Saturday, May 11, 2013

following suit

well it was B's turn at the end of April. she is officially a fourth grader at our local public school.

it was weeks of fighting the school system for appropriate placement. they wanted to pop her into sixth grade. she is only 11 and was learning first/second grade homeschool lessons for the last year.

although she can read on a second grade level, she has not yet mastered addition or subtraction. seems her orphanage taught math calcualtions from left to right. uh...trying borrowing and carrying moving left to right. it is near impossible.

so we compromised on fourth grade.

the night before her first day, she proudly packed her new backpack and i swear i am not lying...i have photos to prove it...she actually picked out a dress to wear. yes, she wore skinny jeans under it. but our little tomboy whom has refused to wear anything feminine at all since Gotcha, chose a dress. wouldn't even wear a nice baptism outfit, she wore corduroys of all things.
i didn't tell her it was a dress she chose. i just told her she looked nice and then pulled her three sisters aside and threatened bodily harm if they said anything about a dress OR skinny jeans to her face.

several things have been challenging. the LONG hours, the overwhelming work load, the hour+ homework every night, the "skipping" of at least two grade levels...

all adds up to some serious adjustments. we are working through them, but honestly? i am so tired. she has been in school two weeks and i am just blogging about it?

we have always had a homeschoolers' schedule. typical day: get up by 9ish, eat breakfast, work a few hours, only changing out of PJs if we are leaving the house, then free play the rest of the day. now i need to have them dressed, fed, and dropped off at school by 7:30 AM. the bus drops them back off smack in the middle of the other children's homeschool sign language and theater arts classes(try being in two different cities at the same time. they expect me to be houdini as well as mom of the year. thank God for grandmothers' help). 

then i am expected to have enough energy to do fourth grade homework when 4 days a week we leave just after the bus comes home for our 10+ therapeutic appointments per week and don't get home until after 7. kids are not fed until 8 and then there are showers, toothbrushing, lunch packing, therapeutic home program exercises, and snuggle time still to navigate through.

i am bushed.

B is bushed.

i know we will adjust(probably by the time school lets out for summer recess) and this will be looked back upon as a good thing.

BUT traditional school is hard for parents. i never knew! sorry to all my friends whom i have not sympathized with before. i am sorry now!

in two weeks we have had three separate fundraiser packets come home, a request for food donations for the PTO's staff appreciation luncheon(gasp! they don't expect me to join the PTO, do they?), PPT meetings, and on top of all these requests, i am supposed to be active in their homework too?

no one ever told me traditional school was MORE work than homeschooling. i have heard over the last eight years, "i could never homeschool...where do you find the time...they won't listen to, you must be really smart..." and so on.

uhhhh...i know we chose traditional school because it would be best for our adopted children, but ack! what about the poor parents? i have two different lifestyles that i am supposed to merge together.

good luck with that, i guess.

and the meltdowns. i won't even go there. but i will say this: we have spent hours dealing with meltdowns because the work is TOO HARD. of course it is too hard. she went from first/second grade work up to forth grade work expectations.

i try telling myself that it is an adjustment period. B will learn to deal with long hours and increased expectations and i will learn to be a PTO mom(retching sounds).  worst best case scenario. we go back to homeschooling.

so this post was intended to be a sort of coming out announcement. a "look who's going to school" post.

guess it is a bit whiny.

most importantly, does B like school?

if this conversation is any indication...

B: mom, i don't want to hurt your feelings or anything, but i like school better than i liked homeschool.

me: great honey!

voice in my head: oh rats. i don't like it better.

we'll see how much she likes it when it gets even harder. for now, i must consider it a blessing and keep moving forward. no one said this parenting stuff would be easy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

we hit another biggie

big milestone today.

the year has been full of them.

but this one is a big first for our entire family.

S started school today. this marks her first day in an american school system and my first day having any of my children in a traditional school system ever. we have homeschooled since the beginning. i have never wanted school for my girls, but things change. life changes course and so must we.  

not sure that she knew what was happening as her English is still quite limited. i am sure E has explained to her in Chinese what school means, but i really don't know. S seemed unfazed by all the preparations. even picking out her outfit for her first day, she was devoid of any different demeanor than her usual. we walked into school, hand in hand, and she didn't seem nervous at all. 

at least this is not real school, i told myself. the program she is entering is special education geared towards disabled students. there is a successful work program in which the students are taught skills that will help them have a job in their adult years. many local businesses work with the school to provide an intern-like position in their company and the student may stay on in that position after "graduation." for example, there are a few grocery baggers and stock employees at our local supermarket.

it gives me peace to know that S might grow up to be semi independent.

right after we entered the classroom, a boy named david (adorable and lovable), invited her to join speech therapy in which they use iPads. i sat at a table on the other side of the room for moral support. the teacher came over a few minutes later and said, "well, she is comfortable. she just kicked off her shoes."

after speech, a girl named rae, took S by the hand and brought her to a large table. the three started working on a word puzzle. S seems to be higher functioning than the other two, but later some more kids came in and they seemed about her speed.

i had been there about thirty minutes, when the teacher invited me to hang out in the cafe the special ed students run for the staff and seniors with privileges. it is a cool program. the kids work with money, hone social skills, and learn basic cooking and baking. i think S will love it.

we headed back to see if she was ready to go home. nope. she wanted to stay. i told her i was leaving and she barely looked up from her puzzle and said, "bye bye." well then, this little birdie is ready for flying lessons i guess.

when i picked her up two hours later, she was playing on an iPad and had done some reading worksheets and worked in the cafe making egg and tuna salad for Friday teacher/staff lunch. her favorite part was drying dishes. we asked if she wanted to go back tomorrow and she said, "yes! i like-a schooolll." ok, we'll try again tomorrow. no fuss. no trauma. just peace. who knew?

while adopting back in 2011, shortly after we'd received her referral file, i spoke to the waiting child coordinator. she suggested  i speak to the doctor, who had traveled to China to interview and write an adoption file on S, to inquire if she would ever be independent. i told him that i didn't care if she'd be a doctor or lawyer, but wanted to know if she would be independent. he replied, "oh, that one will surprise you. she will be a doctor or lawyer. i don't know why i thought she was more delayed when i wrote her file."

we didn't put much stock in his opinion. only God knows what our true potential is. although, shortly after we got home from China, i knew we were dealing with severe delays and i suspected a genetic issue.

we searched high and low for a doctor who could do a psych exam in Mandarin. after eight months, we found one. nearby too. well, after a comprehensive neuro-psych evaluation, we have some answers.

we also searched for a genetic issue and lo and behold, we found a micro deletion on chromosome 6. it explains a lot. her depressed nasal bridge, the wide set eyes, her low muscle tone, tailbone shape, postnatal growth retardation, and most importantly-her intellect disorder.

yes, the neuropsychologist said her formal diagnosis is moderate mental retardation. we knew it, but it was harder to hear that we were right, than its all in your head.

the search is over. being right sucks, but it reminds me that what a friend once said was true. i am the premiere authority on my children. i know them better than anyone. why don't doctors take mothers' opinions and concerns seriously??

so that is what led us to school enrollment. we found that the same school that denied us special ed. last year, because we couldn't prove any real disability, has a wonderful program. we are starting slow, half days at first maybe working up to full days soon. hopefully S will thrive in that sort of environment. i know it will free us up to bond more. all i will have to do is love her. trying unsuccessfully to teach her was an issue for both of us.

now it looks like we won't have to worry. she will gain some sort of skill set and her potential is still yet to be reached. i Praise Him all day for allowing her a new life where she can be more than her circumstance.


Friday, April 5, 2013

redemption is bittersweet

Gotcha has come and gone. we had been waiting for the moment, planning since the beginning to take the family to NYC every anniversary of Gotcha Day(day the adopted child is brought to the adoptive parents).

every year on our bio-daughters' birthdays, we would wake them up at midnight and carry them to our room. there my husband, the birthday girl, and i would curl up and listen as i recounted their birth story. after telling them and enjoying some snuggles, we would send that year-older-child back to bed with a sleepy grin upon their sweet face.

i placed emphasis on knowing how loved you are at the moment of your birth. no matter what happens in their lives, the last decade + has been the foundation of their being. i pray it carries them through those lonely times in life. that they understand that my love mirrors the Father's Love for us. if nothing else in life, they are loved.

when i started this tradition on their first birthdays, i never dreamed we would adopt two more daughters. i never stopped to consider how it would change our family. i just knew this was God's Will for us. we had more than enough love to give to more children. 

since coming home, we have had many struggles, growth, and joy.

i guess that is why i was surprised to hear B did not want to celebrate Gotcha Day in the way we had envisioned. Gotcha is the story of how she came to be in our family. how God had moved us all. how we all became who we are today.  

she stated so quietly that the day back in march, last year, was a sad one for her.

oof. mom takes one in the gut. how could i have been so blind? how could i have not thought about her feelings?

yes, they are happy to have us, but have been stripped of everything that made them them. names and friends, foods and culture. i'd be sad too. they do not understand their future if they hadn't come to us. they have this fantasy that their aged out friends went to japan. B has lots of friends living in japan. i think that might be "the old dog went to go live on a farm where it could run and play all day" thing.

i get it. she lost so much that day. although she was redeemed, delivered, rescued, and claimed by God that day, there is so much loss. it must be bittersweet.

i immediately asked her what she'd like to do that day instead. we could pretend it is not the anniversary or whatever she wanted. i just didn't want to be the cause of her pain. i love her so much.

she hugged me and asked if we could just have a normal family day? maybe do something fun as it was also S's Gotcha day too. just not too big of fuss.

we started off with normal OT appointments, lunch at a Chinese buffet that had REAL Chinese food, and then surprised everyone with a 3D movie. we did not talk much about that day one year ago. we just celebrated our family.

whew! we passed that milestone.

then last night happened.

B follows me around like a shadow. last night was no different. she was speaking of her teacher back in China as E came in and said, "is that the same teacher who had an abortion?" i almost fell over. danger. danger. volatile conversation approaching...
 i stepped in and asked what that was about. B explained her teacher in China had had an abortion.
i asked if the teacher was married.
i asked if she had a child already.
well then, there you have it. i explained to them that in some provinces some are not allowed more than one child. i explained that the teacher could be fired from her job and her husband too if they did not abort. or they might face heavy fines. you either abort or the alternative is to send the baby to an orphanage.
B then said with a huge smile while holding up the "ah ha!" finger, satisfied detective style, (and this broke my heart), "oh! maybe that is what happened to me."
oh my sweet girl. she could not begin to imagine that she was not sent to an orphanage. she was one of those "not meant to be found."
i will let her have this new discovery for now. i cannot tell her the truth. her self esteem is already so low. how could i ever hurt such an already hurt little girl?
there is a piece of me that feels guilty for not correcting her. her story is her own. someday she will want to fill in those pieces. it is important to know your history.
i know this all to be true. remember? the birthday story tradition?
i'm doing the best i can. my therapist, who works for an adoption agency, said to me today, that i did ok. we give children appropriate information for their ages.  
my soul weeps for this beautiful girl. she is so pretty and smart and funny. i am proud to call her my daughter. someday she will find out the truth and be broken. i cannot protect her forever.
after she realized that might be the reason she was an orphan. E and her went on and on about maybe finding the birth mother and what if the birth mother and i each held one of B's arms and tugged her back and forth shouting "she's mine!" they laughed and laughed, while i inwardly cringed. they thought it was all so silly. a game even. how innocent they still are. cringe.
i ended this fantasy factory by stating, "well, she is an American citizen now, her birth mom cannot have her back." and also tossing over my shoulder, "sorry kiddo. you are stuck with me as your mom from here on out."
E walked off still giggling over the image of the two moms battling, leaving B behind with me. i was hoping she'd follow her sister and let me have a good cry. and oh please child, please don't start asking questions that will further reduce me to a puddle on the floor. 
but then that sweet kid leaned over my back(during the whole conversation, i was installing a new toilet seat of all things) and hugged me hard and said, "mom, you are the best mom i have ever had. i love you."
i couldn't even speak over the lump in my throat.
yes, redemption is bittersweet.

Friday, March 22, 2013

first trip to see the "Mouse"

my parents generously gifted us a week of their time share in Disney a few weeks ago. after a successful car trip to see my sister in Nebraska last summer, we thought a 1500 mile road trip to Florida would be a good idea. it was sure something!

my father also let us borrow his Ford F150 truck. we stuffed the back full and piled all six of us into the cab one frosty Wednesday morning at 4 am. and we were off. first family vacation 2013!

our first leg was to Virginia to see my mother's little sister. we made it to her house at just about 4 in the afternoon. no mishaps. no fighting, "mom! she's touching me!" of course we we're all touching. six people in a truck? yup, get used to being close girls!

we got to aunt terry's house before she got home from work, so we keyed in and sat and read magazines for a little bit. uh, by read, i mean looked at. our eyes were too travel weary to focus much, but sitting in her cushy leather furniture was a nice treat after the long truck trek. we could pretend to read.

terry took us all out for Italian food and we ate! and ate! and ate some more. i don't think there were many leftovers. driving 12 hours sure works up an appetite.

the next morning she had to go to work, but left her incredibly well-behaved dog, otter, home with us. after an excursion to the local Food Lion, daddy took the kids and puppers out for a long walk, while i cooked a chicken dinner and made a huge batch of fudge. (my aunt, the stinker, had neglected to remind me that she had given up chocolate for Lent.) wonder if it is still in her fridge or if she used the Sunday reprieve card? i wonder just how much fudge can one person eat in one day? maybe the tootsie pop owl might know...

the next morning she had to leave for work early, but not before we captured some bed head pictures!

even though we didn't want to, we had to head out just a few hours later. basha cried so hard. not sure if she was going to miss terry or otter more. that kid sure can love. a far cry from 12 months ago. look how God has created a new-loving heart in her! love it.

we stopped in Georgia for the night and the next morning headed out to visit with my 98 year old grandmother. although it was a short two hour visit, we were so happy to spend the time with her. it was nice that the children could meet their great-grandmother. we don't know when we'll be back in Florida again. i honestly thought that when i saw her a few years ago, it would be the last time, but God blessed me richly with more time. my heart was singing just being able to hold her hand for a short while.

we got back into the truck...not more driving!! ok, but this time next stop...DISNEY!!

we arrived at the same time as our friends from Texas. they moved from Connecticut last year and we promised everyone a Disney trip to soften the blow of the move. the kids screamed and hugged themselves silly in the parking lot. ok, so did the adults. it sure was a celebration.

we got settled into the suite and tried to recover from the drive. the poirier family drove from Texas also. up side, i brought my crockpot and the other mom brought a frozen turkey and other groceries. we're gonna eat like kings!

the daddies doing devotions with the children the next morning before heading into the Magic Kingdom-helps that the other daddy is in seminary and currently a youth pastor

 friends reunited. i think they'll agree it is the happiest place on earth

 learning Chinese hand games on the Disney transport buses. i hear there are children all over a small Texas town now learning the games too. guess our family rubbed off on theirs.

vandalizing Disney while waiting for the boat to the Magic Kingdom

the Disney police found out it was our kids that vandalized the walkway. Zurg is a tough warden, but let them off with a promise of future good behavior.

only in Florida-speaks for itself

cool nighttime shot of the castle

downtime included taking swims in the two garden tubs in the suite, swimming in the five pools and two lazy rivers of our resort, mini golf, making personalized souvenir t-shirts, and a moms lunch out for shopping and sushi. we spent five days in the Disney parks having a ball. we got in some family time, ate awesome homemade breakfasts and dinners, consumed a few bottles of wine, and even had an adults night out at the hotel pizzeria. 

we had a magical week of reconnecting and bonding with people we love. we couldn't ask for more. the last day was hard, but everyone took it better than expected.   

goodbyes stink.

basha again took the goodbyes hard. the entire poirier family went into the room where she was crying and surrounded her promising that this wasn't as much of a goodbye as a so long. we hope to be blessed enough to see them when they come to New England for a wedding in late summer. 

i'm glad they didn't decide to surround me in the shower where i ran off to have my goodbye cry. i'm not so good at them either, but it was time to dry our tears and head out to meet B's Chinese foster family.

because this travelogue is getting overly long, i'll paste Rebecca's post telling about our visit here. but i will add a few things. when we were leaving their house on the first day, B said quietly, "this was the best day ever!" melted my heart to see her reconnected with her foster sister. and  i need to say how wonderful the McKee family is. i love them all. i am so blessed to have them as extended family. it was like we were all cut from the same cloth. wondrous indeed!

we all fell in love with Abby

their six with our four

forever sisters

thank you, McKee family for opening your hearts, home, family, and refrigerator to our family. we are truly changed by getting to know you. we cannot wait until summer when we might have the chance to visit again.

we left Florida the following morning around 7 AM and drove straight through, except for a brief stop at a hotel for some rest, arriving home 35 hours later. the trip was hard at times, exhausting at others, fun filled, and blessed. we spent time cultivating relationships, worshiping with friends, bonding as a family, witnessing to strangers, and praising God. it was everything we had hoped for.

just a mere 48 hours later we had everything unpacked, washed, and were back to the normal grind of our lives. daddy went back to working summer hours after only having worked two days a week for two months, and we added in more therapy appointments. we are up to 11 standing appointments, but we have some new diagnosis and some new and exciting life changes coming up, not to mention we celebrated our one year Gotcha anniversary ten days ago. i'll blog about all that later.

for now...


Saturday, March 9, 2013

two new Christians

sunday, january 20th brought us sunshine, fun, and two new members of Christ's Body.

it was a beautiful service, with many friends and family attending. seeing so much love and support for the girls was humbling.

the pastors asked the children of the church to come up to the alter steps and then invited B and S, myself and their father, and both sets of Godparents/sponsors to come up for the rite.

then Pastor J, who was ordained/installed last summer, baptized B. his first baptism. we are so honored to have been part of his pastoral journey in such a manner.

then it was S's turn. our senior pastor, baptized S. i remember when he was a young newish pastor and baptized A. i thought about how blessed we are to have him part of our community's growth over the past decade. it made me choke up as i considered how our family has grown in ways we had not dared to dream.

as Pastor J prayed over our family and sponsors, i found it hard not to break down. (it didn't help having Pastor R sniffle behind me-God love him for his tender spirit or when i made eye contact with B's lovely Godmother-silly me...why did i do that?) but what gripped me was remembering the constant prayer i had while going through the adoption process. i did not pray for bonding, or perfect grafting, or grateful children. i prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill these children with the knowledge of Him and call them to worship. and here we stood with my prayers being answered fully. it took ten months of  being part of our family for them to choose baptism. i would not push it or do it without permission. i felt we had to let them choose it for themselves. (i do not judge any who do gift it without consent, as it is just that-a gift) i just felt it would be more powerful for them to pick it on their own terms and in their own time. it was a act of patience. how richly He rewards us for our trust.

E recorded it on her nintendo 3Ds and put it on YouTube. it was a beautiful experience!

family picture

picture taking is not complete without the silly face photo
F and T with B

perfect sponsors we picked!

S and K with their God-daughter

not be left out of the fun

my mother organized the reception and many of my dear friends/family contributed yummy dishes and treats. we were awash in Love. thank you to all who prayed, supported, fed, gifted, and thought of our growing family through the years. you all rock! 

my husband, S, enjoying the last of the punch. don't ask!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

christmas catch up

i was unable to post for a while because i had so many things going through my mind. don't get me wrong, i have written a lot of posts, but i have not made them public. i have spent the last few months in contemplation. grappling with our new life and trying to make sense of the pain our adopted daughters had endured before joining our family. God continues to grow a new heart in this girl.

besides, raising four daughters ranging from 11-14 years old is a feat! i was fearful we i would not be able to survive the holidays. with nine standing therapy appointments of different disciplines each week, how would we find the time to celebrate properly? when would i get out shopping? how were we going to afford gifts for everyone in our family? all the questions took over for a bit, until i figured out that HE knew what it would look like and it would be prefect.

i reread my Christmas post from last year. you can see it here...

and it dawned on me that last year was a season of charity and love. we were going without many things so that we could save to bring the children home. we gave to several charities as a way of giving back what we were being given.

but this year saw us on the recipient end of some powerful charity and love.

i got a call from our children's hospital about an Adopt-A-Family program. were we interested in applying? after some consideration we decided to do it. hadn't i been wondering how Christmas would turn out? wasn't this God saying, "I got this"? 

a week before Christmas the hospital called again to say come get your presents. i imagined getting some gift cards to buy what the children had put on their lists. NO! it was exactly what each child had asked for. each gift was lovingly selected and generously purchased. i sat in my room surrounded by a mountain of presents weeping over the provision. i wondered if the company who had donated all this bounty knew what a difference they were making? could they ever know the scope?

there were even gift cards for the adults!

as the days crept closer to Christmas Eve, other people stepped up to shower us with Christmas love. we received a wooden train that the kids say will be part of the tree decorations from now on, about a dozen freshly felled pheasants, a lasagna, a pan of enchilada's, various sweets and homemade candy, and even a check for gas money to get us to Florida next month, all from  members and employees of the club my hubby works for. i was dumbfounded. why would all these people care about us so much?

then i knew. He said He had this. my God was providing for us. the material things were not as important as the feelings of love, protection, and peace i received.

Jesus was born into humble beginnings. i recently heard that it was so quiet and humble the night of the birth that the angles had to go ahead and tell people what happened. i never looked at it that way. Christmas should be quiet and humble. it is not about trimmings and excessive gifts.

so this is how our scaled back Christmas went...

Christmas Eve was childrens' service at church. E and A each played a piano piece for the student musician concert. a lovely service it was! 

we always open one gift on Christmas Eve. the children opened footsie jammies. they were so excited-nearly tackling each other on the stairs to be the first to put them on.

Christmas morning was lazy and calm. the children opened their stockings and each of the four gifts under the tree. most of them were from the generous people at LAZ Parking from the Adopt-A-Family program. so blessed.

S is excited by her first stocking ever
 E is thrilled with her Manga pens
 A found her orange
B exploring her newly made stocking(yes, i was up to the wee hours of Christmas Eve finishing it)

B was very excited to get a stuffed Luigi doll. she has never really played with any of her toys. she doesn't seem to know exactly how to play. but this guy...she brings him everywhere. to dinner, to family movies snuggled up on the couch, outside sledding...etc. she is learning how to love through a doll. isn't that amazing? we take the simple act of a toddler kissing a teddy bear for granted. but when you see an almost grown child not really know how to do that, it is heartbreaking. 

S quietly said, "i like it." to each gift she opened. 

i reveled in being allowed to be part of their first Christmas. 

the presents were opened and cleaned up in about 10 minutes, but we sat there beaming. everyone was thrilled.

E and A didn't seem to notice that this year was so different from what their past Christmases have been. the running around to each family member's houses, tons of toys, excessive know the "traditional" stuff.

the kids got matching Life Is Good tee shirts from their aunts. that was a big hit too. i think the most joyous gifts were the pjs and tees. there is something to having matching things that bonds children. wondrous.

after lunch, i was suffering from fever and chills, so S, took care of making dinner. good thing we were gifted a beautiful lasagna. 

i did drag myself off the couch to get out Jesus's birthday cake makings. the kids had a blast dumping tons of cake sugar on the cake. little candy balls were rolling off the mountain and onto the floor, skittering into every corner of the room. it was pure mess joy.

even though we didn't do the normal Christmas craziness this year, it was just right. very little upset, time with daddy, time to bond with their sisters, no appointments, no stressed out screaming mommy, no have tos.

we celebrated Christmas with my parents on New Year's Day)they spent Christmas in NE with my sister and her family this year). that was a bit more like how Christmas usually was, but even they were sick and not up for staying to eat the pheasant stew I had made. so that "second" Christmas was quiet too.

after i have seen both ways to celebrate the birth of our Savior. i believe we will do the small version every year. we will focus on love and charity and try to be still and watchful for His Coming.

it seems like this month was a turning point for our family. the transition to a family of six has been hard. but, the love that was shared over this season, had a profound effect on B. she has asked to be baptized.

so we will baptize them this Sunday. if you of mind to pray, please pray that the children would allow Light and Love into their hearts, so that they will go out into the world and extend these things to others. let them be disciples ministering to all nations.