The Positive (always good to start with that!):
- Affection: The kids are really quite sweet and loving. I just received a beautiful handmade picture with an "artist's rendering" of me--- I was thrilled to see that the woman was actually happy and smiling! In fact, the drawings of all of the kids show them smiling. Their artwork shows a lot more attention to detail: sunny days, flowers, green grass, smiles, hearts, etc. If daddy is drawn, he has arms extended like a hug; mommy is drawn with hearts for eyes. Very cute and touching. The kids love to give mommy gifts, and it sure lifts my spirits when the day has been difficult. The boys are becoming more genuinely more kind and giving. The older brother is finally starting to treat his brother with some loving kindness; the girls are doing slightly better loving each other... well, at least they don't hit so much.
- Church: The discipline issues seemed to resolve quickly when the kids "overheard" me talking with the Sunday School teacher. All I had to say was that I considered interrupting the teacher and constantly talking in class to be inappropriate behavior. I then proceeded to write my cell number down so that he could call me to remove the child from class. Horrified at the prospect of getting yanked from class, the kids are now acting appropriately. I make sure to remind my kids every time I leave them off what the consequences of disruptive behavior are; it's worked like a charm!
- Soccer and Sports: The kids love soccer and are learning to operate as a team. They are starting to show the coach more respect... thankfully. Our soccer coach also employs the Halvorson push up routine when the team becomes too mouthy. I'm happy that my kids aren't the only ones without self-control! Additionally, the boys are excited just thinking about trying basketball and baseball this year; the girls dream of becoming great runners.
- Music: The kids are going to have some trial piano lessons soon; they may be ready to start some short lessons!
- No More Hitting: This is all pretty much gone, with the exception of what I would consider "normal sibling hitting."
- School: While the kids' progress in school is actually wonderful, the challenge of keeping two particular children focused demands constant improvisation on my part. I'm reading lots of new books on children who are "highly distractible." (Please see: http://www.westfieldacademy.org/zen-cart/ for some great information and help). While I'm not through with all the reading, some of the ideas have worked immediately: phonics and sight word flash cards with illustrations integrated into the letter (see: http://stores.diannecraft.org/Categories.bok?category=Flashcards); playing with "silent fidgets" (see: www.therapro.com), specifically http://www.therapro.com:80/Silent-Fidgets-C307861.aspx)while listening to a story or doing math problems; not insisting anymore on sitting still or even sitting at all (if you can do your math work on your head, more power to you!); acting out stories; incorporating play and movement into everything I can think of. We play more games and use music a lot. If we sit in a circle for a discussion (e.g. morning devotions), we toss a ball around; the only person who can talk is the one holding the ball. This has helped the constant interrupting and talking during lessons. My next project is to make some card board table top dividers--- to make each of the kids a "study carrel." The visual stimulation of working at an open table--- and with everything else in the room-- provides too much opportunity for distraction. What I find surprising is that they actually want to have separate areas to work; they constantly accuse each other of cheating and looking at each other's work. This might also curb the incessant need to be done first or fastest. These children are highly, highly competitive--- to the point of being negative. Their need to be "best" must certainly be due to a lack of self-esteem.
- Food: One child remains unbelievably stubborn regarding food. I do insist on "just one bite." I am learning to take the few foods he does like and make other dishes using those primary ingredients. For example, our youngest son loves chicken rice. Then, I introduced a tiny bit of plain chicken mixed in with the rice. Next time, I added some very small and tender green beans and mixed in some berberre. It worked! He still prefers plain chicken rice, but at least now we're adding some more nutrition. The other idea that has helped is that my fussy boy does love to help me in the kitchen. He has successfully made corn bread muffins and had great fun doing it! I am going to have him make some other menu items, hoping this will encourage him to eat his creations. Regardless of some progress, this will be a long term issue... way longer than I once anticipated.
- Sleep: My oldest boy is doing significantly better with sleep, but his sleep is still not totally consistent. He recently confessed to me that he had a lot of trouble sleeping in Ethiopia, too. We are probably dealing with years of poor "sleep hygiene." Recently, we finished a workbook called,"What to Do When You Dread Your Bed," by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D. (amazon.com). This wonderful book is meant to be read out loud to your child; it is at your child's level (recommended for ages 6-12). What I liked about this book is that it just draws the child in by having the child color and add himself to the pages of the workbook. Then, it entertains and involves your child by having him do easy "magic" tricks. It's really quite clever. It gives him the tools he needs to fall asleep and stay asleep. Additionally, we still use the baby monitor; he has called out to me on occasion. It gives him extra security knowing mom can hear him and respond immediately. I am going to try some products on Therapro.com for physical, emotional, and cognitive regulation. I'll let you know how it works.
- Boundaries? The kids still seem to have some question as who is in charge. I mean they know intellectually that Dad is the head of the household; they know they are supposed to obey me. Yet, they continue to take huge liberties, without even thinking to ask for permission. Say "no" on a bad day, and you better make sure the doors are locked or you at least have your running shoes on! Part of this may be that they see older kids enjoying more freedom, and they naturally assume they can do the same things. But part of it is that they are used to fending for themselves and having no schedule or responsibilities; those attitudes die hard. They also wrestle with lying and pouting, but that is normal in all children.