The last 6.2 miles…to the finish line.

5 Apr

I am a marathoner & they say that the race doesn’t start until the last 10K (6.2 miles). I think that these last months will be like that.

Some things are going fine. I’ve let a lot go & am teaching myself patience with all that has happened this year.

Other things annoy me to the point that I wonder if it’s causing my hairs to go gray (okay, they are but I color them). For instance, she wore the same jeggings last week for 6 days. Ick. Ick. Finally, I gave her some advice & told her that they were very nice but that people start noticing that you are wearing the same clothes. She smiled & nodded like she agreed. Then she went in her room & I thought she might be changing. No. She came out for school unchanged. Great….

So I am learning a lot of patience! :)

Sadly, I heard a commercial for AFS today & briefly thought about hosting…maybe from another country might be better? Then I told myself that I am not sure my family & I can deal with this again.

I’ll post some pics soon, I promise.

New (terrible) vocab words

13 Feb

I mentioned in another post that J has a friend who was troubled & had to go to the hospital in January. It seems that there has been a relapse & that her friend tried to commit suicide last Friday.

I feel terrible that J knows about this (from her friend’s sister in China). She didn’t even know the word ‘suicide’ & motioned (as in cutting her wrists). Her mom suggested she talk to us about it. Thank goodness.

We tried to explain that it’s not her friend when she’s doing these things & that brain chemistry can be ‘off’ & that causes people to think things they would never usually think. She said that the girl’s parents in China told her to stop taking the meds (given by the psychiatric hospital here). So she did. I’m not a psychiatrist, but stopping taking powerful meds cold turkey could very well be what caused/precipitated the suicide attempt.

Last week, her friend told her that she thought she needed the meds ‘to be happy.’ J didn’t understand why you should need meds ‘to be happy’. We explained but I don’t think J understood. I think mental illness is viewed much, much differently in China – as a defect, not as something that can be helped. We talked to her about how the Chinese view things like this & it’s much much different.

Again, I feel sick that I know she knows this. No matter what has happened, she’s still a little girl in many ways & shouldn’t have to take on this amount of knowledge. :(

To top it off, the liaison at school called & told us that J has knowledge that she shouldn’t tell anyone about (i.e. the suicide attempt) & that she should tell others that her friend is home sick. He gave no indication that J needed some help/guidance about what she knows. Very helpful, as usual. I’ve put in a call to the school counselor who may be able to help. Again, though, there is this stigma with seeing counselors & really even with talking about feelings. I feel like I have to do this as I would do it for my own children, though. I am not really equipped to explain these things as I don’t have the knowledge to explain it.

I didn’t want to write this but I’m feeling so awful today that I have to do something to get it off my chest & unburden my heart. I hope things work out.

Why do this?

17 Jan

That’s the $24 question.  The reasons why I decided to host are different than the reasons I am continuing to host.

I wanted to host:

  • to learn more about China
  • to share my home & family life with a student
  • to have her join us as another member of the family
  • to show someone about American culture.

I continue to host:

  • because I said I would
  • because I keep hoping we’ll turn a corner & things will seem easier
  • because I am ‘paying back’ the kind people who hosted me when I was a student
  • because I am learning bits & pieces about China.

Hopefully we’ll turn a corner soon…in the meantime, I’m working on looking at the things that are working.  How’s that for positive mental attitude?  haha

Wanted: Gold Stars

6 Jan

I was the kind of student who loved it when teachers told me I was doing a great job.  I even use gold stars to reward myself for good things (workouts, eating right, drinking my water).  I mostly do things for J because I want to be kind or generous or because it is what I would do for my own children.  I don’t expect **much** in return.

That said, I need a gold star or thank you every now & again for the hard work that I’m doing to make this a good year for her.  I haven’t gotten it from her or from the school (the program is essentially the school).  I got one phone call in Oct. from the international student liaison & I’m sorry to say that I really think he was more interested in whether she was coming back next year (meaning should they look for another student while on a recruiting trip in China).  I sent a followup email & never got a response.  I did get a nice email from the headmaster in December.  I did get a nice email from J’s mom in late November.

It’s not enough.  I just read this good advice to students getting ready to travel abroad for the first time from a former AFSer:  You cannot say “thank you” too often. Be sure to show your family a cooperative attitude, enthusiasm for their efforts and a warm and appreciative response.

I buy things at the store I know she would like, such as noodle bowls & special yogurt.  (The yogurt is a really big deal since I can’t stand that Jamie Lee Curtis who advertises for Activia (turn off the tv when I hear her grating voice), but our pediatrician thought it might be good for J’s stomach, so I bought it).  Yogurt is uneaten & goes bad in the fridge unless I get it out & put it on a plate for breakfast.

I cart her & her friends to/from everywhere when I am so tired of driving across town I could honestly scream.  I rearrange my schedule to make it all possible.

I took her to the Hallmark store & bought a card for her to send to her grandma, who was very ill.  I took it to the post office & made a special trip to the counter to get the right postage on it to go to China.

I’ve told her about tennis lessons as I know she likes tennis (or at least played in China).  She responds as if she’s interested, but never follows back up to make it happen.

Little things every day:  emails to let her know what time I’ll pick her up, questions about how her day went, inquiries about how her class/exam went.  Fixing ice cream & taking it into her room.

In other words, I treat her as one of my own family.

Today was another one where I wonder why I bother.  Her fellow international student friend is struggling with what sounds like either extreme homesickness or depression.  I have talked for a long time with J & she’s really sad about the situation.  It came to a head yesterday when they admitted the friend to the hospital.  I dug out some stationery & gave her a card with an envelope.  I told her that the friend’s host mom had mentioned that she would really appreciate a note from J & to give it to the host sister as she would stop by the hospital tonight.  She said she didn’t know what to say & I told her that she should just tell the friend she’s thinking of her & that she’s looking forward to seeing her.

Fast forward 10 min. later:  she’s left for school & left the stationery right where I gave it to her.  If it were my own child, I would assume she was being forgetful or whatever.  With her, it’s like she didn’t even appreciate the effort.  This is not the first time something has sat right where I gave it to her**.  I don’t care one way or another whether she gives her a card.  I just care that I made the effort & that she shunned it, but not even outright – just by ignoring the stationery.

Since I’m not getting it from her or others, I’m hereby giving myself a gold star for making it to (almost) month 5.  Sweet lord.  This is harder than I thought it would be.  No, we don’t have the ‘devil child’ as my husband has reminded me.  Thanks for making me feel like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.  However, he’s not around when I’m doing all the things to earn the gold stars.  Luckily, I believe in karma.  I believe that all the good I put out will come back to me (& has in other ways!).

**examples are the dresser I bought in October & painted to match her room when I realized she didn’t have enough dresser space (since the room was piled with clothes not put away).  It turned out really cool, with red painted on the top over the leather that was stained.  It sits with drawers empty with more stuff piled on top of it.  This is probably a teenager thing.  I can accept that.  I just need a little gratitude attitude.

Time flies…

5 Jan

I have a weird thing about hair in someone’s face.  I am okay with it, but once bangs start fluttering with eyelashes, I get a nervous twitch.  I had to make an appt. for J’s haircut back in Oct. (way overdue considering she arrived looking so cute in August).  I told her that she could get it cut how she wanted it, but it needed to be cut.  It came out looking nice & my hairdresser only charged her $15 (??).

So it’s the end of December, 2 months later, & I’m getting the twitch as I can’t see her eyes when talking to her. I told her her appt. was on Friday.  She said that she didn’t want a haircut & I told her that she was going to have to get one so I could see her pretty face.  Ugh. I don’t need a battle over a haircut.  One of my daughters thinks it’s $ related, but I don’t think that is it.  All I know is that it is not negotiable.  Most things are with me (I’m easy that way), but I cannot look at someone with bangs in eyes & not get annoyed.  I’ve told her it’s a matter of respect to adults (which it is).  She has to have her hair out of her face in one way or another.  I’m the mom in this case & I would do the same thing with my own kids.

In other news, she’s not working on her research paper.  Time is ticking & she is supposed to be doing a lot of research during break.  I know she was gone for over a week & then there was Christmas, so there’s really no time to waste.  She comes out of her room when my sister-in-law comes over, though she hasn’t been out for the whole day.  She makes it look like she comes out all the time, making me look like a big fibber.

She did seem to enjoy Christmas & especially liked a slinky & a magnetic Santa on a stick (that moves in a U shape).  Her presents are still on the coffee table, so I’m trying to assume that she’s just slow taking them into her room.  There’s not a ‘gratitude atttiude’ – more an entitlement that I’ve heard the other students also have.  I worked really hard to make her 1st American Christmas extra nice.  Just need a little thank you & that would go a long, long way!

I’m learning to be more direct with her stay with us, which is probably a good thing.  I have no trouble with this with my own kids but it is a little less easy with a relative stranger.  She’s still very much a stranger in so many ways, even after 4+ mos.

Signed, don’t tickle your eyelashes with your bangs when I’m looking at you Molly

Vocab words

3 Jan

My youngest, F, has started amusing herself (& me) by speaking & then using a good word & shouting ‘vocab word’.  She does have vocab tests at school & knows I live for great words*. Today’s word is ‘malaise’ as in S has a malaise that caused her to slump over onto the back seat every time we stopped the car yesterday. Poor thing didn’t go to school for their first day back today.

I hope J is learning lots of new words from us. I stop to explain phrases to her & hopefully she’s getting some of it. She doesn’t talk much but seems to understand & nods.

We played “Scattergories” last night which also involved words. Each player has a piece of paper, you roll a die & get a letter of the alphabet. Then you have to come up with words in those categories (e.g. boy’s name, something you would find in the medicine cabinet, etc.) It was fun, but a little frustrating probably to J. One funny one was ‘things in a vending machine”. Letter was “R”. She came up with “Robot”. You’re supposed to question some of them & we all asked how that had to do with vending machines (she had already asked what a vending machine was). It made sense when she mentioned that it might have a robot to pick up toys in it. haha

Another vocab word: relief. As in “Molly feels relief that break is over.  She doesn’t have to tiptoe around & wonder how long J can sit on her rear in her room for days & days.” I cannot imagine being that sedentary for that many hours & days. I would only do that if I was very, very sick & even on bed rest, I snuck out & couldn’t take the laying around. I also do not know what else I can do to cajole (vocab word!) out of her room to join the family.  I thought it was because she was studying but since it was break, I know she was just watching movies & playing on Facebook.  Different strokes…

 

*I admit that the thesaurus & the dictionary are my favorite books most of the time.

Christmas wishes

24 Dec

So J has been out of town visiting a relative for 7 whole days.  I thought I would miss her (even those annoying things), but honestly, I felt so relieved when I dropped her off for the airport shuttle.  When I came home & went in her room to get her laundry, I was outraged that she left it a mess, including a wet towel on the bed.  Maybe she was rushing, but it just seems like good manners to tidy up before leaving for a week.

I have felt that relief of having my family to myself & not having to make an effort to bring her into our conversations & entertain her ever since, frankly.  This morning it’s quiet in the house with all asleep & I am savoring the moment when I don’t feel awkward as she doesn’t come out of her room all day long.   I hope the trip will be refreshing for her & I can’t wait to be wrong about how the rest of the year will go.  She gets back this afternoon.

I did some soul-searching & I think what bothers me the most is that she is not engaged with our family.  She is here & sometimes participates, but she doesn’t seem to be connected with us unless we initiate it or start the conversation/activity.  It is exhausting, much like a one-sided relationship.  That is the essence of what frustrates me the most.

I had these dreams of a student being interested in us & our culture & our idiosyncrasies.  Even if she weren’t, if she would turn off her laptop (talking with her Chinese friends) & i-touch & really come & sit in the same room with us or ask us questions, it would go a long way.  Right now, we have to invite her to join us in whatever we’re doing.  It’s been a whole semester & I thought that would pass after a month or two.

I have bought some fun Christmas presents for her & I’m excited to share the holiday.  New warm pi’s (since she spends much of the weekend in them anyway!), some fun stocking stuffers (oreos! tissues with $100 bill on them, a case for her calculator, hello kitty things).  The Santa gift is a photo frame we’re filling with all the pics she’s taken here in addition to ours.  I have tried to think of what she would be excited about & hopefully one or two of them will be a home run!  :)

So hope springs eternal even on Christmas.

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