and she hopes to come "home" for the holidays :) She REALLY loved Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
|Picking apples at Grandpas|
|Halloween - meet "Cowboy Joe"|
|Basketball! - never played...ever|
Jaxon - though yes, we still mostly use NingNing, though I often think it's time to switch to encourage him in embracing life here. What do I say about my quiet, timid, introverted, scared-of-life, "I don't care", full-of-general attitude, son? Learning English continues to be a source of contention for him and one he's not inclined to rush. This summer he did finally begin speaking in sentences and responding to people in short and simple conversation. That has been helpful in everyday life, the basics of figuring out his needs and wants.....but figuring out his soul....what makes him tick, what excites him (nothing so far), what and who he really is....he still keeps all that wrapped tightly inside, sharing nothing of his thoughts, questions, concerns, ideas, or his previous life. In fact, he claims no memory at all of his life in China. I find this impossible to believe, but perhaps there are memories, both good and bad, that evoke emotions he can't handle. Perhaps he still misses his carefree life in China with no rules, free to goof-off in school, run around, etc. Or perhaps the memories are not happy ones and he'd rather just forget. I am coming to expect and sadly accept we may never know. Ning was doing some Taekwondo, but after some difficulties in late October, we took him out. He wasn't liking it anyway due to a new teacher who wasn't as easygoing as the first one (he wanted Ning to be respectful in class; can you imagine the gall??!!). He claims he is going to play baseball which begins in late February, but truthfully, I think it's because he knows if he doesn't do something, we will be insisting on him getting a job. Time to start saving money for either college or an apartment of his own at some point. He did get selected for our school's National Honor Society as an "honorary" member, in the hopes it would encourage him to become more involved.
As far as the family goes, he tolerates us, but does not love us; having never experienced our American style family type of love, it is not something that comes naturally to him. If I were to put our family in order of his preference, I believe it would go like this: Jazmin, James, Dad, Joy (maybe Joy first because she speaks Chinese!), Judi, Jessica, and me at the bottom. I am the "pusher', the one who asks for something from him, expects some level of participation in the family, makes and enforces most of the rules for the sake of peace, therefore, I am the least favorite. Yet I am also the only one who can help with school, makes special food, does the doctor/dentist stuff, yada, yada, yada....you get the picture. If I stop (if I have the audacity to get sick, for example), it ALL stops.
There is one piece of progress I think is important. When we go places he doesn't want to go, he will text me now if he wants or needs something. It's always short conversations and basic English, but he always uses the proper grammar and I like to think it helps his reading, as well as give us ANY type of connection, no matter how tenuous. He knows if he's home alone, I will be checking in and he BETTER text me back or there will be no more staying home alone!
School is plugging along; it will continue to be an uphill battle until graduation at some point. He is doing a new program this year that allows him to translate into Chinese, affording him some measure of grade-appropriate learning. However, he is very unmotivated to excel in his academics, so future options are on our radar now that he's over 16.
|NHS pinning by big brother|
|Beautiful crew (except for that weird lady above Jessica photo-bombing the picture, lol)|
Jazmin and Judi - ah, our precious girls. They light up our life with their unadulterated joy and happiness about everything! They constantly tell us how much they love us, generously dole out hugs and cuddles, and are true sisters in every sense of the word. Both girls are involved in dance and basketball this year again, and Jazmin in softball again soon. With James AND Joy also in high school basketball, we just need to buy an RV to park wherever the games are! Jazmin is a very goal-oriented, focused person. She already has her dream, to be a pediatrician, and maintains straight As along with all her activities. She started sixth grade this year; she was a little nervous, but quickly settled in as usual...she is very interested in student council and wants to be secretary! Her absolute favorite shopping destination? Office Depot, of course! And this year, on November 15, we celebrated 10 years of joy on her Gotcha Day.
Then there is our firecracker, Judi, almost 10 years old. We will celebrate her 5-year Gotcha Day on March 1, 2015. It escapes me where the time went! Judi is in 4th grade now and excelling as well. She is a little less enthusiastic about studying than Jazmin, but still does ok :) She is our "techhie". Give the girl an electronic; she's got it all figured out in minutes. But all good things in moderation, which she discovers when the electronics are overdone. She tends to be blunt, and say exactly what is on her mind, sometimes to the detriment of a relationship. As in her and Ning. Sadly to me, she has pretty much accepted that she is not Ning's favorite person, and at first it really bothered her. But now she is more calm about it, more matter-of-fact, secure in the knowledge that she loves him and to her, that's all that matters. She has a huge, sensitive heart really and asks questions that wouldn't often occur even to a grownup. She talks about China often and her memories and both girls love to hear the stories of their adoption days.
|The Nutcracker - she was a boy!|