Reality check time... it's already nine months! Glad my expectations have changed radically!
On the positive front:
School: The kids are adjusting very well to a longer school day. We now get in at least 4 hours of instruction everyday, plus we do some additional individual reading. All of the new kids are starting to read! Additionally, I have done a few different classes lately, just to keep it new and hopefully, a bit more exciting. For example, we are doing a unit on basic geography--- learning directions, working with maps, etc. This has been one of their favorite subjects, as they enjoy the "Geography Songs" CD that we use with the worksheets. We have also completed a unit on manners, which will need to be repeated.... I introduced table manners, making proper introductions, and telephone answering basics. All the kids have an interest in learning to do some basic cooking. That sounds like another fun unit!
Sleep: I finally found the magic bullet that works to quiet the two talkative boys: soccer deprivation! It is the only threat that has continued to work effectively. If a boy is found talking and playing in his room after we say prayers, that child does not get to participate in whatever soccer-related event is next. If that offender has a game the next day, he has to go to the game and sit on the sidelines. He also has to apologize to the coach, and explain why he is not allowed to participate. Thus far, and it has been 3 weeks, neither boy has talked at night time. The cost is simply too high. And they know I'm not joking.
Affection: The kids are wonderfully affectionate! They love giving and receiving hugs, and they are quick to forgive and forget when someone hurts them or if they get in trouble with Mom or Dad. In particular, the youngest is just a sweetheart! He loves to sit next to me and "pets" my hand and puts his head on my shoulder. He just melts my heart. In general, the kids seem very happy and relaxed. They do stress over things and do not worry.
Understanding Money: For each of my 4 youngest, I purchased a three-section bank that has separate compartments for spending, saving, and giving. I give the kids a small allowance, and they are required to immediately divide the money between the banks. This has really helped them to understand the value of money. They love giving to church, and look forward to doing this every week.
On the difficult front:
Food: One child remains unbelievable fussy. He can get quite sad and extremely stubborn if food is not what he wants. The other major issue we are dealing with is wasting food. I want them to know we have plenty of food, and I want them to know they can have as much as they need... but then they also have hard time understanding that food is expensive and should not be carelessly wasted. Just a learning process, I'm sure--- but frustrating when you're trying to control the ever-climbing food bill.
Sunday School: The older two are causing problems in the classroom because of excessive talking and not listening. They have each been put in time-out in class. They don't seem to understand that they are being disrespectful and that they hamper the learning of the other kids. Soooo thankful we home school, as I'm pretty sure their inattention and disruptive tactics would not be tolerated in a public school setting.
Soccer: The same two who can't control their mouths in Sunday school also can't control their mouths on the soccer field. Today, I gave our sweet coach permission to do whatever was necessary to curb the disrespect. He liked the idea of push-ups and laps.
Meanness: Girls can be quite mean. I can handle it when it happens in our own home, but it is much more frustrating when it happens in public. One little lady loves to yell at people what they can and cannot do--- and she can't understand why other girls get offended and yell at her. She lacks tact in a big way! We have had a few days of very early bedtimes, trying to help her understand the connection between her mouth and how others respond to her. Could be a long battle. She doesn't understand that she can back down from her survivor-mode; she doesn't have to fight for everything.
Early Maturation: Both my 8 year olds are starting puberty. Bummer for the entire household.
Birthdays: The three new kids celebrated birthdays this month. For one, it proved to be a difficult and sad time. We tried to really downplay the whole thing, but it was just hard. Events that we might consider happy and joyful often produce the opposite for our kids. I am so thankful that all of the adoption training classes and books prepared me for this aspect. I know not to expect my kids to react how I might want them to.
Discipline: One child in particular loves to challenge everything I say--- thankfully not every day, but on some hormonally-charged days. When I discipline that little one, she responds with a smirk or a smile. Not exactly the kind of response I'm going for.... I have to really think: "Don't take this personally, don't take this personally!" over and over in my mind. Wish I could be the perfect parent, but that's just not going to be my reality.
I pray that this update is not discouraging to anyone contemplating older child adoption. I think the most important issue to remember is that you, as the parent, have to be unbelievable resilient and constantly ready to learn something new. You HAVE to be in the Word every single day, sometimes multiple times a day! I find that I make lots of parenting mistakes, but that when I go to my God and seek wisdom, and then go to my children and humbly apologize for blowing something, they just respond with love and forgiveness. We all learn from mistakes, not smooth-sailing.