Sinh hoạt liên đoàn

Thứ bảy vừa rồi hai cha con (tôi và Đán) đi cắm trại trong hướng đạo liên đoàn Hùng Vương. Các trưởng và phụ huynh đều rất tận tình với đám Cub Scouts. Nào là bày ra những trò chơi thú vị. Nào là nấu nướng những món ăn rất ngon. Nào là ca hát sinh hoạt rất vui.

Lần này đi cắm trại ngoài rừng không điện cũng không iPad nên đám nhỏ tự chơi với nhau. Đến 10 giờ đêm, tụi nó mệt rã người chui vào lều ngủ. Còn các người lớn thì tụ họp uống chút bia bàn chuyện tương lai trong hướng đạo. Với troop leader và scoutmaster mới nên mọi chuyện thay đổi rất nhiều. Các trưởng yêu cầu cha mẹ tiếp tay để giúp liên đoàn.

Tôi định đóng góp vào việc thiết kế lại trang web của liên đoàn nhưng đã có người khác xung phong rồi. Đội lân Hùng Vương bây giờ không ai lãnh đạo cả. Tôi nói tôi biết đánh một chút trống nên các trưởng giao phó cho tôi luôn. Hồi nhỏ, mẹ mua cho tôi cái trống bé tí. Không biết nghe trống múa lân ở đâu nhưng tôi đã thuộc lòng một số nhịp điệu cho đến bây giờ cũng không quên. Lúc vào trung học, tôi tình cờ đánh trống trong lúc các bạn tập múa lân. Không ngờ các bạn mời tôi tham gia và trở thành tay trống cho đội lân trong câu lạc bộ Việt của trường. Chúng tôi luyện tập mỗi ngày sau giờ học và đã trở thành đội lân đi múa trong cộng đồng vào những ngày tết. Giờ đây hy vọng sẽ đào tạo cho đội lân nhỏ để bọn chúng học hỏi được một chút về văn hóa truyền thống của người Việt.

Một anh trưởng trong nhóm muốn tôi dạy cho bọn nhỏ đọc vì anh ta thấy tôi lúc nào cũng lôi theo quyển sách trên tay. Trong lúc chờ đợi đám nhỏ sinh hoạt tôi thường ngồi đọc sách. Tôi mê đọc sách lắm nên tranh thủ giờ nào trống là đọc. Tôi thấy ý kiến của anh ấy cũng hay. Tôi rất muốn mấy đứa nhỏ học tiếng Việt. Lần về Việt Nam vừa rồi, tôi đã mua một số sách thiếu nhi hai thứ tiếng Việt và Anh. Mỗi tuần tôi sẽ chọn ra một quyển sách đọc cho chúng nó nghe rồi hỏi những câu hỏi về quyển sách. Hy vọng sẽ động viên tụi nó học tiếng mẹ đẻ của mình.

Breaking Up the Squad

In the past few months, I had been looking forward to our Tuesday nights’ ice skating lessons together. While Đạo and Xuân attended their classes, Đán and I just chilled out. When they were done with their classes, we would skate for 20 minutes in between before Đán and I took our classes. Then I would try to get them to practice every other day or on the weekend in public sessions.

Lately Đạo and Đán refused to go or they would go with a frowning face. I was disappointed and finally told them they didn’t have to go anymore. They had virtual school all day and all they wanted to do after school was to play games on their computers.

Đạo broke our trust once again by playing games or watching YouTube during class time. He didn’t pay attention in class. Not only he didn’t participate, but he also didn’t reply to his teachers when they called on him. We received complaints from his teachers that he didn’t put much effort into his assignments. When we brought up the issue, he didn’t give us the straight answer. He took our trust for granted. To make sure that he understood the consequences, I told him if his report for the final quarter were slipping and his teachers were complaining, he would have to spend his entire summer without any screen time.

Yesterday, I asked them to go ice skating before they took their test and they both refused. They have great potential, but their hearts aren’t in it. We give them the opportunity, but they don’t want to take it. We decided not to waste our money and effort anymore if they aren’t into it. It’s a shame because ice skating is a great sport and we had a great time, but they wouldn’t get anywhere without much practice, especially as we progress into higher levels. I will just have to go on my own or with Xuân. I am not sure how long Xuân will continue. I was hoping ice skating and rollerblading were activities that we could do together as a family. I am sad to see that the squad is broken up.

Friendship

When I started ice skating group lessons in December 2020, I took one class then I had to leave town for a while. I asked Đán to take over my place. He started in Beta with his group age. Since then, he continued to take group lessons with the same classmates. He befriended a girl named Reece.

Before their class began, they spent twenty minutes skating together in the rink and chatting. During class, he shaved the ice with his skates to make snowballs because he got bored. He gave them to her and she smashed them.

As they advanced into higher levels, she excelled in figure skating. He was only interested in speed for ice hockey. He could perform most of the skills, but he couldn’t do the ones that required figure skates. For months I begged him to switch to figure skates, but he refused. He put them on and skated around the rink twice and gave up. He was determined to go into hockey.

Last Tuesday, I accidentally put his right hockey skate and Đạo’s right hockey skate in the same bag. They both have the same hockey skates. When we found out, it was almost time for his lesson. I asked Đán to use Đạo’s figure skates instead and he agreed to give it another try. I laced him up and let him skate around a bit before class so he can get a bit comfortable in them. Reece joined him and showed him the jumps and spins she learned in private lessons. I talked to her mother and she informed me that Reece is taking both group and private lessons. No wonder she excelled so quickly.

Đán did well in class using the figure skates. His transition was much quicker than mine. He could do inside 3-turns, inside-outside edges, and lunges. The only thing he could do was the bunny hops, which required the toe picks from figure skates. After his class, I complimented him on how well he did and he told me he would like to continue with figure skate lessons. He wanted to do both figure and hockey.

Last night, I took him to the rink for the 8:30 PM public session, which was way less crowded than the 5 PM session, to learn the bunny hop. Using Coach Julia’s video, I showed him the technique and he could do the bunny hops in a few minutes. Then we spotted Reece and her mother skating as well. The two kids went off on their own. I chatted with her mother a bit. It was the second time we talked and she was very friendly.

Đán and Reece will have a test next week and that would be it. Since Đán expressed his interest in continuing figure skating lessons, I asked her if she would sign her daughter up for the next level. She told me that she won’t because they will spend six months in California. The kids continued to skate together and I practiced my inside 3-turns for the entire session. It was cute watching them skating and talking.

As we drove home, Đán said that Reece told him that she will be gone for a while; therefore, she won’t be taking anymore lessons. He asked me if he could talk to her over the phone or if he could text her. She is the only friend that he could talk to. My heart melted. He has just found a friend and now she won’t be around.

I am planning to ask her mother next week for her phone number so they can stay connected. I hope it won’t be too weird or too awkward.

Playgrounds

Out of our four kids, I haven’t hung out much with Vương, our youngest boy. He is not ready to skate yet. I tried to get him to rollerblade, but he refused. I tried to get him to ice skate twice and he didn’t even want to step into the rink. When I took his older brothers to skating, he stayed home with his mom and his grandma. Now that I am on vacation, I want to spend some time with him. My goal is to take him and Xuân to different playgrounds around our area. Here are the playgrounds that we have enjoyed.

Fairlington Park

We recently discovered the playground in Fairlington Park. It is located in Arlington, which is 25 minutes from our house. This park has a high bridge made of ropes and a long slide. Đạo, Đán, and Xuân can climb and slide themselves. Vương still needs my supervision. The smaller areas are better for him. He and Xuân like the sandbox. The park also has a nice trail for walking, biking, or rollerblading as well as an exercise area for adults.

Woodland Wonderland

This is a themed playground located in Walker Mill Regional Park in Maryland, which is about 40 minutes from us. It’s all about discovering nature. The playground is suitable for Vương (2.5 years old) and Xuân (5 years old). They enjoyed the slides. Xuân discovered an awesome skatepark separated from the playground by the basketball and tennis courts. I will definitely try out the skate park when my wife comes along to supervise Vương at the playground.

Clemyjonji Park

This playground is located inMcLean, which is about 25 minutes from our house. It is huge with different areas for different age groups. It also has a nice trail for walking or rollerblading. We visited this park quite often when Đạo and Đán were younger.

Chessie’s Big Backyard

This playground is located in Alexandria, which is about 25 minutes from our house. This playground is not huge, but good enough for Vương and Xuân to spend ours running around. There is also a walking trail in the woods. I haven’t ventured out there yet, but it looks like a fantastic place to be close to nature.

Chestnut Hills Park

This park is located in Arlington, which is about 25 minutes from our house. The playground is not that big, but it has a sizable sandbox and a water faucet for the kids to play with. It’s a nice place with gates to keep the kids from running into the street.

Improvements

Đạo and Đán had made tremendous progress according to their third-quarter reports. Their achievement levels had improved drastically. After their setback from the last quarter, my wife and I had some serious talks with them and we hoped that they would put more effort into their school work.

Since my wife and I both work from home and the boys take remote classes, we divided them up into separate rooms. Đạo stayed in her office. Đán and I went down the basement. The process seemed to work.

My wife made sure that Đạo completed his assignments on time. She checked his works before he submitted them. I don’t know about his class participation, but his achievement levels had improved overall. We’re very pleased with his efforts.

As for Đán, I had to constantly remind him to pay attention in class, especially during Spanish. I didn’t understand a word his teacher said so I just left him alone. Unfortunately, he put his head on his desk and zoned out. I got frustrated at times when he consistently did this. We’re still debating to pull him out of Spanish next year, but I really like his upcoming fourth-grade teacher who taught Đạo.

In fact, we kept him in the Engish-Spanish immersion program this year because of his current English teacher. She’s black, tough, and a wonderful educator. She doesn’t mess around, but she gives them credits when they deserve them. We knew that we needed her to help him get better with language arts. I have been learning along with him on poetry, writing, and words. Because I went to school in Vietnamese in third grade, I never learned English’s language arts; therefore, I find them intriguing. I have learned to write different types of poetry. I knew haiku, but I didn’t know anything about acrostic and limerick. If he can learn the foundation, he will have a much easier time later on. I even learned about Ancient China and Ancient Greece for social studies. It felt like I was being in class again and I wanted to participate, but I couldn’t so I encouraged Đán to. We discussed between us first before he raised his hand. He participated more when he felt he had the right answers. His confidence shot up when his teacher smiled and hollered his name.

With the scale of achievement levels from 1 to 4, he had twenty-five 2s last quarter. He made all 3s in the third quarter. In fact, he earned a 4 for writing efforts and another 4 for reading efforts. His teachers definitely noticed and we’re proud of him.

The issue is that he needs someone to constantly remind him and to push him. He needs to be more independence. I am loosening the reins in the last quarter to see how he performs then we will decide if he should be taken out of Spanish.

Xuân will start English-Spanish immersion kindergarten in the fall. More challenges to come and we haven’t even done with his older brothers yet.

Balanoposthitis

When I changed Vương’s diaper last Monday night, I discovered his penis was swelling. I freaked out and called his pediatrician. One of the on-call nurses advised me to take him to the children emergency room. My wife and I brought him in around 11 PM. The infection didn’t seem to bother him. He behaved well in the ER. He was diagnosed with Balanoposthitis. We didn’t get home until 1:30 AM. We were not sure how he got it, but we were thankful that he was doing fine.

I realize that I haven’t written about our him in a while. He’s two and a half years old now. He still smiles often. Because he is always surrounded by his older brothers, he develops fast. He talks a lot and can form complete sentences. He wants to join his older brothers with whatever they are into. As a result, he skips all the activities for his age. For example, he doesn’t play with toy trains like his brothers used to. On the other hand, he’s too young to ice skate; therefore, he often stayed with his mom while the rest of us hit the rink. I tried to train him, but he wanted to get out of the rink as soon as I put him in. I’ll reintroduce him when he’s ready.

With the pandemic, we haven’t thought about enrolling him into daycare. With my mother-in-law’s help, we have managed to keep the kids home. He enjoys being around his brothers and cousins. Just witnessing him play, laugh, and grow has helped me getting through the challenging time. He helped me stay grounded. I can’t do anything for my parents, but I definitely can do something for my kids. They are the focus of my life. They are the reason I have to move forward. I have the responsibility to raise them with the best of my ability and my resources. I don’t know how well they will turn out, but I hope that they can be happy with whatever direction they’ll heading into.

The Poetic Kids

Đán is doing better in virtual school. He participated more in class discussions. He just needed to be reminded to stay focused, but he has become more independent. He did well on a math test yesterday with his teacher’s help reading the questions to him. For language art, he wrote two poems yesterday. The first one was in an acrostic form. He wrote about sushi:

Sashimi
Uncooked
Salmon
Hot and spicy and
I love it.

He also wrote a Haiku about nature:

Trees come from nature
They are good for human beings
Please don’t chop them down.

Đạo is stepping up his poetic game as well. He wrote one yesterday about dragons:

Dragons are big, dragons are strong
Green, red, bronze, and grey
They always come to ruin the day
When you’re just having fun
They come and scorch
Until your home is gone
Then they make a home
With gold to show
Then frost sets in,
You turn your head
Blue, white, sapphire, silver
Ice and fire flies
They fight for silver
They fight for gold
One by one
The beasts fall
You hear static
Then you look
Amethyst, black, copper, and deep blue
Here comes the rarest of them all
Lightning lights up the night
Making the cool night, hot as day
Then they say, “Hey let’s stop”
“So we can catch some zs”.

I am impressed. Well done, boys!

Đán’s Improvement

In Đán’s interim progress report for the third quarter, his teachers write: “Thank you for your support with Dan. He has shown great improvement with his class participation and completing his assignments on time.”

In the past few weeks, I worked with him closely. At first, I was so frustrated because he seemed clueless. He didn’t know what went on during class. Tuesday last week for instance, I had to take care of an issue at work that required me to be focused. I asked him to pay attention to his teacher. When I saw him idling, I asked him what he was supposed to do and he didn’t have a clue. I yelled at him then I felt awful afterward. I needed to be more patience.

The next day I kept reminding him to sit up and to pay attention. I also made him raise his hand to participate in class discussion. He didn’t want to speak up because he was afraid to give the wrong answer. He wanted to check with me first before he would raise his hand. He felt more confidence when he had the right answer. He is now participating a bit more and his teachers have recognized his efforts.

He wrote another poem yesterday in language art. He even shared with his classmates. He read out loud:

I love to make sushi
For me and my family
We enjoy eating them together
The memory will last forever

His teacher danced in her chair. She was so happy with the progress he is making. Today, she taught them alliterations. For class assignment, he needed to come up with a phrase that had alliteration based on his name. He wrote, “Dan digs Dunkin’ Donuts.” His teacher had a good laugh at that one.

From what I had observed, he was not clueless. He was just bored and was not paying attention. To get him engaged, I advised him to make his assignments about the things he enjoyed. Since he is passionate about cooking, he incorporated food into his assignments.

Staying focused is definitely a challenge for him. He didn’t do well on his tests or assessments because he tried to answer without reading the questions. I often had to remind him to slow down and read the question carefully before selecting an answer.

I am glad that he has shown some improvements, but he will need help with his ADHD. I am here for him now, but I can’t do this in the long term. Once he goes back to the classroom environment or I go back to work in my office, I won’t be able to be with him. Now that we know the issues he is facing, we can get him the help he needs.

An Exhausting Week

I was working, taking third grade classes, and tutoring at once. Đán hardly paid attention to his online classes; therefore, we had to sit through them together. I made him take notes with me when we learned about ancient China. When we were watching the video, I made him write down a few interesting points. As soon as the class discussion began, I made him raise his hand. He shared that the majority of China was Buddhism. His teacher was so glad that he participated.

When I had a meeting for work, I asked him to wear his headphones and listen to his teacher. While his classmates were writing poems, he just sat there waiting and doing nothing. When his teacher called on him to share what he had written, he simply said, “I haven’t done it.” He was supposed to come up with a list of things he liked and picked one to write a poem. His classmates came up with impressive poems and they are only third graders. This is what we came up with together:

I love making chicken wing
I dip it in flour while I sing
I cook it until it’s crispy and done
Then I eat it until it’s all gone.

Hey, at least they rhymed. After school was done, he had four assignments that were due at the end of the day. Last night I made him and Đạo completed their assignments and turned in at 10 pm. They still have more assignments to do today. Between their loads of assignments and my load of work, we won’t have time for anything else like ice skating and rollerblading. Their grades were slipping; therefore, they can’t do half-ass work anymore.

Đạo had to write a nonfiction story and it was due last night. I kept asking him to check with me first before he submitted it, but he went and submitted anyway. The minimum for the story was five slides. He did only four. Each slide required a paragraph and a photo. He wrote the paragraphs, but didn’t add any photo. No wonder his grades slipped in the last quarter. The story he wrote was good, but that was only half of the assignment. All he had to do was Googled, copied, and pasted images. He resubmitted his assignment.

I spoke to Đán’s teacher and raised my concern that he is falling way behind in class. She told me that he needs to be more responsible and independent. Unfortunately his grades and his inability to get his assignments done tell me that he needs help. If I don’t help him, he will lose his confidence and I am afraid that he will withdraw. I want to help him at this time and then gradually step back to give him his responsibility. If it is optional, I still want to keep him doing online classes at home so I can keep an eye on him. Last year, his teachers told me that he sat in class with his head down. He did not participate in class and he did not do his assignments either. When he was in school, I couldn’t help him much. At home, I can follow his progress easier. Of course, this will change when I have to go back to my office, but it might be working out for now. I am hoping to catch him up.

Down Grades

For their second progress report, Đạo’s and Đán’s grades slipped drastically and I take full responsibility for the failure on my part. I had to leave town for the entire month of December of last year. Even when I came back home, I didn’t check on them. I took their words when they told me they have done their assignments and trusted that they took their education seriously, especially Đạo.

Unfortunately, they rushed through their assignments without giving any effort. When they were supposed to write a few sentences, they wrote a few words. Đán even ignored assignments his teachers reminded him of the due dates. They wanted to play video games more than to do their assignments. I was disappointed at their lack of accountability and responsibility. Their report cards were a reality check for me.

We talked about their lack of progress and Đạo was angry at himself. His grades were low, but we both know he can improve if he puts efforts into his assignments and participates in class discussions. He and I are now back to our cave in the basement. I have to keep an eye on him while doing my work.

I don’t worry about Đạo as much as Đán who has always been struggling with school in all subjects. He doesn’t know what he is doing because he doesn’t pay attention in class. I had to sit with him and help him catch up on his assignments. He still has trouble learning math, especially with multiplication and division. For Spanish, he uses Google Translate for everything. He is falling behind. I am hoping that working one on one with him will help him improve. He constantly needed to be reminded to stay focused. He could not sit still in a classroom setting. He would do better in an active environment. I can see how freely he felt on the ice skating rink. Even when he had group lessons, he did well. I am trying to get him to join ice hockey in the future if he continues with skating lessons. As for his school, we’ll see what happens after this year.

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