Friday, June 29, 2012

Pillow talk



I don't know if it's the summer weather we've been having, or just a product of more time together, but all of the boys have been getting along FABULOUSLY these days. Last night, David and I could hear the three little guys giggling and whispering for an hour after we put them to bed. It was so cute it brought tears to my eyes. And Connor and John have been biking, hiking, playing basketball and running (training for cross-country that starts in the fall) together every day. Yesterday, John and Connor biked 6 miles to the library, ran 3 miles, got out some books, and then biked 6 miles home. They were gone so long that I actually drove to the library to check on them! It's amazing how much they can find to do together in the absence of video games and TV.  I even confiscated their MP3 players at the beginning of the summer because I find that the ear phones tend to become a means of disconnecting from others. I only wish Austin was here to join in the fun!! We are truly enjoying summer. But, right now Austin is completely off the grid in Burma. He will be there for 18 days, then he travels to Thailand to work at the Hilltop orphanage. After 7 days in Thailand, Austin flies to China to stay with Cheng, our former exchange student. Austin will be there a month, learning Chinese! It's all good. I must admit, I love having six sons!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Soy Sauce and Sleep




One of the challenges of adopting an older child is that they already have their likes and dislikes well established. We can encourage them to try new things (swimming!!), but our little guys definitely have set preferences. A few weeks ago, Leo somehow managed to sneak the soy sauce out of the refrigerator and pour it all over his clothes and blankets. Yep, his dresser drawers and some of his clothes were nearly ruined. But they smelled like Chinese food, and I'm guessing he needed that comfort that particular day. Then, recently, Leo began to set up his "bed" on the bedroom floor. If you've been following this blog, you already know that Leo had a difficult time sleeping for several weeks after we arrived home. We attributed it to jet-lag, and eventually we were able to coax Leo into sleeping most nights, although fitfully. Ben (home 2 years now) pointed out to me that the beds in China are wooden boards (literally) covered with a blanket. Leo's bed in China was rock hard. He sleeps better on the floor because our beds are too soft. Duh! Why didn't I think of that? So, every day now, Leo (and now Sam too) will spread their blankets on the floor (next to their very expensive bunk-bed set) to sleep. Do I hope that they will eventually sleep in their bed? Yes. But, for now, I'm thrilled that Leo figures out ways to make our home more like what he was used to in China. Self-advocating, even without words, is an amazing skill-set.

Friday, June 22, 2012

2 months!

We've been home with our sons for exactly 2 months today. Our pediatrician wanted to see the little guys (again) to see how they are progressing, and our appointment was this morning. We found out that in 8 weeks Sam grew 1/4" and gained 3 1/2 lbs!!  Leo grew 1/2" and gained 1 1/2 lbs!! Now, for me, gaining 3 pounds is possible in a weekend, but for these guys that is a HUGE gain in only two months. They weigh less than 40lbs each, so proportionately that is a lot of weight gain! We talked at length about some of Leo's behaviors, and basically we decided to just give him more time to heal. The Dr. is a big proponent of ADHD medications, and he gave us the speech about that particular disorder. Overall, David and I think we need to find another pediatrician that is more familiar with adoption/trauma/abandonment/abuse issues, and isn't so quick to decide ADHD is the problem. Institutionalization is the problem. Adopted children typically lose 3-4 months developmentally for every year they have to live in an orphanage. The boys will continue to make gains as they feel safe enough to sleep, as they eat healthy meals, and just as they heal. No medications can undue years of neglect and abuse. We can only love them as they are right now, and understand their trauma. We are not even certain we will send Leo to school in the fall. It might prove to be too stressful for him. At this point, we are rejoicing the daily progress and harnessing our patience.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer!!

I'm thrilled that school is over and all the kids are home for the summer! Call me crazy, but I find that it's so much easier on me to have all six boys all home and on the same schedule. The big kids run around to a million activities during the school year, and they attend two different schools, with different school calendars. When they are home for the summer, we can play, rest, play, swim, and rest. I know you don't believe me, but the big kids entertain the little kids, and I have more time to just relax and read a book! Unless we have a houseful of company, which we often do during the summer. For instance, on Father's Day, Leo and Sam received the sacrament of baptism. We hosted our big extended family for a cook-out, and I ran around like a madwoman cooking, cleaning, and getting the children in their best finery. I purchased a small (14') pool from Walmart a few weeks ago, and the kids are also spending many hours splashing in the pool. Don't get me wrong; we're plenty busy in the summer too. I like to be busy, and I believe idle hands are the devil's tool. So, another session of swimming lessons begins next week, and the first week of July the kids begin their summer reading program (9-10:30 daily). We still take taekwondo classes 10 times a week, and we will catch up on our yard work. With 12 acres of land, we spend a ton of time just mowing the yard! We also have a cottage that we rent out to weekly tenants all summer, and we have to go there and clean it and mow the lawn weekly. So we'll be busy, but on my terms, not the school's. We can skip lessons when we need a break, or add more if we are bored. Hooray for summer!

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Job as a parent

As a parent, I feel one of my most important jobs (other than providing love, medical care etc.) is to teach my children how to be independent adults. To achieve this, I sometimes have to take a hard (or hands-off) stance. A perfect example took place this morning. Our 16 year old son, John, (adopted 2010) has a regents exam (NYS mandated test) today at school. John announced to me last night that he told the bus driver that he wouldn't be taking the bus because I was going to be driving him. John obviously thinks it's ok to try to manipulate me into being his personal chauffeur. So, I told John that I was NOT going to drive him 20 minutes there, come home, and then turn around and pick him up again 2 hours later--sorry he thought I should spend 80 minutes in the car today, but I disagreed.  Austin has 2 friends overnight, we have 3 other little kids to take care of, and my day isn't going to revolve around John's regents exam. I told him, last night, that he could take the bus to the regents exam, like all the other kids did, or he could ride his bike the 15 miles. Well, this morning he came downstairs all agitated, insisting that the bus wasn't coming, and that I was forcing him to ride his bike to school (15 miles each way). Obviously, I'm a bad mother and all this mess is my fault. David just happened to be home still, and he told John that if the bus didn't come as scheduled, then Dad would drop him off to school on his way to work. But NOPE. John was determined to punish me. He left for school, by bike, at 6:30am, for a 11:00am test. I suggested that John take food and water, and I was rebuffed. I insisted that John take a cell phone with him, and John was even angrier with me. Not only wasn't I going to be manipulated into driving John, but I was going to try to help him pack for the long bike ride. Ugh. Overall, though, I think this will help prepare John to be an independent adult. He (hopefully) will learn that transportation to and from work is not easy sometimes. Sometimes, you need to ask another adult for a ride and accept proffered help. Sometimes, being stubborn, only punishes yourself. In fact, the 15 mile bike ride didn't inconvenience anyone but the child who stubbornly tried to manipulate the situation. And I'm hopeful that John won't assume that I'm his personal chauffeur the next time he decides he won't take the bus.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Loved this post from another adoptive mom..hope she doesn't mind if I share her link. http://www.zehlahlum.com/2012/06/hardest-place-to-be.html

Adjusting!




We are all adjusting more and more as each day goes by. At least 100 times a day Sam asks me about our schedule. Really, it's almost comical. All day long Sam asks questions such as: "Tomorrow, Connor, Ben, John, go to school?" "Baba working today?" "Tomorrow, Sam and Leo, taekwondo?" "Baba driving truck work?" "Today, Momma, taekwondo?" "Today, momma drive boat?" "Tomorrow, Austin's friend?" "Ben and Sam, swimming pool?"
Constantly Sam seeks to know what's on the calendar! Obviously, he has a pretty good idea of our normal activities, and then I throw in a visit to Grandma and Grandpa and it totally throws him off. Grandma and Grandpa live in Florida, but they are visiting (staying at my brother's house) for a week. But Sam suddenly remembers something important...."Grandma and Grandpa, gave Sam...money!" Yep, he's quickly learning the score!
Leo is less inquisitive about our schedule, but just as clever. Leo sets the table (CORRECTLY) every night before dinner. He can say prayers, and he's exceptionally organized and neat. He loves to help clean--hooray!! Leo does still have LOTS of anxiety. New situations, new people, and doctors, make him a bit nutty. I constantly have to reassure him that "Leo is a good boy." Leo doesn't accept even the mildest correction without getting stressed, and upset --and hitting himself as punishment for the minor infraction. He blossoms when praised though. I have to keep reminding the other boys that Ben and John also had lots of issues when they were first adopted. In fact, they still have some orphanage behaviors that we are just used to by now. Ben will still eat until he vomits, if we don't monitor his food intake. John still hoards and hides things. Oh! Did I mention Leo's propensity to hoard and hide? Yes, every time we are missing anything, we know that Leo has squirreled it away somewhere. Usually, he hides things like match-box cars, or bathroom supplies. But a few weeks ago, my credit card and grocery money were missing. Eventually, Ben found my grocery money in a pocket in his backpack, and I found the credit card in the cabinet with the toilet paper. Life can be challenging when you constantly have to watch out for where you put your car keys!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Building forts



This morning Leo and Sam are doing the most normal thing in the world, building pillow/blanket forts. I honestly didn't even dare hope that they would be playing nicely and playing imaginary games together only six weeks after joining our family. WOW! We actually feared that Leo was on the autistic spectrum, and now here he is cooperating fully and playing make-believe and pretend with Sam. Sam is pushing Leo around in a laundry basket, and they are going to the first "fort," that I now understand is  a drive-thru coffee shop. Sam is running into the fort, and Leo is saying, in English, "Coffee Please" from his make-believe car. Again I say, God is great. Love can't conquer all, but having a family can make the world of difference to a child.

Singing the ABC's

video

Friday, June 1, 2012

boys doing their taekwondo form--video

video

Friends--for now!



Hooray!  Leo and Sam suddenly decided to be friends!!!! Yipee! It all started out when Leo forgot his matchbox car, as we were leaving for swimming lessons, and he ran back into the house to get it.  Leo carries toys with him everywhere he goes, and I knew I had to wait for him to retrieve the toy. When he got back into the car, Leo handed Sam a toy too. For some unknown reason, Leo decided that Sam should also have a toy. Later that morning, Sam gave Leo a pair of sunglasses that were stashed in a backpack. Leo was THRILLED. Leo then gave Sam a big plastic straw that makes an obnoxious whistle sound. By nap time, the boys wanted to share a bed and nap together. God is good.