The Googegs - Strangers in the World

The Googegs - Strangers in the World

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas is coming!

What a year for Christmas this has been! No blog updates, because I can hardly get the tribe fed and the work done. Yesterday I cooked all day to prepare for today. The annual cheesecake delivery team has just left the house giving me a moment to breathe.
Every year I make cheesecakes for friends and the team delivers them. This year -- I could only get out six. One driven to Jerome's work last night -- a night with ice coming out of the sky. We almost ended up in the ditch cheesecake and all - but mighty prayers saw us through.

We made our trek for the Santa picture. One of my favorite things is to line the buffet with the annual pictures. We have them starting with Riane alone up to this one:

Last year I was wondering if we would ever have six kids to put in the picture and here they are! Mary said "I am not sitting on that man's lap." Well, I want a good picture. Alas, there was no need. Wokelle was happy to sit up there and he really liked his coloring book. In the mall, there is always an elderly man that runs a little train ride for a dollar. The kids think it is a great treat. Wokelle came out of the mall saying "A new book AND a train ride!" Yes, it was good day.

We had the church Christmas play. The theme was S.O.C. C. E.R. Saving our Christmas Carols Emergency Rescue - hence the soccer jerseys. All of our pictures turned out fuzzy so I will only post one. You can see Braydon, Ricky and Mary in this shot.

Riane had a part too - she was behind the piano most of the time. Wokelle came up with the pre-schoolers in the beginning as a shepherd. Adela was a mighty encourager from the pew (public performances have never been her thang!). Braydon had an actual part, Ricky and Mary both had scripture verses. Despite Mary's schooling issues, she memorized her part and said it perfectly - choked me up, but moved a friend of mine to tears. When we see God's hand working in the lives of children it's truly awesome.
We've also had some challenges this season. Grandma made it in -- even through the snow in Las Vegas. However, she was held up in Charlotte and it was late night.
The furnace in our house blitzed out one windy evening this week. We had one cold, shakin' night of attempted sleep and woke to a house in the 40's. Jerome worked like crazy to fix it before he left for work. The 30 minutes before he left the house fell apart. The heat was working, I was trying to take a shower -- and Braydon was blow drying a pipe to keep it from freezing -- Wokelle wet his pants, the dog wet the floor and the water turned off -- I still had conditioner in my hair! Jerome fixed the water and I told him to take off for work where life would surely be easier. What a day!
We are all on track now and ready for a great dinner with the fam tonight.
Oh... and the Christmas card thing .. they are coming .. I hope.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Land of Sparkle and Shine

The land of sparkle and shine is frozen! A freak snowfall to be sure. It had to happen the night my mom was flying out to spend Christmas with us. Her flight was cancelled and we hope to hear from her today on a reschedule plan. Enjoy the snow desert dwellers.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Misc. Comments and Pictures

Updating my blog used to be one of my favorite things to do. Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed and haven't been able to think enough to compose a sentence. Part of that Christmas Cheer I suppose. I finally did get all the decorations up that I intend to put up. We will have only one tree this year. Mary and Wokelle were so excited to help with all the decorations for the first time and Adela and Ricky were crazy with memories. It was wonderful and a bit sad for me. I loved that the "middle" kids are so excited, however, my Riane, who used to be the one most lit up for decorating was MIA this time. She has grown up and has lost interest in some things. Can't wait to get them to get out of diapers, and then I want to hold on for dear life as they actually do grow up.

Our family tradition is for me to pick out a special ornament for each child -- they open their ornaments on Christmas Eve. They are carefully marked and dated and when they have their own homes they can take their collection of ornaments with them. We relive all the memories of past years as we look at their ornaments. Mary and Wokelle helped hang up the ornaments that belong to Jerome and I and they oohed and aaahed over everyone else's. They are really excited to receive their first ornament this year.

We also give the kids all their Christmas money upfront and take a family shopping trip together. They purchase what they want for Christmas and we have a nice dinner together. Last year was our first year for this and the kids absolutely loved it. It was hard for Mary this year, too many choices and no clear understanding of money. I helped her as much as I could, but I think she may still feel a bit of buyer's remorse. I think every year that it is going to spoil the excitement of Christmas, but you can hear the kids chattering about how excited they are to get their gifts. I still fill their stockings with little surprises.

In the middle of our big trip a very close friend of mine called saying that two of her children were in a car accident and one was being care flighted. We were close to the hospital and rushed over. Everyone ended up being fine -- but it put a slight kink in the shopping day.

The stores Riane was waiting to go to were closed. So, Riane and I are going back to the city on Monday to finish. I am looking forward to a day out with Riane.

Getting ready for Christmas cards, which I hope to get out soon, I took a picture of the kids. It took forever to get the 6 of them to all look decent at the same time. I should have paid more attention to my background!

Braydon is a laugh a minute. He can read for hours on end or run at full tilt -- no middle ground really. In his free time he does things like make himself look like a midget:
Pretty convincing!

OR Take pictures of his eyeball....

This is what happens in school:

He made a strand of crystals for science -- now that was cool.
Just to update on the "Education of Mary" -- she seems to have caught the idea and is working much harder with me. The difficulty of Christmas shopping actually helped some. She was taught to count by 2's and 5's and 10's, but didn't really pay attention. The reality of money was a wake up. We keep telling her that school and life are really one and the same. She seems to try to compartmentalize parts of her life. If I check off school I am done. She is getting the idea and trying to read even outside "normal" school hours. She has really made a turn in this area.
Part of the grown up Christmas this year was to buy a wireless router. WHOO HOO I can access the internet from my laptop. No more running to the basement just to check e-mail. However, at times I wonder how much multi-tasking one Mom can do. I had to check with my security program about getting my laptop up-to-date so I was on chat with "Rajan". I was trying to cook our main meal, and Braydon was asking me about setting up a problem for the percentage of travel time between Mercury and Venus, and the girls were drifting through the room. So I would be talking to Braydon and saying "Wait a minute, I have to answer Rajan. Riane, I think Rajan is blue, if he pops up tell me."
Is this much technology going to help my life or confuse it some more?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Education of Mary

Working with Mary lately has been quite a struggle. And I have struggled as to whether to post or not. A "happy letter" all the time is boring news.

As I have been teaching Mary I realized that she had little to no school in Liberia. She says that her birth mom was too poor to send her much, but she did go a little bit. However, they beat you there sometimes -- so she would skip when she could. There was school in the foster home, but she only lived there eight months. I started her out in the very beginning kindergarten curriculum and have since made it into first grade. However, we are still struggling. Many days, I realized she really wasn't putting in much effort. I was working harder than she was.

However, just this week we have hit on our problem. I was frustrated to the point of being Really Angry. So Jerome went to talk to Mary about one lesson on counting pennies, dimes and nickels. In the course, of talking things over with her, several things became clear to us both. Most of the time she is just plain guessing. That is why she would know things one day and not the next. She is extremely adept at reading her environment and working around to get the answer you want, but not really knowing what she did. So tomorrow she has to start guessing again. She doesn't say it in words, but her attitude seems to be that as long as I get what I want, why do I need to worry about learning anything. If Braydon helps me get my computer program started, I am good for today. If I need to do it again tomorrow, I will ask again. You could show her things 50 times and she will still be clueless on how to do it. She doesn't try to learn it - she doesn't get why she should. I have to tell her, this is the last time I will show you this task and after that if you don't know it, you don't do it.

Another problem is her powers of observation. If you ask her to describe something to you, she is very likely to not even look at it. She tries to remember or guess. She is kind of surprised when we prompt her to actually look at the item in question.

Of course, the biggie is her base of knowledge is so limited. She is culturally a baby since she didn't grow up here and has been here less than a year. However, basic knowledge is just missing also. For instance, she doesn't know her shapes. Or even words to describe anything. I was showing her the basic shapes and asked her if she could tell the difference between a square and a rectangle. She was holding both blocks and I had to prompt her to actually look at them. Then she said, "This one has all the sum-in(something) short like so.. (tracing it with her finger) and the other has long sum-in here and short sum-in here." Something is a word we hear a lot. So I have to teach the shape and basic things like it is called a side.

She has no sense of time, or a line between reality and fantasy. She always asks if the people in the Bible are still living. If we watch a movie and I say "Oh, I have seen her in a movie before." Her first question is "Do you know her?" She asked me the other day why we never saw any of the people in movies when were out and about. She asks if every movie is a true story -- even animated ones. We also still working on her speech. She really doesn't speak very clearly yet. I believe that at 12 she will take longer and I also know that I tell her the same words day after day. Everything is so new she is coping with too much. But, I also believe it is back to the "why learn it?" thing.

It is amazing to me that at 12 years old we could have a child that doesn't even know the shape of anything, or how to communicate in any depth more than "something". How delightful to be able to open the world for her. What it must have been like to live in such survival mode at all times. Her naivete is so sweet. However, I have to be real here -- doing this day in and day out is tiring and frustrating. School has gone better the last two days now that the message that we expect her to work at school has been imparted and I realize how far back to basic I really need to go.

At the same time, I am at a loss as to how to help her be a US teenager. Her body is -- her self is not. I put her in the 6th grade Sunday school class to attempt to have her around some peers in a safe environment. It is going OK. Next year, the plan is to move her into the teen youth group with Braydon. Riane, Braydon and Mary would all be there. I want to do this to help her acclimate to her age. I still have doubts. It is a long way off and by then we should see how far she has come.


I am mighty late getting any post on and I am finally getting to Thanksgiving. The pictures are out of order, but hey, this is the best I can do at this late hour. It was really a great Thanksgiving. Jerome and I cooked too much food -- Riane helped me bake. Jerome's brother and his family were able to come over and we had fun and food. After they left, some friends of ours came over with a Cranium game to play -- oh and did I mention we ate more food!
Jo did not want to go home.

Wokelle got into some dress ups - FAR OUT DUDE.

Riane did too - do we have a sixties theme going? She looks a bit like Jerry Garcia to me.

The 3 year olds serenading us.

The fam gathered at the table.

Riane and her dad.

Dad at work.

Aunt Joy