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.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Setting Things Straight!

Kate, you are making many, many assumptions. I'm not going to delete your comment because others need to understand that there are people like you feel free to declare things as truth that are NOT true when you are not in position to possibly know.

I'm going to set you straight here...

1. I adopted my children WITH the support of my agency, social worker and attachment therapist and close friends who know the intimate details of my life and the girls' lives. My agency actually required a report from our attachment therapist in order to make sure adopting Apple was in everyone's best interest. Obviously, it was or they'd have never allowed it. CCCWA also thought so since they granted me a waiver due to the number of children in my home.

2. I have provided my daughters with NUMEROUS opportunities to make friends. THEY WON'T DO IT. Making friends requires making an attachment, showing compassion and empathy, and communication skills, something many, if not most, children who have spent numerous years in an orphanage struggle with and usually struggle with for their entire lives.

3. You don't have any idea which blogs I read. The parents of the blogs I read have NOT given up on their kids AT ALL. They have done EVERYTHING they can to help their kids and continue to help them. Many are in counseling or have been, and have taken the advice of professionals. Sometimes it has helped, sometimes is has not, sometimes it's made things worse. I have not come across one single adoption blog where the parents have given up on their child(ren), not one!

4. To be clear, you have NO idea what plans I've already made, will make or what advice I'm considering from my bishop and other professionals I've consulted with.

5. His advice to not worry about the relationship my girls have with a particular much older, troubled girl is very wrong. Thankfully, the girls' own mother has shared certain things with me that I've needed to know for the safety of my own girls.

6. The point of my post is to vent after a very frustrating conversation in which my bishop does not understand the severity of the special needs of my girls - believe me, you have no idea either - since we are getting new diagnoses and still doing further evaluations as new things present themselves as more and more layers unravel themselves.

7. Anonymous 2, thank you, it IS alarming that older girls would hurt a small child, yet that is the example my girls grew up with and experienced in their own lives before I got them. Fortunately, the instances have not been any more severe than what happens in many homes with sibling rivalry and jealousy or annoyance of a younger sibling with a slightly older sibling. However, due to the ages of my girls, it's especially inappropriate and can lead to more extreme behavior, which is why I am monitoring them carefully and taking necessary steps, with the help of appropriate people, to protect Apple and teach the older girls that they may not hurt other people!

8. Kate, I do not share even close to half of what happens in our lives on this blog and you've never met me or my girls, so you don't have any facts to base your assumption on that I favor Apple over my other girls. None at all. You are very wrong in your assumption.

9. No where in this post did I report any academic status of my children, so your comment that I "complain they're making no academic progress" is incorrect. In fact, last May, my post reported that they HAVE made academic progress!

Readers, please keep the perspective of what a blog, particularly my blog, is. It's a place to share with the adoption community certain aspects of my life. It's not a complete picture at all. It's not a place where readers can come and even begin to think they know me or my children and what our lives are like after reading mere snippets of information posted weeks apart. Please stick to FACTS, not speculation/assumptions when commenting.

Anonymous 1, thank you for your advice to "Just learn not to look for support where you will never find it." That is a conclusion I've also drawn after this last experience. Implementing it is harder than it would seem to be since one often believes their "church family" would be loving and caring. I miss that love and care I had in my old congregation, who knew me from the time I was a small child, who watched me grow up, knew my talents, strengths and weaknesses, witnessed the miracle of adoption of these girls and had a positive hand in it. To be fair, this new congregation has only known me for a short time and only during the hardest time of my entire life. Still, as I sit in church and listen to lesson after lesson of Christ's teachings, most lately of which have been on giving comfort to those in need of it, I sorry to say, that's not what I've felt from all but a select few members of my congregation. In fact, one of my daughters has been deliberately left out of a sewing class given by one of the sisters and that hurts me to the core because my daughter has developed some very good sewing skills and I knew it would be fun for her to join other girls she knows at something she can hold her own at. This sister even ran two session to accommodate the number of girls interested and my daughter was still left out. Thankfully, my daughter doesn't know this has happened. That's a hurt in her life she doesn't need to have.

I'd Still Be Waiting

If I was still waiting for a non-special needs baby to adopt from China, I'd still be waiting 8.5 years after LID. As of last May, just two months ago, China has only matched families with dossiers logged in up to December 28, 2006. My original LID was April 15, 2007. When the wait got long, two years into my wait, I did some calculations based on the rate of matching at that time and figured my wait would be 6 years, 4 months. My agency said, "No way!" Look at the reality now! Who could have possibly imagined?

In The Trenches

The bishop at church tonight (who is a public school principal) essentially told me to focus on the positive things my girls can do, stop talking to everyone about the girls' problems (I'm just trying to get advice and insight from more experienced moms), put them in school, that there are programs where I can leave them even up to 6pm (I became a mom to leave my kids all day in the care of strangers?), that his 14 yr. old daughter also has temper tantrums (when I asked if his daughter throws furniture he said he's not going to get into the one-up thing), that other moms don't follow their kids around at activities telling them to go talk to kids their own age (after prying Blossom and Sissy off an 18 yr. old girl who has problems of her own with attachment in her bio family and has totaled 2 cars this year, who Blossom passed inappropriate notes to with sayings copied from greeting cards), and to just let my kids fail and work things out for themselves because kids learn through failure. Not one person has shown any care or alarm or compassion for Apple when I say, "My older kids hurt my 3 yr. old." Not one. Thank heavens our geneticist warned me that this would happen so I was on the lookout for it and can protect my child.

Here's the kicker. His sister and her husband (also educators) adopted a sibling group 6 years ago. The youngest was 4 and the oldest 12 at the time. The 12 yr. old just turned 18. First thing he did was leave his adoptive family and return to his birth family, despite their drug abuse issues that caused the kids to be removed in the first place.

I re-read THIS article about moms like me in the trenches. I guess I'll shut up at church now and realize that no one is ever going to care that I'm in need here of a little compassion and understanding and that maybe an "I'm so sorry. Please know I'm thinking about you and praying for you and your kids," would go really far to helping me get through the week.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My Blog Changed By Itself

I don't know what happened, but I lost my original green blog. Maybe my kitten did it while I was asleep with the computer on, but I don't know for sure. I wish I knew how to get it back....

Any suggestions?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy 2nd Family Day (June 17)



We've had a nice year-long break from any medical trips, but this one, cranial-facial "head" clinic, was right on Apple's Family Day Anniversary. We got up before 5am and hit the road. All the girls travel very well. Clinic went great. It's been 18 months since our last one and Apple was all caught up developmentally. The consensus is that she's doing great and for me to keep up what we're doing. The cranial-facial surgeon came in with THREE residents, perfectly tailored suit, as usual, said how well her posterior cranial distraction had gone and her frontal orbital advancement. I cracked up and had to say it, "Dr. M, you've not done the orbital advancement yet!" He got out of there pretty fast and I did gloat because he is a surgeon with a God-complex and needs to be reminded, occasionally, that he's only human.



After clinic there was a pizza lunch for all the families. Then, we visited our adoption agency and old neighborhood where we used to live. We took My Firefighter to IKEA for the first time and to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. We drove home in the wee hours of the morning, having packed too much into our time up there, but it was My Firefighter's first time seeing where we used to live.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Three Special Baptisms



Several months ago the girls told me that they wanted to be baptized. Apparently, they'd discussed it among themselves a lot and worked on finding out what they really believed rather than just blindly follow, and I'm very proud of them for that. It was a special day with friends who came from where we used to live and many of our new friends that we've made here. My Firefighter came and even dressed Apple and did her hair while I was scrambling to put the finishing touches on the girls' Chinese dresses that I made. For the actual baptism, they wore pure white, but afterward, for their confirmation, I made them each their own special Chinese dress to honor their heritage and help them feel as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside. The day was everything I'd hoped it would be for them and one I hope they remember as one of their best for their entire lives.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Finally, Final Decree!


8 years 1 month and 3 weeks since my very first dossier was logged-in in China, 8 years 5 months and 1 day since my first appointment at my adoption agency, I am finally out of the adoption process. Unless, of course, one counts the China post-placement reports that I'll be doing for three more years!


Though she's my third child to come home 2 years and 9 months ago, Blossom's adoption was complete today and she is now officially my daughter! Until this very morning, this adoption seemed more like a pesky formality to me since Blossom has felt like my daughter from the moment I got her, but when I woke up this morning, that familiar feeling washed over me, the introspection of a mother's heart, that I know so well, and this day took on the specialness that it deserved and the excitement built, and it didn't matter that it wasn't China, but America, as strange as that may sound, it still felt right. I did however miss the luxurious rest I always enjoyed on the long flight to China, but I didn't miss the exhausting flight coming back!

What took so long? Well, Apple's adoption timing, our move, then several niggling glitches that happened along the way, none in my control. The last delay was when the court called and said, "I'm sorry, but the court is over-booked and we need to changed your finalization date." I didn't even know they could do that.

Anyway, the day was special and Blossom is happy. We all dressed up as matching as we could, took a lot of pictures, then after the court appearance we went to her new favorite Chinese buffet restaurant. She behaved very well during the proceedings even though the language was confusing (even I had to think hard when the judge the "petitioner" a question, which happen to be me) and certain things hard for her to understand, such as why she had to sign her old name, because the judge asked for her approval to be adopted, then she signs, THEN the adoption is decreed and her new name becomes her legal one. The judge was a woman and very good and patient and explained the confusing parts. The clerk actually cried buckets of happy tears for us! She's in the fourth picture below, in the background, still smiling, but started her happy-for-us tears shortly after the picture was taken.








My Firefighter was with us for this momentous occasion and took all these pictures. He loves the girls, but still wonders how I came to decide to adopt them all. I hope one day he'll be touched by the same Spirit that conveyed God's will to me and shows him how wide a heart can open, and what that feels like, and how it's possible to take the enormous leap of faith I took to bring these girls from China to be my daughters. Our road is HARD and he has a front-row seat to our lives, and some days I don't know how I'll get through it all, and there are still some pretty big unknowns I'm are trying to find answers for as far as learning disabilities, etc. go, and I'm still trying to put my life back together in our new town after nearly two years of living here, getting back to work, etc., and I'm far from a perfect mother, but I'm doing my best and improving every day. And days like today make it all worth it!

Thank you, Heartsent Adoptions, Inc., for putting my children and I together! Thank you for these beautiful flowers that appeared on my doorstep today. It truly felt like you were there for me today just like with my in-China adoptions.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Luau


The two older girls participated in a church luau fundraising event to help with the cost of Girls' Camp. Sissy will be going, Blossom will not, but all the girls help and support each other. Sissy sold tickets to the neighbors and both girls served the audience and performed a hula dance. It was a great experience for them!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Quick Update


We are cruising along with all the usual bumps and crashes that are due course for my kind of family. Here are the highlights:

Blossom and Jie Jie are finally progressing in math. The secret is that they have to spend AT LEAST 1.5 hours on it per day! They need to be submersed in it or it doesn't sink in. Usually, they do 2-3 hours of math per day. Hard to imagine, but it's necessary for them, for now, to progress.

Sissy has always done well in math and is now working on 6th grade math using CTC Math and 3rd grade math using IXL. Apparently, even 2nd grade IXL is harder than public school 8th grade math here, so I know she's getting a great foundation and learning excellent skills.

Their writing is still weak, but progress is being made.

We are doing more art and I'll post about that soon, with pictures.

We've stepped up Apple's speech therapy, if that's possible, and continue to see progress, but it's still slower than we'd all like to see. She can put two words together now, like "poo out" (thanks to watching me with the kittens), "eat milk," "shoes on," "wake up," and she is saying about a new word a day, like rice, wait, heart and egg. Her new words are pronounced much closer to normal than the first words she learned, which she still segments. For example, she still says may-ake for make, but wake and wait are not segmented at all.

Jie Jie is making progress at speech therapy, too, as it relates to her auditory processing disorder. In the area of following 3 step instructions, she is improving by 5% each week and got 50% correct this last week.

In the behavior department, things still go up and down, a lot, but the downs are not quite as low as they were at the beginning of the year. One big issue is the division between what adults get to do and what kids get to do. My girls still see this difference as unjust to themselves and they get very resentful of me, even for staying up later and watching a video or eating a snack when they are sleeping.

They still don't have friends, just acquaintances from church. Honestly, they just don't know how to be a friend and kids their own ages are into so many things so far ahead of my girls, but everyone is kind and welcoming and I keep finding opportunities for the girls to be with others their own ages or slightly younger.

Sissy has been handling her anger very well and I'm very proud of the way she explains herself to Blossom when Blossom is at her most trying. For example, Sissy said the other day to Blossom, "I forgive Jie Jie because she says she is sorry and she won't do it again. You don't say you are sorry. You bother me more. You are mean to me. I want you to stop annoying me."

Very clear, yet Blossom still pushes and pushes until she's in pretty deep trouble.

Jie Jie will also push, but in a different way. She disguises it at being "helpful" even when she's in the way and asked several times to stop and get out of the way. She's my dominant child.

Apple is exerting her "no" and "help" lately. No, she will not pick up her toys. No, she will not cooperate with speech therapy. Help is what she says whenever she doesn't want to do anything herself, even speech, but also when she needs legitimate help. So during speech therapy I just say, "I am helping you, so say it," or, "The teacher is helping you."

It's hard to explain the hardest things without going into a lot of details and writing all night, but it's still the lack of common sense, inability to reason, lack of drive to learn just for the joy of knowledge, the need to be told what to do, how to do it and when, I guess the deep need for a super structured life (as in the orphanage), and the lack of understanding that I'm a good mom and that every kid in every home needs to learn and do chores and doesn't always get what they want and that their parents get cross, too. Another hard thing for me, one that is a personal struggle, is that they don't do much at all that is "normal" for their ages. Their skill sets are depressingly low compared to kids their own ages, but, again, this is more my problem than their own since they are acquiring skills and have come so far from where they were when I first got them.

I often don't feel like a mother as much as a therapist and teacher since those seem to be bigger hats, but the minute I need to advocate for one of my girls, those motherly protective loving instincts roar to life and I feel we'll be okay in the long run.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two Little Kittens



This is Nose in the Milk Zone.


1 Spot in the Milk Zone.

When I awoke this morning, they were bigger. They had a good 48 hour stretch of eating often and sleeping like crazy. A friend from church came over today who had seen the kittens on Sunday and even she said how much she could tell that they'd grown.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Feeding Time



Time to wake up! The secret to calm, content hand-raised kittens is to never let them get too hungry. If they are crying for their food, you waited too long and they'll feel frantic. I've seen many cats raise kittens and the best moms never let their babies cry.

You can tell the weather by a pile of kittens. The colder it is, the tighter they pile on each other and curl up, the warmer, the more laid out they are.



A nice lapful of content babies! This is my view...


They accept me as their mother now and love piling on my lap. They suck and nuzzle my fingers while waiting their turn for the bottle. When I pet them, it comforts them. When I first got them, they'd root around after being fed looking for their mother to snuggle up to and cry and take a long time to fall asleep. It was sad to watch.



Ah, in the milk zone!



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Crafting



Jie Jie (11) and her friend (7) had a go at making cat scratching posts / cat condos for the first time for their doll houses. I gave them some supplies and they had a blast and love their results.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cuteness Galore





I just took these photos today. They have names along the same lines as a Star Trek Borg, more a designation than a name, for now. There is Gray, Orange, 1 Spot, 2 Spots and Nose. I'm thinking of calling 1 Spot Teddy because he looks like a fluffy Teddy Bear. I'm still working on the others. They are ALL boys! They are about two weeks old and have gained weight well. They range from 8 oz. to 11 oz. now.