Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reflections on Parent-Teacher Conferences

Random observations:
* My African sons are respectful and hard working. Their teachers wish all their students were as eager to learn.
* They have learned to ask questions, which is not necessarily encouraged in their own cultures. I am very proud of them for this!
* They recognize the good teachers as the ones who expect the most from their students and keep order in class. Hmm. They also recognize the lazy ones as the ones who show movies frequently and who pretend that uncorrected worksheets are good reference material for quizzes. Hmm.
* They are well liked and were greeted by many of the students and parents we saw at the conferences. (Thanks to Cross Country, Football, and Church youth group)
* They are dealing with many cultural differences that we don't even know about. Last week, Dennis was so pleased and surprised to learn that he didn't have to start over on a paper he was writing because all of the corrections could be made right on the computer! (He had asked me to type it.) What else is he thinking that I can't imagine?
* The teachers that are hard for them to understand are the same way for me! You should have seen me leaning forward and concentrating hard on comprehending what the Chemistry teacher was saying!
* Parent-teacher conferences went very well. We are looking forward now to the next season, which of course! Every day brings new surprises. Today I learned that they both have been thinking that the milk we drink (skim) must come from sick cows because it tastes almost like water!!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I had been very carefully pointing out the signs of the changing seasons so Victor and Dennis would not miss them: the drying crops, the colorful leaves, the delayed sun in the morning. I was so looking forward to the coming of winter and watching them experience snow for the first time. I was imagining their reaction, their surprise, their wonder. And then........I missed it. Only God knew that it would snow on October 10 when we would be in Michigan with our son and daughter-in-law and they would be in Iowa with my husband's brother and family. So I will just have to keep imagining what it was like, though sister-in-law Linda gave a wonderful description of big, round eyes, repeated "No Way!" comments, snow angels, and snowball fights. I can't wait to help them welcome spring!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Homecoming Week 09

The theme was "Under the Big Top" and the weather was cold, wet, and dreary. The boys had heard about Homecoming for several weeks, but really didn't know what it was or what to expect. It was very interesting how differently Victor and Dennis approached the week, but very indicative of their personalities. Victor was very "into" the dress up days. He spent quite a while Sunday night creating a duct tape tie for Monday (Duct Tape Day). It took a long time because he insisted on using a ruler (and measuring and everything!) Dennis was sure that all this talk about dressing up had nothing to do with studies or homework or anything serious at all. It wasn't until his two cross country buddies showed up at school on Tuesday in full costume for Circus Animal Day that he thought it might be ok to have a little fun. So Wednesday was Clown Day. Between Dick's chore stash and the kids' old dress up barrel, we managed to outfit them satisfactorily (see video below). So much fun! We were all laughing hysterically at Dennis' reactions. He kept saying "Everyone will laugh!" We said "That's the whole point!" The next morning before he left, Dennis made a sign that he taped to his shirt front that said "I don't need questions." What a hoot. At the end of the day he admitted that he had had a fun day. But apparently enough was enough. That was the last time we got him into a costume.

Parade Day was interesting. Dennis rode the Cross Country float, with much prodding and careful explanation of the terms "parade" and "float". It was colder than he thought it was going to be, but other than that, an ok experience. Victor enjoyed riding the fire truck with the other football players, of course. No jacket needed.

Dennis had been worrying about the dance for several weeks, trying to decide whether or not to go. (For Victor there was no question- his main worry might have been whether the evening would last long enough to dance with all the girls who wanted to dance with him.) Eshpa (another Tanzanian student living nearby) wanted to go but didn't want to go alone, so the moms got together and made the plans. The three students would go together (pictured above) but could leave whenever they wanted. We sent cell phones with them and went home to wait for the phone to ring......and waited......and waited. Turns out they were having such a good time they stayed for the whole dance. The only problem for the evening was that the parents had to stay up long enough to bring them home!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Climate Culture Shock

I love the brisk fall air, the pungent smell of decaying leaves and grass, the last cutting of alfalfa, and the brilliant colors of autumn. My African sons, however, do not like the fall. Correction- one of my African sons does not like the fall. Why? Because he is cold. All of the time. And people keep saying reassuring things like: "What? You are cold? Just wait- it gets worse! This is NOTHING!" Thanks a lot. He was just starting to like Iowa, now all he can imagine is six months of shivvering. September was so nice. I kept remarking about the beautiful weather, and at first he didn't understand why. Now he does.
The other son? He must have the same metabolism as William, our second son, who wears T-shirts year round and might put on his winter coat in January if it is gets below 0. Dennis is bundled up in his track sweats under several blankets and Victor wants to turn on the fan. Good grief. Tonight my husband brought home a genuine rabbit fur-lined ear-flapped farmer hat as a joke. Dennis loves it. He said he wants to wear it to bed! I think he may have discovered that our heating system only warms the first floor of our big farm house! (Bedrooms are on the 2nd floor of course.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Parenting Take Two

Tonight I'm feeling the heavy responsibility of making decisions for other mothers' sons. Last week we had a sit-down heavy-duty talk about aggressive American females and how to run from temptation (prodded by the pending homecoming dance hoopla). This week we are navigating a possible ankle injury to the runner. All uncharted territory with boys from another world it seems. With our own boys my strategy was simple: Be mean to the girls who call my house. Tell my boys that the girls that chase them are not the ones they want. Repeat this mantra: Don't do drugs. Don't have sex. Remind them that they will NOT be in a car with a girl alone until they are 18. Pray real hard. (In case you don't know me very well, there is a lot of truth in this, but also a little exaggeration). In some ways, we are doing the parenting better the second time around because we are assuming nothing and talking about everything!

Take the possibly injured ankle, for instance. We cannot assume that this pain he is telling us about is just a little owie that will go away with ice and ibuprofen. We don't know if he is as tough as our boys ("I'm fine mom- I can wrestle on this broken ankle!!" OR... "I do NOT have a concussion!") or if he is more sensitive and, um, sensible. We do know that his tribe's cure for the malaria he had 2 years ago was to spend 2 weeks in the forest eating beef and roots. Hm..

When we signed up for 2 African boys, I did not stop to think that we would be so responsible for sending them home whole, pure, and better than when they came. I understand that they bear some responsibility for their actions also, but I spoke to Victor's mama on the phone tonight. She is counting on me and I don't want to let her down.