Saturday, January 31, 2015

My Decisions

I am very grateful to everyone of you who commented. Your experiences, resources, suggestions, and support have led me to much-needed information that has helped me greatly. I am renewed in mind and spirit as to how to proceed with mothering my children. I will share my current thoughts with you...

First, homeschooling is definitely not a point of pride, which is why I tried so hard to find an appropriate public school option last fall and had all the girls evaluated and attended numerous IEP meetings. And why I had the girls in private school part time last year. Would a break from my kids be nice? Absolutely, but I'm able to take that break in other ways and meeting my own needs has been put higher on the priority list now.

After all of that and all my recent research, I definitely know that homeschooling is best for my girls - for now. I think that with any parental decision, it needs to be revisited frequently to make sure it's working and continues to be what is best for the children and family and not be afraid to investigate new options, which I did extensively and continue to do. One thing I do know for certain is that we do not need any more major changes and/or challenges in our lives right now. We've been through enough this past 1.5 years and we need a break, especially as getting work going is also a rather big, but welcome, change.

I've come to realize, after talking with many adoption-knowledgeable professionals that socialization with peers is a much lower priority than I put it, for several reasons, most outlined clearly in every adoption book I read: mainly attachment issues, RAD issues and different emotional needs issues. My girls function well in a group and have a good time, even if on the fringes when it comes to more personal interactions. They are having positive experiences that are adding to their knowledge base and, after only 2.5 years home, they have excellent basic manners now which allows them to participate in many different social aspects of life, and that's enough and is considered doing well - for now. I again refer you to this book as a valuable resource for strengthening families:

I've just had another long, long conversation with a trusted educator who came to China with me for my first adoption, saw the orphanage, has a grandson with autism, another adopted from Korea, tutors in reading, has lived overseas serving a mission in Albania recently and is very connected to many professional resources in her professional field, also, she's been to our new home and town, spent lots of time with the girls, knows me well, what I was like before I became a mom, after I became a mom, but before my move, and she sees what things are like now after my move. She doesn't hesitate to speak out or give her opinion based on all her knowledge and intuition, followed by suggestions, resources and more.

We just spoke about education and socialization for the girls and she is in complete agreement with the decisions I've come to myself, after much prayer, research and seeking out of BTDT parents, psychologists, social workers, teachers, friends, books and more.

The issues that brought me to the recent low were my daughters' recent newest decisions and behaviors that we have now been able to work through in a positive manner, on top of some very real new observations that showed me things about them that were brought out by these newest decisions and behaviors. This does not change the fact that their needs and (dis)abilities and trauma are less, but it does mean that we've managed to come through a very hard period as a family ready to give it our all and try even harder and love each other even more, with new resources, information, boundaries and conditions.

On top of them learning and growing, it's important for me to learn and grow as a mother, too. I have made some adjustments in my parenting that were necessary and good. Parents always must check and double-check themselves and be willing to change. We all know that we aren't perfect, we have no manual, and those of us parenting children like mine have it extra hard - all the time.

As I said before, I never gave up hope, even when I wanted to, even in my bleakest moment, because I have faith that I was called to be these girls' mother by God and He would never have asked this of me without providing the means to do it, as long as I use what he gave me, and as long as I have breath in my body to pray and ask for His help and guidance and comfort. Parenting is full of ups and downs and this was a big down, but we are coming up out of it. Job Corps, homeschool, public school, things I've yet to learn about..... the options are there and I'll always strive to choose the best for my girls.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Today Was a Good Day

I see that I'm posting this after midnight, so the day was really already yesterday, Jan. 29. Where did January go?

I spent some time with My Firefighter this afternoon. It was so very needed! It refreshed my soul and filled my heart.

I also returned home to loving daughters who actually greeted me with enthusiastic hugs, who all looked me in the eye, who made me feel loved and accepted my love for them. Tonight, just before bed, I asked them what changed? Did they have a sisterly conference?

They did not have a conference. They each decided they were "sick and tired" of being in trouble and decided to obey and do well. This is an answer to my prayers! Blossom also decided she wanted to earn more Barbie clothes with good behavior. I don't know if it will last, but it showed me that they have it within themselves to choose the right and pull it out when it really needed to happen. If they can do it once, they can do it again.

Sissy also took care to speak well ALL DAY LONG! Jie Jie even told me that Sissy spoke well to them when I wasn't around. This is such a huge relief!

There is a reward for this behavior. Besides getting the pizza I brought home from my outing with My Firefighter, I WANTED to spend time with them and I did. I even read to Sissy and the others were included, too. This may sound strange. What? She read to her kids? But you need to understand that trying to read to my kids is pure torture for me. Even though the books are very basic, and they understand some individual words and meanings, the way the words are put together is very incomprehensible to them and many words have more than one meaning so I need to stop and explain nearly every single sentence! Today, I tried reading Flash from the Puppy Place series. The back has RL2, which I thought meant Reading Level 2nd grade, but when I look it up online, the reading level is 2.5 to 4, which means up to fourth grade. If that's true, it's no wonder they can't understand it! So, I think we might be back to reading "baby books" but perhaps start with the Golden Books.

Good examples of problems I encountered today are as follows:

The characters went to visit cousins who lived in the country. Not a different country like China vs. USA, but country vs. city, so I had to explain that.

There were two cousins. One loved living in the country and one missed living in the city. The one who missed living in the city was "having a hard time with the move." This doesn't mean that she can't lift the boxes or had any trouble physically with moving their belongings to the new house, but that she wished she still lived in the city and was having a hard time adjusting to and liking her new home in the country.

There were many others and as I type this, I can see how basic and obvious these issues are, but to encounter them in so many books that, otherwise, my kids would really enjoy, is frustrating. How many 16 yr. olds do you know who really enjoy listening to the Poky Little Puppy or So and So Goes to Kindergarten or Baby's Bedtime? Yet these are books they at least can understand.

I also went to a book club meeting tonight, even though I didn't read the book and wasn't the only one who didn't read it. It was with women from my church and I was invited for the social aspect and enjoyed myself. I can really see fitting in with these moms in the future. There are two brothers and a sister and their parents and they were all able to purchase four homes beside each other in a development. After moving into their respective homes, they took down the fences dividing the back yards, all chipped in and had a pool installed, had trampolines, play structures, etc... for all the kids from each family to enjoy. So, I left my girls at one house and walked through the backyard to the other house. Jie Jie visited a friend (yes, she remembered and knew two of the kids from her Sunday school class!!!) in the house in between for a short time, then joined the other kids in the first house.

These families are made up of teachers and principals. They firmly believe my girls would do better in public school. I tried describing the ridiculous IEP proposals and even the principal had to agree that putting one of my kids in the Special Day Class was grossly inappropriate, but still figured there should be a place for her in the middle school. I'd love to believe him. Truly, I would. I almost did, actually. But then I remembered how many blogs I've read about how many of these older kids flounder in public schools, and I remembered the size of the classes and all the other things I went through recently and I dug my heels in. Could my girls and I benefit from more socialization? Yes. Is public school the place to get it? Not with the options outlined at the IEP meetings. He then offered to look at the IEPs. I admit, it's tempting. I am going to pray about it. But I also know what I went through, what I saw in the schools and classrooms, what the teachers (who I really liked) suggested, and what I've learned from the adoption books and adoption professionals and from families whose blogs I've read, and I know I need to trust myself and what I just went through, and give my decision a chance before trying to work with the public schools again. I also know that, despite how many kids he's seen come from whatever country with their parents from whatever situation, it's still way different from the life my girls endured in their orphanages and they ARE different. Very different. I just don't have the time and energy to do it again. I do not want to take the real risk of introducing other behaviors right now that would complicate what we are already working on. I'm just weeks shy of starting work again and that needs to be my main focus so I can keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.

I need to think of me, too. How many more changes can I go through right now? How many more changes can my girls go through right now? We've got a new diagnosis to learn about, increased therapy because of it on top of the therapy we are already doing, and I'm going to start work. No. No changes right now. I need to be in top form to get my business started again, to be strong and energetic and refreshed so I can attract clients, do my work well, and be a good mom.

Clearly, after today, I can see that the new things I'm trying with my girls paid off. Will it continue? Who knows. But today they made the good decision to put their best foot forward. My new methods are alleviating a lot of tension and anger my girls try to illicit in me. By not allowing it, without yelling, without threats, simply by removing them by sending them into their rooms (they do go without hassle almost every time I send them) they see that their bad behavior is not rewarded by any attention, but the results and honest praise they get with good behavior is catching their notice.

I recently spoke to a special ed teacher and she told me that she pays her students for everything in fake money. Then, they can buy things. Not only is there motivation and a reward system, but they learn about money. I will be doing this with my girls, too. Sometimes, though, the money will be real, a sort of allowance, and the shopping list they will have will also be real, as I begin to teach them the value of money, budgeting, planning and shopping. The amount of money I give them will be enough to cover the personal items they use regularly as well as some clothes. A little left over for something fun will also be built in, but in a reasonable way.

I'm getting more creative as I go through this and I'm feeling more and more confident in my decisions, especially when I return home to loving, happy girls.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Avenues to Pursue

So, what are families with children like mine doing now that their kids are 18 and older? I am researching and networking and finding out. There is HOPE! It's in the form of Job Corps. I've just glanced at their website, but it looks to be exactly what we need.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brain Damage

There I said it. I feel comfortable saying it now that sammmomtoliv said it first in her comment in a previous post.

It's been well-documented that children raised in institutions have brains that are different. The higher levels of stress cortisol they live with does change the brain, just as some drugs do. Neural pathways don't form, and some have a finite window to develop or they never. Others can be formed later, some a little later, others a lot later.

We all know that nutrition plays a HUGE role in healthy brain development, yet most kids in institutions don't get enough and the food is low quality.

We also all know that babies must be stimulated, held, moved, and loved. Our babies were left laying in cribs THEIR ENTIRE INFANCIES! Bottles were propped, toys non-existent, only a plain ceiling to look at.

All their lives, as babies and as they grew, their emotional needs were never acknowledged. My two oldest children knew only three four emotion words in their native language when I got them: happy, sad, angry, bored. Jie Jie knew even less. None of my girls knew how to hug and even now, it does not come naturally to them. They grab in the wrong place with the wrong amount of pressure, with their bodies in the wrong position which usually causes them to be off balance or pull the one they are trying to hug off balance. Only my baby had ever been held and I can only attribute that to the fact that there was a British-based medical charity organization set up on the orphanage premises. I was so grateful when I received her that she knew how to snuggle right into me. Of course, that didn't translate to being able to co-sleep or any number of other normal, close baby-mother behaviors. I had to teach her a LOT and even to this day, she doesn't understand the point of a gentle, soothing tummy rub.

Infant monkeys die when they are taken from the mothers and nurtured by a mannequin. Children left in the most despicable conditions in the Pleven, Bulgaria orphanage stayed alive, barely, but failed to grow. Imagine being 9 yrs. old and having Down Syndrome and weighing only 11 pounds, or 14 years old with cerebral palsy and weighing only 14 pounds! Yes, our children are petite, they are, after all, Chinese, but how much smaller are they from their home-raised Chinese counterparts? Neglected humans fail to make human growth hormone under certain conditions, and being neglected is one of them.

Add trauma and abuse. Many children where exposed to death, inappropriate sexual behavior, were physically abused, emotionally abused, were asked to do despicable things, like carry dead babies in trash bags out to the dumpster, had medical procedures and surgeries performed without adequate pain relief and/or were forcibly held down to endure it without preparation, compassion, or anything else we'd consider humane, punished by being placed in "dying rooms" where the "hopeless" children were left to die of starvation instead of receiving palliative care, and the list goes on and on.

In America, we consider it traumatic if a child goes through the divorce of their parents or if a loved one dies. We expect their grades to slip, for them to regress a bit, feel insecure. Many parents take their child to a therapist to help them through it. Therapists are brought in if there is a shooting at school. Just moving to a new home or starting a new school can throw off even the most well-adjusted child.

So, with lack of motor neuron stimulation, lack of visual stimulation, lack of auditory stimulation, lack of nutrition, lack of care and attention, and exposure to traumatic circumstances and abuse, it is easy to understand why our children do have actual physical brain damage, compounded by mental and emotional issues.

My adoption agency often said, "All adopted children have special needs." They were right, and all the books were right. But, and it's a HUGE but, all failed to convey the SEVERITY of the needs and the fact that brain "differences" is really a term disguising brain damage. In all fairness, when many of these books were written, the kids being seen weren't as old as the ones adopted in recent years, and, like the Romania situation of the late 1990s that brought to modern psychology the term RAD, I think in a few years we are going to see a new field of medicine that addresses the brain damage our children suffer. As I read the comments left here and read other blogs and articles by parents who have adopted children from China and other places, I'm reading the same things over and over. If I read between the lines and use my own children as an example, I can truly say that, with some exceptions, of course, that the brain damage and emotional damage and mental damage our children have is often greater than the challenge of dealing with their physical special need. I do not say this lightly. You can go back and see the horrendous surgeries my baby has endured. Jie Jie endured horrendous surgeries in China, too. Though it's not apparent, her special need is SIGNIFICANT, is treated medically and surgically and is life-long and will be harder to live with and treat the older she gets.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

I don't know how this could have been overlooked for so long when I've mentioned the symptoms to so many professionals over the years. I also think Sissy has some of it. This is my child, Jie Jie, for sure, to a T:

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a neurological defect that affects how the brain processes spoken language. This makes it difficult for the child to process verbal instructions or even to filter out background noise in the classroom.

There's no clear agreed-to definition of Auditory Processing Disorder, but there seems to be agreement on these points

There is a breakdown in receiving, remembering, understanding, and using auditory information.
Hearing ability is adequate.
There is a neurological basis.
The child’s ability to listen is impaired.

A child with Auditory Processing Disorder can often have the same types of behavioral problems as a child with ADD. It's easy to see, however, that using the techniques appropriate for an ADD child will not be very effective with a child suffering from auditory processing issues, who can have very specific auditory skills needing to be developed.

Checklist of Behaviors Seen in Children with APD
Listening (noticed for a period of time
Mishearing/discrimination problems
Problems following directions
Problems attending to oral messages
Distracted by background noises
Poor organization of verbal material
Oral and written expression problems
Remembering what they hear
Learning to read
Common Signs of Learning Disabilities

The good news about learning disabilities is that scientists are learning more every day. Their research provides hope and direction.

If parents, teachers, and other professionals discover a child's learning disability early and provide the right kind of help, it can give the child a chance to develop skills needed to lead a successful and productive life. A recent National Institutes of Health study showed that 67 percent of young students who were at risk for reading difficulties became average or above average readers after receiving help in the early grades.

Parents are often the first to notice that "something doesn't seem right." If you are aware of the common signs of learning disabilities, you will be able to recognize potential problems early. The following is a checklist of characteristics that may point to a learning disability. Most people will, from time to time, see one or more of these warning signs in their children. This is normal. If, however, you see several of these characteristics over a long period of time, consider the possibility of a learning disability.

Speaks later than most children
Pronunciation problems
Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word
Difficulty rhyming words
Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, shapes
Extremely restless and easily distracted
Trouble interacting with peers
Difficulty following directions or routines
Fine motor skills slow to develop
Grades K-4
Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)
Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
Slow to remember facts
Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
Impulsive, difficulty planning
Unstable pencil grip
Trouble learning about time
Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents

Grades 5-8
Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)
Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies
Avoids reading aloud
Trouble with word problems
Difficulty with handwriting
Awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip
Avoids writing assignments
Slow or poor recall of facts
Difficulty making friends
Trouble understanding body language and facial expressions

High School Students and Adults
Continues to spell incorrectly, frequently spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing
Avoids reading and writing tasks
Trouble summarizing
Trouble with open-ended questions on tests
Weak memory skills
Difficulty adjusting to new settings
Works slowly
Poor grasp of abstract concepts
Either pays too little attention to details or focuses on them too much
Misreads information

Friday, January 23, 2015

Update on Apple - The Hard Stuff

Apple turned 3 on Dec. 1, 2014. She doesn't speak. At all. At least, not until quite recently. She has speech therapy 2-3 times per week at two different places, and we work on things here at home every single day. Along with PT and OT. If she could talk, she'd tell you that PT and OT should really be called torture because that's how she acts when she has to do certain things, like crawl. Yes, just crawling on the floor like a baby brings on huge hysterical sobbing crying jags.

Speech? Well.... She can say about 5 words, but only says 4 of them spontaneously - sometimes. "I - am - duh - n," is what she says the most. "Xie xie," is what she's starting to say more regularly. That's all. She can say, "mama," but only when prompted.

She is diagnosed with apraxia. It's not that she won't speak, it's that she can't speak. Her mouth moves all sorts of ways, but not the way it needs to in order to form words. She can, at least, make sounds, but most of them are made using the mouth a bit differently that you and I do. She can make the consonant sounds B, D, F, G, H, K, M, N, P, S, T, W, Z and the short vowel sounds A, I, O, U and the long vowel sounds E, I, O (sometimes), U. Once in awhile she comes close to making a long A sound, but it's very hard for her.

The sounds on her speech cards that she can approximate, many with segmenting, are baa, whoa, boo, hi, bye (buh eye), peep (p ee p), up (uh p), pea (p ee), moo (m oo), bee (ee buh ee), and a couple more. She cannot say "baby" or even "beebee" or anything even close.

Thing of it is that she often thinks she's getting it right. When working on a particular sound, she gets frustrated and/or embarrassed, and/or tired of it all, so she avoids. Rolls her eyes, ignores, looks away, becomes restless, becomes obstinate, starts deliberately doing the opposite of what she's asked to do, like grabs the card instead of putting her hands down.

This impacts all kinds of things, like going potty. She can't tell us when she has to go, so she's still in diapers, though if we're home and in the same room, she's starting to point to the potty. We do have to be looking, of course, to see her do it and she is just now in the last two days starting to whimper to get our attention if we aren't looking. Of course, she still can't pull her pants down, though we're working on it like crazy. Try getting your pants down without bending your fingers. For that matter, try getting them back up!

PT - the crawling - is the worse because she's so weak. She's made a lot of progress, but she still has a lifelong battle ahead of her in many ways because of how she's physically put together. Therapy is necessary. I know it's good for her. But she doesn't. And she hates it.

All the hate, anger, frustration... it all comes down on my head. She blames me. Of course, right? I'm the mom and the moms always get the blame. Always! So I'm in the delicate position of keeping her attached, while, in her eyes, torturing her. Never mind that I'm on my hands and knees crawling with her, often with something on my back, like a real cat because Henry just can't resist a free ride, or Apple's piggy toy. I'm also crawling beside her with my arm under her trying to reassure her that I won't let her fall on her face and that I'll support her weight when she gets tired. This has never worked, but I gave it a great try for several sessions.

Our day comes down to this: Do we start the day with therapy and cry to start our day, or do we do it at the end of the day and end our day with crying? Or, can we cram it in the middle somewhere and hope that we can start and end our day with smiles and do the crying in between? Now that Apple is getting stronger, she has actually had two sessions without crying! Of course, as she gets stronger, we have to up the therapy, too, because she's no where near as strong as she needs to be yet.

Moms doing hardcore therapy with their kids and/or painful daily medical procedures know where I'm at. Who wants to make their kid cry every day? Not me. Yet it must be done. The therapist say to make it fun. Yah, right. My girl doesn't buy that any more. Probably because I was turning screws in her head and moving the back of her skull off the rest of her skull just 14 months ago! Not fun. Crawling when your little arms are sore and aching and your little hands have to stretch and bend in ways they don't want to? Not fun. Learn to climb when her fingers can't bend and she can't grip? Not fun, in fact, very scary, but it has to be done. Take socks off? Try it without bending your fingers and pretend you only have half a thumb. Try taking your shirt off with a great big head and extra short arms that can't raise up past shoulder height.

Gosh sakes, let's not forget the eye patch. Yes, Apple gets patched every day too. Fun with allergies because that poor lazy eye tears up and swells up in no time and then her eye lashes turn in and float in her eye. That's cannot feel good. Yet, if we don't, it means surgery for sure, but we can't have that surgery without the second skull surgery first, and we're trying to put that off to give the poor kid a break for awhile, because after that, it's time to do feet and more work on her hands, which means casts. At least she's stopped crying when I get the patch out. That's been a relief for about 5 days now. But how much is acceptance, how much is resignation? Is all of this damaging her spirit? I certainly hope not!

Outside of this, Apple is a clever and busy girl. She started going to Sunbeams, her little Sunday school/primary class this month and likes it a lot. She is beginning to point and gesture, it would be nice if she could sign, but again, her hands are missing a finger each and the ones she has don't bend and are very short, and her arms are just a little too short and don't come all the way up, so any signs she'd try would be hard to recognize.

I gird myself up, start each day with prayer, and hope that one day Apple will understand what all this is about and forgive me.


Recently, a mom with several bio kids as well as several adopted kids asked me if I was a "lifer," meaning, did I plan to keep my children home with me for their entire lives. My answer is no. My plan is to teach my children to become responsible, contributing, independent adults who will one day strike out on their own and build a life for themselves, come by and visit, gather on holidays, perhaps marry and have kids, etc...

But what if a child never reaches that point of independence and self-care ability? There are group home options through many special needs programs. But what if your child doesn't qualify for intellectual impairment? Say there is one category where they come up below average in (below average is still in the average range) and it blows all qualification. Then what?

Today, I'm writing from a dark place. It's the place where, when I look at my kids, I see the profound damage that is the result of being neglected babies, left lying in cribs, never cuddled, never loved, poor nutrition, abuse, inappropriate exposures, lack of medical care, lack of education, and more, more things than I can ever even imagine. The adoption books, every single one I read, failed to convey, probably because the authors truly didn't experience or know, the extent and fullness of what it's like to live with children like these. These aren't children setting fires and torturing pets. These aren't bad children. Not at all. They are good children. Innocent children. Children deserving love and family. But these are profoundly damaged children and the results of that damage are staggering, never-ending, compounding, a bottomless pit of diagnosis waiting to be diagnosed.

For every accomplishment, every step of progress, another can of worms is opened because the progress should lead to one thing, yet it leads to another and what comes up is often harder than what we just went through. For example, it's not enough that a child can read if the child can't comprehend. Comprehension of words isn't enough if the child can't understand the meaning of the words when they are put together into sentences and paragraphs. This is beyond knowing a language, I'm talking about logic and reasoning. If you do this, this will happen, right? For these kids, it's not right. It's not even consistent. Do the same thing day in and day out and they still expect a different outcome each time, not even the same different outcome each time, but different ones each time. That, by Einstein's definition, is even beyond insanity.

Change one thing in the day, just one, like do PT after breakfast instead of before, and my kids are thrown into a tailspin of confusion that lasts all day. But they appear to function very well because they are polite in public and appear engaged. Appear. Give them multiple choice questions and they already have a percentage of success built in by the nature of multiple choice. Ask them to come up with an answer on their own and they can't - even when the answer is directly in front of them in white letters on a chalkboard and I keep pointing to it using very large gestures. They don't see body language. At all. After all this time home. I have a witness to this - finally!

Where is hope? Do I see it in the faces of my children? No. I did an experiment over this last month. Every time I saw a child out in public or at church, I engaged them with either a look or by talking to them. In every single case, I got more out of that child, a stranger, than my own children give. They understood a look and a communication exchange took place, there was engagement. They conversed, answered and asked questions, even 2-3 year-olds! Toward the end of the experiment, I asked my children to observe what I was doing. They were amazed, or at least appeared to be. We also watched online videos of children receiving bicycles under the Christmas tree so they could see what a normal reaction should be. Again, they appeared to be surprised.

So, where is the hope? Is there any? Of course there is. I believe in Christ, therefore there is always hope. It is not my place to give up. I don't know what I'm going to do. Yet. But I'm not going to give up. Meanwhile, I'm nixing everything that isn't helping, from any type of therapy that doesn't show results or isn't more than what I'm already doing at home to useless check-ups and tests that won't change the course of treatment regardless of results. To quote a title of a book, "You're either in or you're in my way."

And if anyone wants to tell me this is what I "signed up for" when I adopted, or that this is "normal," save it, stuff it, choke on it. I don't want to hear it. It's definitely not what I signed up for. It's definitely not normal. But it is now my life and I am mother to these girls and that's not going to change. This is parenting in the trenches and I've recently discovered that I'm not the only one using that term. In fact, I'm in good company with a large majority of moms raising children just like mine. HERE is a link to the best article I've read so far on this subject. Unless you've lived it, you just DON'T KNOW and CAN'T EVEN COME CLOSE TO IMAGINING what it's like. You don't have a right to judge me, but your support of me in my efforts to be the best mom I can for my girls would be very welcome.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Commission Me

I really feel for the commenter who would like 18" boy dolls for her sons to play with so they can play with some of their girl friends. I'm surprised American Girls Dolls hasn't added at least one or two boys to their line.

If anyone is interested in commissioning me to make doll clothes for them, please email me and I'd be happy to discuss it. My skill is realism vs. costume items, though, and I need to have the same kind of doll so I can make sure to get a good fit. I'm not cheap, but I'm not expensive either. Costumes are too time-consuming and require specialty fabrics, but if you need some Ken doll pants and a shirt, I'm up for that, or if your child's Barbie baby is woefully naked, I can take care of that for you. I'd accept Paypal payments only and it'd be the same as eBay, pay first, then I'll ship. I'm definitely up to making some modest Barbie clothes, too. I'd prefer my daughter's dolls to be dressed in something I'd wear or that they'd wear. They like that, too, since they like to play "real family." The shirts on these 18" dolls are more styled. I can easily do pretty t-shirts, which I think little girls would prefer.

Here are some pictures of other doll clothes I've made:

Crochet Pattern Sources

I'm sorry I didn't include the pattern sources in my last post, I'd meant to do so.

The little girl and baby crochet patterns are found HERE. I just love these patterns!

A simple, free tutorial of basic Barbie wardrobe pieces can be found HERE. Here are some sites with crochet patterns for Barbie and Ken clothing (the first link they are in French, but easy to translate):

French ones
Striped Sherbet Sundress
Tons for Barbie and Ken HERE.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Mental Health Therapy

I've been doing more unpacking lately, clearing any New Conceptions stuff out of the last daycare room to be worked on, which means I started unpacking again, about time after moving 19 months ago. I found the hardware for my bookcase doors - a huge YAY! And, my own personal treasure, my sewing stuff! I really wondered if I'd lost my skills, but the second I started pulling my tools out of boxes, my fingers started to itch and my brain revved up. You know that part of your brain that doesn't have anything to do with the kids or the housework, but the really smart part of yourself that you forgot you had? That's the part that revved up. The first night I sewed I made a marketable pattern - pleated Ken doll pants. Then I started crocheting. Each time I sewed, it was like a rush of endorphins and I felt better and better. I'd emerge from my sewing studio with a huge sigh of contentment.

I discovered some super neat free videos on how to make Barbie stuff, such as this one on How to Make a Deluxe Cat Condo and that really got my brain going because, even though I'm all grown up, I still love Barbies. I've discovered that most famous apparel designers do and many actually design specialty Barbie clothes to this day as well as having done so as their first design interest early in their lives, which is how I got started in pattern design and drafting. I also discovered patterns to crochet itty bitty outfits for Barbie-sized babies. They are very fun to make and very quick, which I love since I like the satisfaction of finishing a project sooner rather than later.

I've discovered several new niches in the art world from those who strip the factory paint off Barbies and repaint them in an extremely realistic way, to those who design fashion doll clothing so real they look like real men's apparel and all sorts of other things, like miniature sculpted dolls so realistic that I can't stand to look at them because they look like miscarried real babies to me. In my market research, I discovered that adult collectors are going for realistic or way out there. I like realistic, so after watching the above video on making the deluxe cat condo, I designed my own more realistic one, using similar materials, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, felt, hot glue and yarn. I also designed and made the Moses baskets. Mine again are going toward the realistic look whereas the one I saw in a video was Barbie-pink and not so professional, but mine are still made out of cardboard, hot glue, fabric, ribbon, yarn, and my own idea, using burlap of the natural cardboard color to simulated a woven basket.

Ken doll also got some underpants! Finally! Researching that was hilarious. If you want a good laugh sometime, just look under images for "men's underpants" and see what comes up. No pun intended. Really! Truly!

As I make prototypes of patterns or just sew someone else's pattern for fun and relaxation, I create a pile of things my girls can earn with good behavior. A special ed teach gave me a great idea today to actually pay them with our fake, but realistic, money, and have them buy things from me with it, like these items for their dolls. Then they begin to understand better how money works. They also get to do some crafts. Sissy is particularly interested and has been invited into my inner sanctum several times to observe me at work. I've also signed all three big girls up for sewing classes at our local fabric store starting next month. They'll be with other girls their ages and learning a new skill!!!

When do I have time for all this? When I'm supposed to be sleeping!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Social (dis)Ability

China is a culture that doesn't value individualism, but the good of the many. In an orphanage, there isn't any such thing as individualism to an even further extreme. None of my girls have made a best friend. If any would, it would be Blossom. Jie Jie was surprised I even thought it was an issue and doesn't see the need of a friend. Sissy wants a friend, but does nothing to make friends. The comments about Sissy improving her speech by being around her peers seems to make sense, but, she just doesn't care, and after 1.5 years of attending church with the same group of very nice girls, she has yet to do anything one-on-one with any of them regardless of how many times I've tried to set her up. In fact, when I asked if she speaks to anyone spontaneously, she said yes. When I ask her what she says, it's, "How are you?" When pressed, she admitted that she doesn't say anything else unless she's asked a question. AFTER 1.5 YEARS in the same class with the same girls - and they are VERY nice girls who really reach out to her - and 2.5 years home!

In a group of same age peers doing a specific activity, all my girls can fit in an enjoy themselves. However, any side conversations other girls are having, are beyond them. If I put any one of my girls together with one other girl, they don't know what to do, though Blossom comes close. Just the other day, we got two neighbors to come over. My girls brought K and P in and displayed them proudly in front of me. They were even excited. But they didn't know what to do next. I told them to show K and P their rooms and toys. They did and then were done. No playing ensued. Jie Jie actually left and went back outside. I rounded her back up and told her she had to stay with our guests, especially since P would be a great match as a friend, at only 8, but they are on a more similar developmental level with similar interests.

Since getting the girls, there has been improvement, but it's not as much as I expected or hoped for and it's concerning, but, as I'm finding out, a sad norm.

I have been observing something that I'll throw out there: Kids who have been adopted older (way older), who spent all their lives in an orphanage, don't really know how to be kids. I mean, the books all say it, but even with other kids to learn from, they still don't learn it. I don't mean that they don't know how to play (which was true at first and my girls had to learn that, too), but it's the whole child-adult thing that mine just don't get. They don't know the role of adults at home. My kids still struggle with this. Because I don't have bio kids, they didn't see regular kid behavior modeled at home. It was shocking to them to discover that I didn't go to bed when they did, or that I ate food after they were in bed, or watched DVDs that they didn't get to watch. Sissy still struggles with the fact that I want to go out occasionally to a movie without any kids with me or that I want to spend time alone with other adults. This struggle is compounded by the fact that she's a teenager, a time kids start asserting independence and breaking away from parental authority. Thing is, though, she's still VERY unskilled and behind where a "regular" 16 yr. old should be.

I have been in contact with other moms of kids who were older at the time of adoption. They struggle with the same issues. One moms also hears from a ton of families who are really struggling, many who are disrupting and struggling to find new placements for their kids, such as a teen boy addicted to porn. Her words were, "These kids just aren't making it."

Another adult child whose parents adopted several children said, "I had an ideal childhood. My parents were great, just amazing. I don't even recognize them now." This person went on to explain that the adopted children didn't respond to any "normal" parenting methods and/or strategies so the parents had to come up with other methods that were, in a nutshell, less joyful and more rigid.

I'm living this. I have a teen who still rages like a 2 yr. old on occasion. Exactly the same. Laying in the ground, kicking, screaming, throwing things, etc... for a long time at a time. Used to be almost daily, at first. Now it's about once a month. Normal for an institutionally raised adopted child, but waaaay outside normal for a teen her age.

We forego so many of the joyous aspects of childhood and parenting because my kids simply can't do it, can't understand it, won't enjoy it, or won't do it, or someone gets hurt trying it (such as normal rough-housing-tickling, one of my kids gets way too rough during this sort of play and can cause injury or it brings up anxiety that leads to nervous-driven roughness).

Then we add in the special needs. I'm discovering that auditory processing disorder is the hardest special need I've encountered from my kids so far (and, believe me, our special needs are on the high side of challenging) - because one can't understand what I'm trying to say to her, therefore, she can't reason, and she's forgetful. It's like the movie of the man who had a ton of first dates because his girlfriend had short-term memory loss. Every time he took her out was like the very first time doing so. My spd daughter will recite the house rules, then turn around and break them because she doesn't understand that they apply to her! It's not that she's being naughty either. She truly has no reasoning or application ability. I ask, "Why do you choose the wrong each time?" Her answer, "Because I decided that." My reply, "Why did you decide that?" I told you, she says, "I decided that."

I'm also learning that there are more processing disorders than sensory or auditory and we've got several of them, yet to be specifically diagnosed. As we go into further rounds of testing, it's all really coming out. Every time I go through this I brace myself because I know another diagnosis is coming our way. Like many who have adopted internationally, my girls are extremely challenged and parenting them is extremely challenging. All parenting is, I understand, but this kind of parenting is done from the trenches.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Conversation with a 16 year-old

Sissy still won't put the "d" at the end of food. It's an issue of laziness. This is at the dinner table last night...

Me: What is foo?

Food, she says.

Me: No, it's not. Food is food. Why won't you say food?

Because I want to be fast.

Me: It's just as fast to put the "d" on the end. Do we really need to have this conversation again?


Me: So, from now on you'll say food?


Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Christmas Story 2014

We came into the Christmas Season with a rush of birthdays and the festivities never ended. The group photos two posts down are from our church Christmas party early in December. We fit in some outdoor ice skating, getting our tree, and playing at the fun place where we got our tree, followed by Christmas morning and a day of fun.

Everyone can ice skate,
even Apple scoots along with and without help.

After choosing our tree, we went inside The Big Red Barn and played in the mini village. The girls did much better at the shooting gallery this year than last, probably because we had the expertise of a good marksman helping us this year! Each time one hits a target, the objects move, lights go on and bells ring.

Once home, I thoroughly enjoyed letting my man take the tree off my van, feeling rather pampered that I didn't have to do it myself for the first time ever. It sure is nice to be loved!

Then, amidst making treats to give to friends and take to the firehouse across the street, came Christmas morning. What a special time for all of us. This year, we celebrated Christ's birth by drawing closer as a family unit. My Firefighter came over at 5am and helped me get the big things under the tree and finish a little bit of wrapping. Then he and I snuggled on the sofa, enjoying a quiet moment by the light of the tree before waking the girls at 6am. In they came, and I'd love to tell you that the bicycle was received with whoops of glee, but I must be honest and say it was virtually ignored. I'd often said to My Firefighter that much of the joy of parenting and "normal" childhood experiences is lost on children who were raised for many years in institutions and he finally experienced that in a major way when, expecting enthusiasm over getting a new bike, Blossom (and the other girls) pretty much ignored it - completely. She was much more enthusiastic later about receiving a "boy Barbie" so she could play "family" with her dolls. Later, when she tried the bike and saw that it was just her size and not scary, perhaps, she began to like it more.

In the interest of time, I did not take photos of opening gifts. Soon, the delicious aroma of baked French toast wafted into the living room, gifts all opened, we adjourned to the dining room and stuffed ourselves, then, armed with another French toast casserole, My Firefighter headed to a downtown station to work the Christmas shift. Later in the afternoon after trying the new bike and Christmas dinner alone with the girls, I packed up some treats and we went over to Station 4. It's one of the oldest stations in town, two stories, so it still has poles for the firemen to slide down and a racquetball court where we each got to take a turn playing. Sissy got a few lessons on how to fly her remote control flying sphere that she'd gotten as a gift, My Firefighter being quite the expert at flying model planes. The racquet ball court made the perfect test area for it.

It's always a little sad leaving My Firefighter at work on special occasions, especially on Christmas, but we all such great family time in the moments we had together that it made this Christmas one of the best ever.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

I can't find the charger for my camera battery, otherwise I'd have posted our Christmas day pictures already. When I find it, I'll post about it. We had a wonderful Christmas Day and several wonderful days this month. I'm looking forward to posting the pictures and getting it all down in writing.

Meanwhile, I wish everyone a Happy New Year! Today, well, yesterday Dec. 31, was my birthday. It was a low-key day with sleeping late and making pancakes at lunch time followed by ice skating and dinner out (so I didn't have to cook again). The girls didn't get why I didn't have a cake, but honestly, after four birthdays in 5 weeks, and two major holidays, I would have dumped the batter on my head if I'd had to make another cake already. My Fireman would have made me one and I'd have loved every crumb, but his father recently passed away and the memorial is this weekend and he's organizing it long-distance and leaving town to go there this morning, so I'm glad he didn't burden himself with baking me a cake. He did join us for breakfast and spent most of yesterday with us, though, which we all love! When he left today he said to the girls, "I'll see you next year!" They protested wildly and got rather concerned until I explained to them that next year was tomorrow and turned their worry into laughter.