Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Little Panda

Life was so busy in the spring that I didn't post any pictures of the birthday boy.  So, here is our little Panda last month, wearing his favorite new shirts.  Mr. B. thought it would be funny to help John look like the pandas on his shirts, which led to several photo sessions.  Little Panda didn't mind posing.  It is hard to believe that he is 6 years old.

Adoption articles

This week I have found two insightful articles about international adoption.  First, a blog post about China not wanting to send healthy children or children with minor special needs out of the country anymore.  I am not sure why some people have reacted angrily to the idea that international adoption is shutting down.  I personally think it is only a matter of time.  The numbers have been in steep decline for years, for various reasons.  I know that my two children who were born in China have lost many things--they will never be fully part of the culture of their birth, and they have lost their native language.  It would have been better for them if they could have been adopted locally, but for them, at this time, that was not an option.  They are in a family that loves them, they are getting the medical care they needed and the best education that we can provide, but I hope I will be sensitive if they express a sense of loss.  My little John had such a happy life in China that he still grieves, and he usually shuts down completely when anything reminds him of his former home.   There is really no need for healthy infants or toddlers to be internationally adopted.  I hope for a day when children with medical needs like spina bifida can grow up in their birth families and not have to be transplanted to another country.   There will always be a way for God's people to live out the gospel and care for others.  Adoption is only one way, and should not be the focus of all efforts.

The other issue that I keep coming back to is the reasons for the strong preference for girls among adoptive families.  I have heard that 90 percent of people adopting internationally will only consider a girl.  This blogger writes honestly about what some of the reasons are. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Birthday Girl

On December 21st, we celebrated our little Therese's 6th birthday.  It is hard to believe that she is celebrating her second birthday with us. She almost looks like a different child than she did at this time last year.  She has grown a lot, but she has also matured and the variety of life experiences and school have made her seem much older and more sophisticated.  She is getting very opinionated about her hair and clothes, and loves to style her Polly Pocket doll's hair and pick out outfits for them.  We were so happy that she was out of the hospital to celebrate at home where she belongs.   The kids greeted her like a hero when she got home on the 20th.  They really missed her silly antics, and the house was very quiet without her. 

It has been interesting to watch her grow into family life.  It does take a long time for a child to understand what it means to be part of a family.  The two girls didn't get along very well for about the first 6 months, and then suddenly Therese started realizing that her new big sister just wants to help her, and that being the little sister has a lot of perks.  They play for hours with the dollhouse, chattering away.  Therese usually does all the hair, and she and Catherine spend a lot of time discussing all the options.  I think she is really starting to understand what it means to have a mommy.  Over the past few months, she has thrown her arms around my neck and squeezed as hard as she can, saying "Mommy, I want to KEEP you!"  She will ask me if I love her and wait with a grin to hear my answer, "Of course I do, I went all the way to China to get you!"  One day she looked up at me adoringly, and said, "I wish I had a big nose like you!"  It just warms my heart.  She can be a challenge sometimes, as she tests her boundaries, but you can see the security that has grown in her as she realizes she belongs.

Her recent surgery made the bond she feels with her family very clear.  All her siblings came to visit her a couple of times, and she perked right up when she was surrounded by the noisy throng.  One evening we were all there, as well as Aunt Hannah and cousins Emily and baby Daniel.  Therese loved it so much, and luckily we didn't cause so much of a disruption that we were asked to leave.  (I did consider that as a good tactic if they didn't get the discharge paperwork ready fast enough on the day she was coming home.  Maybe a speed demon in a pink wheelchair loose in the hallways and her 5 siblings would motivate them to hurry up and get us home!)  After they all played in the hospital playroom for awhile, I had to take the other kids home to get them ready for bed.  Therese started crying, really sad and forlorn sobs, so unlike her normally tough little self.  She wanted to be with all of us, and especially Mommy.  When she went in for a follow-up yesterday, she started to cry and said, "Mommy, I want you take me to hospibal!"  So of course I did, and two siblings went along to entertain her as well.

Here is a picture of Therese in her new wheelchair.  Even with the DAFOs and twister straps she really can't get around for long distances.  She doesn't use it much in the house, but when we go places it lets her move around on her own instead of being stuck in a stroller.   This is a rare picture when she is stationary in it--she likes to go as fast as possible.  I could see her racing in the future since she is fearless and loves speed.  The front wheels light up when they roll, so it is funny to see her outside when it is dark, with lights flashing from her wheels.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cute kid pictures

We have had a very busy time finishing up the first half of the school year, and this week Therese had the ACE procedure.  She went into the hospital on Tuesday, and had the surgery on Wednesday. She did so well that they let her come home yesterday, even though we were told the post-op stay would be 3-5 days at the minimum, longer if there were complications.  In addition to the surgery, the kids have been passing around a nasty flu this week.  I hope everyone gets well in time for Christmas, and that I have the energy to decorate the tree once I get caught up on all the extra laundry these illnesses have been creating.

Friday, December 6, 2013

This is what kind of thing goes on around here....

One recent morning I found this floating in the kid's toilet.  So much for the school's efforts.  Not that my kindergarten kids have been bullying or using drugs, and of course they can't even read this yet, but it was pretty funny.  I really will post some cute pictures of kids instead of toilets soon. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thoughts after a year

In some ways it is hard to believe it has been a year since we added two children to our family, yet in others this has been a very long year.  We have spent a tremendous amount of time in doctor's offices and advocating for our new kids, and a lot of time just trying to figure out where they were and what we needed to do for them.  Adopting two children with complex medical issues with virtually no medical history or records makes those first medical appointments very interesting.  The most difficult issue is really the emotional--both the bonding as a family and the new kids adjusting to their new lives.

We made the decision in the summer to put the children in school.  There were times that I truly loved homeschooling, but this past year of constantly running to medical appointments as well as having more children of school age made homeschooling just too much for one person.  I am personally very opposed to unschooling, and there were not enough hours in the day for me to help 6 kids who cannot really work on their own much yet.  The three older children started this fall at a classical school.  I have been an advocate of classical schooling for some time and was attempting to follow The Latin-Centered Curriculum as a homeschooler, so that was an easy choice in schools.  John and Therese started Kindergarten at our local public school.  They are able to get physical and occupational therapy there every week, and they have the staff to help with the medical needs.  The logistics of packing 5 lunches and dealing with two separate schools requires a lot of careful scheduling but it has been very good for the kids.

Therese has changed tremendously in a year.  She has a very happy, silly, and spunky personality.  Her English pronunciation has gotten much better.  We really had no way to assess her verbal skills in Chinese but she was delayed at least to some extent, and she had a lot of trouble speaking clearly in English.  She is learning how to live in a family, but sometimes you still see that instinct for self-preservation that she used to survive in the orphanage.  She can be a bit of a troublemaker and tries to work the system wherever she is.  Usually the most annoying thing she does is talk.  I have never been around a child who was such a motor mouth.  I have to tell her to stop talking or she will never finish her food.  Her adjustment to her new sister was hard at first.  Catherine was ready to welcome her with open arms, but as a younger sister.  Therese was used to seeing other kids as competition and they locked horns constantly.  Catherine is a very tender and emotional person and didn't know how to relate to a little girl with such a tough shell.  Thankfully, they have become very close and spend a lot of time playing dolls together.  Therese especially loves dolls that she can do hairstyles for.  She LOVES to do hair, and she is obsessed with washing her own hair.  She would wash it until it fell off, if I let her. 

The biggest physical difference for Therese, of course, is walking.  After her clubbed feet were corrected, she got AFOs and was learning to walk, but after the first few months she was actually getting worse, not better.  She operated by crashing in between furniture or grabbing onto adult's legs, and she fell constantly.  It was very frustrating. I felt she needed physical therapy and pushed until we got a referral.  Since she started PT, we have gotten her fitted with DAFOs, made by Cascade.  I would do commercials for those things.  They are so much better than the AFOs she had.  Just the fact that they had some air vents at the heel was enough to sell me on them, after dealing with the horrible pressure sore she got in the spring.  The air vents combined with the extra strap at the ankle to reduce slipping have made her feet healthier.  We also got her fitted for twister straps, basically a wide nylon webbing belt, with straps that wrap around her legs and hook onto the toe of her DAFOs.  They fit under jeans and inside her shoes, so no one can really see them.  As we were working on helping her walk better we figured out that she just couldn't keep her toes pointed to the front, due to the muscle imbalances from the neurological damage.  She was walking by almost dragging her lower legs, with her weaker knee cranked in at a horrible angle that stretched out her ligaments.  The physical therapist told me that the way she was walking would destroy her knee joint in a few years.  I knew she looked horrible when she walked but I needed someone who would listen to me, watch her walk, and figure out how to solve it.  I love the physical therapist we found!  The twister straps have revolutionized her walking, and cut her falls drastically.  

I think I was very prepared for her medical needs, but deep down I really did hope that when we got her feet straightened she would be walking.  We had no idea of how much more difficult walking would be for her.  She has a significant scoliosis and her weaker leg is nearly an inch shorter than the other, which makes walking even more difficult.  Even with the PT and all her equipment, I don't know how growing will affect her abilities.  We are in the process of getting her a custom wheelchair, since she really cannot do long hallways or distances.  I will admit that the process of fitting her for a wheelchair has saddened me.  I really didn't want her to need it.  She, on the other hand, loved trying out the demo wheelchair and was whirling in circles like a waterbug and deliberately jousting with walls.  Luckily the pricey wheelchair was still in one piece when we had to return it, but little turkey had a black eye.  She was mad we were sending it back, but I pointed out that she wanted a pink one, so after that she relinquished it cheerfully.

When you take a young child from everything they have ever known, you can imagine it is difficult for them, but until we lived through this past year with John we had never seen what it was like.  The grieving has been very intense, and in most ways it has not improved a whole lot over the year.  He doesn't have the daredevil personality like Therese, plus he had about the best life an orphan in China could have, living at Eagle's Wings.  He was too young to know that the best future was in a family, and how much he needed the medical care he can get here.  His anxiety adds to his fixation on food.  In the month after he got home he gained a pound every week.  I hesitated to restrict his eating too much in the early phases as we were bonding, especially since we eat a very different diet and he wasn't eating junk food.  Then when it became two pounds in one week, we had to put him on a diet.  Over a year, he lost 10 pounds, and it has made him so much more mobile.  He can climb up the playground equipment on every side now, and he can walk to the park and back home again without puffing and panting.  Food is still a major issue for us and we are going to seek further medical help to sort out the emotional and physical causes of his desire to constantly eat everything in sight.  

In other ways, John is doing very well.  His English is fluent and his pronunciation is very good.  He is doing much better academically than his classmate sister, which I think shows how important programs like the one at Eagles' Wings are in giving kids a good start in life.  He is very intimidated by trying to interact and play with the more rambunctious boys, but he has made friends in his class and is learning how to deal with having three brothers, not to mention two bossy sisters.  He is getting better at pitching in at cleanup time.  It was apparent even before he could speak English that picking up toys was not one of his favorite activities.  It has been funny to watch him develop his new hobby of coloring.  I got him a coloring book when he had surgery early in the year, and since he didn't feel like playing he sat down and dutifully started working through the book like it was an assignment.  He would carefully color in the picture on a page, for example, of a bear, using one color, then using the same color he would carefully color the entire page.  I found this very amusing since to my logical adult mind it would have been easier to just color the whole page in the beginning.  Over the months, he has gotten into color and will spend a long time on each picture in his newest coloring book, making every detail a different color.  If they grade on coloring in Kindergarten, I think he will get a very good one!  

So there it is, the long-postponed update I have meant to write for nearly two months.  Mommy has to get up at 5 AM on school days to get everyone ready on time, so I do need naps, but we are doing well.  Now we just need to figure out how to get the laundry folded more often, and keep the house cleaner.  The clutter with 6 kids is unbelievable.  Tripping on toys all the time is making it hard for me to get enthusiastic about Christmas lists.  I suppose it wouldn't be very joyful if I gave each kid their own mops and scrub buckets, so I will probably allow gifts again this year, but smuggle out some of the old stuff when they aren't looking.  Auf Wiedersehen!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Food as a priority

I know this poor blog is sadly neglected--I have so much to write but things have been so busy that I am finding it hard to get more than 5 hours of sleep on a consistent basis, let alone finding time to blog.  My kids think that the most important thing I do is provide food at least 10 times per day.  So just to prove that I do cook, here is a picture of a tasty dish I astonished my family with in the recent past.    Can anyone guess what these are?

I am thinking about changing the name of this blog, because the laundry mountain theme is becoming less of a joke every day, as it grows to frightening proportions.  So if you don't ever hear from me again, it is probably because I got buried under a landslide.