Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baking Cookies

We had a very good day today! It's been awhile, so we were all very happy, as you can see by my girls' smiles. Blossom even leaned on me and laid her head against me. She hasn't shown me any affection in at least two weeks, so I was very happy. This morning I'd told the girls that if they were good all day I'd teach them how to bake cookies so they had something to look forward to. It went great and we all had a wonderful time.

Our first cookie baking experience even had some adventure. I'd accidently left a plastic bag of rolled oats in the oven when I preheated it. Blossom said, "Look, fire." I glanced at the oven and saw that the coils were red and said, "Yes, that's what makes the oven hot." Then something sort of registered with me and I looked again and saw a pile of white stuff on the bottom of the oven. I opened the door and realized immediately that it was the oats and that the bag had melted and they fell to the bottom of the oven. Letting the air into the oven provided oxygen and a tiny flame started, so I closed the oven again and smothered it. The oven cooled down quickly, then I just took my Dyson vaccume and sucked up all the oats and the plastic bag didn't stick to anything so it was an easy clean-up, with very little fumes because the oats had soaked up the melted plastic.

I'm sure it's not a coincidence that I taught my two older girls their first fire safety lesson last week so that they knew the word for fire. I also keep fire extinguishers in my upstairs and downstairs kitchens and had the girls positioned, without their knowledge, for evacuation, if needed.

After the first batch of cookies was in the oven, I told my girls that they have a very interesting story to tell of the first time mama taught them how to bake cookies and started a fire in the oven!

Medical Update on Jie Jie

Jie Jie had her 6 months check-up with the nephrologist yesterday. She is the incredible shrinking girl. She's lost weight, down from 41 or 42 pounds to 38.5 pounds. I have given the older girls the talk about why Jie Jie is going eat granola bars and a lot of snacks and they are not. In case you think this is going to be hard for them to understand, realize that they are gaining weight at a tremendous rate and snacks would be unhealthy for them unless they cut down the amount of food they eat at mealtimes. They will get one tiny snack and Jie Jie will get two or three huge snacks.

On top of this, there was fluid in both of Jie Jei's kidneys, but the doctor and I believe it can be resolved by going back to how I was managing it pre-adoption of the older girls. We need to cut down on liquid consumed at dinner time and I need to wake her once in the night to go to the bathroom. The downside of this protocal is that the bacteria might have a field day in her bladder over night and make her more susceptible to UTIs, but we don't have a choice right now.

I am duly concerned, but not worried since her last ultrasound was so good. The kidney tissue itself still looked good this time, despite the fluid, which is good news. But, instead of waiting 6 months, we'll do another ultrasound in late December, and bloodwork, just to be sure.

Mom's Night Out

For the first time since becoming a mother 18 months ago, I hired a babysitter and went to see a movie! I missed having my little one with me, since she's always just come and slept in her stroller while wearing earplugs, but I did not miss my older two daughters. My babysitter was my daycare assistant and she crept in after the kids were in bed and nearly, but not completely asleep. Now, like most mothers, I am doing things I thought I'd never do, but it's because I'm parenting kids I never thought I'd have - teens raised in an orphanage.

So, I did not tell them I was going out. I know they would not have been able to handle the anxiety of that and would not have fallen asleep. If they had awaken, they are very familiar with my assistant and would have obeyed without anxiety because they were "in the moment" vs. anticipating my leaving.

I met a friend at the theater who is also a single mom, and I even walked to the theater, which I'd normally have done anyway, but realized I needed to do so the car wouldn't alert the children to my leaving. My friend drove me home and stayed awhile, looking online with me a properties outside of California as we dreamed of making our escape to a more wholesome and affordable area.

When I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, I swear I looked younger! I guess even two hours of real respite time makes a huge difference, plus, I slept well, too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Whole New Strategy

The carnage of late has been great. In 8 days, 7 new tubes of toothpaste went down the toilet in 3 separate incidences. I will not buy smaller tubes because I'm afraid they'll pass through the toilet and clog up the sewer lateral. Imagine the cost of ripping up my driveway to get to that pipe!

Also add another contact lense that Blossom ripped in half and the handicap parking placard that I've been looking for since last Friday. Today, Blossom adimitted that she threw it out the car window, probably last Friday as I was taking her to the doctor for her rash. Last night, we were all in the car and my car key was missing. Awhile ago, it was my housekey, but I didn't realize it was Blossom as that time until I found it on the highest note of my piano when I opened the lid to play weeks later. Thankfully, I did find the car key, but only by luck. Blossom would not tell me where it was, no matter what. I don't know what else might be missing, but I am missing the container of Jie Jie's baby teeth and the time frame points a finger at Blossom.

I realized that she is a master player. Her goal is to get me so angry that I'll send her back to China. She doesn't trust that I'll keep her, so she's rather bent on proving that I'll give her away or send her away.

My new girls are so fragile right now. Last night at my meeting, the man happened to be Chinese and as we all sat there, I watched a change come over Sissy. She was nearly in tears by the end of the meeting and when I asked what was wrong she said she didn't like America and wanted to go back to China. This is definitely not true, so I was puzzled and wondered what was going on in her mind. Out on the sidewalk, on the way to the car, I asked again what was wrong and she burst into sobbing tears. They lasted all the way home. Instead of a bath, I put her straight to bed, her safe place where she talks of her scary things. Sure enough, she admitted that she thought I was in that meeting to do paperwork to send her back to China. The minute I assured her she was wrong and that I'll never let her go anywhere, she was smiling and happy.

Sissy is doing very well. It's been three months since her adoption and she's done remarkably well. I'm 5 weeks in with Blossom and she's right about on par for her past experiences, too. However, what I've been doing so far in reaction to her carnage has not changed her behavior at all. In fact, I've fallen directly in with her plan and didn't even know it. Although my anger lessened, my appearance of anger did not since I believed she still needed a consequence and/or punishment for her actions. I'm certain she associated the increased severity of the punishment with an increase of my anger, so she felt she was achieving her goal.

As of today, finding another torn contact lense of mine, my anger was real, but completely hidden and it's changing from anger to planning. I continued with our day without a hitch, in fact, giving all the girls a special little snack. This gave them all great pause. Then, as we cleaned out the van in search of the handicap placard, I told the girls that whoever found it would get to pick a cookie from the bakery. They all scrambled to find it, but, of course, it didn't turn up. As usual, Blossom couldn't contain herself and said a few things in Chinese that clued Sissy in to the fact that Blossom had something to do with the missing placard. With the promise of no punishment for telling the truth, Blossom confessed that she'd touched it. Soon, with a few questions from me, she confessed that she threw it out the window. Since the only time she's been alone with me in the car was last Friday to go to the doctor's office, and that's when I noticed it first missing, I deduced that that was when she committed the crime.

I praised her for telling the truth. It wasn't false praise. This was a good breakthrough. Then, I lamented that it was a shame we couldn't recover the placard and have cookies. Then, later, of course, we had to park quite far away from the door of our destination because we couldn't park in a "blue" spot. Too bad we can't get ice cream since I've had to pay for parking twice now, $4 total, which is what 4 cones cost us at IK&A or the local fastfood place that starts with Mc.

This is a plan that is positive. Punishment, of course, is negative from the perspective of my kids. I didn't like being punished as a kid, but at least I knew I deserved what I got. I don't think our orphanage raised kids know this, or, because the reasons for their behavior are quite different from what mine were as a kid, normal methods just don't work. I've been smothered by all the negativity Blossom's behavior created and now I've stopped it. She also felt the reward of telling the truth. My other two girls didn't have to see me angry and see Blossom punished. They've missed playing with her.

Now, don't get me wrong. Blossom is in lockdown for sure. She cannot be out of my site for even one second, and I've really had to discover what one second truly is. She cannot go into any bathroom alone or any bedroom. But, I've made the time to be able to watch the girls play out in the yard, where she can't cause any real damage (as far as I can tell). And it was interesting watching them play. They played "family" but one that was an imitation of Blossoms bad antics with the following consequences, but with a childish spin toward exaggeration and cruelty. Instead of a dinner of plain food, the poor pretend child didn't get any dinner at all. Could this have been a punishment used in Blossom's orphanage? Most likely, yes. Pre-Blossom, Jie Jie's version of playing family was to be a mom adopting kids in China or taking care of daycare kids, etc... See how impressionable our kids truly are?

I feel much better about my new strategy. I think that it will finally set Blossom on a new course. Meanwhile, I just have to remember where I keep hiding our toothpaste!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Episode 3: Toilet vs. Toothpaste

I learned tonight that I can remove the toilet from the floor without making a mess or disturbing anything in my bathroom, fish out two full tubes of toothpaste, and put it all back together again in 35 minutes flat! Yes, more toothpaste tubes went down the toilet in a split second as I watched from two doorways away as Blossom put the bin of Barbies back under the bed and came back out. She's that fast and silent! No, I'm not angry, it's become too funny for that.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A New Paperchase

It's almost an afterthought to mention, at this point, but I have an announcement...

I am putting together another dossier to send to China. It will not exactly replace the one that went missing, so I will not get put back into the nsn line, but it will be logged in so that early next year I can decide if I'm going to complete a fourth adoption or not. The timing is perfect since so many of the documents I gathered for Sissy are still valid and can be easily redone or have certified copies made. I am also I600A until July 2013 and if my Consulate Appointment is before this, I don't have to do any more CIS-related paperwork or fingerprints ever again!

I am still feeling that there is a baby waiting for me, but after the last week-and-a-half, I'll admit, as I've always done, to reserving the right to change my mind if I feel my home is full.

Also, at Sissy's 6 months post-placement visit, my social worker will also decide whether or not to allow me to proceed with another adoption based on her opinion as to how we are all doing.

A key component here is my dad. I have his full support and practical help. If we go to China again, he will be coming with us. One thing that Sissy lost due to her lying and sneaking onto my computer is the privilege of visiting her orphanage when we go back. What she doesn't know, hoever, is that I might at any time change my mind and allow this visit if I feel she would benefit from it. By taking this away from her, she now has no China-related incentives to behave well. All of her good behavior must come from within her. She is, essentially, a very good girl, but needs to learn to choose the right for the sake of it being right, not because she'll get something tangible out of it.

I want to have a baby. I want another child. I have a beautiful crib that I'm dying to use. I'd love to experience an adoption where rotten teeth and language and schooling are not immediate issues. I'd love for my older daughters to see how a mother raises a baby so that they will learn how to be good mothers themselves.

Lizard Lady

Blossom started an antibiotic for giardias and was allergic to it. She then proceeded to scratch and infect the hives. Fortunately, it's getting better fast, thanks to a topical antibiotic and some Benadryl, which did not, thankfully, make her hyper!

She was weighed at the doctor's office. Since her check up on Oct. 1 and the appointment on Oct. 19, she gained 3.5 pounds. I'm astounded since she eats the same huge amount that Jie Jie eats, yet Jie Jie can't gain a pound that fast to save her life!

A Little Reminder

There is an experienced mom of adopted teens who has been my friend and ally through my transition to this arena of motherhood over the past month. As I was getting some mommy respite on the phone with her today, she reminded me to meet the needs of my first and youngest, who still needs to be the baby sometimes. I'd lost sight of this a little bit as I've been trying to help her take the next step to older kid. I forgot that the stress of suddenly having two older sisters, especially one whose behavior is less than stellar right now, can be hard on her, too. I'm going to plan something special for her, even if it's just something tiny but more often, like special one on one time reading a book on my bed together. I have missed reading to her since I'm so happy just to get them all clean and in bed each night at a reasonable hour.

It Happened Again

Yes, this is my actual toilet after I took it off.
I am so much cleaner than the plumber was!
I had only one thing to wipe and the tools to clean when I was finished!

We have a new rule, one that will have no exceptions. At all. Blossom must always be accompanied in the bathroom. This morning, while my bedroom door to the bathroom was open and I was on my bed, a mere 10-12 feet away, she was able to flush two brand new tubes of toothpaste down the toilet, again, without me knowing it.

It was discovered about 30 minutes later when the other girls went in to brush their teeth and it was gone. Blossom denied having anything to do with the mission toothpaste, then pretended to look for it, then said she wasn't lying. It took quite some effort to get her to admit she did it and reveal the location.

I handled it myself this time, now knowing exactly what happens to a full-size tube of toothpaste in my toilet. I removed the toilet from the floor (thank heavens for Toto toilets, which can come on and off without having to change the seal), then proceeded to removed the lodged tubes and a few chunks of nasty stuff, with the help of all three of my daughters. Afterward, I called the plumber and let him know she didn't learn her lesson while he was there.

This is on top of the fact that I discovered, last night, that Sissy has been sneaking onto my computer when I'm asleep and getting onto QQ, which explains why my computer system is having all sorts of malfunctions and will be taken to the repair shop. She also lied about a few relevent things to this, not knowing that the computer has an internet history! This behavior, though bad, is still very normal for a teenager.

Blossom's behavior reveals the extent of the insecurity, orphanage and abandonment issues. The adoption books talk about the possible behaviors and give a suggestion or two on how to handle them, but what they neglected to mention, or I simply didn't understand, was that the behavior can be relentless and that I must never let down my guard. Now, since I don't want to live on guard all the time, this means a new parenting strategy. Parents of a newborn are more familiar with it. I will call it Velcro Parenting or Co-joined Parenting. It's basically, where I go, she goes. We did it for two straight days and part of another day last week and it worked well, but I need to include one other component: Mommy respite care! I will need to hire a babysitter one evening this week so I can get out and have a little freedom, preferably, to sit in a calm, dark movie theater and watch Liam Neeson do his thing in his newest movie without worries of toilets and toothpaste and orphanages.

Honestly, last night I dreamed of both, and the toilet was in a tall, eerie mansion, rather dark, set behind three other mansions that looked a lot nicer, at the top of a steep hill that slightly resembled the hill up to the Trustmart near the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou. In it was a blackish-burgandy toilet with a square hole that a plunger fit over just fine, unlike my toilets and plunger in real life.

Needless to say, these two girls will NOT be getting bicycles for their birthdays in November. They both know it, too. We need must better behavior around here to deserve such a great present.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where Do They Fit In?

At home.

I'm talking about my girls. Being a mother to my girls has shown me that the kind of parenting my kids need is so far outside the American system that my girls don't fit in anywhere except at home. My job is to try and help them grow into the outside world.

The first step outside the home for most kids is school. Academically, I have two first graders, one who is 8.5 years old and another about to turn 12, and I have a 3rd grader about to turn 14.

At church, Jie Jie, my 8.5 year old is close to fitting in with her Sunday School class socially, but she can't read even close to their level and doesn't know about 1/3 or more of the English words used during the lesson.

My almost 12 year old, Blossom, hasn't ever even been to a church service and needs a lot more time at home before being ready.

My almost 14 year old, Sissy, is intellectually ready to observe and learn some of the things girls her age do at the mid-week activities, like baking muffins, but she only speaks a handful of English words so she'd be lost in their Sunday School class and bored stiff. She is ready, I think, to join the class with 10-11 year-olds. They have singing and activity time as well as class time on Sundays.

Size-wise, Jie Jie looks 5 years old, Blossom looks eight and Sissy looks 11 or a petite 12.

At home, if Sissy needs to go potty, especially #2, she'll come up to me about 40% of the time to tell me first, dramatically either grabbing her belly or semi-squatting to demonstrate, depending on her level of urgency. At least she seems to not do this in front of others, or is at least more discreet if my assistants are nearby.

Blossom may not go into a bathroom alone any longer. I supervise her or, if I'm near, Sissy stands in the doorway. Blossom is actually not allowed to go anywhere alone right now. This is working well and I'm getting used to it, but it can be extremely tedius. She cannot even go upstairs to get her shoes because that is when food disappears, even in 3 minutes.

Due to her special needs, Jie Jie needs help with many things, but it's our norm in our home so we don't feel it too much. But when we go out we do. Looking at her, no one would really ever be able to tell.

I'm sure I appear extremely over-protective, but that's what this kind of parenting looks like. If you saw us last week, you'd understand why...

I knew Blossom was on edge over something and I tried to get her to go for a run to try and head it off, but I was too late. She had a HUGE, meltdown outside on the sidewalk. In public. Everyone could see and hear her. She was on the ground screaming. You can imagine how I managed to get her home, people popping out to see if I needed help. No obvious reason, but she even screamed another hour once home and had such a hoarse voice afterward. Once she was calm enough, I brought her a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and she sat up on her bed as I entered the room and said is the sweetest, most sincere voice, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

I don't get angry often, but twice now I did feel anger on this day and the day the toothpaste went down the toilet. Thankfully, it's very short-lived because it's so easy to see how hard Blossom is trying and it's easy to understand her lack due to where she's come from.

My girls don't even fit in well at the park, though we are making progress. Sissy is a little beyond the playground stuff, but she'll swing. Blossom was terrified to swing at first, but each time we've gone she's tried it again. Tonight she did very well, crossing the threshold between sitting on the swing and gently swaying, to actually swinging a bit for the first time. As I type this, I can't remember if she's used our backyard swings or not or stuck to the glider. Jie Jie likes to swing, but falls off easily so I have to make sure she holds on tightly. She also likes the monkey bars and, tonight, for the first time, could reach them, but she still has about a 3' drop to the ground if she lets's go. That's about a shoulder-high drop for her. She's too mature for the little kid-sized area, though, and the jungle gym is boring unless she can get her sisters to play with her.

Watching my girls play is a treat. Blossom and Jie Jie play the best. They play little girl pretend games. Blossom and Sissy do big girl things like sing pop songs and chitchat. Together, all three play Barbies, color, draw, play games, do puzzles and more.

This kind of parenting is rigorous and keeps me on my toes. The trick is to avoid expecations and go with the moment, be strict and consistant so they can feel exactly where the boundaries are. In fact, I'd say that Blossom, at least, goes through life right now with one hand on the boundary at all times so she always knows exactly where it is. I have to be energetic, always ready, give up almost all privacy, be patient and loving and extremely forgiving, all the time, and often, at the same time.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Teenager

Yesterday Sissy wore her first truly "teenish" outfit, complete with a necklace, so I made sure to take pictures. I picked out the outfit before travelling to China to bring her home but she's not worn it until now.

In true teen fashion, she was a bit of a stinker today, that started with taking ten minutes just to get out of bed, which threw us off so much that no one got breakfast until 10am which is when I had all the daycare kids sorted and settled into their various routines, but when I look at these pictures of her, all that melts away and all I see is my precious daughter and her beautiful smile.

The Zoo

We are still at the stage where our outings may or may not be successful. This outing was somewhat in between. Our zoo is small and we went in the afternoon. I think this must be when the animals take their naps because we could only see the most obvious ones and they didn't really do much. With three girls, a teen, a tween, and an 8.5 year-old, their responses to the animals we did see varied greatly. We did enjoy watching the goat trying to escape, unsuccessfully!

A Toilet, Toothpaste and a Tooth

Three tubes of toothpaste are no longer in our toilet, as of yesterday! The first one came out with the plumber's snake, but he did make Blossom try and find it first by reaching in. If you think this is gross, I admit, I made her do the same thing the day she flushed them! As long as she hasn't got any open wounds on her hands, I have no problem with this, but definitely supervise the handwashing afterward.

The toilet then had to be removed in order to find the other two tubes. Blossom did reach into the up-side-down end to retrieve the final tube of toothpaste. The plumber took pity on her after I said that the cost of this removal meant no bicycle for her birthday, and reduced his rate to $50 (a GREAT deal!) as long as I promised him that we would put this event behind us. We did put the event behind us and Blossom has only tomorrow left to get through on good behavior before she earns back the privilege of being allowed to use and even buy her own tube of toothpaste.

In case you are wondering why we had so many tubes of toothpaste so readily available, I'll tell you. We each have our own tubes of toothpaste. This is partly because I am allergic to many types of toothpaste and use a simple one that doesn't taste so great so Jie Jie had her own. Then, with the addition of Sissy, I didn't know what she might be bringing with her germ-wise, so I gave her her own tube. After all, we don't share toothbrushes, yet we touch the end of the toothpaste tube to our brushes with each application of toothpaste. It never killed me and I am one of 5 kids, but, for some reason, I prefer us to each have our own tubes of toothpaste, even though we sometimes do share. I'll take pictures soon of my bathroom organization method as well as of the rest of the house so you can see how we are fitting it all in.

Meanwhile, I took all my girls to the Wednesday night girls' church activity and they had a lot of fun making a pompom spider and bobbing for apples. I realize in restrospect, that beyond having a prayer, which my Blossom offered with a lot of help from me, there wasn't a formal spiritual lesson given, but the experience of friendship and fun was definitely there.

Afterwards, since the toilet stuff ate up my normal dinner preparation time, I picked up a pizza for dinner and we even used paper plates to eat it, a first for me with my girls. As Blossom was eating her pizza with great enthusiasm, she spat something out in her hand, placed it on the table, took another bite of pizza with gusto, then picked up the item from the table and handed it to me. It was a molar. She lost another baby tooth. After she swallowed her bite of pizza, I stopped her from taking another and had her bite down on a wad of napkin to stop the normal bleeding that occurs when a tooth comes out like that. After a minute or two, she was ready to continue eating. Jie Jie was very surpised and impressed at the nonchallance that Blossom gave the tooth since Jie Jie takes a long agonizing time to pull her teeth out when they are ready.

We don't do the tooth fairy in our home. It's too hard of a concept for my girls to grasp and rather scary. I mean, after all, a mysterious stranger will come into your bedroom, at night, while you are sleeping, and reach under your pillow and take your tooth and leave money behind? I would have had fun doing the tooth fairy, but it's just one of those things that isn't good for my girls peace of mind so I don't do it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3 Tubes of Toothpaste and a Toilet

Tomorrow the plumber is coming over to fish out three nearly full tubes of toothpaste and heavens-knows-what-else from my toilet because Blossom thinks that flushing things makes them permanently disappear. I can't wait to see her face when I make her watch the plumber pull these items out. He's already asked how old she is and, apparently, does something that helps teach kids not to flush things down the toilet. Needless to say, she's going to be doing a lot of raking and sweeping to pay this one off.

To save us all a little embarassment, I gloved up and fished a BM out that one of my daughter's deposited before we realized the toothpaste didn't go all the way down. I got a lot of cheering for that one and we had a good laugh!

I am weary of Blossoms antics, that's for sure, but knowing she's testing me and my love for her gives me strength to deal with it all. I wish I knew just how far she's going to take this, though, before it's proof enough for her that I'm keeping her and loving her forever.

What a way to have started the day! I wonder if the granola bar wrappers and ear plugs will come back up too...

66 Months

Knowing that my dossier is no longer in line makes this bitter-sweet. It does signify that it's been 66 months since my original dossier was logged in, allowing me to bring home my beautiful Jie Jie, then guide me to my sweet Sissy, and open my heart to Blossom. What an unbelievable adoption journey so far!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rough Few Days

I feel like I'm in China all over again, but with Blossom this time. She's been going through a new phase. She is still making progress in a lot of areas, but she truly doesn't understand what a mother is or what a mother does and why she needs one. Right when I think she's starting to get it, I can see that I'm back at square one. I keep telling myself that we're only at the one month mark and that helps. I've also found out that her SWI has some really terrible things going on.

Fortunately, I know that this, too, will pass. I just wish I could hit fast forward and get to that point. Today, Blossom figured out that I was helping her by buying her a pair of scissors for her left hand because she's left handed. I said, "Yes, I am helping you." She asked why. I said I was her mom and that I love her. She then pointed out that I do the same with my other two daughters. I again said yes, that all three are my daughters.

Please pray that she gets it soon. She needs peace and a feeling of belonging so desperately!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Jie Jie tried something new today. She deliberately chose to do something she knew was wrong. I mean doing it with FULL knowledge of it's wrongness. In the scheme of things, it was such a small thing, but due to the fact that she truly knew better, the guilt and remorse she suffered was far, far worse than the punishment I gave her. She cried so hard over it, I had to comfort her and remind her of how much better she would feel if she chose to repent simply by asking Heavenly Father to forgive her and telling Him she was sorry and promising never to do it again. I'm glad she felt remorse, but the intensity of it surprised me, on one hand, because I didn't think she'd want to do something she felt so deeply was wrong, but on the other hand, she is trying to fit in with her sisters, which is a good sign that she is experimenting with letting herself grow up a bit and proved once again just how strong a testimony in Christ she has already.

The offense was something that would have come up by now if she'd been in public school, so there's no blame to be placed on either older sister even though I do think she was trying to be like them. They actually blew the whistle on her and she admitted it right away when I asked her. Yes, she's finally starting to grow up a little bit, but what a painful experiment to her little soul.

Chocolate Tomorrow

Blossom worked very hard to behave well ALL DAY so she could earn back the privilege of a chocolate granola bar afternoon snack. She kept telling me all day how well she was doing. Then she'd asked, "Chocolate tomorrow?" She was particularly proud of herself for avoiding a specific behavior that we've all been helping her stop doing and she was successful today. As I learn more about her SWI, I am learning that her early life may well have been quite horrifying. Over the next few years, I'm sure her history will emerge, piece by painful piece.

Meanwhile, I'm still counting kisses. She gave me another one last night at bedtime. That makes four now! I do so love this phase of falling in love, me with her and she with me and the rest of the family. Tonight at dinner, we really seemed another step closer as a family, too.

Hotels In America?

Tonight I introduced Sissy and Blossom to emergency preparedness. We talked about the smoke detectors, how to Stop, Drop & Roll, and where to meet if we need to get out of the house fast. I'll elaborate and we'll do drills a bit at a time so I don't alarm them and make them feel insecure.

Sissy asked if we'd sleep and eat at the home where we'd all meet up. I told her no and that we'd go to a hotel. I had to explain what a hotel was, that we'd stayed in one in Guangzhou and then she was astonished. "America has hotels?" she asked incredulously!

I'm still laughing...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fleet Week

USS Hornet

In line for the ferry we never took because it never came.
Jie Jie was off playing on the rocks by the shore.

Blue Angels and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Social Worker Came

I forgot to mention that my social worker came by yesterday to update my homestudy. You see, with Sissy home, it needed to updated for Apple's paperwork. However, there a little wrench in the works, remember? Apple's paperwork is gone. So, I have to do another dossier. Another wrench in the works is Blossom. She's another child in the home. However, my agency is really working on this with me so that I can have every chance to use a lot of Sissy's documents because they are so recent. But, the catch, is that, at any time, my social worker can pull the homestudy and deny me Apple in the timing I want or altogether, based on how she feels my little family is doing.

I don't like that, because no one counts and homestudies bio kids coming into the home, but I do understand it and I appreciate that my agency cares about me and my daughters enough to want what's best for us.

So, Jie Jie welcomed the social worker with open arms and a declaration that she's so excited to have a little sister.

Blossom refused to sit beside me and, instead, plopped herself down on the sofa next to the social worker like she was the mother, then kept asking if it was yes or no on getting a little sister (clearly, Sissy informed Blossom of the reason for the social worker's visit).

And Sissy, kept her distance and a terse hello, keeping her eye on the social worker the entire time, clearly nervous about having a person of authority in her home.

Luckily, all three girls played happily with the Barbies and dollhouse and the social worker was impressed with how they all got along and how far Blossom has come and so quickly.

Counting Kisses

I got a kiss yesterday from Blossom, right on my forehead. She initiated it, too! Then, I got another one this morning on the cheek, that she initiated, when she woke up and I invited her onto my bed, a fun weekend family routine.

What About Punishments & Consequences

I do believe in punishments and consequences. I've seen what the lack of them in a child's life produces. The reality of life is that for every action there is a reaction. What can be sheltered in the home cannot be sheltered out in the real world, especially in adulthood. So, the, "Great job, Buddy!" thing for doing as expected, like picking up toys, isn't heard in this house. If toys aren't picked up here, they become mine, if they are, then it's easy to give nicer toys at birthdays and holidays. For how long a toy is mine depends on how many times I've had to say, "Pick up your toys." Yes, I have thrown things away, too. The result, when I say, "It's time to pick up," things are all picked up - every single time, usually the first time, though I'm still teaching my new daughters that I mean it.

If one eats the entire box of cereal bars in secrecy and with bragging, an entire day's worth of calories, dinner is a glass of milk, enjoyed at the table with the family, during dinner time, as usual. Then, I make sure that there is no delay in breakfast the next morning.

If one rips my contact lense in half, as a practical joke, one works off the cost by raking the leaves and sweeping the driveway, alone, for two weeks. Usually, this task is shared by all of us or at least all three girls.

If one has a temper tantrum and rips the blankets off the bed, and the pillow, that's okay. I can take them into the other room since it's clear they aren't wanted for the night. If it's cold, I make sure to turn the heater up enough to compensate, but they don't know that.

If one pushes Jie Jie after she accidently stumbles into her, even if it's through lack of paying attention on Jie Jie's part, one goes straight to bed with only a potty stop, teeth go unbrushed (which means I'm very serious), a talking to is given so thought may occur, hopefully, by morning, though pajamas are allowed.

If one has multiple offenses in a day, it's off to bed in one's clothes, with only a potty stop, because comfy pj's are a privilege. And then I don't have to get angry and impatient because the child is stowed away in bed, bringing peace to the evening, even if it's 7:30pm.

If one tells another not to tell mom, and it's a safety issue especially, one must stay within my site all day for a set number of days and must earn back trust through examples of good behavior.

Please don't assume you know which child of my three did what, because you'd probably be very surprised! My bottom line is that I feel an obligation as the mother of my girls to teach them how to be upstanding citizens, choosing right from wrong, and self-sufficient by adulthood, and how to take full responsibility for their actions at all times and the consquences of those actions.

It's Not the End of the Honeymoon

I've read about it in books and on blogs, but I don't believe it. At least in my family. This: That there is a honeymoon period and then the child changes. I never noticed such a thing with Jie Jie and I'm not noticing it with Sissy or Blossom, though it's a bit soon with Blossom.

What I do notice however, is that, now that Sissy has settled in and gotten comfortable, I expect more of her and it's a stretch for her and she's having a few growing pains. I still stand by the opinion that she's been spoiled, meaning, she's never had to do anything strenuous or difficult that leads to self-improvement and character growth.

Now that I've gotten to know her, if I had to choose one word to describe her personality, it would be that she's complacent. She's not lazy, she just doesn't have any motivation to come outside her tiny little world. If it was up to her, she's stay exactly like she is forever and ever.

This also goes along with being a follower and blamer. If anything happens, she points the finger anywhere except at her. Her favorite target is Jie Jie or the cats, followed by Blossom. However, I've been watching her more when she doesn't know it, to catch her before a situation develops in order to teach her.

Now, I have known she was like this almost from the time I first met her, but what makes it glaringly obvious is that Blossom is the opposite. She remembers everything, she speaks English in sentences, even though she can't pronounce the words yet. With a little digging, I can usually figure out what she's trying to say, too. The first time I took Sissy to the Asian Branch Library, she stood in the middle of the floor and played dumb and wasn't interested in anything AT ALL. She did not choose a single book or make a single move to even look at the books on the shelf.

The first time I took Blossom to the library, she lit up with interest and proceeded to take one then another book, reading them each as she pulled them off the shelf, out loud, so I knew she was really reading them.

Sissy still asks me which days are which and if we are having "babies tomorrow?" which means is it a daycare day. Yesterday when she asked me, Blossom turned to her and, a bit condescendingly, said, "No, babies come Monday!" Now, you should know that both girls attend circle time with my daycare which begins with the kids, even them, taking turns glueing on the number for the day in the correct space, saying the month and day and year, then saying all the days of the week. You'd think by now, Sissy would have this much figured out, that we have a two-day weekend.

Do I sound impatient a little? I am today. I see Sissy trying to lean on Blossom and Jie Jie instead of thinking for herself. From all Sissy has described of her life in China, her little roommate, who is the same age, but physically much, much smaller due to a medical condition, was in the big sister role and Sissy the helpless little sister role.

Sissy also doesn't put forth any effort to remember things, like my friends names and where they live. Instead of thinking, she just says she doesn't understand. Then I tell her to think, and then time passes and she figures it out. She does NOT have a learning disability, it's a personality issue.

I mentioned a book called Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers soon before I left for China. Sissy is the prime example of a peer-raised child. I am detangling her myths from facts, some quite common in any situation, but how she describes she came to know her "facts", has one source - her roommate!

So, while Jie Jie is learning to be a little sister, but older child, Sissy is learning to be the eldest sister and be responsible for gaining and retaining knowledge, information, and experiences. In a lot of ways, she's like a little old lady, content to sit on a rocking chair and gossip with friends about old times.

My point of leverage shifted with her this week. Now that I've followed through with the one threat that's held her in check all this time, she figured that was all I had. Tonight she learned otherwise. I've sent her to bed to think on it and, hopefully, she'll wake up in the morning ready to present her sweet side again. She, like most of the kids adopted out of institutions, is sooooo clueless as to her ignorance and misguided ideas of how the world really works, and like any teen, likes to argue about it. One such issue, that may be sort of common among all girls at some point, is the mystery about the place babies come out. Sissy was convinced, by her roommate, and by a film she saw, that babies came out a woman's bottom. This is pretty common, truly. But this former doula mom, could prove it, so after the little ones were in bed last night, I pulled out the Birth Atlas, which is full of life-sized pictures of plaster statues displaying the uterus and baby from pre-pregnancy to post-delivery, taken years and years ago at a world fair. The views are from the side, as though a woman was cut in half from head to toe, with the baby fully intact. ONe can clearly see the bladder and follow the trail out, and the intestines and follow that trail out, as well as see the path the baby takes to get out. (Obviously, I'm watching my wording here, but I did teach Sissy all the correct terms). At nearly 14, she's definitely ready for this information, along with a talk about how this is a mother's privilege and it's my job to teach this to her sister's when they are ready for it.

Luckily, she landed with me as her mom so I can help her along so she can end up a self-reliant adult in the future, even if we have to weather some pretty strong growing pains.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tough Day, Great Progress

It was one of those days! Not only in my house, but across my universe. The day opened with a phone call that a family needed immediate respite care for their teen. With my full plate, I had to say no. Then, each of my girls at various times throughout the day was at their most trying. Of course, a daycare child had to turn up with spots all over her body and needed to be sent home. But...

It was a rather gorgeous fall day, the leaves falling from the trees.

I was Super Mom in the face of my girls' behavior.

Work ticked along well.

At the end of the day when I put Blossom to bed, she came WILLINGLY onto my lap, and, after some rocking and singing like one does to a little baby, she tucked her head right into me, like loved children know how to do, and she relaxed and let me cuddle her for the very first time! I've held her plenty of times before, but she was a bit like cuddling a 2x4 before. Not this time.

Last night, Jie Jie attended her Faith in God girls' activity night at church for the first time since we've been back from China. It was time for my new daughters to see that their little sister has a life and friends that is separate from them, and that she isn't 5 or 6, even though she looks like it. I had a feeling I knew what it would do and I was right, hence the behavior today. Sissy seemed very jealous. I don't think it ever occurred to her that Jie Jie didn't really appear in the house at the same time she did. To see Jie Jie excited all day for the event was also hard for Sissy. I'm sure it made Sissy remember her own friends left behind in China, too. However, Jie Jie needed to gain some respect from her sisters and I think this helped a lot.

As for today's behavior, since everyone stayed within textbook-normal of all the adoption books on older child adoption, I know we'll be fine. It did give Blossom a chance to cry, a big, big cry, which she needed, and a chance to see that Mama is in total control and will take care of her. No matter what!

Family Photo Shoot