Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chinese New Year Celebration

Grace and the Director of the Confucious Institute

Analiese and the Director

Sweet Analiese

Family Fun

We had a great time this afternoon celebrating the Year of the Tiger--Chinese New Year, The Spring Festival--it has so many names! We first were treated to two hours of music, dancing (including some dragons)and some other fun entertainment. After that we enjoyed a meal of traditional chinese foods.

The celebration was held at the University. In the past few years the University's Asian Studies has grown tremendously. Their Confucious Center is now working with the Georgia Lottery Prekindergarten programs. Each child enrolled in that program is learning the chinese language!! What a great opportunity. This evening part of the show was a group of prek students singing songs in chinese! It was so wonderful!

I just cannot put into words how wonderful it is for my girls to see their culture celebrated by not just other Asians but by everyone! There was such a multi-cultural group in attendance this evening. We feel so fortunate to have this program so close and available to us.

One of the sponsors of this afternoon's celebration was the Confucious Institute. This is the group that is Grace's sponsor for her gymnastics. Grace was able to give the Director of the Institute, Mr. Ken Jen, not only a thank-you card but she also gave him a photo of her on the beam. He hugged her so many times and told her how proud of her he was. He introduced her to the other members of the institute. When we thanked him for his support he responded that Dave is their "special friend" and they were very glad to help Grace, and want to continue their support.

When Mr. Jen found out that Grace was the Georgia State Champion he said that he couldn't wait until she was the national champion. Soon, Mr. Jen, soon...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The fork in the road

Grace has made a very important decision that not many 8 year olds would understand, let alone make! She decided that she was ready to move to the next level in her gymnastics training. She will be pushed to her limits and sometimes beyond. This level, we are told, is not for the uncommitted.

Grace's coach told us that he sees the talent in Grace and thinks that she can go all the way---to the elite level. He has decided to work with her and one other young girl two times a week. That means Grace is really getting private lessons to help accelerate her training. Her coach believes that not only can he have her ready for the TOPs testing this summer but he thinks that she can be considered by the Karolyi's to attend a by-invitation only developmental camp.

The biggest barrier for Grace to achieve all of this? Her emotional level. Grace, when frustrated, breaks down and cries. Not only does she cry but she has a hard time calming down. Now, this is not unusual for an 8 year old who is a perfectionist. But, it is unacceptable for a gymnast who wants to make it to the National Team.

So, we talked with Grace and explained the expectations for her at the next level. She would have to work extremely hard and most things she would not be able to do. She would have to push hard and when she eventually learned the skills there would be even more difficult skills to learn. The coaches told her that they would support her but they would not feel sorry for her. She was told that on the floor she was not an 8 year old. They would consider her a gymnast training to be elite and for that to happen they could not and would not baby her.

Grace told them, on her own, that she wanted until the end of the week (yesterday) to consider it. Her coach told her that if she decided NOT to move on he would still be thrilled because he would have another state champion at level 5. He told her that she would be an awesome gymnast no matter what she decided. Dave and I told her that we would love her no matter what. We reminded her that she was Grace and she was not gymnastics.

During the week we talked about everything, we answered questions and Gracie thought about it. I had Grace watch an old, 5 part documentary (click here to watch) that CNN did on Elite gymnasts. We told Grace if she decided to move to the next level then we would find a sports psychologist that she could talk to.

We arrived at the fork in the road one week ago. Grace made her choice yesterday morning, She told her coach that she wanted to continue with the TOPs teams and that she would work very hard. After practice she then told me her decision. I can't say I was surprised.

At the tender age of 8 Grace grabbed the ring of this fantastic opportunity and is now on a journey that will be full of challenges and unbelievable rewards. And we believe she will be successful!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No great surprise

We heard back from the pediatrician today regarding the results of Analiese's bone scan. No big surprise as the nurse read to us from the report, ..."a child of 5 years 9 months to 6 years 10 months" (as opposed to her stated age of 7 years 5 months). Unfortunately they couldn't give us a smaller range of age but I think we are pretty close when we say Analiese is probably a young 6 year old.

I told Analiese about the results and she asked, "Am I five or am I six?" I told her that she was probably "six" and she said that's OK!

I also asked her if she was going to tell anyone and she said, "no, I'm afraid to". But then she promptly told all of the adults at the dance studio when she arrived for dance class!

I realize that Analiese is too young to really understand. We believe that the earlier we discuss the details of her early life, the likelihood that those details will become part of her is greater. We don't want to wait until she is older, with lots of questions, to begin discussing these issues. Hopefully, by sharing early, we will avoid some confusion and possibly anger.

For now? Nothing really changes for us. For years we've suspected that Analiese was younger than her stated age. We just know for sure that she is right on track developmentally--physically and emotionally for her real age!

A disappointment that I feel is how much of what the chinese told us can I believe? Was Analiese really found on a policeman's door step? Was she really only 2 weeks old? I had a dream of possibly locating the policeman and getting a copy of the police report for her finding. I really had hoped to provide her with as much information about her beginnings as possible.

As I stated before, and the pediatrician has pointed out, Analiese is a very bright little girl as she is doing so well with the group of her peers that some are as much as 18 months older than she.

Analiese has become quite vocal lately about being so "small". Some of the things she complains about are:

**having to sit in a car seat
**having to roll up the sleeves on her shirts
**not being allowed to stay up late
**not being able to reach the kitchen counters without a stool
**not being able to sit in the front seat of the car

She folds her little arms across her chest and exclaims that "Everybody but me can do things, but I can't because I'm the baby". She wants to know why she had to be born last. I tell her it's because she was meant to be my baby and the baby of our big family. That generally calms her down.

Analiese will then say, "I love being your baby". Oh yeah, and I love having you as my baby!

Friday, January 15, 2010

How old are you really?

Analiese went for her well check up today. The pediatrician said she is an extremely healthy little girl! She is 44 inches tall and 37 1/2 pounds! That puts her in less than the 3rd percentile. That's actually an improvement as for the first years home she didn't even make the growth chart!!!

Dave did discuss with the doctor our concerns about Analiese's "age". He jokingly passed on my request to "cut off a limb" to count the rings and see how old Analiese really was. Even though the pediatrician laughed, she told us that we could do a bone scan and find out, within 3 months, what Analiese's age really was.

It didn't take a minute for David to agree. It was a simple procedure--an x-ray of Analiese's hand. They will measure the wrist growth plate as well as the growth around her knuckles and get a very good age estimate!

Why do we want to know her "real" age? Oh, for so many reasons. But, mainly, for her. As she matures and grows she'll want to know the "whys'. Will we change her birth certificate or do anything formal? We decided no. However, we will know and more importantly Analiese will know.

Analiese is EXTREMELY bright. She questions why she is so small, why others can do things she cannot, why she has a "hole" in her mouth, why she has to roll up her sleeves on her shirts and why she can't do some things that her friends can do. We can't answer everything for her but we want to do our best to give her the answers we can get.

Our guess is that Analiese's real age is about a young 6 year old--not a 7 1/2 old. Will that change anything that we do? Not really. It will validate our suspicions and allow us to reevaluate our expectations for her.

Analiese will always be who she is, nothing will change that. But...we are pretty excited that we may be able to give her a piece of the puzzle of her life.

By the way, Analiese has the most beautiful hands around--and the x-ray proves it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Necessity is the mother of invention

So WHAT does a Yankee, transplanted to the south, do with her kids on a snow day????

SLED of course!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dreaming of a winter wonderland

We've watched, in envy, as snow falls in so many states. We've had so much rain this year and just cannot seem to catch a single snowflake! When the temperature drops to a level cold enough to snow we have the sunniest days possible! When the chance of precipitation is high, the temperature increases and we wind up with rain...and more rain....72 inches or so this year.

But, the past week an arctic front has settled itself in our part of the country. Baby, it's been cold outside! We've broken out the boots, sweaters, gloves, scarves, hats and winter coats! The best part? The National Weather Service says we have a 60% chance of snow tomorrow!

Yippee, Yahoo! The snow is not supposed to start until afternoon but several schools have already decided on early dismissal tomorrow--on the threat of snow! We couldn't be more excited! We just cannot wait to go outside and play in the wonderful, cold, snow!

I know there are many of you sick and tired of the snow. Well, those of us in the south don't have many opportunities to build snowmen or sled so we are ready, willing and able to enjoy the heck out of our first snowfall of 2010 (or maybe the decade, I'll have to research that).

What I'm not excited about is that we still have 3 days to make up for the flood days we had to take in September so a snow day will just add on to the time we will have to make up in June. But you know what? It's going to SNOW---who cares!!!!!

Stay tuned for photos of the first snowman that Analiese and Grace will get to make!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A blessing to ALL!

We all went to watch Grace at her elite clinic today. As usual, Analiese charmed someone into playing with her. No, it wasn't another child, it was an adult! Analiese spent the time talking, laughing, talking and laughing some more with this other mom. This mother just loved Analiese! She told me how wonderful she thought our little girl was. Of course I concurred and told her that it was Analiese's lot in life to touch other's lives. She laughed and said she was SO glad that she had been blessed with meeting Analiese!

I must say that Analiese is always so full of energy, love and happiness. She forever is telling me how much she loves me and how happy she is that I am her Mom. For days she has been trying to arrange a day where I don't have to do anything but relax (you know Mom you can read, take a bath, watch TV or play Wii). Unfortunately no one wants to take on my responsibilities so Analiese is now looking for someone to at least take over the cooking...

Another thing about Analiese is that she is always and I mean ALWAYS laughing or smiling! She is the happiest child I have ever met. This is a little girl who spent the first years of her life in the most impoverished of conditions--no heat, no running water, very little food, sharing a crib with three other children, and not having a family of her own.

Instead of breaking her spirit, her circumstance seems to have infused her spirit with brightness and charisma! I think that is why raising Analiese is such a challenge! We have to be so careful not to break her spirit but to channel it into a positive direction!

I think I understand why God waited until I was older to bring me together with my children. I certainly would not have been up to the challenge when I was in my 20's to handle the gifts my girls have. Not that I'm an expert now but I certainly am less self-centered and selfish and able to focus more on being the best Mom I can be.