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.

Lesson for Đạo

After taking a bath and brushing his teeth last night, Xuân asked me if he could play video games. I granted him permission, which was somehow automatically applied to his brothers. As they turned on their devices, I told Đạo and Đán to brush their teeth first before they could play. While Đán ran into the bathroom to get it done and over with, Đạo immediately released his frustration and protested, “You gotta be kidding me.” He did this every single time I asked him to do something and I had enough of it last night. I revoked his permission.

He threw a tantrum and said, “I hate you.” His sharp word was like a knife stabbing through my heart, but I stayed calm and quiet. I went into my bedroom to read. He brushed his teeth, stumped into my room, and dragged his blanket and pillows to his mom’s room. He came back and asked if he could play. I stayed firm and said no. He got more upset and accused me of singled him out and that no one loved him. I had to point out to him that if I didn’t love him or didn’t care about him, I wouldn’t have asked him to brush his teeth. There was no benefit for me to ask him to do it. My teeth wouldn’t get any cleaner or shinier if he brushed his teeth. He covered his ears and didn’t want to hear my explanation.

He said that I just wanted to make him unhappy. I asked him, “As a parent, what can I do to make him happy? Would allowing unlimited time for playing video games make you happy?” I explained to him the danger of addiction. The way he behaved when he was not allowed to play showed a sign of addiction. The fact that he hated me for not letting him play was a sign of addiction. Somehow explaining to him how game makers used psychology to get the players hooked got through to him.

He went downstairs to make me an ice cold cup of water because of all the talking I did. He brought back his blanket and pillows. He wrapped himself in a blanket, but reached out his hand to grab mine. We held each other’s hand and fell asleep. This kid can break my heart one minute and just heal it the next. I have nothing but love for him even when the love is tough.

Vương Turns Two

My Dearest Vương,

The past two years, especially 2020, have been tough. Fortunately, I have you to keep me from going insane. When I feel down, your beautiful smiles never fail to pick me up. You have brought so much joy into our lives.

It has been an amazing experience observing you grow day by day and listening to you say word by word. My heart melts every time you gently ask, “Bà ngoại (grandma), iPad,” “Mommy, bú bú (breastfeed),” or “Daddy, play.” Your brothers have nothing but love for you. I love seeing you imitate your brothers, Xuân in particular. As a result, you are catching up fast in both speech and sharpness.

Of course, you are no softie. Growing up with three older brothers has toughened you up. You scream and fight back when you have to. You show no sign of backing down. Still, you have been the calmest boy out of all them. I hope you will keep your cool temperament for years to come.

I love you with all my heart, son. I am happy to see you enjoyed your second birthday. I am sure we will have many more wonderful moments to come. Don’t ever stop smiling, kiddo.

Guns and Rubik’s Cube

Đạo, my twelve-year-old son, has been fascinated with guns. He reads about guns and observes all of their components. I asked him why he is interested in guns and he told me that he liked the history and the mechanism behind them.

He loved telling me his latest creations. He walked me through the features he had created based on various guns. From the magazine holder to the front sight, I was impressed with the way he translated what he saw from real guns into his LEGO creations.

Building LEGO guns is one of his favorite activities when he’s not on the computer. He used to build tanks, airplanes, and helicopters with LEGOs. I am sure gun is just what he is into right now before moving on to something else. I am glad that he finds his creative passion, but I can’t help being a bit concerned given the gun violence in America.

Đán, my eight-year-old son, on the other hand, has been fascinated with the Rubik’s Cube after watching Netflix’s documentary The Speed Cubers. Unlike his brother, he just spends time messing around instead of following instructions. He figured out how to solve one side, but showed no interest in solving all six.

I used to be able to solve all six sides when I was a kid. Now I can only solve one. In the past few days, I spent a bit of time reading instructions and watching YouTube videos trying to solve it. I got pretty close and messed up at the last step. I wanted to solve it so that I could teach him, but I got frustrated and gave up. He is just going to have to figure it out on his own.

Our Growing Vương

I haven’t written much about Vương and he will be turning two soon. I used to write a lot about our older sons. I suppose by the fourth son I am getting used to the novelty of being a parent.

Vương is indeed a very special child. He still puts on lovely smiles everyday. He wakes up in the morning and pulls up his mom’s shirt for breakfast. After that, he runs over to his grandma’s room, holds her hand, leads her to her charging station, and says, “iPad.” He takes her iPad to my room and grabs my finger to unlock it. He opens up YouTube and grabs my finger again to search for the video he wants to watch. As soon as he sees something he likes, he pushes my hand away. He is hooked on the digital device as much as his older brothers.

Vương gets all the love from everyone, especially his brothers. He can say all of their names now and he knows exactly who he can ask for favors. He wants to join them in everything. Even though he only knows a few words, he uses them well and continues to pick up more words from his brothers.

With the pandemic, we let him stay home for now. We might enroll Vương and Xuân once the coronavirus is under control.

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