Monday, June 29, 2009

Control

When we adopt, we obviously enter uncharted territory. As much as we read about stuff, or intellectualize things, we can never really know what the heck we're dealing with or how we are going to handle it until we are there in the midst of it all.

I wish I could tell you everything was puppy dog-kisses, hearts and butterflies all the time, but that would be a lie. Although it's pretty close a whole lot of the time. These two girls are so sweet natured it just amazes me. But they are also children. Hurt children. Underdeveloped children. Children with some physical ailments still lingering.

It's hard to remember all that in the heat of a tantrum. And they both have them. Princess Pistolera started almost immediately. While we were still in Haiti. While she is more frequent, in an odd way she's more manageable to me. Her tantrums are sort of age appropriate. I can put her in the time out chair, which is not isolated, and she eventually comes around and reverts to her sweet little self.

Little Miss Lady has other methods. And they have not surfaced until quite recently. I knew it was coming because it's not possible for a child to be perfect all the time, and she is naturally very pleasing, very easy going. She does like to control her environment. She likes to control her little sister...not always possible....and she has a little temper that shows itself sometimes. Lately, that's everyday.

She can be VERY stubborn, and I have been getting discouraged. Mainly at myself because I have been succumbing to anger, and when that happens, guess what, she knows she pushed my button, which is what she wanted to do in the first place. Last night I brushed up on my "Adoption Parenting Toolbox", trying to remember why she was throwing these troublesome tantrums in the first place.

Oh yeah. It's about control. And anger. As in "I'm a 9 year old child, and I don't really have any control. My birth parents made the decision to give me away. WHY????????????"

I have to remember not to take it personally.

So this morning, she started first thing. Why this surprised me I don't know, but it did. She did not want to get up, get dressed, or go to 'summer school' and she cried and pouted and stalled the whole time she got dressed. Then she refused to brush her teeth. Refused. I told her if she did not start by the time I counted to 3, I would be brushing them for her. She chose to go there. Matter of factly, and rather vigorously, I brushed her teeth for her. Boy was she mad. But I'm thinking she may not do that again cause it was not that fun for her. In the car she threw her banana and her bottled water at her sister. I calmed glanced back at her glowering face and told her she would NOT be watching High School Musical tonight when we got home. No Gabriella (whom she idolizes) for her tonight. Then I turned up the volume and sang with the radio the entire way to daycare, like I was having the time of my life. She was less pouty, but still rebellious when we arrived. She had taken her sandals off and hidden them under the seat. She put her shoes on S-L-O-W-L-Y when I asked her to, and did not resist going in which was an improvement. Last Friday she had a full-on melt-down when we arrived. But today I said "I'm going to tell you a secret. Mommy does not like to get up and go to work either. So I understand. Just like you don't like getting up for summer school. But it makes us better, so that's why we have to do it". She accepted me giving her a hug, even tho she was still really mad, and then for good measure she stomped off to join her classmates.

I'm getting ready to go pick them up now. Undoubtedly she will be little Miss Sunshine. This is how it goes. She will be the child she is 95% of the time. But I don't expect all this negative stuff to stop right away. I don't know when it will stop. I know I felt better not losing it today. I know she has to learn about consequences of her behavior. I feel like I made some progress today. I was able to show some empathy, instead of my anger, and it was not easy. I'm not that patient. It's true what they say; anger usually just continues a bad cycle. And I really do feel for her. I can't imagine what goes on in that head sometimes. I am in awe that she is as easy and loving as she is considering all she has been thru.

Anyway, just didn't want y'all to think it was all puppy-dog kisses hearts and butterflies all the time. And I think we will be washing the car tonight since we won't be watching HSM.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Language Explosion

In the last week or so, I have really been noticing Miss Lady's language usage taking off! I have known that her comprehension was good, even before she came home. That has only improved. But in the last week she will just pop out some spontaneous, full sentences. She has used lots of words and would string a few together, or she would answer questions, but this week, full, uncoached sentences. Such as: we were leaving church and walking thru the parking lot. She spotted my car and said "there is your car!". I was a little distracted, so I said 'yes, there it is' then it dawned on me what just happened. And there has been more of that since. The funniest (and about to become the most annoying thing) is she bickers with her sister in English now. They really did not bicker much previously, but now since she is speaking so much more, I really notice it..."Princess P, sto-o-o-op it!" or "Princess P, hush!" Because Princess P, like any self respected little sister makes it her business to annoy her big sister when ever she feels like it. She also is exploding in her puzzle work...most kids when they come home cannot put together even a simple puzzle although they can learn quickly, and it is important to their brain development. Last week she put together a 25 piece frame puzzle by herself and this week she has attempted a 100 piece jigsaw several times and made good progress on it.

Princess P, on the other hand, while extremely bright, is less interested in this kind of thing, but is very driven athletically. I can't wait to see where that takes us. She is fearless! Her language comprehension is fine, but she does not speak in full sentences yet. Why should she, her sister does it for her! They are very naturally intertwined. Someday I will write about the pros and cons and funnies and difficulties of that.

They still have full on Creole discussions between themselves, but that is diminishing. Many people say they wish their children would retain their native language, but it's not really possible for a child to be bi-lingual unless they have constant exposure to two languages. Their brain has to shut out the one language in order to absorb the other. So I am happy with the progress. It has to do with school. Of course I don't want them to get left behind academically; they start behind their age group as it is. And for us, school is only 6 short weeks away...starts the first week of August. I want them to be as ready as possible.



Here's a short clip of them playing with their brother. They can play rough. You ought to see these 3 with water guns. It's brutal!

video

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Dad & my oldest sister Susan, 1950
He was a young dad. He was a many-times-blessed dad...9 times!
I sure do miss him.

Memorial Park

I have to give kudos to Janet's older daughters. They have been taking care of TnT with Janet in Haiti right now, and their Dad on on the road. Is it just me, or are Haitian kids incredibly smart, alert, curious, and therefore BUSY? Times that by 2, and you have one busy mama. Or in their case, two busy older sisters. So, we got them all together yesterday for a stroll thru Memorial Park. Pretty Haitian girls x 4 = GOOD TIMES




Ashley in charge


Memorial Park has a pool and a play ground, a lake, cook-out areas, a theater and a small wildlife zoo. So off we go!



First stop: the alligators! It reminded me of our trip to Haiti Baptist Mission exactly one year ago. And they had a crocodile. To me, both equally yucky...I'm not a big fan of most reptiles.


Turtles are OK, we saw those next.

video

We also went to the reptile house and there was a guy there holding a rat snake. Obviously I'm grateful for rat snakes but I don't want to hold one. I did my best not to display my prejudice however and encouraged the girls to touch the snake, but they declined (smart girls) except little T barely put her finger on it after much ado.





Next, the birds. There were several types of owls but this picture of the horned owl was the only decent shot I got.

Red Tail Hawk, which is native to this area, but rare. They also had some wild turkeys and that species is also native but rare, although I have one that shows up in my front yard periodically.




Golden Eagle








Bald Eagle



Then on to the big (literally) attraction, the Black Bear. Doing what any respectable bear would do in the heat, take a nap!







Princess decides she is a bear too...

Bear Habitat







Did I mention it was hot? 98 degrees and 88% humidity. At least the trees helped!

Pretty girls!

Little Miss Lady took this shot



Then we went to the play ground for awhile.

These girls love to swing...

video

Then a walk in the heat up a hard hill to the parking lot (I felt like the turtle) and we were done!

Monday, June 15, 2009

All In A Day

This may have to become my all-time favorite photo of these two!



Some of you have asked me for some Princess Pistolero stories. They are not all silly or funny. For instance, she was in meltdown mode all day yesterday because I did not do the bottom row of her braids to her satisfaction. After almost 8 hours of hair and a severely cramped left hand, I did not intend to make this minor adjustment, thus the meltdown. But...then we met some friends, we went to Barnes and Noble for the first time, and then went to the Mexican restaurant, and she was back to her silly sunny self.

And no, I did not redo her braids. Perhaps that seems heartless to some of you, but as I wrote in my previous post, she tests every limit, and as hard as it can be sometimes, she has to learn that there are some. My palsied hand testified.

If you ever met her, chances are the person you would see would act shy, quiet and polite. It would be awhile before you saw this:




video

Sunday, June 14, 2009

All My Children (Almost)


We have an interesting Cuban restaurant that I took the girls to on Friday night. Mostly outdoor seating with alot of funky mismatched furniture, crazy lights, some old boats, interesting murals and artwork, authentic salsa music (thanks to satellite radio) and most importantly, great food!


@ $20.00 it was a family bargain, and I got some fun photos. I didn't have to cook either!




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I started writing and update last week-end on the girls progress and I never got to finish it. That's how life goes, it flies right by, especially when small children are involved. But here is what I started for their six (and now seven) week update:

"I can't believe it's been 6 weeks already. So much has happened and it seems like the girls have been here forever. I think it's the compressed time aspect. I really wanted to be at home for 6 weeks with them, not 30 days. But...life and reality demanded otherwise. Aside from getting up so early in the morning they are adapting well to daycare. I put them in a smaller environment on purpose and it has turned out to be the right choice. I am also happy that they are in a diverse group right now. The school they will be going to will not be nearly so diverse, but I am OK with that and more importantly it appears that they will be fine. Ours is one of the best school districts in the state, and that trumps all else. Since my older kids went there I am familiar with it, I feel like the girls will be fine there. Little Miss Lady is aware of racial difference, but it does not phase her. Princess seems unaware, which is appropriate for her age. There is alot of good information on this kind of thing in the book "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla". The author is very straightforward (and in my opinion accurate) about different school settings for minority children.
Language is coming around. Everyday there seems to be a little progress, so sometimes when I look at it like that it seems slow. But when I look at where they were 6 weeks ago, I see a tremendous amount of progress. Miss Lady understands most of what I say to her and is able to convey to me what I ask of her, either in language, or panamine. We do alot of that. I am worried about her education level. I am afraid they will stick her in the first grade, because that is about where she is. But with a little (professional) help I honestly feel she is ready for the second grade, with a little catch up help. She will turn 10 in this school year and I just don't want her to be in the first grade.
Princess, on the other hand is going straight to kindergarten, no question. While she is very very smart, in many aspects she is developmentally in a wide range. For the most part it seems she is in the 3 to 4 year stage, emotionally and developmentally. I agree with my friend Courtney. I was thinking this, but I could not find anything written about it...but it seems to me that emotional developement for some of these kids stops when they get to the orphanage. And no wonder. I always say, they are raising themselves there. In the best of circumstances they get some attention. But not enough. So they survive, but development stops or slows. The school at the O really helped my girls keep moving forward, at least somewhat, but that is not the same as emotional development
. I think Princess was one of those kids in the O that cried alot."


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I wrote that last sentence because she still does. Everyday. Some of it is trauma. Truthfully, much of it is willfulness. I call it 'backwards spoiled'. She cries over not getting her way or getting what she wants, big and small. But it's not like she has experience with getting what she wants either. You could give her an endless reserve of time, attention and material goods, and she would find something 15 minutes later to be unhappy, whining, stomping feet about. (Trauma manifests itself so extremely differently that it's not difficult to discern the difference) I'm just going to say she spends plenty of time in the naughty chair. She can also turn on a dime and be the sweetest, most polite, loving and FUN kid you ever met. The challenge is addressing her willfulness as opposed to her abandonment issues effectively and simultaneously. Because I am feeling that this is where much of the negative behavior stems from.


That may sound rhetorical when discussing adopted children, but Little Miss Lady's abandonment issues are not nearly as severe. She told me weeks ago that Princess P cried in the O alot, but she told me the other day that she also cried alot as a baby at home. So anyway, we have some of that just about everyday, but things are improving as she realizes who is the boss...(not her)...and the rest of the time she is a joy to be around.


Don't mean to be painting a downer of a picture here. It's just the reality.


I love these girls like crazy, and that grows more and more everyday.



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Now, for news about my oldest son. He called me the other night and said he was "buying a plane ticket home to Georgia" in August. I thought he meant for a visit, but it became apparent he meant he was leaving the Bay Area. He loves San Francisco, but he can't afford it. He says he plans on staying home for a few weeks and then he and his girlfriend (she is from Atlanta) are going to travel around a bit and decide which big city they want to live in next. They are into the urban thing right now. He tends to change his mind alot, but I hope they stick to this plan and he at least comes home for awhile. I am estactic that his girlfriend is from Atlanta and also just finished her student teaching. She is apparently reaching him in ways that either me or his father could not,(which is normal too at his age) Finally he is considering going to school. I think he may actually be coming to terms with the reality that living with just a HS education is tough, especially when he has the option of doing life differently. I did want him to have some life experience since he decided not to go to school right away. I actually wanted him to get out of this local environment for at least a little while because even tho this a great area it can become a stagnant little fishbowl, and I have seen many a 40 year old man around these parts still playing the hipster (or the hippie) still dreaming about their rock-star future. Most of the rock stars around here (yes, we have some big ones) hit it long before 40 years old. There is nothing wrong with the dream. It's when a life gets wasted chasing unreality, I find that depressing. I did not want that to happen to him, and he was headed down that road, because that's his cool crowd around here. When he moved to the Bay Area, I became resigned to the fact that he might never come back and that was difficult. But being a native Californian, I completely understood. He is a native Californian too.


At any rate, I hope he sticks to his current plan. I'm ready for him to be 'home' (assuredly, he won't be living with me, but with his buddies and/or girlfriend) and his brother misses him too. His sisters are already in love with him and they've never met him. LOL

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Graduation


My niece is graduating HS in California this week and I am very proud of her. I wish I could be there and tell her I love her and wish her well, but I can't so I am doing it on this blog. She is very artistically talented and will continue her post secondary pursuing that, not quite sure where yet.
Where does the time go????

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

6 Weeks Home


One of these days soon I will post some progress updates. When I actually get time to write something!!!




I am teaching them how to bead, and they made their necklaces. (I centered the charm and attached the hardware) Now they don't want to do it by themselves anymore, they want me in on the fun! They are very mechanical, but I find their imaginations to be somewhat dormant in this respect. Initially they only wanted to use the same bead continuously (see the bracelet) but I'm showing them how to mix it up. Their play, however, like all kids, IS imaginative, so it's not like they are lacking, just under-developed in some areas. We are having fun with the beads, and working on it!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I'm Still Here!


I have not dropped off the face of the earth, although I do feel like I am in an alternate universe right now.

We opened it. Still tweaking it. I'd like to say I can't remember the last time I worked this hard and have been so totally exhausted, but actually, I can; that would be right before I went out on leave. That was long hours and mental exhaustion. This is shorter hours and mostly physical exhaustion. Such is the reality of the business I am in. It happens.



Happy IT people. Happy 'cause Blue Shirt Guy gets to go home to Raleigh today, and Red Shirt Lady almost has all this stuff right where she wants it. That menu board above is computerized and displayed on a giant flat screen TV. Pretty cool, huh? I have to say I'm extremely happy the way that everyone has worked together to get this whole thing going. It was definitely a departmental effort. It has also been very political, and I have not been really happy about much of that, but I'm asking for God's protection everyday and the ability to navigate these waters with grace. So far, so good.


Here is Hotei, famed Japanese Buddha, and mascot for one of the concepts. As you can the staff has been blessing him monetarily. We opened on Monday, and patrons have also been blessing the concept he is named after, so I'm happy about that in the midst of a slow summertime opening (the students don't even come back until Friday) AND a slow economy. The other 3 concepts are also doing very well.


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It's been another adjustment for the girls. They come from a culture that is slower and in many ways more socially genteel. Also, most people do not have structured jobs, so it is hard for them to understand our fast pace. Bless their hearts. I'm so freaking tired I'm not sure I understand it either. I'm ready for life to get back to normal, whatever that is!

daily scripture