Sunday, August 30, 2015

Any Regrets?

Yes. I regret that the orphanage reports on my children were not accurate and that people felt like they had to lie to get these kids adopted.

Knowledge is power. I'd have been able to be a much better mom to my girls from the start if only I'd known then what I know now and wish I know now what I'm going to know a year from now.

I can't change these things. These things were not and are not my fault.

I am so glad that my children are here, safe with me, because I know where one would be by now and it's horrible beyond comprehension. I'm pretty sure another one would be dying a slow death due to lack of medical care (not for lack of the orphanage trying, but because her condition is so complicated that it's hard to get proper care even here).

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Little Did I Know

Two weeks of public school special education for Blossom has been 50x harder than homeschooling her. We are all so exhausted! Physically, emotionally, everything! The amount of time it's taking me on the phone, emailing and in meetings for Blossom has been so great, that my other two girls have had no lessons this week or only one per day. Apple went to bed last night at 9pm and I let her sleep until 10:30am this morning. It's 12:30pm and she's sitting in her highchair fast asleep right now.

The special ed. teachers changed Blossom's schedule without notifying the counselor. I think they mentioned it to me, but put it this way, "We share the students, so she'll begin in so-and-so's class in the mornings." What they meant was, "We are changing her schedule completely. She will no longer be in Transitional Math, but in Life Skills, where she'll spend more time playing. Today, we bowled in the hallway because in Oct. we have a field trip to a bowling alley. And she has homework for math. Yes, it's counting to 5 and writing the number. I know that YOU know she can subtract two-digit numbers and borrow, but I don't know that so until I can evaluate her, this is what I'm giving her."

Yesterday, I took her to the classroom that was on her schedule. School begins at 8am. In the classroom, by now 8:15am, the students were eating breakfast and watching a Curious George cartoon on PBS TV. They turned it off at 8:45am and started playing street sign Bingo. When I pointed out to the teacher that this looked like babysitting instead of school, she said, "Well, these students can't read and write like your daughter can."

The problem is that Blossom is at a level by herself. The other high-functioning special ed. kids are academically several grades ahead of her and not new to the English language. The lower functioning kids are very, very low functioning and can't read or write and many are severely handicapped, in wheelchairs, non-verbal, and this is where Blossom has been placed except for one class, English, but I can already tell it's way too hard. So is her one mainstream class, chorus. They were in class for 105 minutes and didn't sing at all, just did a theory workbook. It's way too hard for Blossom. I didn't tell her that, I helped her to do the work, but even My Firefighter couldn't understand the instructions. I could because I know music already and have a point of reference.

Legally, the school has to provide work and support at the level that Blossom functions and works at. The reality, though, is that there isn't enough staff to spare for one student who is somewhat well-behaved, but can't function in the higher level special ed. academic classes. There are just as many, if not many more, interruptions than we experience at home caring for the daycare kids, because the students with profound special needs in the classroom are always needed assistance, whether it's diaper changes or help in the restroom, to needing their hands washed and being moved away from the other students after masturbating (yes, a male student did play with himself, blatantly, but inside his clothing, right beside Blossom), drool that needs wiping up, attention when they get too loud with the spontaneous repetitive noises many of the students make. Blossoms verbal expression has already started taking on the characteristics of the children more affected by CP. I knew this was a possibility because in an orphanage, the key to survival is fitting in, blend in, don't be different. I didn't think it would happen so fast, though. When I picked her up on Thursday, I couldn't understand a word she was saying.

She's beginning to have behavioral problems at school, too. Boredom is one reason, but the other is that she's feeling that everyone thinks she's stupid and damaged because she's being given "baby work" and put in the "damaged area." (She's always called the area of her orphanage where the children with profound special needs lived, the "damaged area," even though I've taught her the correct terms.) I dropped her off on Thursday, got to the car and cried. I cried on and off all day and couldn't wait to pick her up, and when I did, that's when she was speaking unintelligibly. Thinking she had English class on Friday, her one class with a teacher who really sees her potential realistically, I took her to school, and that's when I found out her schedule had been changed without proper authorization. I've been sending emails and making calls every single day, giving the teacher samples of all of Blossom's school work and even gave them the names of the math computer programs we've been using here at home. So, yesterday, Blossom announced that she did CTCmath during class. I was glad she did some actual work. It galls the heck out of me, though, that it's work I bought and paid for and had to provide to a public school for my child.

There has been one good side-effect. It's made me think outside the box and come up with an entirely new plan. I don't know if it's feasible, but with a little research, I can find out. It's also showed me some things about Sissy that I really needed to understand and accept. Next to Blossom, Sissy seemed higher functioning enough that I've always believed she'd learn enough to be an independent adult. Seeing her without Blossom, it became startling clear that she has very similar deficits, but without the layer of trauma that Blossom has. I was, for the first time, able to see very clearly, the difference between memorized behavior and skills and cognitive ability (self-awareness and knowledge integration is extremely low). After doing some basic first grade level reading comprehension exercises, I took the results and my concerns on several other matters to my pediatrician and in a heartbeat, she gave us a referral to a developmental pediatrician. Bottom line for Sissy is that she doesn't have the intellectual ability to be an independent adult either. Looking back and remembering as I type all this out, EVERY SINGLE PERSON WE MET IN CHINA, except my guide, EVEN THE PERSONNEL AT THE U.S. CONSULATE, said upon seeing her, "Oh, I see you've adopted a child with a mental disability." I kept saying, "No, she just looks that way, but everyone says she's fine."

I wish I'd stopped listening long ago to all those out there around me who kept saying things like, "all teens are like that," and "just throw them out there, they'll either sink or swim," and "it's just a language and culture thing."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

...and Even Worse!

What is considered a decent and fair try? I'm told by "everyone" that it takes time to get things just right the first week or so of school, especially in special education.

Today, they did get the schedule right. And some girl got jealous of sharing her aid and bullied my daughter. Other kids witnessed it and tried to stop it. Teachers did seem to do the right thing, but my child ended up being found crying in the bathroom. It was bad enough that the other girl "got written up."

How much is enough? My daughter was bullied in Chine mercilessly for the first 11.75 years of her life - the worst of it in school there.

I did meet someone today who may be the answer to a prayer. He is truly an advocate for the child and seems to work the system like I've never known someone on the inside would do.

This whole public school business has been MUCH harder than having my daughter at home. But, and it's a big one, she does disrupt my work and without that we can't put food on the table. I need more kids in my daycare to make ends meet, too, so it's only going to get harder and more demanding.

On the other hand, she's MY child. My first loyalty needs to be to her. This was the biggest issue I wrestled with when thinking about adopting. A single mom NEEDS to work. There isn't a choice. But what is the cost now to my daughter?

Still no bus. Apple started her school season speech therapy today.

I really need to figure this out by the end of this week or I'm going to crash and burn.

Monday, August 24, 2015

It Gets Worse...

I sent Blossom to school today, prepared for a new schedule of real academic work. I picked her up this afternoon only to find out that the teacher, who had attended the meeting last Friday with us, never received the new schedule and didn't even care enough to find out why. So, Blossom spent another day dancing and playing games, though she said she did one page of math, too.

I also didn't hear from the bus scheduling department. I just called them and they have her in the system - TWICE. Once with her name together and once with it separated, and each has the right birthday, but two different student I.D. numbers! And... and this is the real kicker.... they don't have her listed as a special ed student. Then they said it takes 30 days to do an IEP. I told them it was done and signed last Friday. She said, Ms. V had to sign it, I said she was there and did. Then she said she had no idea why things weren't being taken care of and for me to "stay on it."

Excuse me, but I already have a job, thank you. Will you please do yours?

That's what I'm thinking. I wish I'd said it.

I don't think I'm going to last a month like this. I told My Firefighter, who has been away on a wildland fire for 11 days now, that I'd give it a month, but there is no way I'm going to drive my daughter back and forth and back and forth, lugging my daycare babies and kids with me. I have to WORK, too, and the parents are NOT paying to drive their kids around the neighborhood!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Recreation and Leisure Class?

The meeting I was supposed to have with the special ed. department this afternoon has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning. Just in time since today I found out she watched Night at the Museum 2 DURING SCHOOL HOURS in a class called Recreation and Leisure. Come on, it's the 4th day of class and their watching recreational movies? Whoever conceived of such a class? What in the world is happening to public education in America?

Honestly! I work myself nearly to death every single day to educate my girls and I send them to school and the teachers put on non-educational movies? Couldn't it at least have been The Miracle Worker or something similar? Something real, inspiring or education?

I don't want free babysitting. I want my child to learn and develop to her potential.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

School Days

Well, tomorrow is Day 4 of public school special education. Blossom seems to like it, but so far, she's done nothing but play and "baby work." Apparently, her IEP from last year was VERY incomplete, so we have a meeting tomorrow to see just what should be done with her. Honestly, the two papers she's brought home so far are so babyish that I can't believe that's all they had for her.
At home, she's been subtracting two digit numbers with borrowing (regrouping) and today's paper from the school had three problems. The first problem had two pictures, one of two blocks and one of one block. There was a blank square after each picture. The instructions were to count the blocks, circle the picture that had more blocks and write how many blocks there were in the blank squares. The other two problems were the same, but different pictures.

Today, I sent her with some of her homeschooling workbooks and instructions for the teachers. She only did one page when I sent three workbooks.

So, the goal for tomorrow's meeting is to arrange a schedule for Blossom that will keep moving her along academically, teach her the life-skills she'll need, and get the door-to-door bus arranged.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

We had a great morning. We were close and their hearts opened to me and each other.

We had a good experience doing some charity work at church making blankets for Project Linus.

We had a great lunch at church.

Everyone behaved very well.

We had a good afternoon.

The open hearts from this morning lingered. They felt my love. They felt secure. They wanted to share...

..and memories of life in China seeped into the discussion.

Anxiety levels rose. Slowly. Steadily. I knew it was coming.

Blossom sabotaged herself in a minor way at bedtime but it led to a crying fit. I handled it well. She handled it well. It didn't develop into a full-blown tantrum.

I saw the look on Jie Jie's face before she got ready for bed, verge of tears but distancing herself from it. She squeezed me so tight giving me a bedtime hug, it actually hurt. Now she is up and it's nearly midnight. She can't sleep, haunted by the mystery of her life in China. She calls it "China stuff." She's got memories of feelings, very, very, very early ones. It's astonishing what she can remember from so early in her life. It bothers her that she can't remember it enough to put it into words.

Sissy is up, too, still in her bed but restless, sometimes dozing off and talking loudly in her sleep.

It's so hard for them to accept love and feel safe and secure in it. They want it. They crave it. They can't seem to stand it.

Mama Read Book

Tonight, Apple brought me a book and said, "Read book."

I said to her, "Okay, read your book."

She said, "No. Mama."

I asked her, "What do you want me to do?"

She answered, "Mama read book, please."

It was adorable! It's super adorable when her sisters read to her, too.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fair Assessments

One of my commenters brought up an excellent point: It's extremely difficult to get a fair assessment on the intellectual/cognitive level of a child who spent years in an orphanage then is adopted and moved to a foreign country, or any child, perhaps even an adult, for that matter. What I'm about the write is my own experience, views, thoughts, observations and opinions though a lot of it is well-known and well-documented but not followed in American school systems.

What are some of the reasons it's hard to accurately assess our kids who spent time in orphanages before their adoptions?

1. Typical to extreme levels of neglect, especially during infancy and all the results of this.

2. Poor nutrition.

3. Poor education, beginning with a lack of the normal back and forth interactions and infant would experience with a loving parent to the poor education many orphans experience in schools before their adoption.

4. Lack of life experience and lack of experience with reasoning, logic, decision making (orphans usually aren't given choices about anything), problem solving and general exposure to philosophical ideas and diversity.

5. Exposure to a new language, culture and way of life (family living vs. orphanage life).

6. Special needs.

In one evaluation, I had to fill out a behavioral assessment. One of the questions was something like this: Does your child use how, what, when and where correctly in a sentence? Never/Sometimes/Always.

This question can be answered Sometimes for each of my older girls, especially at first, but even now, especially for Blossom, which is indicative of her special need because she learned English the fastest and the best, had the highest reading level in Chinese, but very low writing ability, and has acquired the largest English vocabulary as well as use of colloquialisms. More on this later.

Another question was: Does your child bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair appropriately by themselves? Never/Sometimes/Always.

Again, none of my girls did at first. This is because no one took the time in their orphanages to show them how to do it thoroughly. Now, Sissy does great. Blossom, not so great and sometimes not at all. But now, she can get herself ready in the morning without me being there. Every couple days, I check her teeth to make sure the brushing well (or at all) and I frequently have to send her back to her room to change clothes because they are either dirty, too small, too big, not appropriate or VERY mismatched. And no, I'm not going to let my child out in public looking like a clown at her age wearing primary colored stripes, plaids and polka dots all at the same time. If she was 4, yes, it's cute when their 4. It's not cute at 14.5.

Today, I received a call from the school district. They wanted to assess Blossom's English language ability because on one of the enrollment forms it asks what her first language was. There were fields to choose from and only one said Chinese. I explained that she spoke two Chinese dialects and usually there is a place to select Mandarin or Cantonese or Other, but not on this form. (She is actually their FIRST Chinese-speaking student! Shocking to me, who lived in the Bay Area and was surrounded by Cantonese and Mandarin speakers for the last 27 years). I explained that she does have a special need but that I'd help them test her. This test was completely invalid BEFORE they even began. Here's why:

1. It was for 9th-12th graders. Blossom is only at 1st-2nd grade level.

2. The man giving the test had a Chinese last name and a Hispanic first name and a very thick Panamanian accent. The test was orally given. I could understand him but it wasn't easy and he made errors as he read from getting entire words completely wrong to leaving off a plural s sound at the end of a plural word.

3. Blossom couldn't even understand the instructions the way he read them, but I was allowed to clarify them for her.

The first question had three pictures. There were one or two rulers, arranged differently, in each picture. The question was: Which two rulers are perpendicular to each other? Blossom, of course, hasn't learned what perpendicular means so she couldn't answer that question. If her math was at a 9th grade level, she'd have come across that word by now. Did this question accurately assess her ability to understand English? No. Because it was above her cognitive level.

The second question showed three pictures again. There were three shapes in each picture and in two pictures there was a fourth shape inside one of the three shapes. The question was: Which picture shows a circle inside a rectangle? But the first time the man read it, he said triangle instead of rectangle and instead of saying, oops, I made a mistake, he read the problem again as though repeating it exactly, but he said rectangle. It was hard to pick up on the difference because of his accent. Blossom knows her shapes but has to think a little bit about their names - due to English, not cognitive level. However, her cognitive level interfered with her understanding of the pictures. She knew there were three possible answers. In the first picture, she saw three shapes and in one of those shapes there was another shape, a circle in a square. She didn't realize that each picture had three main shapes and that she needed to look at each of the SETS of shapes, not just the first set. I pointed out to her where A,B and C pictures were, but she had fixated on the first picture and the three shapes there and couldn't let go of her idea and belief that those three shapes in picture one were the three options. She got it wrong. Later, I asked her if she knew the difference between a square and a rectangle and she did and described it well. Then, I showed her the pictures again and explained how each choice was a set of shapes and that she needed to look at all the sets and ignore shapes that were alone and look at the shapes that had another shape inside them. Then she got it. This is why teaching her takes so long. More on this later, too.

The third question showed three pictures of framed art and asked: Which picture shows a portrait? She'd only heard of the word portrait in her 5th month home when I had the girls draw their self portraits. That's a long time for anyone new to a language to remember a word that early on, heard only once or twice. She couldn't answer. I looked at the man and said watch this: I said, "A portrait is a picture of a person's head and shoulders. Which picture shows a portrait?" She picked the correct one.

We stopped the test. They filled out paperwork to leave the evaluation of English ability up to the testing done for the IEP.

Unless a test is at the level of the child's cognitive ability and within their knowledge of experience, the test will be grossly inaccurate!

The assessments given by school districts compare kids like mine to average American kids of the same age. But let's look at America now. What is average? How many kids are immigrants or born to immigrants? What are their home cultures like? What does a 14 yr. old Amish child know when compared to a child raised in New York City? An Amish child may be very knowledgeable and experienced about growing crops and farming but a child raised in New York City probably hasn't even seen a tomato growing, so if a child in New York City was shown three plants without their fruit, such as a tomato plant, corn and an artichoke, they'd probably fail the test. Is one child smarter than another? We sure can't tell by this kind of test.

Last year, when all three of my girls were evaluated, Blossom's was the absolute most fair and accurate of the three AND as fair and accurate as I think one can get for HER. There was a Chinese translator who spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese. As much of the test that could be done non-verbally or using pictures instead of words, pointing instead of writing, was done. I made sure to note on all the questions I answered, which was a second language issue and what was a cognitive issue. I know what I've tried to teach her. For example, I've taught her basic hygiene. It's still a struggle for her, but she's reached an acceptable level. By this, I mean that I don't have to be in the bathroom with her when she's getting ready every day, but every couple of days, I check her teeth to make sure she's brushing well (or at all) and I do frequently send her back to change clothes because she's either put on something dirty, too small, too big, or not appropriate.

Back to Blossom's acquisition of English. She was taught some English in China. She could clearly say, "Hello, nice to meet you." She knew yes and no and a couple other things, like the alphabet. Even though she was nearly 12 years old when I got her, she learned English like a younger child, by babbling and imitating the sounds, not by translating. Sissy would look up each word carefully in her dictionary or use the translator, then think in Chinese, translate in her head, then say it in English, stiffly, unnaturally, trying to get it perfect. Blossom was like a baby constantly babbling, singing, trying out her words without any embarrassment at all. She learned English fast! She acquired a huge vocabulary in a short amount of time. She picked up colloquialisms, slang, idioms - she picked it ALL up - things only adults would usually say, bad words if she passed by someone using them. Looking back, I can see why she picked up language so fast... She's at that cognitive level. Her brain didn't mature and develop to the point where that skill is changed to the learning-by-translating method of language learning. But now, she's still stuck at that level. She's got all this vocabulary and speaking ability but can't wield it appropriately. This is an excellent example of how her special need served her well and then how it's preventing her from further development.

Back to learning taking a long time. Part of the language assessment today showed Blossom three pictures. They wanted her to write in her native or first language what was happening in each picture. The pictures were stick figures. The first was a waiter taking a person's order. The person ordering was sitting at a table in what looked like a restaurant. The second picture showed the waiter bringing the food on a tray. The third picture showed that the waiter tripped and the contents of the tray were falling onto the person at the table.

My question to the man giving the test, "Do you really think that a child raised in an orphanage would have been taught the Chinese characters for restaurant ordering?" He was chagrined and said, "No."

I then asked Blossom to tell me what was happening in the first picture. She said, "He, no she... Mommy, does it show he and she?"

The pictures did not show gender so I said it didn't matter. She was then able to say that the waiter, and she used the word waiter, was writing down the man's order (she didn't use the word order, but said something like - the food he wants). Then - special need kicked in here - no filter for sorting information and sticking to what is relevant and knowing what is easily implied.... Remember, the next picture is the waiter bring the food order to the table, but Blossom started talking and talking... "The the cook cooked the food in the kitchen and put it on the plate and the waiter......"

I stopped her and said that we are looking at the pictures we can see, not what we know happened next after the order was taken.

I can't help but wonder if her special need is caused by something that would otherwise be considered genius: an ability to see the ENTIRE picture and right now, she just isn't able to filter and prioritize the information. A lot like auditory processing disorder where the person hears every single thing from the cars driving by to the people talking in the next room, to the person talking beside them to the shuffling of papers at a desk, etc... and every sound is of equal importance in the brain, it's not filtered and sorted and given priorities or ignored.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sad and Hopeful

Perfect words to describe my current state. Yesterday was a day of grieving that's left me raw this morning. I did already know about Blossom's condition which is why I had her tested to make it formal and to be able to get more help, especially once she's an adult, but I admit that a secret part of me was hoping I was wrong. I was also hoping it wasn't quite so bad.

In all my reading about adoption and the various issues children may have, none mentioned the grieving a parent experiences with each new diagnosis. I didn't even recognize what it was the first couple times, but I know it well now. I grieve for the struggles that lay ahead for my child, for the things she won't experience or accomplish (whatever they may be), for the perceptions others will have of her and the limitations they may try to place on her, and for so much more.

What comes later is the celebration of each achievement she will have, big and small, but today, I am still grieving for her.

What makes this even more sad is that she's very aware of what others can do and she doesn't yet understand why she isn't allowed to do those things. In her mind, she feels capable, but when she tries, she is not, and it makes situations dangerous for her.

Last night as I dropped her off for her weekly church activity, I saw the leader placing a big cup of scissors on the table. My reaction was physical. My heart rate increased, my breath caught in my chest and I felt something close to panic rising in me. My mind was screaming, Please don't give her scissors! I managed to keep myself under control and speak reasonably with the leader, one of the few I feel compassion and understand from, not judgement. She assured me that Blossom will have plenty to do that doesn't involve scissors.

I can't remember in this moment if I mentioned what Blossom did with scissors the last time she had them, but the path of destruction she wrought is still being discovered. Mostly, she didn't mean to destroy things, though a few items she did, like cutting the sleeve of one of her sister's Sunday dresses, but she honestly believed that if the things were her own, it was okay to cut them up. She cut the yarn tufts off her quilt to use as fake noodles in our little play kitchen (still her favorite toy). This was creative, but terribly inappropriate and destructive. She also cut the leather flowers off her leather sandals to give as a gift, cutting the sandal straps, too. Again, kindness was the goal, but destruction the result. She only meant to cut the tag off of her pillow, but she ended up cutting the pillow as well. And so on and so on and so on...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's Official

I received a call today from the Regional Center. Blossom has been found to have "intellectual deficiency" which, the man explained, is the new term for mental retardation. I am not offended by the word retarded. In music, retard, is a term that means to slow down. Here is the dictionary definition of retardation:

re·tar·da·tion rē′tär-dā′shən)
n. 1.
a. The act or process of delaying or impeding.

b. The condition of being delayed or impeded.

2. The extent to which something is held back or delayed.

3. Something that retards; a delay or hindrance.

4. Often Offensive: Impaired intellectual development.

5. Music A diminishing of tempo; a retard.

She definitely has a condition of being delayed AND impeded. Being a client of the Regional Center means that she will have life-long help as long as she needs it. No one is putting any limits on her potential and the programs are designed to help her reach her greatest potential. She will be supported in adulthood by programs that will help her be as independent as possible while contributing and participating as fully as she can in normal, everyday life, safely.

I will be at her side throughout this journey since all programs have cracks and need monitoring by someone who loves her and has her best interests at heart regardless of politics and budgets. As my neighbor pointed out to me, who has several adopted children with special needs, if anything happens to me, Blossom will be taken care of for life.

Meanwhile, she is registered for school and will start next week in special ed, beginning with Functional Skills, some of which will be easy for her and some not easy at all. She'll also be in a reading class. Where the school leaves off academically, I'll pick up at home so she can continue to progress in math and other subjects, especially those she finds interesting, such as geography.

Public school is a HUGE step for her since most of her PTSD has to do with school in China. When I first got her, she didn't last more than 2 minutes at our school table before having a meltdown and ending up writhing and kicking and screaming on the floor in utter panic. School in China had been too brutal, physically and psychologically for her. I will always remember the day, weeks later, when she finally accepted that school at home with me was completely different than school in China and she finally allowed herself to focus and understand her school assignment and start working on it, knowing I was there to help her and she said, "Mommy, thank you for helping me learn."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Perfect Example

Thank you for your support, Anonymous. And thank you for your perfect example of how much doesn't make it into my blog.

Blossom's hair. Yes, it's short. It needs to be, for her sake. Jo, you ASSUME that the haircut was to meet MY standards. You are very wrong. It was to make it easy for Blossom to keep herself clean and neat, especially in weather that commonly soars over 100 degrees all summer long.

So, here's the perfect example of what doesn't make it on to the blog...

I didn't start with the haircut that Blossom currently has. I gave her a cute, stylish wedge that everyone, including Blossom, loved. It was a little longer and she looked great. The problem was that it always fell into her eyes from the back. She doesn't have the instinct to push it out of her face or swing her head so it falls back. The result was that it was always in her eyes and across her face and looked like a mop. I cut it shorter and shorter until it no longer fell into her eyes and she was happy.

But see, everyone assumes that I just hacked it all off. And frankly, even if I had, that's my decision between Blossom and myself.

Then, last May, I figured perhaps a salon might have some better ideas so off we went. What a disaster! I won't even put the pictures up because the haircut is soooo bad that Blossom is crying in them. I fixed it and it was back to the old style.

My blog is not a place to justify my decisions, but to share the reality of raising my daughters with others in the adoption community.

Blossom has many issues just from being in an orphanage.

She has many issues due to the abuses she suffered there.

She has some issues due to being relinquished by her birth parents and her first family, who cared enough to bring her here even when they knew in China that they couldn't parent her. That took guts!

She also has a congenital birth defect - a cognitive one - and was in special ed in China. We all know that when our children first come home, it can be hard to discern what issues are due to what and which ones are orphanage delays and which ones are cognitive delays. Blossom's cognitive delays are significant. She can't reason, she has great difficulty learning anything and everything, but she CAN learn.

I'm not going to cover up our difficulties. If readers want roses and sunshine, read some other blog. I'm keeping it real here, but not sharing all. That would be impossible and inappropriate. Blossom is MY DAUGHTER AND I LOVE HER.

Commenters are welcome to leave supportive, positive comments and advice, but from now on, any comments as ridiculous as telling me I should give up my child or judging me when one isn't in complete knowledge of the facts will simply be deleted without explanation or acknowledgement.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ranch for Kids in Montana

The Ranch for Kids is in Montana and has helped hundreds of children and their families remain together and have successful relationships. They are licensed in the State of Montana.

Our Happenings

Work, work and more work for me. I've been doing interviews with families, trying to get my daycare business up to capacity. It's been an interesting experience, to say the least. The jobs around here aren't 8 to 5, Monday thru Friday. Most who have come to my door are in businesses running 2 or 3 shifts, and work a few days per week. For example, the forestry service, fire and police departments, nurses at hospitals, and postal workers. As a single mom of 4 kids with special needs, I just don't have the energy to work a 12-13 hour a day job and not burn out, especially a job where I'm on my feet all day, without a single break, tending to needy little people. I'm starting to piece together my enrollment, but it's quite a change to go from having a waiting list of families who love what I offer and can't wait to enroll, to people who don't have any option but to put their schedule and financial situation above the quality of care their children end up with. My location is about 3 miles too far south to draw the kind of families who want the kind of care I offer, but as all those "northward" day cares fill up, they are starting to find their way to me.

Jie Jie continues to "even out" and find her own way, independent of carrying Blossom along. It's hard. It's easy to fall back into old habits, but she's doing a good job of working it out and I'm much better at recognizing the difficulties and helping her.

Blossom went through this week talking in something one step above gibberish. She repeated herself, used far too many words, pronounced them badly - anything to draw attention to herself. The result was that I told her we will not respond to her unless she speaks properly. It got so bad that those around us outside the family were commenting on it.

On the plus side, it's been a week since her last tantrum. She almost had one yesterday, but I reminded her that she was on her last day of being able to earn back a privilege so she reined herself in.

She also doesn't follow directions with her school work, so three days of work amounted to nothing. Her assignment was to read The Secret Garden (a little bit of a stretch but she's seen the movie and understands the story), write down the words she doesn't know when she comes to them, look them up in the dictionary, then, eventually, write her own sentence using those words. She wrote down words she already new, for example, just, hate, best, blanket, like, and late. When she made sentences with those words, there were tons of careless mistakes. When I asked her to correct them by writing the sentence correctly underneath the wrong one, she drew lines through all the sentences then made up completely new ones, but only partly. Nothing was complete and it was a mess. She does this ALL THE TIME lately, which is why she's off to special ed in public school this year.

I spoke with the special ed coordinator yesterday and we're lining up a good program for Blossom. She's going to start in functional skills, probably take a reading class and choir class. I'll be sure she's escorted to the cafeteria to get her lunch, and escorted back to class to eat it so she doesn't swipe food from other kids or the trash can. At this point, her food issues are for one thing: to get attention. Everything she does is to get attention. We've been talking a lot about her need for attention and how it's not appropriate, but understandable given her past and that she will have to work to resolve her issues in appropriate ways and that those ways may take many, many years.

Sissy returned this morning from church girls' camp. She had a great time and her English was better in that is was slower and clearer. Obviously, she adapted to those who weren't familiar with her and had to make herself better understood. I wish she'd keep that care with her speech here at home, but she's already going back to her old mumbling ways. One girl taught her a "bad word" without telling her it was a bad word and told her to go around and say it and she did. Finally someone clued her in. The bad word meant "you are ugly" and wasn't a word, but a phrase without any bad words in it at all so she either got it wrong, or it's teen-speak.

She climbed a 50 ft. rock wall, did a zip line, swam in the pool, did a skit, attended talks, did service projects and more. It was a great experience for her!

Apple is coming along well. Compared to kids her age, she's still behind in most of the mainstream ways, but is very mature and ahead in others. She has excellent self-control and patience, great table manners and sleeps well for naps and at night. She's great with animals and is pretty fearless in a good, confident way, showing appropriate caution. Speech therapy continues and we are seeing results every week, but there is so much to speech that she's going to be in therapy for many years and my main concern now is for her to be able to communicate well socially by the time she starts school in a year or two. She has a few 3 word spontaneous phrases, but most are memorized. One of the things that holds her back is lack of depth perception and her inability to bend her fingers to hold on and pull herself up. It's slowed her down as far as running, jumping and climbing goes. What gives her an edge with her peers is her ability to understand and adapt while playing. She can jump right in and join a small group playing and know exactly what's going on and contribute her own ideas well. She's going to be fine in the long run but it will take extra effort for now.

My Firefighter and I are still seeing each other. Our relationship continues to progress, but much more slowly now as he waits to see how things turn out this year with the girls. He's close enough to us all now to see behaviors that are quite repulsive, even to me, but he's assured me that it doesn't affect how he feels about me or the girls, it's just more information he has to use to decide if he can handle a life with us. I'll be honest here. While each of the three girls all have BIG issues, Blossom's are the biggest due to the treatment she received in her orphanage. She can be and often is grossly inappropriate and intrusive. Jie Jie's issues are mostly her physical special need and the recent emotional issues I feel confident are going to resolve completely with what we are doing now to address them. Sissy is an unknown at this time. It's very promising that she corrected her speech to make herself more understood at camp this week. That means she recognized a social problem and solved it. She lacks motivation, ambition and is unable to grasp the concept that she can teach herself by seeking out knowledge and acquiring it, but the first seeds of it might be starting to grow. I see her being able to function appropriately, but very basically, as an adult, but I also see that the potential for more is there IF SHE CHOOSES TO GO FOR IT.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jei Jei Doing Well, Blossom Not So Well


Jie Jie has continued to do well. It's so nice to have her back from that awful place she's been for so long - a self-imposed mental prison, for lack of a better analogy. What has continued to come out is the ways that Blossom has been using her and Sissy to cover her own inadequacies and misdeeds. The two girls have been afraid for Blossom to get in trouble (she makes TONS of bad decisions regularly) so they've been covering for her, and helping her where her abilities fall short. Helping can be a good thing, but the way it was occurring was preventing Blossom from progressing, or, for that matter, failing. If I don't see her failing, how will I know she needs teaching in that area?

Now that Blossom's weaknesses are exposed and she's stripped of power over her sisters and me, she's raging often. I am reacting to it in a calm and loving way, but matter-of-fact way. She disobeyed a rule on the first day of sports camp yesterday and then bragged to her sisters about it and told them not to tell, but, thankfully, they did, so I pulled her completely out of sports camp.

I did contemplate having her miss only one day, but after much prayer and thought, I realized that the biggest offense, using her sisters and drawing them into her plot, merited a serious consequence. Any hesitation I had that I was making the wrong decision was instantly quelled after speaking to one of the professionals at a residential facility in another state that provides care for children with RAD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the other conditions that children acquire when they've been abused and neglected. This place is VERY experienced and doesn't drug the kids up, but uses natural cause and effect life situations, etc... They have successfully helped many, many children and their families and I'm grateful that they took the time to help me when I simply called them up and asked.

It was relieving and encouraging to hear a professional in the exact field of helping girls like mine tell me that I'm doing a GREAT job, reiterate that unless people have lived with these kids they can't possibly *get* it, and, most of all, reminded me that the trauma and damage my kids sustained happened long before I ever got them and that the goal is to teach these kids self-control and appropriate behavior above all else.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Update on New Approach

They are really putting me through the ringer. Sissy's attempts to disrupt the household didn't last very long, thankfully, but now Jie Jie is having a go at it and she's pulled out her big guns.

Last night, I hired a babysitter, put the two middle kids to bed, then took the oldest and youngest out to dinner and a movie. The movies cost $5 all over town on Tuesdays. Jie Jie lost her computer privileges yesterday because I caught her on a random movie website instead of her math site. Upon further investigation, she's been doing it regularly.

Her computer is in the family room, our most open and used room, but our house is huge and she can hear where I am and switch windows when she hears me approach. Yesterday, she didn't realize where I was and I caught her mid-switch, hence, missing the evening's entertainment.

This morning, she lied 4 times about the same thing, which made us 15 minutes late to speech as I hunted for what I needed, something she had in the car the entire time, but was hiding.

What is happening in my home with my girls isn't a result of my parenting. It is the result of what their lives were long BEFORE I ever adopted them. The thing is, will my parenting break them out of it?

UPDATE: Tonight Jie Jie finally broke down after a HUGE incident and we are at the root of her issues!!! It's not going to lead to a magic cure, but at least she was finally able to verbalize what's going on inside herself and we can begin to address the issues in a positive way. A lot of what she needs are coping skills and work with her self-image where her special need is concerned, but there's a lot more, too, that I can help her through.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My New Approach

Clearly, the behavior of my girls continues to be challenging, despite their progress. To understand more of what parents of institutionally raised children live with, please visit Attachment.org and read THIS.

One of the things I live with is the need of my daughters to control me. The way they do that is to do everything they can, consciously and subconsciously, to make me angry. Anger is the emotion they understand the best. It always has been, from the very moment I received them, mostly my oldest two girls. They say they don't like it, but that's because they aren't aware of how it works for them.

Several times over the course of the last two to three years with my girls, I've tried to not get angry or upset at their clearly manipulative behaviors. It gets much harder when the behavior is less clear. I find after several days or weeks of intense angry feelings that "they've done it to me again."

Now, I'm finally getting pretty good at it. The problem is that when they don't get the response they want, they ramp it up. A temper tantrum that would last 30 minutes if I lost my cool and yelled and cried turns into a 3 HOUR tantrum if I remain calm. It also escalates as my child tries harder and harder to anger me. The calmer I am, the worse they get.

Blossom is my tantrum girl. However, what I learned in the last two days and can now look back clearly and see, is that Sissy has been passively participating. By that I mean that she needs that state, too, to see one of them control me, because she allies with her sister on this matter, the need to be in control of ME, the adult caregiver in the house. Besides seeing the pattern retrospectively, which now jumps glaringly out at me, what finally knocked me on the head was that over the past week, Blossom has been relieved of any power over anything. I shut it down before it can even start using recommendations and techniques I learned from professionals who are specialists in this field. As Sissy sees Blossom lose that power, she perceives me as gaining more and she's going nuts right now and having tantrums herself - kicking the wall and yelling kind. She hasn't done this in a very long time. Key: She hasn't HAD to do this in a long time because Blossom was doing it for her.

Part of the new approach is to show more physical affection through hugging and offer more positive feedback. Sounds easy, but it's not when your child may not seem to do anything positive all day long. What I learned, though, is to look at things differently. Did Blossom calm herself down and sit on her bed when told to? Well, I didn't see it that way, but really, after 15 minutes of tantrum, she did, which is better than 3 hours of tantrum, so there it is, something praiseworthy. This doesn't mean fake or over-praise, this means that when I come to get her, I say, "You made a very good choice to calm down and sit quietly in time out." And I put my arm around her shoulders and give her a hug. Then, life goes on and we start anew, until the next time, but without any carry over from this last time.

Now, a side effect is that Blossom likes the hugs and connection and becomes like velcro and pretty soon I'm stepping on her every time I turn around because she's following me, turning into an appearingly ready helper, but it goes way over the top as it's designed to annoy then anger me. This is part need for the attention and affection and a lot of the need for control. So, it's important to redirect her. "I already gave you a hug just a few minutes ago, please sit down at your desk and finish your school work."

Our attachment therapist was extremely helpful in pointing out the ways my children "hold me hostage" from feining the need to use the bathroom every time we're ready to walk out the door (which makes us late, something my kids love to make happen to me), to pretending not to hear me when I tell them something, then they flock around me, all innocent looks asking me to say it again. You can hear the back of their brains saying to each other, "Watch me make mommy repeat herself over and over and over again."

The kicker and real hard thing for outsiders to understand, is that all kids pull things like this, but NOT LIKE MY KIDS DO IT. The difference is that normal kids do it sometimes and usually as part of a normal developmental phase. Then the child grows out of it and into the next phase with its challenges. When normal kids do it, it's also not malicious, it's testing. Normal kids also don't do it ALL THE TIME.

There is something that Sissy cannot stand. It's tortured her from the very beginning and she just can't seem to understand and get over it. It's the whole adults vs. kids thing, how adults have privileges that kids just don't have. But in that, specifically, is that she cannot stand it when I go out for an evening. She takes it as a personal affront and insult and a sign that I don't love her, rather than understanding that ALL adults need adult time, a break from the kids, once-in-awhile. And believe, me, it's VERY, VERY, VERY once-in-awhile for me.

Today, I'm dealing with that from her on top of her perception that I've gained power as her sister lost power. Listening to her argue is actually quite funny. She says, "I know you like being the boss." Then I explain to her that as the only adult and mother in the house that I am the boss. Then she says, "I know that!" I say, "It's good that you know that, because it's the truth." But that's where she ramps up because I'm not participating in an argument with her. Then the insults start. Today, when I refused to participate and sent her to her room, she hesitated, trying to decide if she can back-track and comply and sit down for our meal or if it was too late. She figured it was too late and went to her room.

The attachment philosophy encourages "time in" instead of "time out" and I agree with this when applicable, but when I have daycare kids and Blossom is having a tantrum, she does need to have it in her room, well away from my daycare areas, and there isn't another option since I need to protect the small children in my care from seeing that and have to earn a living. As for Sissy this morning, she had to be prevented from having the power to disrupt our family meal, therefore, she could not stay in the room with us.

Clearly, these strategies are having an effect. I was warned that when I implement them to expect things to get harder before they get easier and I can certainly see the rebellion, but I also feel the benefits to me and my littler ones. The little ones feel more much more secure seeing that I'm in control. Jie Jie has started to rediscover her interest in learning "science things" such as learning about owl pellets and how things are made and she's voraciously reading. I have my moments of anger, but I'm recovering faster and not showing them to the girls. They are recovering faster so we don't end up having blown our entire day.

This all takes a tremendous amount of energy and I do feel more tired, but it's a much better tired than not being able to sleep due to the stress of it all.

Trying to see things from My Firefighter's perspective has helped me a lot. As he looks into my life he imagines that this is how things will always be. NO WAY! I REFUSE to live like this, constant sabotage and battles, disobedient, disrespectful kids here at home and charming to everyone in public.

Another strategy has been to separate the girls more. Now that they have reached certain developmental levels and levels of bonding with each other, it's time to let the ones who want to achieve to pull ahead of the pack. It's time to recognize and be honest about cognitive limitations and personal beliefs about themselves as well as physical limitations. So, if my 3.5 yr. old passes my 14.5 yr. old, so be it. I can't hold one back to appease the other. My 11.5 yr. old has to understand that it's not being mean to exclude my 14.5 yr. old and deprive herself of activities that the 14.5 yr. old simply cannot do.

While I am awaiting the results of Blossom's latest evaluation, her IEP form last year clearly qualified her for special ed in public schools. Last year, the middle school was definitely not in her best interest. This year, I'm giving the high school a try. It's a HUGE high school with over 3200 students. The special education program is supposed to be extremely good. I think it would be the best place to start Blossom this fall.

If I get financial aid, Jie Jie will return to the private school she attended two years ago for electives, but go full time this year. I've worked out how to meet her medical care needs there and the principal is excellent, willing to put her into any grade needed, regardless of her age. He was willing to do this with the other girls, too, but their academic levels are unreasonably low compared to appropriate social levels so this wouldn't work for them. Jie Jie is still tiny and immature in ways that make it fine for her to safely and appropriately be with younger kids. We'll start with fourth grade, which is two grades lower than her age-grade level, and move her one lower, if needed AND if it appears socially appropriate for her. If this doesn't work, we'll go back to homeschooling.

Sissy will remain homeschooled and we'll evaluate again for next year.

One key point in my research stressed that, "Young children also learn a great deal from each other. They learn how to share, to engage in reciprocal interactions (e.g., taking turns, giving and receiving), to take the needs and desires of others into account, and to manage their own impulses. Just being around other children, however, is not enough. The development of friendships is essential, as children learn and play more competently in the rapport created with friends rather than when they are dealing with the social challenges of interacting with casual acquaintances or unfamiliar peers."

Most people know that when you put a few normal children together, connections will be formed. Not for children raised in an institution. After nearly two years of church girls youth program, seeing and interacting with the same girls every Sunday and every Wednesday, my girls have still failed to make a single friend. Not one single friend. The fault isn't with the other girls, it's with my girls. My girls just don't know how to connect. Sissy can't even maintain her connection to her very best friend from China who has been undergoing a bone marrow transplant for the past several months. She doesn't ask about her friend, not even when, each day, I was counting down to when the actually transplant day was, or when the girl was having a very hard time. This girl constantly writes and sends packages to my daughter, yet my daughter doesn't respond without urging. Again, it's not that they aren't friends, because to see them together it's obvious they are really as close to sisters as can be after sharing an orphanage life together since infancy. The issue is that my daughter doesn't understand her side of a relationship and put any energy into relationships. She lets the other person do all the work.

In most of the articles I found, the focus was on young children. It's so much worse for the children the older they get in a "warehouse" environment. Sissy spent 13 years, 8 months in an orphanage, Blossom spent 11 years, 8 months in an orphanage, Jie Jie spent 6 years, 5 months in an orphanage but was with her birth family for her first 7.5 months of life, and Apple was 19 months old when I adopted her.

Well, this is very long and I've not proof-read it, but I hope to have passed on some vital information that will help another family out there with similar struggles and give better understanding to those looking into my life.

The Science of Neglect

There is an excellent article by the Center On the Developing Child at Harvard University that all parents should read who have children adopted from orphanages. The first printing was in December 2012. There is also a video overview.

You can see the video HERE and the link to the PDF file of the report is HERE.

We've heard a lot of it before in our adoption classes and the adoption and attachment books we've read, but this is the very best article I've found so far and one that goes into the most detail. I wanted to copy and paste the highlights, but it turns out that that means most of the article, which is copyright protected, so please, follow the links and read the article, or, at the very least, watch the video.

Then, there are more articles. Of particular interest is Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships another PDF article on the same website, which can be downloaded HERE

When following the links to find the next logical step, what to do with children who were raised in orphanages, every single source I found said the same thing: the primary caregiver (me, the mom, in my case) is the only one who can help these kids with the guidance of mental health professionals (therapists, psychologists, etc...). Almost all stressed avoided psychotropic medications unless there was a CLEARLY defined diagnosis indicating such need, but that great care needed to be taken not to misdiagnose these kids since often, conditions such as RAD and others can present the same symptoms as ADHD and other conditions where medications are usually used. Further, great emphasis was put on the fact that psychotropic medications can, in fact, make our children worse since the medications to affect the brain and the areas of the brain damaged in our children are vulnerable to many negative effects of these medications. Fortunately, no one has suggested any medications for any of my girls, but I thought this information would be helpful to those who are researching options for their children.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Three Years Home

It's Sissy's Family Day today - well, as it's after midnight, it's now her official adoption day, but I received her on July 16th three years ago. We had a pretty fun day. It was a normal work day for me, but afterward, I picked up some Chinese food that's very authentic - as in pretty much what we had when we were in China, not the American version of Chinese food that's smothered in thickened sauce. Then, My Firefighter called us up and invited us out to get some frozen yogurt at a real frozen yogurt place, a first for the girls. This was very nice because Sissy was sorry that he couldn't come to dinner with us. He and I decided on some rules and I explained them to the girls on the way (only 2 toppings!) and they did very well. If you're reading this and don't have adopted children who spent time in an orphanage, you might think rules for getting frozen yogurt are odd, but making choices is very hard for kids like mine, especially when there are tons of choices and tons of people bustling around. So, getting frozen yogurt was a success overall and topped off our Family Day celebration perfectly.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Single and a Social Life

It's true that for a single mom, especially and older single mom, a social life among other adults is hard to achieve. By now, other adults are well into married life with their children older and busy with school activities, sports and other things that are very highly developed by now, such as music, art, acting and other talents. If my children had these skills, we'd automatically be in this group, single mom or not, and we'd fit right in. But...

Enter my girls. New to English, to America, to family life, even to themselves as they are finally free to discover that they aren't part of a heard of kids any more, but valuable individuals who now have the right to build themselves up and choose their own path, develop their own talents, etc...

Then, there are the special needs. They are significant and life-long in Jie Jie, less restricting in Apple, though she's endured 4 surgeries since being home. Blossom's special need is cognitive and I'll be honest right now because she's recently been evaluated and we are going to soon have more information and be making some changes, her cognitive issues are turning out to be significant. Sissy's issues are harder to identify. Sometimes it appears she's got a cognitive deficit, but at other times it just seems like "orphanage delay."

While other girls at church and school (when they attended) are friendly and polite to my girls, they are light years ahead of my girls in every aspect of life. Sure, we can go to their homes and bake cookies with them and even watch a movie, but when it comes to personal interactions that lead to deeper friendships, it's just out of my girls' ability range right now and they are fighting me when I try to encourage them to step outside their comfort zone and actually talk to someone.

Blossom just can't comprehend normally, so when I talk about finding out a persons' interests, and give her examples, it doesn't sink in. Once, she walked up to a girl outside a restaurant and boldly asked, "Did you do anything interesting today?" Another time she asked an adult we didn't know, "Do you go to church? Which church do you go to?" Different time, different adult, "Did you eat breakfast today? What did you have?" These were her opening words to these people. All an adult has to do is catch my girls' eye, say hi, and my girls are entranced and start what I call the fawning thing. The doe eyes, the too close physical proximity, things that an unaware adult takes for interest rather than a deep need for constant attention. Enter me, the mom who says no to letting my girls have a bag of fireworks and learn to set them off. Sure, they may appear curious, and on some level they definitely are, but it's about the attention the adult is showing them more than the fireworks. But I sure look like a mean mommy, over-protective mommy and I'm tired of it. I finally got too tired (after all, it was 10pm and my 3 yr. old was asleep in my arms and heavy) to explain to this poor fellow, took the bag, said thank you, got the girls home, set off three for them, hid the bag and the next morning gave it to My Firefighter to keep (he suggested he help us use them at New Year) so I don't have to worry that they'll find it and burn our house down and kill us all.

Essentially, by this age and stage, kids are able to go out by themselves, drive or at least be dropped off somewhere. While Sissy could definitely manage in a group, by herself she's still pretty helpless and doesn't have the drive to develop herself further. Enter me, the mom constantly pushing and pulling her to the next level. Feel the resentment from her from where you are? That's the normal teen thing, with a bit of nasty RAD topping it off. Blossom needs almost constant supervision. Lately, Jie Jie has made some pretty bad choices which means she also in under near constant supervision. To those outside (namely those at church) I look very over-protective. But the day I followed my girls into their Young Women's activity (making chicken soup for a sick member) and saw Blossom about to bring a chef knife down on her fingers as she was assigned to chop carrots, I was certainly glad I walked in. Fortunately, at the same moment, a leader who was close by saw the same thing and stopped Blossom in the nick of time. They then proceeded to try and teach Blossom how to use the knife safely. I've already given Blossom similar lessons at home, but with her cognitive issues, they don't sink in, so giving her a knife without CONSTANT supervision is downright dangerous. Some might argue that at least the leader noticed in time. Yes, that's true - this time. But what about the next time when it's something with more potential danger? Blossom is highly functioning. She's aware of her inabilities so she tries to hide them. This makes it dangerous for her to be with those who don't know to supervise her carefully. This puts a crimp in social activities. Who wants to babysit a 14.5 yr. old at an activity or event when the other kids can run off safely on their own?

Yes, most kids with steal. Yes, they will lie. Yes, they will do all kinds of naughty things. But most kids stop after getting caught a couple times and most kids feel bad about it - not about getting caught - but about breaking trust. Not kids like mine. My kids just feel resentful toward me and keep up the behavior, escalate it, and do it ALL THE TIME.

Me? My social life? Church activities. A few things with My Firefighter, who is struggling right now to decide how involved he wants to be with us, the girls' issues being the main obstacle, though not the only one. I can go to a book club, and it's an evening out, but not fulfilling like a social evening with a circle of friends with a little more mobility is. By mobility, I mean that the activities vary such as movies, dinners out, day activities like hikes, yard parties, games, bowling, etc... things where each person's interest is met through varied activities, not just one all the time. I think that a social life as a single parent is a common challenge particularly for single moms.

Our life isn't all bad. We had a good day yesterday. Our days are getting better, in fact, because I'm learning to recover faster from what my girls deal me. It's not rocking me like a giant earth quake any more. I'm like the air-filled punching bag clown - knock me down and I pop back up. I'm not getting as angry as often any more. Anger isn't something I'm used to feeling all the time and for awhile I was feeling it ALL the time.

I'm worrying less now, too. Blossom's need is such that I'm sure the recent evaluation will show that she will be eligible for help as an adult. This is a huge relief. I've got plans for the other girls, too. Hopefully, each of these changes will benefit each girl and our entire family.