Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dr. Mom, The Final Splinter

Remember this from February 22, 2012? Well, the I just pulled out the last splinter. That's how deep this deep one was, it took 6 months to work itself close enough to the surface to be pulled out. In the picture, it's the whitish dot in the middle of the red, at about 12 o'clock on her knee.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Personal Hygiene

Alright mamas, tell it like it is. What kind of mama are you in the area of your kids' personal hygiene. At what age do you stop bathing them yourself? When do you stop washing their hair? Do you inspect behinds the ears and give underarms and feet the sniff test?

I'll admit it, I'm a super clean mama. I bathe my kids, at least my youngest, but I've bathed my oldest to teach her a thing or two. I made sure to check on Sissy from the start and she is in training right now for washing her hair. Tonight was supposed to be her first solo, but when I peeked into the shower, half her hair didn't have suds and the other half had too many, then she got it into her eyes so another lesson and help ensued.

I also admit that I've handed my girls a mirror and told them to inspect their nether-regions and gave them the how-to on washing those regions. My daycare kids have to say the entire alphabet while scrubbing their hands before they can rinse them.

If Jie Jie had a perfect body, she could do a great job bathing herself, but with her special need, I have to manage some things for her right now. She also still can't wash her own hair because it's really long, past her waist now, but if it was short, she'd be fine. Sissy does a passable job bathing, but needs more work with the details. I'm just glad she is used to using toilet paper as so many children from China have never seen it before. Sissy also has been taught excellent germ prevention, like not double-dipping foods into shared sauces like salsa, sharing eating utensils and water bottles, but she constantly has her fingers in her mouth or is touching her face with her hands. She's getting so much better, but still needs constant reminding.

I didn't realize until I started my doula work that I have a reputation for giving super baths. I was under the impression that when one bathes a baby or child or themselves, that one washes everything so that it's clean. This includes creases, crevices, fingernails, toenails, and ears. What I've seen a lot of moms do, is put the child in water, let them play, then get them out. Or, do that, then dab at them here and there with a bit of soap. Most people I know don't dry feet, especially not between the toes. My dad taught me to dry between my toes when I was about 10 and had stinky feet. We lived in Florida where it was hot and humid so feet can really ripen there. When I bath a child or myself, I take a soapy washcloth and go over every inch starting at the top and working my way to the feet. I don't wash hair every night, though, or even bathe the kids every night, unless needed, but certain parts get washed every day.

Also, what about shaving? Not moms shaving, but do you want your girls to shave? Many Chinese girls have less body hair than Caucasian women do. I hate shaving. This last winter I actually went au natural with my legs for the first time ever. I loved the freedom, but loved the look and feel of shaved legs more when spring came, but a lot of that had to do with being more socially acceptable, too. One of my girls will probably not need to shave, or at leave shave much. The other might choose to do so, again, for social reasons. I don't mind either way since I consider it a personal choice.

What about brushing teeth? When did you leave that up to your child? I let Jie Jie do her own almost exclusively since her last dental cleaning and she takes forever. She diligently uses the timer the last dentist gave her, which has yellow sand that runs through a mini hour-glass. Last week at her check up, she only needed to learn to reach her two back most upper teeth! Great job for her!

As for Sissy, I had quite a shock. She has a filling or more in every single tooth in her mouth except the two new 12-year molars that just grew in. She's had a molar extracted and has had a root canal. The root canal was poorly done and one side of the root not filled in at all so it needs to be redone and she needs a filling between two teeth redone. Come to find out, she wasn't given a toothbrush or expected to clean her teeth until she was 9 years old! If you want to know what gifts to bring to the orphanages in China, I have to say, "Toothbrushes and toothpaste for all!" Sissy is now is teeth brushing training. The dentist said she cannot have braces until she learns to brush well.

My dentist put red dye on each girls' teeth to show them how effective their brushing was or was not, then she got out a toothbrush and mirror and gave them a detailed brushing lesson right there in the chair. She did it with Jie Jie the last time we were in there, too, which was our first visit. She shows them how to brush their gums and Jie Jie already knows to brush her tongue.

I'm very interested in your how you do things with your kids in this area. It's so personal and is one thing I don't really hear moms talk about with other moms, especially about their teens.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Details of Sissy's Adjustment

As I mentioned before, Sissy changed the moment we got home from a sullen, defiant teen, to a very sweet, loving girl. I asked her yesterday about her behavior in China and she said she just missed her caregiver so much. Looking back from right now, I truly understand her behavior and excuse it. This doesn't mean I wouldn't have done the same things, because some of the things she did, like not follow along in public and getting very far behind us, were dangerous, but it definitely makes me want to shout to all parents, "Don't disrupt in China! Bring your kids home!" I don't know if I mentioned this before, but Sissy did once say to me, in China, near the end of our trip, using the online translator, "I wish to leave your side and return." I handled it by telling her that we were now a family and that I loved her and that she signed the papers agreeing to be adopted." Then I showed her the picture of her signing. She nodded and said, "Yes."

What is important to convey, is that while we were in China, Sissy was very excited to come with me right away. Even in the midst of all we went through, each night she relished being kissed and tucked into bed. She loved being hugged. It wasn't all bad by any means.

Now that we are home, she still loves the physical affection. She clings to my arm every chance she gets, she still absolutely loves being tucked into bed and kissed and always grabs my arm and just clings to me. The smile on her face each night is huge. She hasn't grieved with crying for about a week. I asked her about it and she said she doesn't feel like crying any more. I have let her send a second email and pictures to her caregiver, but I've not allowed any email contact with friends yet.

She watches everything I do. I invite her to help. We made cinnamon fudge last night. She has enjoyed and eaten everything I've made for meals. She's had mac & cheese in China, which surprised me, and she really loves the green salad I make which has dried cranberries and feta cheese in it. She even loves the casseroles I've made.

She sleeps very well. She goes to bed with Jie Jie around 8:30pm - 9:30pm and I wake them up in the morning at 7:35am. This is our morning routine:

I get up first and use the bathroom and brush my teeth. Then I wake up the girls. The bathroom is between our two bedrooms, so it's like having one huge room really. Jie Jie gets the bathroom next. I help her do what she needs help with then she brushes her teeth, and I take a fast bath if I didn't take one the night before. Meanwhile, Sissy is making her bed and getting dressed. Then we switch. I get dressed and go downstairs to open daycare while Jie Jie makes her bed and gets dressed. Sissy is now having her turn in the bathroom. Sometimes, she gets a bath in the morning instead of me, but I try to do all bathing at night for all of us. I still wash Sissy's hair, but next time I'm going to introduce her to the shower (which she knows from China) and watch while she does it for herself. She's thorough, so she should be just fine once she understands to rinse her thick hair well.

I have daycare open at 8am and the girls come down right after that. They start their morning physical therapy/exercises while I get the daycare kids sorted and settled. Then I get our breakfast - just myself and the girls, not the daycare kids. We eat in the daycare kitchen, the girls together at the table, and me walking around doing my job with my plate or bowl in my hand.

After this, the day varies, but includes school work, art, field trips, backyard play, etc...

We live for weekends! I am such a better mom when I don't have to work, especially when that work involves what seems like a zillion other kids always needing me and interupting me. Today I could have been a better mom to my youngest, but it's time for her to make a leap in development with her school work and it's hard because it also meant finding some pretty big holes in her English. She hasn't gotten down things like first, second, last, before, and after. I thought she had finally gotten those, but I was wrong. Because her English has far out-paced whatever Chinese she knew, there isn't a language to explain in that she can really understand the explanations in. It's also time for her to write more. I didn't realize that she didn't develop evenly in the areas of speaking, reading and writing. This is all very normal when you consider that she started "kindergarten" last January, but I feel bad because I know I could do so much more and do it better if I didn't have to work for a living. I've been trying to contact the school district to learn what resources are available to us, but the process of trying to contact the right people has been as bad as dealing with Kaiser so far, and I'm about to give up and go along my own way as I've been doing and hope I cover all the bases.

It really is wonderful having both my girls. I don't miss my pre-Sissy life at all!!! I absolutely LOVE having two children!!! I am looking forward like crazy to having my third child. I'm savoring each moment with the two girls I have. I love watching my girls develop their own relationship with each other.

The best advice I've received so far has been from my agency's waiting child coordinator. On our second day home, I took my little family to my agency to introduce them to Sissy and this woman said to me, "You must protect her." She was very emphatic. I didn't QUITE understand what she meant, but I trust her, she's a mom, too, so I imprinted her words on the forefront of my brain. Now I know. Because Sissy is older, people have expectations of her that are unrealistic. The overall advice I get is to throw her into mainstream life and she'll adapt quickly. I've seen some kids go through this and their parents think these kids are fine. But I have to admit that my girls seem to have far fewer issues overall and no orphanage behavioral or attachment issues AT ALL. My girls eat and sleep like champs, they are secure and happy and behave exceptionally well. They are loving, kind and helpful. Socially, they are right where they should be for their past experiences, for example, Jie Jie has no problems jumping into a social situation with younger kids or adults but doesn't fit in with her same-age peers yet. This is because she's never had same-age peers, she's a head-and-a-half shorter than all her peers and she's still learning English and hasn't been to school from age 5-6 like they have. Sissy is still shy and a little scared in social situations. This is perfectly normal since she doesn't understand the language and culture yet, but as long as I guide her and stay nearby, she does very well.

I have to admit that I think our rough stuff in China was par for the older/teen child adoption course. The more blogs I read, the more I see that, while in China, the kids have some extreme behaviors that don't persist once home. Don't be afraid, if you are about to embark on adopting an older child. Just keep yourself together while it's occurring and see what happens once you get home. Disruption was never an option for me so it didn't cross my mind. You all know what did cross my mind, but it wasn't disruption. I am so glad I had faith in God that allowed me to be strong in China and have faith that I chose the right daughter, for the second time. I am so happy with my beautiful, sweet oldest daughter, who is such a precious treasure in my life. As the pictures show, she is blooming each and every day into a happy, confident, beautiful girl.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dressed Up

My Favorite Outfit

This outfit is my favorite, sort of like Anime. Sissy likes it, too.


Sissy has always had bangs in China, but was growing them out, for some reason, when I got her. After showing her past pictures, of how much more attractive she was with them, she finally let me cut them two weeks ago. She and I are both extremely happy with the result. It's so much more flattering and makes doing her hair much easier. Of course, I saved a lock of hair!




Discovering Creativity & Homeschooling

These doesn't seem to be much to Chinese gradeschool education. Reading texts, writing, English, and math. No reading of books that would be enjoyable to a child, no creative subjects, no geography. At home we are doing math, art, writing and some reading. The books at the local Asian library branch are in traditional characters, which Sissy cannot read. So, I had her look at the pictures and write her own story. It took two days! She'd never done any type of creative writing before. She is writing in Chinese so I can't read it, but I don't think it matters much right now. I picked the books in the library. It was too overwhelming for her. She didn't know where to begin or what to look for. I am thinking about signing them up with the local school district to take advantage of home education options, but I don't know what might be available yet, so I'm torn. You have to sign them up to have an interview. I'd rather have the interview first to gather enough information to make a decision.

Sissy had never seen playdoh before, so it was a new experience. She doesn't like to be messy, so it wasn't fun in that regard, but she liked making the things that she did.

She is good, but slow, at doing puzzles, but is improving rapidly.

First Day of Church & First Pancakes

Sissy has no concept of God. In order for her to know why we go to church, I had Chinese-speaking missionaries come over and start teaching her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Slowly! It's such a difficult concept for her since she's had no exposure to spirituality at all.

Our First Field Trip

On August 6th we set out the Chabot Space and Science Center, but it was closed. We went to a great park nearby, instead, then the next day went to Chabot.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

64 Months Waiting

Some day, I'll not be waiting any more and I'll have all three of my children home.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Coming Soon...

...updates and pictures, but I'm truly enjoying spending the time with my girls and getting sleep, instead of being glued to the computer or a pile of paperwork.

And, the weekend's laundry got done, folded, put away, another two loads in today, along with clean litter boxes (amazing with 8 cats), and meals are planned and about to be made for the next two days!

To say there is a lot to do is an understatement. I've still not mopped the kitchen floor since before China, and I'm waiting until this Wednesday, when the house cleaner will come for the first time since my return, to take care of it. However, I've been doing both bathrooms, vacuuming, etc... plus yard work and more....

I love that I'm getting it all done, but I'm amazing even myself. Something had to give, though, and it's the blog - for now.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Progress Every Single Day

I'm sorry I'm not posting pictures. I have such limited time on the computer. It takes time to download them from the camera then edit them for posting. The upside, is that the laundry is all done, folded, and ready to be put away, most of the house is clean, my girls are getting a lot of my time, and I'm having a little time each night to watch the Olympic Gymnastics.

I had Chinese-speaking sister missionaries come over tonight and they gave Sissy her first set of scriptures, in Chinese, of course, and I ordered a picture set in Chinese that will be more easy for her to understand. They also taught Sissy how to pray and I had them explain to her that there is power in prayer and that she can ask Heavenly Father for comfort when she's grieving and ask Him to bless her friends that she misses so much.

After talking about her friends tonight, of course, she came to me after being tucked into bed, sobbing, but it didn't last long and we had our special time together. She's back in bed saying she's very happy. She really is a very sweet girl. Sweet is a bit of a quaint term, but it's the word that keeps coming up to describe her. I can only conclude that what she displayed in China was simply intense fear and confusion. I can't wait until I know her enough to look back and figure it out. Honestly, the memory of the trouble we had is already fading, being replaced by such great new memories here.

We had a fun day. I took the girls and three of my daycare kids to the Chabot Space and Science Center. I have fun pictures that I'll post this weekend. We had a picnic lunch afterward.

Sissy continues to love all the meals I make. She always asks if it's Chinese food, but it doesn't matter that it's not, she loves it all. She didn't like leafy salads in China, but here she loves them. Tonight I asked her about it and she said that she likes the way I make it. She drinks milk, cold, without any problems, too. She adds a word or two of English to her vocabulary each day.

Yesterday, Sissy finally got on the trampoline for the first time. She loved it! It was very fun, everything I ever imagined it would be with two girls. It's so fun having a larger family.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Family Day

I'm sorry I didn't take pictures. My aunty come up from Fresno and spent the day with us. It was fun. Jie Jie had her trampoline class in the morning so we all went to that. While Jie Jie was in class, my aunty and I worked with Sissy on math. My aunty is a math teacher and has raised six kids of her own.

Next was lunch out then some fun at home, singing and dancing in English and Mandarin. Sissy really loves to sing and is very good at it. She has a lovely voice and is right in tune.

Jie Jie had fun, too, but the group fun is a little hard for her. She's used to being the star and leader and doesn't quite know her place in a group. It's something I noticed in the last few months. Being in the trampoline class will help, as will other types of socialization and having a sister.

My newest daughter is really falling in love with me and with having a mom. I said that I love having two daughters and she said she loves having one mommy. She's always called me mommy. She watched me wash Jie Jie's hair tonight and really appreciates my skin at it, as strange as that may seem. I whipped up some fried rice out of nothing and she thought it was exceptionally good. It was. My secret was using a packet of potsticker sauce. She kept walking around saying how good it smelled, too.

I wish I had the luxury of learning Mandarin from her without having to teach her English first. My Mandarin really takes off being around her, as it did while I was in China, but I know I'll lose it again as Sissy begines to speak more and more English.

Sissy is blooming right now. It's very exciting to see. As her mannerisms and posture change, her beauty and sparkling personality are shining through more and more. She's really worked hard on her posture and remembering to close her mouth and on her table manners. I'm very impressed. She is smart. I can't wait for her to find her talents and interests and shine.

Friday, August 3, 2012

It's Happening!

Yes, it is, one of my most favorite parts of becoming a mom. My daughter is falling in love with me and I am falling more deeply in love with her. By the minute.

It was hair washing night for Sissy again and I got the same compliment as before. She loves how thoroughly I wash her hair. It makes me a good mother in her eyes. Then the ritual of tucking in and kisses. Tonight I also did Little Piggies with the littlest going wee, wee, wee, wee all the way home. She thought that was a riot. I asked her if Teacher did that and she said no, but that Jie Jie did that. I think that this Jie Jie is a girl who aged out but still resides at the orphanage. We have pictures of her. After this, she reached out her arm to me and said, in English, "I love you." Yep, I melted inside. I then asked in Mandarin, "A little bit?" And she said, "No." I made my hands bigger and bigger and she said, "Yes!"

That is progress! I am doing it right and our bond is growing. She is accepting my love and giving love in return even through her grief. This is what it's all about, in case you've not adopted and gone through this yet, and it feels wonderful! All parents want to know that their child is doing well and this was a huge indicator to me that Sissy is textbook perfect for this step in our new life together as a family.

Today is also our one week home mark.


Sissy did some hard grieving last night. Right after I tucked her in, she called to me before I reached the bedroom door, "QQ?" She really wants to QQ her beloved caregiver and I'm making her wait for one month and she knows this and I told her not to ask me any more. I got tired of hearing it 1000 times a day. Part of me is torn about this decision because it's something she really wants, but I know it's the right thing to do in order for our attachment process.

Jie Jie came to me about ten minutes later saying that Sissy was really crying hard in her bed. I brought Sissy downstairs with me and we had a computer-translated conversation. Her fear is that Teacher will worry about her, forget about her, etc... And that she will forget Teacher. I told her that Teacher can email me at any time or even read my blog. This is also hard for her to understand since she doesn't know why Teacher hasn't emailed me about HER? It would be so easy to tell her that, even though Teacher does love her, Teacher is just doing her job and getting paid for it. I wasn't about to be that cruel, but Sissy really has no clue as to the structure of her former life. She has no interest or understanding of what a birth mother is, but seems to know that woman carry babies inside before they are born. I'm not going to teach her anything about this right now since she's got enough to deal with, but I can see how fast all this new information is going to snowball into understanding and then require a serious process to go through to deal with it all.

We had dinner at the home of a local FCC family who brought home 12.5 yr. old last March. It was interesting for me to watch the dynamic between their three daughters and compare it to my own.

Sissy is right on par for everything we are going through. Things are going much better than I thought they would in China and I'm so thankful for that.

Shoes & SMOs

Before I left for China, a commentor, Gail, offered me some shoes that would fit over the SMOs that Jie Jie wears. She needs sizes 9 & 10. I would love to take you up on your offer. We didn't have success shopping for shoes in China and I'm having trouble finding anything except one pair of pink C0nverse that are a little too tight in the toe. My email link is in my profile. If anyone else has suggestions of brands of shoes, please comment or email me. This weekend, I'm going to sew a pair of leather slippers to fit over them for when we're at home, but we're pretty desperate for shoes to wear over them when we're out. Thank you!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Continuing to Do Well

Sissy is continuing to do very well. Today there wasn't any sulleness at all over anything. She is working hard at her school work. She understands that if she doesn't do well homeschooling, she will have to go to public school and she really wants to stay at home.

I haven't seen any tears for a couple of days at night, but she may still be grieving on her own. I know she misses China and all she had there. Her own true bravery and strength are now showing and I really respect that in her.

She's eating well, which I'm very grateful for. In China, she didn't eat much and it was hard to get her to eat a balanced meal. Here at home, it's not trouble at all.

From my perspective today, I think that the dramatic turn around in her behavior was exactly what I mentioned before... I seem much more capable, in her eyes, here in my own environment, the environment itself is pleasing to her, and, our routine is compatible with what she's used to.

So, what is our routine? I get up and get ready first. I wake up the girls. Jie Jie gets the bathroom first, while Sissy makes her bed and gets dressed. Then they switch and Sissy gets the bathroom while Jie Jie gets dressed. Then, I do their hair, they eat breakfast and it's time to join the daycare. I'm having Sissy join Circle Time with the daycare so she gets exposed to childhood songs and English from another person beside myself. After Circle Time, it's outdoor time, which, today, was a good walk to the bank. Once home, it's lunch time, daycare kids take naps, then it's school time.

On most days, though, school time starts directly after Circle Time. The girls only got through one math worksheet today. It was a stretch for both of them, for some reason. Sissy was working on simple division and struggled, but did it. Jie Jie worked on addition problems with sums up to 20, which was a stretch for her. She still relies on beads to count, but totally understands the concept. It feels like she's always been with me, but the reality is that she I brought her home only 16 months ago. That's not long at all!

A Few More Photos

Last Sunday.

My Two Girls

Big girl doll.

Jie Jie has waited since Christmas for this doll.

I bought this Chinese doll outfit in Nanchang on Jie Jie's adoption trip.

Jie Jie is very comfortable holding tiny babies.

Sissy isn't so sure about this.
She needed a lot of help learning to hold a tiny baby.

She started to get the hang of it.

Super heroes at the local street fair.

Sunday at the Oakland Temple.

Notice Jie Jie and I in summer wear and Sissy in her winter coat. There is a temperature difference of about 25 degrees from where Sissy came from in China to the Bay Area.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We Are Doing Well

Sissy sure is night and day from how she behaved in China. We have our routine down already. It was much easier than with Jie Jie because I was also learning to manage her special need and Sissy hasn't got one.

I've already starting homeschooling. It gives both girls something to do during the day. Jie Jie picked up where she left off and Sissy is doing math. She's got some multiplication tables memorized, but not all and there are huge gaps. Like she'll know 7x7, but not 3x4. She also didn't know how to figure out the answers. I gave her a jar of beads and showed her and now she can do it. I plan to take her to Kumon Math. They will test her and find out where she is and start at that point, fill in all the gaps and that will take care of math for now. I will focus with her on English. She's very motivated to learn English and I can already see she's got some understanding of new words already, like "go downstairs." She already knows the alphabet and can write it, upper and lowercase letters.

We did meet the teacher at the Chinese school, who also asked if Sissy has some kind of mental delay. She said she asks because of something in her face and the way she speaks. My thoughts are still that it's not a mental problem, but one of mannerisms, but I am watching very closely to see if an identifiable problem is there and has gone undiagnosed.

I'll get pictures up soon. Right now, my evenings are taken up with watching the Olympic gymnastics and swimming.