MIA but for good reason

It’s been almost two months since I’ve done any regular posting. I just don’t know what to say anymore. Life is HARD here. Teen adoption is definitely not for the faint of heart. Most days I feel like I should be classified as faint of heart… I do want to blog about our experiences but I linked my Facebook account to this blog and feel as if I am violating my daughter’s privacy. Too many people know us in person and I’ve had to request that they be careful not to discuss anything I’ve posted about the challenges of older child adoption. That’s not fair to anyone. I’m not sure what the solution is… stop posting my links on FB? Stop blogging altogether? I haven’t found a solution I’m comfortable with.

Maybe once we’re past this crisis point, I’ll be able to blog about how things went and what we learned. Maybe at that point I won’t feel like I’m betraying my daughter by posting on the internet about her behavior. Maybe for awhile I should just blog about the happy aspects of our lives, though that’s definitely not a true perspective of what’s going on in our house.

Not that I have much time for blogging anyways… life is rough!

Christmas Time – a book review and giveaway!

I received an email offering to let me review a new Christmas book titled Christmas Time – It’s All About Jesus!. Since my daughter is newly home from Taiwan, I thought it would be fun to have a children’s book about Christmas to read to her.

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My favorite part about this book is the illustrations. The cover is beautiful and each page is colorful and cute. It’s definitely a warm feeling book. The little mouse on each page was a cute touch! The story is simple while still covering all of the basics. The angel’s visit to Mary. Mary visiting Elizabeth. Joseph’s dream. Travel to Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth. The shepherds hearing the angels’ song and visiting baby Jesus.

My daughter seemed slightly interested in the story. When the book arrived, she pointed at the cover and said “Jesus.” She’s not a Christian and recognized that this is a story about the birth of Christ. She listened as I read and followed along. The word choice was too complex for her, though, as she is still learning English. Miracle, wonder, engaged, greeting – all words too hard for her. She was more interested in the illustrations than the actual story.

I wish the publisher had chosen a simpler font for the text on each page. It’s kind of hard to read. The R’s and N’s look very similar and a couple times I had to pause to make sure I was reading the text properly.

I will try rereading this book to my daughter closer to Christmas, as I’m sure her English will improve between now and then. Maybe she’ll enjoy it more once she can understand more of the story.

Aneko Press was kind enough to provide me with an extra copy to give away! Just leave me a comment and I will draw a winner on Tuesday, November 17th.

“Not fair!”

It fascinates me that as much as I have read and listened to other parents and mentors talk about the Why behind my child’s behavior, knowing doesn’t easily combat the whining.

These days we are having complaints about fairness. She doesn’t know the word “fair” in English, but her complaints basically amount to “it’s not fair!”

I keep wondering why she is acting out this particular way. Does she worry that if she didn’t get exactly the same amount of ice cream as me or play video games the exact same amount of time, that she’s not loved? Does she worry that if she doesn’t max out whatever activity or food that she will never get it again?

And how do you address this? Does it go away in time when she learns to trust us? Do you teach her that life is not fair? Seems she should already know that lesson from all the time she’s spent living in an orphanage. Maybe this is her attempt at making sure that life is fair again.

Church, finally!

On Sabbath I went to church for the first time since we got home from Taiwan. I was so happy to finally attend! It felt like a breath of fresh air.

On Friday afternoon, I printed a schedule for the weekend that includes church listed as an activity on Sabbath morning. When I put it on the fridge, DoubleShot immediately came to read it. When she saw the word church in Chinese, she let out a huge, “no! I no like!” I tried to figure out what she didn’t like it and if she’s even been to church before. I didn’t learn anything.

She kept following me around the house. “You go. I go here.” I had to clarify… “I go and you stay here?” “Yes! You go and I stay here. No like.” My husband and I had agreed that if she refuses to go, one of us will stay home with her and the other will attend church. We decided that I will go in hopes that she will want to be with me instead of stuck at home with baba. No offense to baba, just that mama is the preferred parent these days…

On Sabbath morning, she tried a different tactic. “No! Why?? You stay here!” She held on to me tightly and pouted. I told her that I’m going and that I will definitely come back. I’ll be gone for two hours. “What?? Hen jiu!!” (Long time!)

We made several intentional decisions about church to help her want to go, hopefully soon. I wore jeans to church, first time ever. My church is on the more casual side and I fit right in but it felt so wrong! I made this decision because my daughter hates anything that looks girly. Skirts and dresses are a complete joke to her. If I wore a skirt to church like usual, she would think that she has to dress up to attend and that would put a roadblock in front of her.

I also decided that I would be back home exactly at the two hour mark so that she would feel reassured that I keep my word. This meant I might have to leave early, but thankfully this week church was finished on time.

While at church, I took a photo with a couple who had come over to our house for hotpot. I wanted to show DoubleShot that there are familiar faces at church! I also talked to the pastor about getting a video clip of our music service to show that church is fun, not stodgy.

When I arrived home, my daughter came tearing out of the house, yanked the car door open, and dove onto my lap. I saw a huge grin on her face as she came running at me and it felt good to be wanted. She told me that I was gone for a long time!! I showed her the time and reminded her that I promised I would be back in two hours and here I was.

My husband said that while I was gone, she took a long bath. She tends to do this as a regulation tool so I’m glad that she was able to keep herself calm. Toward the end of my absence, I sent a text message that I was on my way home. Jeff said she kept jumping up to check the front window, even as he was telling her that it will be another 20 minutes until I get home.

I don’t know how long it will take before she will agree to come to church with me. I will continue to go and invite her to come with me. She sees me read my Bible and pray so hopefully she understands that I mean my faith. And hopefully someday soon all three of us will be at church together.

MIA

I don’t know how parents blog and parent. It seems like there is no time to do both! I used to get up before DoubleShot but she’s gotten very clingy. She senses if I am no longer in bed. Maybe 15 minutes after I get up, she comes dragging her blanket up the stairs and curls up on my lap to fall asleep again.

So my husband installed a WordPress app on my phone so that I can try writing shorter posts on the fly. We shall see if that will work until life settles down a bit more.

If anyone is still reading my blog, have a great weekend!

Happy, happy day!!

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!! He is 37 years old today. This year has been life-changing and I am so proud of how much he’s grown this year.

Happy anniversary!! Today marks 10 years of marriage. It’s been a beautiful 10 years and I hope for many, many more!

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Nine weeks home

I know I said I wasn’t going to do any more regular weekly posts but it’s Thursday and I have something to write about. So…

This week we’ve been concentrating on teaching DoubleShot appropriate ways to handle her anger. We showed her that slamming doors is not ok. We gave her a pillow and told her that when she’s mad, she can hit the bed as hard as she wants to. Last night she had a success in this area! She got really mad about being told no more video games for the evening and started kicking a plastic bottle around the living room and down the stairs (all wooden floors here!). I took the bottle away from her and reminded her that if she’s mad, she can use her Mad Pillow. She disappeared downstairs for a couple minutes and then came upstairs carrying the pillow. She beat our couch into submission and then started kicking the pillow around the living room. I was ok with that. Success!!

Of course, this still doesn’t address the reason she is angry or the aftermath once she’s sulking. But at least she’s not slamming doors or pounding on walls or throwing breakables across her room. I am grateful.

DoubleShot likes playing video games with baba in the evening. They usually play for about an hour. He tells her before starting how long they will be playing and what time they will stop. Lately, she’s wanted to play three player Mario so that all of us can play at the same time. It’s fun, but she really stresses about being told she’s only allowed to play for an hour. We had to pause the game briefly for a bathroom break and had this conversation when sitting back down:

DoubleShot: Hey!!!!
Me: Sorry, I had to use the potty.
DS: 10!!
Me: Yes, we are going to bed at 10.
DS: No, play until 10! (It was just after 8 and we were almost done with our hour of play)
Me: We will add five minutes because we took a potty break.
DS: WHY?????

Commence much whining and pouting because we had to pause the game. I was amused because she wasted more time whining about losing time than we took going to the bathroom. When the hour was up, she was angry that we had to stop playing. The video games themselves don’t seem to be the root issue. Some evenings she can stop playing at the time limit with no issues. Other nights she just falls apart. If she and baba play on the weekend during the day, she has no issues stopping at the end of an hour. It seems like it’s triggering something about nighttime – “oh, no, we’re done with this. That means bedtime is approaching.” Cue terror, which is displayed in anger and whining and then shutdown.

I can see hints of progress in her attitude toward bedtime but we still have a long way to go before she stops being terrified.

A highlight of my day yesterday – I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen, scrubbing the floor. DoubleShot comes up behind me and lays across my back.

Me: What are you doing?
DS: Hug!!

This is the first time she’s used the word “hug,” though she’s been giving and receiving hugs for a couple weeks now. But she actually admitted that she wanted a hug! Woohoo!!

A bit sick

Right now I have an upset stomach. Baba just took DoubleShot to the store to get some Sprite, in hopes that a little bubbly will help my stomach calm down. The one thing I hate most in the world is vomiting. In the words of my daughter, “yucky!!”

I think she’s a bit sick as well, though I cannot get her to admit it. I posted on an older child adoption group, asking about children and sickness and whether or not they will ever voluntarily say “I don’t feel good.” Several people responded and said that children in an institution are generally taught not to complain about illness unless it is serious. There are just not enough staff to be able to take care of a child with a minor illness.

I find that incredibly sad. I know my daughter is not feeling 100%. She’s lethargic, just wants to watch tv or read a book, lost most of her appetite, and is running warm. Yet if I ask her if she’s feeling badly, she shakes her head. I told her that if she’s sick, I will take care of her. Still she wouldn’t admit to feeling badly.

It breaks my heart to think of what life is like for children with no family. To not even be able to say, “I don’t feel good.” How do you train that instinct out of a child in the first place? And how do you convince them it’s ok to be vulnerable with the people who love you?

Eight weeks home!

This will be my last weekly post. I’ve really enjoyed writing them but I feel as if I procrastinate on blog posts because I think “this should be something I write about on Thursday!” And then I don’t post all week because I want to save thoughts for Thursdays. So I’m just going to post as inspiration strikes, rather than on a specific day.

This week had some really high moments and some really low ones. I learned something about myself. We had a day of back to back to back meltdowns. DoubleShot was struggling with being told no, as we don’t tell her no very often. She wants things her way all the time and sometimes we have to tell her no. When the meltdowns are frequent, I really struggle to want to be connected with her. We are following Heather Forbes’ and TBRI principles, which teach that it’s important to look at the why behind a child’s behavior and to focus on connection before correction.

When DoubleShot stomps around the house and slams doors, I am taken back to my little girl self. I am afraid of violence. DoubleShot is not violent against us or our cat, but she slams doors to make a point. My husband and I have already decided that if the door slamming continues, we will have to remove all of the bedroom doors. It’s not safe for her to keep slamming them. And quite honestly, it scares me. My fears are not about her at all but they take me back to my childhood when I remember cowering in fear. That is something I need to address. I have a book called Parenting From the Inside Out, which is supposed to help parents deal with their own triggers so that they can move forward and help their children. Now that I’m finished with my last library book, I’m going to concentrate on this parenting book and see if it will help me so that I can follow DoubleShot when she’s stomping around the house, rather than shutting down myself.

So that was my key parenting insight for the week, realizing I have some very specific personal work to do so that I can better help DoubleShot.

We’ve also had a number of really amazing moments this week. My daughter is now giving me hugs. Frequently! She craves that full body contact of leaning against me with my arms around her and her arms around me. It’s hard to cook dinner when she keeps coming back for more attention, but it’s so important to try to fill her love tank!

This afternoon I told her that I was going for a walk. She threw her arms around me and yelled, “No!!!!” That was sweet! Normally she waves and says “bye bye!!” To actually be wanted is heart warming.

Her English is still coming along quite rapidly. I am really impressed with how many new words and phrases she’s using. It seems like everyday she’s coming up with something new. I don’t always recognize what she says, as my ear is listening for Chinese. Sometimes it doesn’t register that she’s trying to say something in English. This was our conversation when we went out to pick up the mail after my walk:

DoubleShot: “Running!”
Me: “I went for a walk.”
DS: “Running!”
Me: “No, a walk.”
DS: “It’s raining!”
Me: “OH! You said it’s raining! Yes, yes it is!”

Laughter all around.

DoubleShot and Baba playing on his phone at the bank:

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DoubleShot filming me while I take pictures of her:

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Playing with Bruno!

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She climbed in the box and wanted me to pull her around the room. She screamed in laughter. It was hilarious seeing how much enjoyment she got out such a simple activity.

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Side note – this is my shirt she’s wearing! She keeps telling me that I am stinky and yet she steals my clothes when I’m not looking. She wanders around the house wearing my sweatshirt or my jacket. Last night she raided my closet and asked if she could have this shirt. She’s a good 60 pounds lighter than I am so I never expected she’d be wearing my clothes! And yes, it is too big for her but she doesn’t care!

Overall I think we’re doing really well. Yes, we still have challenges every single day. I’m not sure we’ve had an easy day yet. We’re still adjusting to life as a family of three. DoubleShot is still learning her place in the family. We are still working on a daily routine. But she is making magnificent progress and I can’t wait to see how she keeps blossoming. I am thrilled that she’s my daughter!

Changes

Changes – they are a’coming. We’re about to make some really big changes and I’m a bit apprehensive. It’s quite likely things will get harder for awhile but I’m hoping that life will settle down into a routine.

First change – schedule.

My husband and I have not had a schedule for years. He works from home and in the IT field. His hours are extremely unpredictable. Just this weekend, he worked all night Saturday night, took a nap on Sunday morning, and then worked all day Sunday. He and I are used to it but DoubleShot is really struggling.

Another mom emailed me and offered some advice. She suggested that I may have to be the backbone of our family in that our schedule will revolve around me. I will set waking up times and bedtimes and meal times. If my husband can join DoubleShot and I, great! If not, she and I will continue as planned. That way DoubleShot has a routine that she can count on.

Right now, DoubleShot and my husband and I are all floundering. DoubleShot has a semi-consistent wake up time, though it’s creeped back to 10AM. We’ve been letting her sleep in because bedtime is so rough. Unfortunately, I think this is enabling bedtime to be rough because going to bed at 10PM after waking at 10AM is a really short day. So we’re going start getting her up much earlier. Hopefully she’ll be worn out by the end of the day and actually go to bed at 10 instead of causing delay after delay so that we’re finally getting lights out at midnight. My husband and I get up between 7 and 8 each morning and while he can survive on seven hours of sleep per night, I cannot. My body requires 9-10 hours of sleep and I haven’t gotten that much in quite some time.

I also have to work on a daytime schedule, picking set mealtimes. I’ve really struggled with this because not everyone has the same appetite. If I’m not hungry at lunch, should I force myself to eat, skip the meal entirely, or push it back an hour? What about DoubleShot? If she’s not hungry when it comes time to eat, then what? I don’t want to force her to eat, but I’m also not a short order cook. I don’t want to make lunch for my husband and I, only to cook again an hour or two later. We don’t have a microwave, so it’s not like I can just pop something in to reheat when she’s ready.

I’m also going to make a list of activities that DoubleShot can do. We’re doing fairly well with limiting electronics now, though we need to make some changes there as well. That’s another story for another post, but things are going better now than they used to be. She’s ok with being told she can play computer games for half an hour. So I need a list of what other things she can choose from – reading, crafts, etc.

Worked into the schedule, Mama needs some time to clean the house on a regular basis. We do not have assigned chores yet, though DoubleShot will voluntarily jump in and clean with us sometimes. On Friday, she scrubbed our shower so well that it’s cleaner than it’s been since the day we moved in. I was really impressed! She likes to help me in the kitchen and is getting really good at making fried eggs. I need to pull her into the kitchen work more so that we can spend some productive time side by side.

The whole idea of a schedule is new to me as I haven’t had one in years. I’m sure we’ll go through several different schedules before finding one that works for all three of us. But I want to try. DoubleShot needs some consistency. I need my sanity.