12 March 2013

Updating ~ What's up with these kids of ours: Elsie Mae

Since our home assignment is imminent, friends and family are asking us how to best pray for our children as we prepare to bring them back to our home and plop them in the middle of Mid-Michigan; we do what we can to help them adjust, but basically, we try to trust God as He leads and hope for the best.

Doesn't sound too proactive to write it out that way, does it?

We're open for better ideas, if you have any?

Anyways, I thought I'd dedicate a post to each one of our school children - and maybe it would give you some ideas as to how to pray for these wonderful munchkins as well as the-not-so-much-anymore-munchkins that we commonly refer to as Wrightlings (It really is the perfect term for them, coined by our buddy Ryan! Thanks, Ryan!)

Since some of the bigger Wrightlings have been the focus of recent posts, I'm starting with our munchkin-est schoolgirl: Elsie Mae!

Elsie Mae is in first grade this year; the first thing that comes to mind each time I consider our 6 year old is that she LOVES people, LOVES her life and most of the time, she CHOOSES to be happy and to see the positive side of almost any situation. 

I even see that aspect of her personality in this collection of blisters. One of the "plagues" of harmattan season in Niger, at least for some in our family, are frequent cold sores and fever blisters due to the dryness. When these photos were taken, she had one on the inside of her front lip which cracked and started to bleed every time she smiled. Since she still wanted to be a part of the photo shoot, she told me she'd be pensive for the photos. I'm still trying to figure out where she learned and when she started using the word pensive... 

Her confidence and comfort in other people amazes me: she's never met someone who hasn't communicated to her that they like and accept her and therefore she feels sure that will always be the case. She loves to be liked, but she doesn't have to be "the favorite friend." She's open and instinctively trusts, assuming the best, and it affects how other people. I'm trying to learn from her...

Yet that scares me. I fear that she'll only end up hurt by other people, especially as she gets older. Part of my job as her parent is to help teach her how to be wise without losing that gentle trusting that is hallmark of her personality.

I don't know that school is ever going to come easy for my girl. She learns best by experiencing, by exploring, by exhausting possibilities on her own and relying on her intuition and interests to investigate. Her progress sometimes seems haphazard and then out of the blue, she demonstrates that she's got an advanced concept or a skill - without first appearing to master the building block skills that I would think first necessary.

She's a talker and loves to recount stories from her day at school. In fact, she gets her feelings hurt if I don't take time to ask her questions about her day and listen to her tell me her stories. She enjoys writing stories, usually about about a princess... named Elsie Mae, of course.

Socially, I think this gal is going to make a great transition to school and life back in the United States. Academically, we've got some concerns. She's reading, but she is not a super strong reader - a few levels behind where her teacher would like to see her, and that is in a classroom with several students learning English as a second language. Her writing appears immature; her illustrations look as though they are drawn by a much younger child - although we are seeing huge improvements when she takes the time to seriously focus and try. 

Math and learning subject areas (where she can listen or reason to grasp content) tend to be much stronger - as long as she can focus and responds/reacts thoughtfully rather than impulsively. At the same time, her intuitive and impulsive answers often show a greater depth of understanding than I expect. She struggles with some seemingly simple concepts like identifying rhyming words - while her overall grasp of the rhythm and music of language often astounds me.

She struggles with some speech and language issues. We had originally planned for her to attend a French language school. God intervened and her education, except for the standard French class a few times a week (and living in a French/multilingual world) has occurred entirely in English. In hindsight, I can clearly see that has been a good thing, even though I'm sad she doesn't understand a second language the way her older siblings do. I am expecting we will need to have her assessed for possible speech and language issues once we return to the States. 

I like this photo - my pensive girl couldn't stop herself from smiling in this one, even though it hurt.

She is a sensitive little gal, especially when it comes to physical pain. In fact, I'd call her a little wimpy. The sight of blood from a little scrape or a nose bleed can provoke a meltdown, at least until she is reassured that really, she's going to be okay. She is particularly concerned with fairness - as it relates to her and her situation. She'd count out the same number of peanuts for everyone to share and think that the best plan if I asked her to do so. And, like most her age, she likes to be a news bearer - especially if she thinks she can right an unfairness committed by one of her siblings.

Sometimes her immature or babyish behavior gives others the wrong idea about Elsie Mae for at other time, she comports with a maturity well beyond her years. She loves to watch out for her little sister while at the pool and will spend hours playing in the sand or with plastic animals. I can leave her in charge of Mary Michelle as the two of them dry dishes and put them away. She likes to help make pizza, clean vegetables, peel potatoes and carrots, knead bread, make cookies and make pancakes. As long as it is a manual job, she sticks with it pretty well, until she believes she has finished the task.

Please join us in praying for Elsie Mae over these next few months in particular:
  1. We hope to solve a few of the mysteries about how she learns best, why she struggles in some specific areas;
  2. We want to see her love of school and learning continue to grow, despite the hard-for-her things about school that discourage her;
  3. We need to evaluate her progress, pray much and determine the best educational option for her for next year;
  4. I hope to help her develop some strategies that will serve her well, regardless of how/where she ends up going to school next year;
  5. Her love for and unassuming acceptance and trust of people in general continues to be a strength in her personality; and
  6. Her understanding of God will continue to grow and deepen.

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