Together Again

For the past two-and-a-half weeks, B & K have been visiting family while J and we parents have been home dealing with the unusually warm Denver June.  On the home front we’ve had some not fun business (court; trips to the dentist) and some more fun stuff (skating at Skate City; a trip to Garden of the Gods and to check out Aunt Abby’s quilts in her quilt guild’s show in Monument), but mostly J has been lonely.  He looked almost as glad to see K yesterday as I was, (and he seemed even a little glad to see B).  I don’t know that he’d say the driving was worth it, but maybe he would.

We’re back to driving tomorrow, but yesterday the kids had a blast in the hotel pool, and today we’re going to rent paddle-boats or canoes and get out on a lake with Grandma & Grandpa.  Should be fun, we think.  It sounds like B & K had a very good time visiting grandparents and cousins.  The break from the stress at our house seems to have also been good for them.  But they were very, very glad to see us, and I think they’ll be glad to get home.

So road trip this week for the Hoffs.  And then K’s birthday.  Life is good.

School’s Out

J, B & K all did exceptionally well in their classes this term.  Now they’re back home, adjusting to the largely unstructured time of break.  For the most part we’ve done OK, but the house is a bit of a mess, and sometimes we get on each other’s nerves.  It helps that it’s warm enough now that the kids can sleep out in their tents if they want to.

J is busy working on his garden and doing a bit of cooking.  He’s doing some better with his English, but we should probably try to get him into a class or something.

B has decided he can live with our new chore system (which is good, since he didn’t really have a choice about that.)  He’s doing something I don’t entirely understand with his Minecraft server, and he and his sister are working together to write and illustrate a digital choose your own adventure book.  It seems to be a bit slow getting started, but they’re working on it diligently.  He and K. are looking forward to hanging out with grandparents for a few weeks starting this coming Wednesday.

K is dancing as a princess doll in her ballet studio’s production of Coppelia this weekend, so we’ve been super busy with rehearsals and costumes and refreshment table cookies and all that.  The late nights are exhausting, but K really enjoys the performing and all that comes with it (especially the makeup, which I’m finally figuring out.)

I’ll miss my younger two while they’re gone, but I hope they get a good chance to rest and have adults pay lots of attention to them.  I hope also that our time with J is good here at home, and that the trip out to pick the younger two up isn’t too difficult for anyone.


We seem to be more settled into a routine.  Big, violent explosions are less frequent (we had one the day before Easter, but that was the first in a while, and it hasn’t been repeated.)  It’s nice to get back into gardening season.  J. has jumped the gun a bit with some beans and cucumbers, but it’s warm enough that they still might not fall prey to frost.

Our boys have found something they like to do together.  It’s playing computer games, but the time together seems to be helping them improve their relationship.

Other news:  J. is now going to a full day of school, and seems to be doing OK with it.  He’s had a bit of trouble with some other kids, but it’s middle school, so that’s kind of par for the course, I’m afraid.

B. has begun a family newsletter.  I think his fourth or fifth one comes out tomorrow.  He’s also involved in a tech club in school, which seems to be helping him be a bit more comfortable away from home.

K. is in the midst of rehearsals for Copelia, the ballet her studio is performing June 3 and 4.  At school she’s glad to be done with Parcc testing.

As the school year winds down, we’re trying to figure out what exactly we want to do for the summer.  B. & K. will be visiting grandparents for a bit, but we don’t have any other very firm plans.

Spring Break

is almost over.  I am now ready for a break of my own.  I’m a bit concerned about how we’ll handle the summer.

We had some good times this week, though. We got to see some extended family, spent some time horseback riding (J. & K. both want to know when we’re going again); and did a bit of rock scrambling near Estes Park.  The kids saw a museum or two.  The younger two are now thoroughly ready to return to school.  J. is less excited about that, but I think he’ll like returning to a more regular routine, even if he’s not thrilled with what that routine is.

We’ve made it through the week without any major meltdowns–unless you count me falling apart on my husband Thursday morning.  But I’ve managed to pull myself mostly back together, and we’re looking forward to a new week.

Quiet Week

Things have calmed down here a bit. There’s still a fair amount of tension–anger simmering under the surface, but we’ve headed off any major explosions.

I think part of the problem is that J. feels like the rules are always changing and he can’t figure out what’s expected of him.  He’s not precisely wrong.  When new stuff comes up, we tend to adapt the house rules to deal with the previously unanticipated crisis.  It just never occurred to us that, say, we’d need to specify that it’s not OK to make death threats against other people.  We have, however, been saying all along that we need to speak respectfully to other people.  Now we just have to help J. see that the latter precludes the former (as well as cursing, yelling, calling people animals . . .)

This week, B. and K. have both gotten out a couple of times to be with friends.  (I’ve been told I’m not allowed to call them play dates anymore. We’re too big for that now, apparently.  Not too big for having “stuffties” or using baby talk more ridiculous than they ever used as actual babies, but too big for play dates.)

K. and one of her friends tried out for the school talent show. Now they’re having to wait to see if they made it.  K. says they have to wait until next Friday.  I’m not sure what will take so long for the music teacher to decide who’s in and who’s out, but I know the wait is making K. very anxious.

K., J. and Craig are going tubing with the church today.  I hope they have a good time.  B. and I will probably have a good time on our own as well.

Mid February

It has been another rough week, though that probably has more to do with my cold than with the children.

We did have an unusual schedule–both the elementary school and the middle school had parent-teacher conferences in the evenings this week.  It turns out that all three of our children are brilliant, being respectful, and working hard in school.

This may not come as naturally for J. as for the other two–at any rate the unusual schedule combined with less than normal time with me and extra time on best behavior led to some issues late in the week.  We seem to be back on a more even keel at the moment.

B. and K. have started work on a computer game together–B. programming and K. providing the artwork.  Perhaps we’ll be able to put a link in here some day soon.

Spring Festival

Yesterday (Saturday the 28th) was Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), J.’s first in America with an American family. We did our best to mark the occasion well, but we couldn’t quite meet our young man’s expectations of what the holiday should be. For example, we are unwilling to do firecrackers since they’re illegal here, and we made the amount that went into the traditional red money envelopes for children fit our budget rather than our young man’s desires. I imagine the hardest part, though, is being away from the friends he’s always known and the culture he’s been a part of on this most important Chinese holiday. Having spent Christmases in China, where nobody quite understood what the holiday was about, and even friends’ most well-intentioned efforts to make it special for me often served only to remind me how far I was from home, I have a sense for how hard this must be. Though J. got quite upset with us a couple of times during the day, he handled his anger more appropriately than he sometimes does. And I think he did manage to have a few fun moments in the day. He at least seemed to enjoy playing soccer with his cousins. (And B. and K. for a couple of minutes–though they didn’t enjoy it much. They’re not fond of soccer.)

So, all in all, we had a decent celebration. Not, perhaps, quite what J. hoped for, but at least not disastrous.

Six Months In

I have to keep reminding myself of how much better things are going than they had been because we’re still having frequent rough patches (cursing people, spitting at them; property destruction; occasional punches). The thing is, that difficult stuff used to be the norm, and spots where the family could sit and play or talk happened a few times a day if we were lucky. Now, J. goes to school, often does his chores, usually plays with the other kids, usually eats at least part of dinner with us, and frequently wants to hang out and talk with parents. The difficult stuff still happens, but now the cursing and spitting a few times a day (generally countable!) and the truly violent has lessened to once or twice a week or less. That’s still feels like way too much, but when I take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been, I realize that we’re in much, much better shape.

It’s so easy to think about the negative and not remember the positive, so I want to take a couple minutes to remember some of the good stuff about my kids. Things that make me proud of all of them.

J. is generous, creative and brave. He loves gardening and cooking and fixing things. He’s interested in animals, science and literature. Like all my children, he is a bright, bright child.

B. is brilliant, thoughtful, and willing to stand up for (and do) what he thinks is right, even when it costs him. He loves computers, science, and stories.

K. is smart, kind, and graceful. She cares a great deal about her schoolwork (especially history), her friendships, and performing (especially in dance).

I am very proud of them all.

Happy New Year

Okay, so it’s January 8, and I’m getting up the first post of the year. Aack.

Frankly, the break has had its issues. The lack of regular schedule is rough on some of us, and the constant presence of all of the children is difficult for others of us. The holiday itself, though full of love and fun and presents also has all kinds of old traditions (and at our house, religious celebrations) that make the newest member of our family feel like he doesn’t quite belong–and that may take years to fix, if it ever gets fixed. Hanging out with extended family is wonderful, but age, gender & language barriers combine with unfamiliarity to keep the kids from including their newest cousin as fully as they embrace B & K. J feels that keenly. He’s started to protest whenever we suggest hanging out with cousins.

On the other hand, after a particularly spectacular tantrum Christmas Eve, we’ve settled into some better patterns at our house. There’s a lot less violence and destruction and a lot more cooperation with household tasks. All three children have become more consistent about doing their jobs (so they can get screen time), and our house feels like less of a disaster area because of that. Plus, the kids are getting along a bit better. We may not be totally through the woods, but they at least seem to be thinning.

Monday the kids go back to school. B & K are quite excited about this, but J seems worried. His schedule changes this semester (he’s got four classes starting tomorrow), and I though he’s got several classes he is interested in, being in a totally foreign-language environment for that long will be exhausting. (This I know from experience.) Pray for peace and an extraordinary ability to concentrate, and that he’ll make some friends that will make the trouble worthwhile for him.

Searching for Normal

It’s hard to believe there’s only a week to go until Christmas. It has been a bit of a rough month, though not nearly so rough as, say, August.

J. has started up an English class at school in addition to his PE (and he’s scheduled to start two more classes in January). Though the extra time seems small to me (and to his siblings), I know from personal experience that even a couple of hours in a foreign language environment can be exhausting. Thus far he’s handling it very, very well.

Home is another story, though. At home we’ve continued to have flare-ups with some regularity. It’s not clear why that’s happening–perhaps because of the increased pressure in school, perhaps because of new things we’re trying (a movie night; going to a Chinese church in Boulder), perhaps because we’ve reintroduced limited screen time; perhaps because of holiday traditions J’s not used to; perhaps because we had out of town family visiting last week (It was sure nice to see Mary Kay and Gary); perhaps because Craig and I have been doing better about setting limits, and J is pushing back. Whatever the reason, home life has frequently been difficult, and all three kids (and both adults) are finding that hard.

Frequently B and K say that they want their “normal” life back–and I totally sympathize with that. Change is hard, and not all change is for the better. Hopefully, though, we’ll at some point get to a normal that we all (Craig, me, J, B and K) at least find tolerable.