Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Birthday & Happy New Year

I'm 44 today. I think I've been 44 for three years because I lost track of how old I was, but this year I'm really 44, I did the math. I remember last year thinking I was 44 and my aunty reminded me that I was only 43. Now that I've had a week off work, I can truly say I don't feel 44 any more. I regained some youthful energy!

It was a low-key day, much to my daughters' surprise. But I did put some candles on a loaf of pumpkin bread that a friend made for me and they girls did sing. Friends called and sang Happy Birthday to me. It was just perfect, in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to 2013. It's going to be another big year, but I feel centered and ready. This last week was the maternity leave my family needed and we never got. We are definitely on the right track for now.

Right now, my girls are sleeping in the living room under the Christmas tree. I remember doing that as a child, starring at the magical lights until my eyes closed in peaceful sleep.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Understanding Hard

Parenting Jie Jie has been so fun and easy. We hit it off from the beginning and have had such a great time as a family. I knew going into my next adoption that I would not get so lucky. I knew that what I had with Jie Jie was very, very rare.

As things became so hard in the last couple months, not knowing why, I didn't realize how hard they had become until about three weeks before the truth came out about what Sissy was doing. In the few lucid moments I had when I wasn't consumed with worry over what would disappear next and how, I kept telling myself that I've done one of the most difficult things in the adoption world: Adopt two older children! I keep telling myself this, too, because it's true. I'm not doing anything wrong, adopting to older kids is hard, heck, adopting one older kid is hard. But I was made for this and prepared for it my entire life. I am ready and willing and eager to mother my girls.

Now that I know what is truly going on in my own home again, and I've sorted out my daughter's accordingly, I can take a deep breath and say I have survived this and done quite well, all things considered.

Am I over the hump? I don't know. Will there be other humps? Most likely. But, and I type this holding my breath, I think we are over the hardest part. It's always hardest getting at the raw truth, being exposed and raw, as Sissy now is.

What happened at first was that she became what she was in China, but even less. She did nothing, barely had a pulse, only performed her chores because she knew she had no choice if she wanted to eat good food and wear pretty clothes. Then, as I made her talk about it all and face it, she became argumentative and also tried using my own words, but she didn't have enough understanding of them so I could see she was merely parroting me thinking that would be what I wanted to hear. When that didn't work, she became more observant, helped by me, of course, as I kept pointing things out to her.

Now, she is starting to take the initiative. No, she doesn't suddenly understand love or most of her other feelings, but she does seem to understand that there is something more and she wants to find out what it is. She also sees Blossom moving past her at a very rapid rate and she might be the tiniest bit alarmed. Tonight we talked about college. It's a very real possibility for Blossom if she keeps moving ahead as fast as she is. Sissy asked about herself. I told her that she will not be ready for college when she's 18, but that she may work hard and be ready later in her life. I told her that I'd prepare her for a trade school and explained that trade school teaches one thing, enough to get a job, and that university teaches many things so that a person may get a very good job. It's not entirely accurate, but it's the best she can understand. I asked her if she works as hard as Blossom does. Of course, she said the obvious, which is no. I told her that she can achieve more if she works more and she's starting to see that since the rest of us in the house are pretty fast movers.

I wonder if my simple explanations will come back to haunt me when they are adults and have must better understanding and grasp of the English language. For example, Sissy constantly touches her forehead. She has tiny pimples there that become huge and infected because she always touches them. I had told her to stop, nagged her, got angry, to no avail. Then, I kept telling her to wash her face. I showed her how. She never did. Finally, I told her that she must wash her face twice a day with soap and water if she wants her skin to clear up and that she'll have to wear socks on her hands if she doesn't keep them off her face. Well, it's been three days now and guess what? Her pimples are GONE. Yes, with regular washing, her oily skin dried up to normal and without the irritation of dirty fingers, the pimples healed. Now, will she come back to me at some point in the future and say, "Mom, pimples are caused by normal hormones in teenages." Will I be able to convince her that her pimples were not caused by normal hormones or will she think I lied to her? Will she one day blame me that she didn't go to college, saying I didn't encourage her or aim high enough?

I'm certainly not going to worry about this beyond typing it tonight, I've got enough real things to be concerned about, but it did cross my mind tonight at dinner so I thought I'd blog about it and get some input.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Please Let it Be Progress

In the course of teaching Sissy about her emotions, she has seen both of her sisters readily give me hugs and receive them in return, hold my hands and more. We talked about why they do that and she admitted that she didn't think she could because she was older. I explained that she could, and that should watch what the other girls do. If she wants me to hug her more than I already do, she needs to come up and hug me.

She is finally starting to take the initiative and come give me hugs. She is also liking the hugs and attention I give her when she take the initiative and helps without being told. At first I thought it was random, but she's doing it more and more and making good eye contact and smiling when she does it.

At this early point, it's still normal to be wary of her motives. However, we know the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it," so even if she's going through the motions for the wrong reasons, she is still going through the motions, which is a good start.

Family Time

I have taken the week off of work, using sick days I didn't use this year. I need to recharge, get over a lingering cold and spend time with my girls, whip the house back into shape and get clean the daycare zone. I may have lost a daycare family over this, despite the mother saying she could arrange back-up care. I would not have taken all the days off had she not said this since I've found out that she did not have back-up care.

However, I have been able to spend two days at the Social Security office getting the paperwork done for my two new girls. The earrings that Sissy got for her birthday have also been returned to the store for a refund. I found some stale cookies she'd stolen and stashed in the closet and forgot about. Don't comment negatively on this, but I did make her eat them. You steal it, you eat it. We don't waste food in this house. She choked them down moaning about how she didn't like them. I told her that I didn't like finding cookies in the clothes closet and having her steal from me. I really don't know if she makes that connection yet, that she does things that I don't like.

We have enjoyed two family movie nights. The first time we watched Home Al*ne. The girls loved it! Sissy had seen it in China. She's seen a LOT of American movies in China at her SWI.

When we sat down and snuggled in, Jie Jie exclaimed, "We're just like a family, mommy!" I cracked up laughing and said, "That's because we ARE a family!" I think she meant that we are finally doing something fun as a family that she's sees as very family-like.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I'm a firm believer in simplicity, not subscribing to the commercialism of Christmas, but adopting two older girls in the last 5 months, one a bit unexpectedly, and homeschooling, means we needed some toys and crafts for them and fast. So, this Christmas was probably the largest, gift-wise, that they'll ever have. Being an inexperienced mom of three, I underestimated the amount of time it took to wrap all the gifts, especially since I wanted to wrap each tiny little thing so it'd seem to the girls to be a ton. Notice in the first picture, the complete (so I thought) loaded Christmas tree scene, the sky quite light. It was 7:30am Christmas morning when I finally climbed into bed for a couple hours of sleep! Needless to say, I had to be VERY, VERY quiet as I went about my elfish duties, thankful that the girls have no idea what typical American kids do to on Christmas morning, and stuck to the routine of staying in bed until I come in to get them.

Then, after I took the picture, I realized I'd forgotten the traditional addition of the dolls, who each received a matching outfit under the tree as well as having to be in their Christmas finery, and the new stuffed animals for the older two. Blossom received the big dog. She's been asking for a large stuffed animal for her bed for quite some time since Jie Jie has one. Sissy never asked, but when I was trying to find out what Blossom preferred, Sissy said she wanted one, too. However, knowing her as I now do, I gave her the smaller dog, knowing she wouldn't attach to it, but only wanted to have what the others had, which is fair enough at this point.

Sissy opened anything and everything with her name on it, without so much as a thank you or glance at any of us unless I made her pause to have her picture taken. She even opened the gift she got for Jie Jie, put it on her stack, and didn't realize what she'd done until I pointed it out to her. All she saw was her name on the package, even though it said To: Jie Jie, From: Sissy. She did like her gifts and even realized the crafts were to help her not be lazy. She made a very neat pile of her new things, ready to treasure and protect them.

Blossom's strategy was to grab anything and everything with her name on it and rip it open as fast as she could, barely glancing at what was inside. I had to slow her down and get her to pay attention to the gift itself. She made a haphazzard pile of things that kept falling over, but she didn't mind. The largest gift was hers to open last and I love the expressions on her face. See how she smiles in the first one even though she doesn't know what's in the box? Then, she opened in and got her first clue. She's really into emulating our family with her Barbies and putting them into Jie Jie's doll car is something she loves. So, she not only got a car for her dolls, but a van, like we have, well, our's is white. She's been good enough to share with Jie Jie, too.

Jie Jie is my sweetheart who is truly appreciative, opening each gift and carefully studying each item, thanking me or whoever gave it to her with sincerity and love. She's such a good example to her sisters.

I did have catnip toys for the feline members of our family, but they moved too fast for family photos and I didn't make it into any because I was controlling the chaos and couldn't stop to set the timer on the camera. However, I thought Poppy gave a good example of how cold we've been here (I do realize that our cold is relative, no offense to those of you who really live in the cold, especially if you have snow). She's plastered herself to the heater vent. And Brother and Henry have snuggled up to share bodily warmth, too.

As for me, I enjoyed the celebrations throughout the season far more than the gifts on Christmas Day. I was most touched at the Bethlehem night and the musical performances we attended. The two older girls always noticed when tears came to my eyes and I reached a point of ignoring their questions about it because they just can't understand how touched I am when I think of Mary giving birth to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to keep trying to explain it diminished it, which was part of their goal in asking so repeatedly (I'm learning the various ways in which they attempt to control me and ignore the behavior). I hope that they will one day feel the Holy Spirit as I do and truly understand the meaning of Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Sisterly Love

I have another gem. As we've shopped, Blossom has found pennies here and there and picked them up. Tonight, she handed me her entire life savings, 13 cents, and said, "Mama, to help you for Jie Jie and Mei Mei," meaning, to help me get Christmas presents from her for her sisters.

This little girl is simply astounding! Now that she is free of her sister's garbage, she is soaring. Honestly, when I gave her a kiss this morning, she puckered right up so I gave her another one and she said, "No mama, I kiss you!" So I bent down and she gave me a kiss. She tells me often how much she likes me. I'm not sure if she truly loves me yet, but if she doesn't already, she's going to realize it any moment now.

Blossom is the sister I'd hoped for Jie Jie. I hope their relationship continues to grow and deepen and that they can be close all their lives. They are having a lot of fun. Sissy is not excluded, but I do restrict her contact with her sisters for their own good and to fascilitate her bonding with me.

Sissy is trying! I hope that she, too, will be a good sister to Jie Jie and Blossom. She seems to be reviving. She's been flat and dull (like she was in China) and it occurred to me that her planning, plotting, stealing and control must have given her quite an andrenaline rush or at least a thrill. Yesterday she saw a rainbow for the very first time in her entire life and it was about as beautiful a rainbow as can be. She was so excited and animated. It was a complete semi-circle, thick and dark, with a second, lighter rainbow for a twin. I stopped the car so we could all take a good look. Again, I talked to Sissy about how she was feeling as she looked at the rainbow. I said something like, "Isn't that amazing? You look like you feel so amazed and happy right now." I then explained that she can remember the rainbow forever and remember how she felt when she saw it. I'm getting into a good pattern now with this. At first, it seemed to tedious, but not now. I'm also starting to get into the pattern of making more eye contact. I did this with all the girls at the beginning and the other two naturally got it very fast. Now I'm going back to this with Sissy, but with deeper intent. I wasn't ready last week because I was so angry at her over what she'd done to Blossom and how she held out admitting that she flushed the toothpaste, too, even when I'd asked her about it several times, that I just didn't want to look her in the eye. I think this period of anger was good for all of us. I needed some space from her. We all did. And she needed to know that what she did was terrible. I was also able to see other was she had been passively agressively controlling me and how it affected all of us. Now, we're all starting to heal.

Santa's Lap

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sisterly Love

Tonight at the mall, a vendor gave each of my three girls candy canes. Blossom's broke almost immediately and the plastic wrapping stuck to it so tenaciously that she couldn't get it off to eat it so I threw it away, which broke her heart. She was so sad. In the car, completely on her own, Jie Jie gave Blossom her candy cane.

I am so proud of my little Jie Jie. Her heart is so big. Blossom felt loved. It set such a good example for Sissy and gave us something to talk about tonight at tuck-in time. And Jie Jie felt happy to have comforted her sister.

The question I asked Sissy tonight was, "Why did Jie Jie give Blossom her candy cane." Her answer, "Because Blossom was sad." My reponse, "Yes, that's part of it, but why did Jie Jie give Blossom her candy cane when Blossom was sad? Would you have given up your candy cane?" Sissy said she would not have given up her candy cane and she did not know why Jie Jie would give up her's. When I said, "Because Jie Jie loves Blossom," I could see how little she understand that. I think she also looked like it was a big piece of evidence to demonstrate what love is.

Friday, December 21, 2012

This & That

It's been so much nicer at home without things constantly disappearing. I was able to learn from the attachment specialist that Sissy's behavior isn't sadistic, but to her, if I was angry at Blossom, I couldn't love Blossom, therefore, I must love Sissy and she felt safe.

I've had several people suggest I give Sissy some kind of control. The attachment therapist did not mention this at all. The most popular example from those suggesting I give her some control is to allow her to pick out her clothes. I wish it was that easy! I DID tell her to pick out her own clothes one day this week. You'd think after 5 months she'd know her own wardrobe enough to be glad to do it. She came downstairs well-dressed and I thought, "See, she can do it." However, later in the day, I found out that she immediately went upstairs and asked Jie Jie for help, which means she totally didn't try. So, Jie Jie picked out Sissy's clothes!

I was able to do my Christmas shopping tonight because my neighbor kindly offered to stay with the girls after they were in bed. I went to one of the major craft stores and did very well, too well. I wanted to keep things a bit more simple gift-wise, but there were wonderful things that will be useful homeschooling tools. I'm looking forward to seeing them use the things that they will be receiving.

Jie Jie will be having another blood test tomorrow to look at her platelet count. At her routine blood test last week, I found out that her platelets were low, a normal thing to happen when one is ill, but Jie Jie has had back-to-back viruses since Halloween. Her pediatrician isn't concerned, but her nephrologist is. Apparently, in some cases, if the platelet count gets too low, the body will attack them. The test tomorrow is to make sure that the count isn't dropping further. Jie Jie finally felt better today, so, hopefully, her body is starting to make more platelets faster than she using them up. She's so full of life and so healthy, on the surface, that it's always a bit of a shock to get new worrisome news.

Blossom is still cruising along in the right direction. She is very, very bright and her English is noticably better week to week. She is processing what Sissy did to her and my role in it and how it shaped my relationship with her. As I get to know her better, I am starting to learn how she processes what she takes in. She ponders things for a long time. She has sensitive feelings and I'm learning to approach her differently when she appears to be starting to act up. I am heading off more and more tantrums and helping her face her difficulties, which often turn out to be very small frustrations that she can overcome with reassurance, redirection, practical help.

I fluctuate throughout the day wondering what the future holds for Sissy. One moment I have hope for her and the next it feels like she'll never learn. I think this is par for the course. I'm gearing up to start drawing her out and closer to me again, something she is loath for me to do, since I found out her deep secret and twarted her by stopping the stealing and her lying. As I passed the 67 month mark since my original log-in date with CCCWA, and making progress with my daughters, I am starting to feel Apple close. It feels good to be able to see a future again and dream and plan.

Monday, December 17, 2012

SFSU Handbell Chorus

We are lucky to be able to attend several free first-rate holiday performances every holiday season up at the Oakland Interstake Center Auditorium. We've seen the Nutcracker Ballet, Blackhawk Chorus, and the SFSU Handbell Chorus, after which, we got to try out the bells and learn more about them.

Happy Holidays!

Play Doh

Last week, the girls spent three hours straight playing with play doh.


A church about an hour away creates the City of Bethlehem in their parking lot by bringin in tons of sand, animals and temporary buildings. We were able to follow Mary and Joseph through Bethlehem and watch the Nativity Story unfold as if we were there. I was very moved and wished my older girls understood the significance of what they had seen. It was all free and the kids were able to try old fashioned tools and techniques that might have been used back in those days.