Sunday, September 30, 2012

Belonging


So, what are a couple of the easy things I'm doing to help Blossom feel at home and part of the family? We eat family style every day. This means all together, at the table, no TV, toys or games in site. I've done with this Jie Jie from the start and it's our norm. This was breakfast a week ago Sunday, fried rice omlettes and homemade apple muffins. Of course, all three girls gathered around to see exactly how muffins were made, which was great for bonding and learning and fun.


Imagine my thoughts when I realized that the first outfit I ever got for Sissy was from my dad for this Christmas and he bought a matching outfit for Jie Jie too? Well, just go to e*bay and get a third one, right? Right! All three girls were THRILLED to see that they had matching outfits. In fact, they wanted to wear them right away. I said, no, and now they have something to look forward to.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jie Jie


My poor little Jie Jie is going through a rough patch right now, but I am staying strong, knowing she needs this push to make the leap from little girl to bigger girl. While she's always progressed in all other areas, the one that she could never quite get was fitting in with her peers outside a controlled situation. Things like Sunday school are fine. Playing one on one is fine. But she cannot make friends at the park or in other social situations and will either gravitate to the 3-4 year olds or remain alone. She didn't have any same age peers at her orphanage and being homeschooled has kept her out of public school, and her physical limitations have kept her out of many group activities, along with my budget that has one more adoption to go. We all know what China travel does the ones income - it eats it all up!

So, having two older sisters has put Jie Jie into a situation that is new for her and badly needed. She is going to be just fine, but it's hard to watch sometimes. There are times when I know I cannot interfer and times when I have to tell her the bald truth, that she bothering her sisters by her behavior and they don't want to play with her, or they don't want to play the same games because she is playing little girl games and they are big girls.

My advice to her today was to watch them when she wasn't sure what she should do. Instead of distancing herself, or forcing herself on them, just watch them. Or, play with her toys like she used to do before they came along. Today she did a bit of both and she seemed much happier. As I mentioned in my Sissy post, today when Blossom took Jie Jie's hand, Jie Jie was over the moon with happiness. I made sure to let her know that I noticed, too, and celebrated this small victory with her.

She really is the most cute and charming thing around. Whoever she greets just lights up at her smile and exhuberance for life. There hasn't been one person she hasn't been able to easily charm here or in China. She is such a treasure!

Blossom


Last night, Blossom did not sabotage herself - at all!!! It was a first. She was very happy with her self-control and so was I.

Once during the day and at dinner time I reminded her to be an 11 year old and not a 2 year old at bedtime. The phrase that diffuses her is, "Are you 11?"

With each passing day, Blossom relaxes more and more. She is finding her niche in the family and she is getting comfortable with it. I am also getting to know her better and better and can recognize and head off undesirable behavior, relieving Blossom and the rest of us.

My leverage is simple. She has a stuffed panda and two Barbies she likes to sleep with, along with having a little lamp on. I take each away (the Barbies count as one unit) until there are none left. The lamp is the last thing to go and the worst for her to do without, thus the thing she feels most. I also use dessert, though we don't have it very often.

I believe she was very put down in China. She doesn't think much of herself underneath her tough shell because she was told so many things about her were bad, eyes, feet, brain, etc... She really starts to act up when I want her to learn something new, like playing the piano. Only her great desire to learn kept her on the bench, but she started giggling and squirming and making jokes until she realized how simple the lesson was and how patient and slow I was with her. She was certainly very proud of herself when she played the first little song.

Today I took the girls to a bayside path to run on and Blossom ran the entire mile, fast. I was told that in her orphanage, the children woke up at 6am and ran until 6:30am. She loves to run. She was proud of herself for being the first one to finish of all four of us. Of course I praised her for this appropriately and was happy for her. I am happy that she's in such good condition and can do this. It's so strange to see a kid run a fast mile, but get nervous on stairs and curbs and swings, but it's all about what they've been exposed to or not.

Tonight, I took video of Sissy and Blossom singing Chinese songs together. It was charming! Blossom still avoids looking at the camera, but she did perform and I'm going to take some still shots from the video because she flashed her best smile yet in one of them. When not self-conscious, this little girl can sing and perform! Sissy also has a good singing voice. The two together are so fun to watch.

Sissy


Thank you all for noticing the change in Sissy. It's really amazing, isn't it? I can't believe the girl getting compliments on her table manners at a wedding two weeks ago is the same girl I adopted in China who spralled out on the table and ate like a camel.

She has made some great strides in the last two weeks, too. She has come to realize that no one loved her in China. Really loved her. Yes, she was a favorite, but she wasn't anyone's daughter. She fully understands that kissing and hugging from me is a demonstration of my love for her. She hears me say the words at bedtime each night and even during the day. She knows that she doesn't have a life in China any more. Yes, she still misses her friends, but the last best friend she had is coming the the USA soon!

Jie Jie sets the table, Blossom and Sissy clear it, then Sissy loads the dishwasher and/or washes what's left (only things from the table so far, not pots and pans). She may not know a lot of things, but once I tell her, she gets it. For example, she and Jie Jie had a rough day together yesterday. Jie Jie was being a bossy little sister and overly physical with hugs that resulted in a nasty scratch on Sissy's arm. When Sissy refused to play with Jie Jie, Jie Jie cried and pouted, in hiding, which is what she does when she knows she's at fault.

So, I explained Jie Jie's situation of always being the oldest and never having played with kids her age or older before and that she simply doesn't know how. I gave Sissy permission not to play with Jie Jie but that she must speak kindly to her, especially when saying no to her, rather than shouting it at her.

At the same time, I had a talk with Jie Jie about boundaries and growing up. It worked, because as we were all walking today, Jie Jie took my hand, Sissy took my other hand and Blossom held Jie Jie's other hand, which made Jie Jie glow with happiness. No one noticed that I was glowing with happiness that my newest child, on her own, linked hands with the rest of us.

I think that the biggest lesson Sissy's is learning about her own self-control, is that when there is conflict, there are many ways to resolve it that are gentle and fair. She doesn't need to stay angry and/or sulk any more, and this is huge for her. She is able to forgive and move on, with greater understanding.

I do encourage tattling, of sorts. My girls need to know that they can come to me for anything and that no one can get away with breaking the rules, especially if the behavior is something dangerous. This way, each girl knows the other is watching. On the other hand, I also encourage even more, one girl telling the other that the behavorior is wrong. For example, instead of running to me when Blossom starts going on and on about going back to China to live (which is subsiding a LOT), Sissy can walk away, stop listening and ignore it, or tell Blossom to stop. Then, if Blossom follows, Sissy walks over to me and then I put a stop to it.

Sissy is now starting to pick her own clothes each morning. She still needs a little guidance, but she's getting it! She is also doing well washing her own hair and doing so much better brushing her teeth - Thank you, Dr. Denise, the girls' dentist!

Sissy is gaining self-confidence and is discovering her talents. With Blossom to read with, they are pouring of the Chinese picture bible they have. I am very pleased with their desired to learn more about the Gospel. I introduced them to it and they are running with it. I am so eager for the day when they gain their own testimonies and are ready for baptism. Once they get this, they will know how loved they are by their Heavenly Father and I believe this will help them tremendously as they deal with the ramifications of being abandoned.

Sissy has brought up her birth parents a couple of times. She is sad about it and doesn't understand why they left their little baby. One of her ideas is that her birth mother died during childbirth. I introduced the ideas that her birthmother might have been poor. It will come up many times more, I'm sure, and as Sissy's English improves, our discussions will deepen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Duped


This is a very difficult post to write. I'm so thankful for my unshakable faith in our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who set me on the path to adoption over 6 years ago. Otherwise, I'd be devastated beyond reason.

China made a grave error, most likely on purpose. I just found out last Tuesday that when I adopted Jie Jie 18 months ago, CCCWA used my original dossier for her adoption instead of a copy of it along with the supplemental "mini dossier." I have not had a dossier in the non-special needs for 18 months, like I was supposed to have had.

My agency learned about this a few months ago and thought they'd resolved it with China, but China rescinded, despite the fact that I've paid THREE Beijing fees for THREE adoptions, and I've only adopted two children in China.

I was in shock, and might still be, but a feeling of deep peace came over me after I did what I could to set another plan into action after a totally sleepless night on Tuesday night when the plan came to me after deep, sincere, heartbroken prayer.

I have only one gripe with my agency about this and that is that they didn't tell me when the problem first came to light. They said that things like this happen all the time and they usually resolve it and no one ever knows, and I completely understand this, but I wish I could have known only so that I could have prayed and asked our Lord's help when it was crucial.

I can hear the echo of your thoughts, dear readers. I'm sure some of you are saying, "Well, you got Blossom, didn't you?" That's your third child.

What no one knows is that while preparing for Blossom and asking myself the same question, is this my third and final daughter?, I had the strongest feeling that my dream of having four children was being fulfilled. As I moved furniture to prepare for Blossom, I imagined how I'd reset everything for Apple. Having Blossom has brought out the best in me, in Sissy, and put Jie Jie in a position to grow in ways she really needs to. I can easily imagine the joy another little one will add to my family and my heart.

My dad said it quite clearly. This is like having a miscarriage.

I am going to continue to countdown the months until I know exactly what is going on. Please pray for me and for one more little child somewhere who I hope to bring home one day and call my own. Is it a coincidence that I've now introduced a third soul to the Gospel of Jesus Christ only to be met with such adversity? Satan will do anything to prevent us from bringing God's children unto Him and using a godless communist machine to do it probably wasn't very difficult. I hope and pray that within CCCWA is an ethical person with love in their heart for the children of China who need parents, who is willing to put this matter to rights.

Last Sunday









Blossom has been very curious about Jesus and God. She wanted to know right away why she wasn't taught about the gospel in China and why they never prayed in China. We all went up to the Temple last Sunday where, in the Visitor's Center, we could have the sister missionairies from Taiwan teach the girls and answer their questions. I have not taken Blossom to church yet. It would be way too much for her to handle right now.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

14 Days Difference


I've taken my girls to the park twice since Blossom joined our family. The first time, Blossom cried a lot; she was so unhappy. These were taken 14 days ago...








Tonight, I took these photos. All looks well when the two older girls are pushing Jie Jie on the swing, but they didn't do very well and in seconds were pushing her sideways, so I had to stop it, but while the little ones were pushing Sissy, they had a great time. Look at the smiles on ALL THREE girls faces! Yes, my little Blossom is smiling more and more each day. She had a very good day today, but she just had to sabotage herself again right at bedtime. Tonight, though, she admitted she did it because she missed China. That was a breakthrough and gave us something to talk about.








There were a few breakthroughs with Blossom today that seem so small, yet mean so much. At the park, I did the spider swing with her. This means she was on my lap, facing me. I had to be careful because she's still getting used to being on a swing and can only swing a little before it's too high and scary for her. Well, she ended up with one arm around me and pressed her body against mine like a small child does when you hold them against your shoulder. She laid her head against my shoulder and relaxed and enjoyed the moment. When she noticed that I noticed, she acted like she was going to wipe her nose on my shoulder, but I cunningly turned away as though I didn't notice and she sat up again as though nothing had happened.

The second breakthrough came at the park when we were ready to leave. I asked each girl if they were hungry and Blossom said, "Family hungry, mommy." This was the first time she referred to us as a family. She's been rather resistant to the idea that she's a member of this family.

The final breakthrough of the day came while I was cooking dinner. For the very first time, all three of my daughters sat at their special little table and colored nicely in their coloring books. First, Jie Jie came to show me what she'd colored. A minute later, Sissy brought her page into the kitchen to show me. Then, my Blossom brought her work in to show me and she'd done such a nice job (she's new to coloring and it's hard for her because she's a lefty who was forced to use her right hand in China). I appropriately oohed and aahhhed over it, gave her a kiss and relished the moment like crazy.

Combined, all these breakthroughs add up to one of Blossom's best days so far.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


Today was a step back. So much testing from Blossom. But our day didn't start out that way. Our morning was rather fun, with sleeping in, then all the girls piling onto my bed for snuggling and horseplay. They each took a turn playing games that we usually play with babies. We helped Blossom do it, too, but it was hard for her because it was so stimulating to her senses. She's obviously never been touched. No hugs, pats, no one bathing her, nothing. I can finally bathe her without her squirming like she's being tortured.

I made a great breakfast of fried rice omlettes and homemade apple muffins, which the girls loved. Then, as we prepared for our outing, the behavior began. Now, as I type this I can clearly see that it was going somewhere new that triggered it. Why it didn't occur to me at the time, I don't know, especially after my last post.

During her time out, she ripped out the hair style I'd done on her, which let me know how much it means to her when I do her hair. Every little bit of information I gain, is precious.

Once we finally got underway, things went well. Dinner was delivered by a friend, for which I am most grateful!!! My friend included brownies for dessert and I gave one to each girl, but Blossom still had one tiny bite to go. I was helping her, once again, to use her fork to pick up the food, not as a scraper into her mouth with her mouth down on the bowl. Having gone through this with my other two, I'm completely aware that it's common in China to eat this way, but with my utter attention on helping her, she still didn't try and, with my "No," ringing in her ears, still shoved that last scoop in doggy style. Well, her brownie disappeared faster than she could fathom, back into the brownie dish. She smiled expectantly, thinking it was just a warning, then when I excused her from the table to go and brush her teeth, she sat in silent surprise until I excused her again and she saw that I meant it.

I realized today, that the more good behavorior Blossom has, the harder it is to be tolerant of the bad behavorior, so I'm going to watch myself for this since it's not fair to her. I'm very conscious of the number of days she's been with me and that helps. If I'd gone to China to get her, today would have been the day we travelled home. This is helping me keep my expectations of her realistic.

Meanwhile, Sissy is continueing to do very well. She has settled right in and is truly beginning to understand the advantages of having a family. She no longer carries the worry of what will happen to her when she turns 18, since I already told her that she'll still be here with me at that time. Watching Blossom has helped her see more clearly what her own life was like at her orphanage. Sissy has just enough moments of less than stellar behavorior and grieving to let me know that she is on a good course.

Jie Jie is beginning to like having a big sister in Sissy, but doesn't quite see Blossom as a sister yet. This mostly due to the fact that Blossom doesn't behave as a family member yet. Don't get me wrong, we have some wonderful family time, like yesterday, when everyone is playing or doing something together and having a great time, but left on her own, Blossom is still not integrated yet. She does favor being with me, which is great, and I'm taking full advantage of that for some serious bonding time. It was very satisfying this morning when all three of my girls crowded around me in the kitchen to see how muffins were made, each getting to help in some way. It was exactly as I imagined our life should be.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Up & Down & Up Day


Due to a misunderstanding, Blossom wet the bed last night. Our bathroom is between the bedrooms, and before she went to bed, I told her not to disturb her sisters in the other room by opening THEIR door. She took that to mean HER bedroom door. Hopefully, it's cleared up now, but, just in case, I'll take her to the bathroom before I go to sleep tonight.

True to most adopted kids who've been raised in an orphanage, they look upon new experiences, like going to new places, with trepidation, and Blossom's shows as bad behavior. She giggles, wriggles, becomes rude, such as burping and passing gas as an interuption, and just can't stand still and relax. It took me almost two hours to get her ready to go because of this. Luckily, this behavior is predictable and I can choose go out or not depending on how we all feel and how much I'm willing to put up with. I really wanted to introduce this new place since it's going to be part of our schooling.

Today's adventure was to go to my fencing club and begin exercises designed to coordinate the brain and body, fill in some of those missing pieces that my girls didn't get in their orphanages. Sissy has expressed great interest in learning to fence, even though she's not seen the game yet, but she needs to speak English and have a certain level of physical awareness first. Blossom needs it for everything! She needs the self-discipline, coordination in different positions and directions, the organization of performing physical tasks with mental aspects, etc... Jie Jie needs some of all of these things, but for different reasons. She just needs to be brought into a group situation and to grow with experiences.

Each girl shined in different ways. It was a challenge getting Blossom to get started without acting goofy, and after some serious discipline from mama, her interest was piqued and she enjoyed herself. She is under the impression that her eyes and feet are bad. I'm not sure about her eyes, but she no longer squints at the computer screen and seems fine, but we'll know after her eye exam. Her feet seem fine. She runs and jumps, but she's inexperienced with walking backwards and other things that she would never have done before, like walking on a curb.

She can skip rope by herself and so can Sissy. Jie Jie doesn't understand the concept of looking for the rope as it comes around then jumping over it. She just starts jumping and expects that as the rope comes around, she'll get over it somehow. I am going to work a lot with her on this because she needs to learn this kind of action/reaction with her body. I got all the girls to skip rope with a long rope that two of us spin. Sissy was most skilled, but that means she could go about 6 jumps before losing it. Blossom was afraid of it, but I showed her how to start slowly and I controlled the rope and she could do about three, which was enough to give her a feeling of success and confidence. Jie Jie managed about three, too, but with me seriously controlling the rope and telling her when to jump. She truly doesn't look for it at all.

Another game we played was that each girl had 7 bean bags of different colors and I placed 7 matching felt rectangles in various places on the floor in the fencing room while they were out in the foyer. I said, "Go!" and they had to run around and place their bean bags on the correct color felt. I moved them around each time.

The games seemed very simple, but to these girls, who have never played these kinds of games before, they are new and challenging. Just having to follow instructions and stay in a certain place while being physical is a challenge. I will try and remember to bring the video camera next time to show some of our games and to get a baseline of where my girls are at this point in time.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What's In a Kiss?


A whole lot of promise!

Tonight, as I kissed Blossom good night, she grabbed my arm and kissed it. I was so touched by her gesture. I know she doesn't know enough about love to truly love me yet, but the tiny seed of love is growing within her. The desire to be love and be loved is now planted.

I see so much potential in her. She's such a thinker! She asks deep questions aleady, and is studying her new world with intensity. She likes exercise and books, playing with her Barbies and the dollhouse, and food. Yesterday, she helped me crack eggs for a quiche.

Today she went to the dentist and was very good. She is picking up English so fast, or already knows more than I realized, but as she sat herself down in the chair, she turned to the dentist and said, "Gentle!" It was very cute. And, drum roll please, she only has one small cavity!


Blossom's first real pose for the camera.

Over the weekend, Sissy gave me a real bear hug for the first time! I gave her a lesson on how to give a daughter's kiss to a mother.

This isn't regular parenting. This is raw parenting where you must be prepared to be shocked each and every day as you find new things that your kids know or don't know, have or have not experienced. Moments where harsh discipline would normally be in order, are learning experiences where tenderness and understanding needs to prevail even if there does need to be a consequence. Some would argue that they know that what they are doing is wrong, but it's so much more complicated than that. Yes, they might know it's wrong, but their reasons for doing it are not wrong, given their experiences and knowledge. For example, Sissy is the eldest sister. In a birth family, she would be held up to younger siblings as the example of behavior. A high level of expectation would rest upon her shoulders. I can't hold Sissy up to her sisters as an example in most things because she just doesn't know. For example, keeping secrets from me, like the fact that Blossom ate an orange from off the ground without asking first, when she was supposed to be playing outside, rather than saying to Blossom, "What you did was wrong. Mama said not to eat an orange without asking first."

Once I explained that I'm monitoring the fruit Blossom is eating for health reasons - she's still got diarhea on some days - Sissy understood that I have reasons for why I do what I do. After I explained that I sometimes spray chemicals outside and that the rats, racoons and oppossums play also with the fruit, making it germ-ridden, both girls truly began to see that I have their best interests at heart. I also explained that secrets about things that can or do hurt people are not good to keep. After this incident, both girls felt remorse and apologized the most sincerely I've ever heard from them so far.

Some Christian parents whose blogs I've read mention the word sin a lot in relation to their child's behavior. I don't consider these things sins because my new daughters do not know the difference between right and wrong in so many areas. Both still laugh when the other gets hurt, rather than being sympathetic or asking if they are okay. it's getting much better, but it's still their first response and it's been ingrained in them from the beginning of their lives, it's almost a habit. We've talked about the Golden Rule once or twice and how they need to put themselves into another's shoes and think about the other's burdens, but they aren't going to get it right away so I need to keep pointing it out to them. The phrase I use to remind them is, "Bu ha ha," loosely translated, it means "don't laugh."

On the other hand, all three girls willingly, and without griping, swept out the entire long driveway, set the table, dried the dishes as I washed them, help fold their laundry, and more.

I believe that even under such conditions as mine there is balance to be had and that it's crucial to maintain it. When I find this balance, I am a very happy and satisfied mama. If you want to know another one of my secrets, it's that I ask other moms for advice and ideas, or just for their perspective on something. As a single mom, I don't have the benefit of the input of a husband so I have learned to reach out and it's been one of the best things I could have done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Answers to Questions


Mama Jama asked me some direct questions and I'd like to answer them. She wrote:

You are a super mom - how do you do it?

I respect your desire not to go into details of misbehaving and discipline issues, but I would really love to get more insights on your discipline approach and consequences.

And importantly - do you speak Chinese? I assume you do or you would not be able to communicate and discipline in the early weeks.


Thank you, I do feel like SuperMom! My faith gets me through anything! With my entire soul, I know that God helps me most when I'm doing His work. He wouldn't ask anything of me unless He was going to help me do it. Prayer is one of my most valuable tools. I have been blessed with a TON of energy. I've always worked with kids so a lot comes easy for me due to experience. I forgive myself for my mistakes, ask my children to forgive me, and move on. Being able to switch gears is super crucial. What works one day might not work the next, so have the next trick ready to pull out of your hat.

I speak some very basic Mandarin, about 50 words and/or phrases and I'm learning more every day. When speaking English, I try to limit my vocabulary and use the same words and phrases every day so my girls get used to hearing certain things. I use an online electronic translator every day, too, and have some Chinese friends I can call on for serious things.

Remember, verbal communication is only one form of communication. Body language, context, and gesturing are just as crucial. For example, how does a mother care for her infant, who is pre-verbal? Pointing goes very far, so does an emphatic "No" or "Bu" which is the Chinese word for no. Kids only need to hear something a few times before they pick up on it.

Discipline is hard because whatever I do, I want my daugher's to feel loved. The single most important thing is to be CONSISTANT and always follow through. If you say they are going to lose TV for a week, then stick to it. Otherwise, you're lying and you lose their respect. Don't say it if you don't mean it.

Establish yourself as the parent right from the start! Don't be afraid! You know so much more than they do. They don't love you yet, so you can't lose their love. Sometimes this does mean physically moving your child, with or without their cooporatation. This can be very unpleasant and confrontational, but you need to be the adult, the PARENT, and do what you think is best for your child. If you've done your homework and had good classes, you know the difference between Time In and Time Out. Time in is working great for Blossom right now. Don't be afraid of Time Outs either, using all your knowledge of attachment and bonding, though. If you have a child who prefers to be alone in order to avoid you, then Time Outs can hinder bonding, make it a Time In instead.

Meet THEIR needs, not the needs you think they need met. I mean this on all fronts. They need so much sleep, so get them in bed early! Feed them good food, not fast food. Keep their world very tiny, even if you are going stir crazy. It won't last forever.

Give them chores right away, within reason. My girls must empty the little trash can in their bedroom, get all their laundry into the basket the right way, wash their cups after meals, set and clear the table, keep their toys picked up. They also sort the utensils and put them away after the dishwasher is finished. We also do yard work together.

I'm pretty frank about money. I will say to them, "Don't use a lot of toothpaste, it costs money." "Don't turn the faucet on full-blast or waste water because it costs money." If something costs a lot of money, I say so, likewise if something isn't expensive. Therefore, if they abuse a toy, I take it away.

So, here's a good place to mention the learning process...
My girls didn't come into my home knowing all our rules. They had to learn them. So, in the beginning, I teach them and/or correct them a few times to make sure they understatnd the rule. After that, when they break the rule, they get a consequence. Make consequences resonable, but firm. Make sure they know what the consquence is.I give a warning or two, but that's it. After that, the clock is ticking and they need to obey me.

Ask for help whenever you need it! This isn't a contest. Last Saturday I hired my friend's teen daughter to keep the girls occupied while I worked around the house, hanging more towell bars, etc... I've also got a friend bringing us dinner tomorrow night. We need a night where dinner magically appears so that, after dinner, we have some family down-time, reading, dancing, singing, etc...

Now She's Trying!



This morning I got a nice surprise. Blossom asked me to do her hair! It was the first time she's asked for something personal for her. This is the first step in the start of our relationship. As my grandmother once said, "It's not to a relationship if only one person is trying." The other nice surprise was that she willingly posed for this picture with her sisters after I'd done all of their hair, and she made an effort at a smile.

She stayed interested in what I was doing all day. She even cracked some eggs. But, with most things at first, she's gone too far the other way, and is too helpful. I don't want her to think that this is how our relationship is.

The other surprises of the day have all been good. First, she is clearly intelligent. She wanted Sissy to ask me why they didn't pray or go to church in China. Second, she can read better than Sissy. Blossom even reads the traditional characters, which Sissy can't do at all. And, she loves to read. We went to the library and she was so excited and happy. She pulled a book off the shelf and started to read it immediately. Remember how Sissy couldn't even begin to find one book at the library when I took her last month? I love the differences and similarities of each of my daughters' personalities. Tonight at dinner was the first time I caught a glimpse of how well my little, well, okay, not so little any more, will fit together in the future.

A Very Good Day


Thank you all for your wonderful, supportive comments! I appreciate them all.

We all had a good day. My strategy worked and Blossom held herself together all day. We have some code phrases now that help remind her to check her behavior. She did end the day on a tiny sour note after getting ruffled when a friend of mine dropped in at bedtime. My friend was non-intrusive, and brought some goodies and groceries so I don't have to shop tomorrow, but it was more than Blossom could handle and she aimed some rudeness at me, which was dealt with swiftly and decisively as I marched her into bed. She got her usual tucking in ritual and kiss, which she doesn't like, and some loving, encouraging words. I'm not worried about her disliking the kiss. Jie Jie didn't like being kissed goodnight for several months and now she can't get enough kisses.

Jie Jie and Sissy had some great sister time outside playing with big rubber balls I bought for everyone. I have a long fenced in driveway where the trampoline is and that's where they play ball. Blossom stayed by my side all day and quite willingly. It's easy to sit her at the daycare table and give her something to do. She likes to be busy and have tasks. She already beats Jie Jie to setting the table for dinner. I will make a chore chart soon. Jie Jie likes to set the table so I'm going to give her the option of keeping that chore for herself, if she wants it. Othewise, we'll rotate. She's so short, though, that it's one of the few chores she can do.

Blossom got her first ever try on the trampoline. It's going to be very good for her. She gained new respect for Jie Jie after seeing Jie Jie do well on the trampoline. The trampoline is great for all my girls, especially the new ones, since it stimulates the vestibular system, is aerobic, uses all the muscles in the body, is fun, promotes lyphatic and spinal fluid flow, and helps them realize where their body is and what it's doing in space.

The house is a wreck. I know that it's supposed to be fine in the beginning with a new child, but it's not. I don't like it and I think it's detrimental to my children, who need a clear, clean environment in order to avoid feeling over stimulated. I know that I can't be creative and at my best unless the house is clean. After I post this, I'm going upstairs to make a dent. The issue is that I've had to rearrange the house and not everything is in its final place.

But, I did get a couple loads of laundry done, catfood made, three kids bathed, two with hair washed, got Jie Jie to her physical therapy appointment on time, and tomorrow's meals are planned for daycare and dinner, so I'm doing okay!

Monday, September 17, 2012

65 Months and Still Remembering


Yes, I still have thoughts for Apple. Three feels very full now, but in two years, I'll have a 16 year old, a 14 year old and a 10 year old. Only time will tell.

Baby On the Doorstep


Have you ever imagined what you do if you walked out your front door and discovered a baby on the doorstep? Or, been walking through the woods and wondered what you'd do if you came upon a baby abandoned there? I think it's a common scenario that many woman entertain at some point in their lives. Even me.

Well, it sort of happened to me, but my "baby" is 11 years old and she's from China. She arrived on an airplane last Tuesday and life's been a whirlwind ever since.

There's something going on in the adoption community that isn't pleasant at all. It's one of the worse things that can happen to an adopting family and child. Disruption. This means that the adoption has failed and the family is giving the child up for readoption. In some cases, if the disruption took place in China, the child is returned to the orphanage. If the family is already home, the child may be placed into foster care or some other type of respite care, or, the child may be placed with another family right away. We all know what one desperate mother did, she put her son on the airplane back to his native country.

Now, this is a subject the demands respect and sensitivity by all. Please only comment on this post if you have something positive to ask or say.

My new daughter was adopted by a good family. They are kind and loving. Certain things occurred that lead to their painful decision to disrupt. They knew enough to know that they needed to bring her to the U.S. and not turn her back over to her orphanage, which would have been the end of any kind of future for her. This took guts! They do love her. Love, as we all know in the adoption community, is not enough. The Travel Family, as we will refer to them in our family, arrived in the U.S. on a Saturday and brought her to me the following Tuesday.

As with my Jie Jie and Sissy, her real name is being kept off the internet. Her psuedonym is Blossom.

On Blossom's first day home, she smiled and posed for pictures and seemed happy. After she realized what had just happened, that she was here to stay, she became sad, grieving for her life left behind, but hiding it behind a fantasy of love for the Travel Family. It's been a week now, but feels like one or two really long days, and she is talking non-stop of how, when she grows up, she's moving back to China or flying to the Travel Family's house to see them. Each day, she's tried harder and harder to isolate Sissy, because she can communicate with her, and reject me and Jie Jie. Today was the worse and tomorrow we begin a new strategy. Sissy knows she's being used and Jie Jie, thank heavens, is a bit clueless about it all.

The new strategy is that Blossom has to remain at my side all day long. She may not talk to Sissy or Jie Jie unless I am present. She can't make a move without my permission. This may seem harsh, but Blossom is at very high risk for non-attachment and Reactive Attachment Disorder. It is plain to see that she has never been loved. She doesn't know what love is. She doens't know what sorry is until the consequence of her actions is upon her and she's begging not to be held accountable with a thousand sorries.

She's small and cute, the most Chinese-looking of my girls. She is a real go-getter and do-it-yourselfer, to a fault. I am still getting to know her, but she can read at an appropriate level and has good comprehension, she can do simple addition and subtraction, and is picking up English faster than Sissy because she's such a go-getter and is still in survival mode.

In two days, she had the seatbelt in the car figured out. She now knows better how to aim while sitting on a Western toilet and how to truly use toilet paper. Yes, one must wipe where the pee comes from, not everywhere else! She has also learned that hand washing isn't getting the hands wet and shaking them off, but means using soap, scrubbing, rinsing and - the often left off step - drying them off. I bath her. She is terrible at it. And I brush her teeth. She's going to the dentist in two days, and she wants to since one of her teeth is really bothering her.

She has cried every day in grief, which is good, since it must come out.

She agrees to just about everything then does whatever she wants on her own, or at least tries to. "Okay, okay, okay," is her favorite phrase, but I think it really means, "Go away, I can handle this, even if I don't have a clue what's going on or what I'm doing."

Sissy tried to pull some pretend regression the first two days, but instead of regressing about meaningful things, she tried to moan and groan about wanting to use QQ, not about missing the people in China who she loves. She was obviously relieved that I stood my ground, feeling very secure that night as I tucked her in.

Jie Jie is doing well, but I'm keeping a very close eye on her in case she's pretending. She liked that Blossom played with her, at first, but now, for the first time today, Blossom showed signs of using Jie Jie as a target for plain meaness. Hence the new strategy starting tomorrow. I will not allow her to disrupt our happy household. She is welcome to join it, and we will all move a little this way and that to fit her right in, but she may not in any way destroy the bonds we have all forged.

Just like Sissy's rough start, this is all in the category of normal, but with the two major complications of not having been loved before and coming to me from another family. I am looking forward to the end of week three, when I hope Blossom has settled in and discovered that she likes it here and likes us.

As for practical and material considerations of a single mom with three kids, I know that when we do His work, He provides, and when I prayed for this child to be mine, I knew throughout my soul that this IS His work. That doesn't mean I can quit my job - too bad - but that my faith in Him is not in vein and I must just do as always, the best I can in all I do, especially my work, which is how I feed, house and clothe my children.

If you recognize Blossom from her Travel Family's blog, please respect our privacy, and their's, and don't name names. Be kind and realize that this has been the best outcome for a very difficult situation. Do not even begin to judge, because you can't and shouldn't, but please pray for all of us: for a family who lost a daughter right when they got her, and lost a 30 year old dream of having a daughter to love, for a mom with three girls, two who are only 2 months apart in coming home days, who is doing it all, and three little girls, each with special needs of some kind, but most of all, for Blossom, who is feeling so alone and lost and frightened.


The nearly finished room, my room with Blossom sharing at night. I need to hang the other plum curtains still. In the girls' room, all the toys are in the formal dining room now so that Blossom's dresser could fit. I'm thinking of moving the toy into the kitchen eating area and puttin the dining table in the formal dining room, but there's carpet in there and Blossom still drops a lot of food.

Every Day Life



Sisters playing "house."



Brother on the left and Henry on the right.

Did You Miss Us?


A whole lot has been happening around here, things you can't imagine. I'll share them later, but right now, here are a couple pictures from last weekend. We went to a wedding, a two-day Eritrean wedding. My best friend's little sister got married. I wish I had a picture of the bride on the second day, she looked amazing! Truly, she looked like a princess from biblical times. I'll try to get a picture of her from my friend. Anyway, this wedding was so much fun because everyone dances with everyone, none of that girl-waiting-for-boy-to-ask stuff. Jie Jie danced the most, I danced a bit and even Sissy joined in a few times. You'd have never guessed, watching Sissy eat, that two months ago she practically laid on the the table and ate like a camel, with food spilling out of her mouth. The friends in the picture with us are from Toronto who came to the wedding but were not part of the wedding party.



Friday, September 7, 2012

Sisters


Things are continuing to go very well for my little family. My daughters are starting to develop a good relationship between themselves. Enough that there are now little spats that bring misunderstandings and tears, on occasion. We've had two moments where I was able to show the girls how we resolve conflict in our family, which is by taking responsibility, without blame, with truth, and with respect, love and forgiveness. This is a good stretch for Jie Jie since she's always been the oldest child wherever she's been. She is learning that the techniques for getting along with little kids don't work with big ones, meaning, she can't boss her big sister. Sissy is learning that she can't believe everything Jie Jie tells her. Not lies, but Jie Jie has told Sissy to do a few things that were not appropriate, like tonight when she told Sissy to administer Jie Jie her medicine. We had a big talk about that one, believe me! Jie Jie is also too quick to help and not allow Sissy time to think and figure things out for herself. She does this in kindness, believing she is being helpful, but it can be annoying for Sissy. I love watching Jie Jie stretch just a bit past her comfort zone and she learns to get along with an older child and I love watching Sissy start to develop the desire to learn and figure things out for herself.

We have a packed weekend with some CPR training for me and then a wedding reception. The girls are invited to both. Tomorrow is the second half of the training that is required for daycare providers every two years. Two weeks ago, the girls came for the first half and I brough the portable DVD player for them and they behaved very well.

Sissy has a good conscience. She wants to be a good daughter and sister and person and tries hard to put into practice all that she is learning with sincerity. She is smart. I am so relieved and grateful. Her English is coming along faster than I can keep up with. Today she said, "Ta brush teeth, wo exercise." Meaning, "While she (Jie Jie) was brushing her teeth this morning, I did my exercises." Each girl has morning physical exercises/physical therapy that they must do and Sissy had a hard time with this at first.

The first bits of her life story are coming out. This first part I can share with you without violating her privacy because it's a common occurance in orphanages: Bullying. Sissy was being bullied by the 16 year-olds. It sounds like the reason is that they considered her a "goody two-shoes."

There are some huge gaps in Sissy's knowledge of Chinese, whether it's deliberate upbringing or cultural, I don't know. For example, she doesn't know the meaning of the words: best, proud, privacy (for which there isn't a translation).

We are in a great routine and we are all thriving. Sissy feels loved and secure, allowing herself challenges, like figuring out how the vacume handle reattaches. This might sound simple, but she'd not try to figure things out before. Her thirst for knowledge is starting to develop and it's so fun to watch. Her English is developing faster than I could have ever hoped for. She has an excellent ear for sounds and a terrific memory.

I've given up on the school district. I was trying to find out if there was some kind of help they can offer me at home or through an online-homeschool program, but, after three weeks and being passed to over 7 people, I'm giving up. Basically this is what would happen if I signed her up with the district: She'd be tested and end up in the English Learner 1 program. She'd be put into 8th grade (when she's only just finished 5th in China) and mainstreamed for all but one class per day. That one class would be for the English Learner program. Instead of letting her build a solid academic base, she is expected to jump right in a pick up the stuff the regular kids are doing and learning. In the mainstreamed classes, she might occassionally have a translator or some kind of helper, but not very often or for very long. Can you imagine her sitting in a classroom for five hours a day not understanding a sincle thing because she has no reference point of comparison? I showed her a level 1 English Learner workbook and she could identify only about 20% of the pictures. She didn't know what a saw, hatchet or igloo was, yet the first exercise on the first page was to name these objects. If she can't do it in Chinese, she certainly can't do it in English! I'm sure not going to let her waste 100 hours of her life per month sitting clueless in a classroom of immodestly dressed teens using fowl language and talking pop culture. I found out that she'd go to the lesser junior high and high school because of her English Learner status. Oh, and then, after a few years of going through every program, if she's still not up to grade level, something else would have to be tried, but by then, she'd age out of the public school system and, at best, end up with a GED, which isn't the same as a diploma these days.

Jie Jie would be put into third grade. Never mind that she's just completed her first year of school, is the size of a five year old, is still learning English and has extensive physical special needs. Oh, but they'd hire an LVN to do what's necessary for her. Uh, no thank you, it's hard enough sometimes for me to take care of her, I can't imagine a stranger, who would most likely have never seen a kid like her before, trying to take care of her. And, what happens if that person is sick? Will I be told or will a stranger, untrained, have a go at her?

Am I over-protective, or smart? I am erring on the side of not exposing my children to the very great possibility of extreme trauma, both physically and emotionally. Remember, both of my girls sleep all night, have no food issues, are developing right along normal lines for their histories, have no attachment issues - so far, and are bright, happy children. I've not even had Sissy for two months yet. She's still so new. After what we went through in China, who would have ever believed she could be so wonderful so fast, so normal, happy, and loving. If it wasn't for the regular teen stuff and grieving, I'd be worried, but we have just the right balance of bad to go with our good, which I call normal.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Frightening Information


It's actually an old story, one we all know, but I always hope it's a little further away than my daughter's former doorstep.

I found out that very near Sissy's orphanage is an active brothel. They scope out the girls from the orphanage, waiting for the day they are turned out. Then they pounce. The smaller and younger the child looks, the more at risk since the pedafiles prefer these child-like girls. This group of girls usually have medical conditions that lead to their small size, like thalassemia, for example. The outcome for these girls is not good at all.

Sissy doesn't know about the birds and bees yet. I did ask her tonight at what age to kids leave her orphanage. She said 18 years, then they look for work. I asked her what kind of work and she could not tell me. She didn't know. She said these kids don't return to visit the orphanage.

I was told at the orphanage that they help the kids find training and don't turn them out if they can't get a job, but instead, employ them. Perhaps a few select favorites end up with this scenario, but hardly any. My daughter also told me that the mentally ill kids to go an adult institution when they age out and that they are terrible places to be. No surprise there.

Before adopting Sissy, I had a terrible feeling in my soul that she was particularly vulnerable to s$xual exploitation. I even discussed the possibility of abuse with her pediatrician months ago. After adopting her, I knew she had not been abused, but now I know why I had that feeling. Strangely, though, after seeing her orphanage, I thought that she'd have been fine staying there, being trained and placed in a job, and I was so impressed with the facility, that I mentioned to a couple people that she'd have probably been fine staying in China for life. How wrong I was! How glad I am that she is home safe and sound with me!

I also found out some more of her motivation to being adopted. Sissy was being bullied by the 16 year olds at her orphanage. The reason she gave is that she liked to help the nannies feed the babies and was teased for it. She really is a tender girl, a hot-house flower, or, less delicately, pretty wimpy, so I can easily see her as the target of bullies. They hit her.

Sissy might be a bit of a wimp right now, but she's not going to stay that way for long. She is smart and learning fast. She is getting stronger physically, mentally and emotionally very day. I cannot wait to see her a year from now. She is keeping a journal and I think she's going to be amazed in a year when she reads it and sees how far she's come.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Up In the Night


Jie Jie has gotten up at night on her own only twice in the 17 months that I've had her. The first time was the night before we were supposed to leave for China. The second time was tonight. Can you guess the reason? Yep, another infection.

I have antibiotics on hand, thanfully, but, after our last Kaiser ER experience, I honestly don't know if I could have made myself take her there again. My neighbor told me I should go out to a different Kaiser in a richer nearby city, but they don't have full pediatric there so I don't know what would happen, possibly a transfer back to my own area.

I hate my so-called insurance. My child has not gotten the care she needs from them. It's a terrible thing for a mother to have to live with.