Something Amazing

Something amazing is happening in my house at this very moment. My two youngest are playing together. Not one trying to play and the other enduring, but full blown play with giggles included. Honestly, I knew this would come eventually, but I was expecting in to be a few months away from really happening.

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Schooling from the Bottom Up

This week I decided to take a different approach to teaching Kylah. We’ve been moving forward working on fine and gross motor skills plus basic nursery school skills and facts. This week we plunged head first into a thematic unit on transportation. I knew she could identify many vehicles, but I wanted to move into the area of classification and sorting of those vehicles (and add a whole lot more). I wanted to give her more opportunities to make choices and find correct answers instead of being completely spoon fed.

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Language or Communication

Have you ever stopped to think how babies learn? Most of us don’t think about it. I’ve always loved watching my kids learn, but I never realized how much future learning, and especially communication, was based on human interaction in infancy.

We play with babies, talk to them, sing to them, and one day, they respond back to us. Early responses may be as simple as maintaining eye contact or following an object with their eyes. Then there are the giggles. Who doesn’t love this stage? You hold a toy above a child and make ridiculous sounds as you bring the toy ever closer. You do this over and over again and your sweet child begins to anticipate the action and… responds. Then comes the day when your child mimics you. You play peek-a-boo or patty cake. You sing songs with motions and… kids respond. Long before words are spoken, communication skills are inputed into your child’s brain.

What happens if a child never experiences (or has a chemical imbalance that doesn’t register) these loving, playful, important first steps in communication? They can still learn to talk. They can speak words, but they become severely handicapped in actual communication. They don’t know appropriate responses to questions, emotions, and outside stimuli. Often these kids are labeled as emotionally unstable and uncooperative. They are awkward in social settings. They grow up to be the adult that others label as unsociable, weird, or “just not right.”

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All Together

Rachel came home for spring break. Yay! We were able to work on wedding plans and she got to meet her newest sister, Kylah. It was a crazy, busy week and we didn’t get to do much together as a family. BUT…we were together for a short while and that was enough.

We took a few pictures together and laughed…a lot! May is coming too quickly and we won’t have too many more moments like this one. But turns in the road can lead to beauty, too.

Oldest to youngest…

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All Together

Rachel came home for spring break. Yay! We were able to work on wedding plans and she got to meet her newest sister, Kylah. It was a crazy, busy week and we didn’t get to do much together as a family. BUT…we were together for a short while and that was enough.

We took a few pictures together and laughed…a lot! May is coming too quickly and we won’t have too many more moments like this one. But turns in the road can lead to beauty, too.

Oldest to youngest…

Rachel, Torie, Charis, Alia, Hanissa, and Kylah

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Shortest to tallest…

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Oh, wait! Rachel is taller??

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Amazing what a pair of heels can do.

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My amazing girls!

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Hail, hail, the gangs all here!

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Tomorrow, Rachel will fly back to school. I’m thankful for this little moment we had together. Thankful for the beautiful family God has given me. Thankful that He is continually at work in each of our lives, individually and as a family.

I hope you take time today and just enjoy the family, the blessings God has given you.

~ Regina

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Two Months

Two months. 8 weeks. 60 days. 1,450 hours. It seems like such a short time, but for you…

You’ve started a new life complete with strange faces, strange language, strange food, and strange customs.

Two months ago we walked into the lobby of a hotel and saw you face to face for the first time. Your eyes told me that you were nervous and afraid, but you smiled anyway. We noticed you often wore a sad, sort of wondering look. We’d catch you staring at us when you thought we weren’t looking. Oh, the thoughts that must have flooded your mind.

Those first days, I wanted to you to understand that it was ok to be scared. It was ok to be confused. It was ok to cry and even get mad over all the new in your life. I wanted you to know that the pain and sadness would lessen in time. We couldn’t make you understand, so we held you. We read to you. We taught you songs. And little by little you began to respond. Continue reading

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Being Held

We started the week with a trip to the park. There is nothing quite like seeing the wonder of the world through a child’s eyes. For Kylah, everything is new. That makes everything either wonderful or terrifying. Thankfully the park fell into the wonderful category. The ducks and geese had her mesmerized. We’ve been reading books about ducks and geese and she was absolutely delighted to see them swimming in the lake.

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Being Held

We started the week with a trip to the park. There is nothing quite like seeing the wonder of the world through a child’s eyes. For Kylah, everything is new. That makes everything either wonderful or terrifying. Thankfully the park fell into the wonderful category. The ducks and geese had her mesmerized. We’ve been reading books about ducks and geese and she was absolutely delighted to see them swimming in the lake.

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Remember the girl who cried when she touched grass or trees? Now she is running around in the backyard with Hanissa. She is cautiously following me around as I prep the garden for spring, rake pine needles, and pick up pinecones. She will touch sticks or blades of grass if I hand it to her, but we are just happy that she enjoys being outside a bit more.

She has gone from blank stares during school to pointing out objects by name. Watching her trace lines and complete simple mazes makes me smile. She is beginning to prefer books over any other item in the house.

Two weeks ago, we couldn’t let her walk into another room alone. She’d get upset or destroy items because of her curiosity. Now, there isn’t panic when she leaves our side for a moment. And usually, when she disappears, she has taking herself to the bathroom. (Another huge accomplishment!)

This week we made a trip to the doctor. After I figured out that her appointment was listed under her Chinese name, we walked into a little room with the nurse. There’s something about a table and a stethoscope that seem to transcend language and cultural barriers. And this visit did not fall into the same category as the park. Yes, she was terrified. And, that poor nurse. I’m sure she is still nursing the bruises on her shins. Who knew that a blood pressure cuff could cause such agony. Though there were tears (and a few minutes of kicking and screaming), Kylah allowed me to comfort her. We spent much of the day snuggled up together looking at books and just being together.

When families bring young children into their homes via adoption, they are encouraged to carry their children close for long periods of time. Usually this is done with wraps and front packs. Until H got too heavy, this was one of the best tools in parenting toolbox to comfort or calm her when anxiety hit.

Kylah came home too big to carry for long periods. I still pick her up and hold her and carry her at times, but we’ve been trying to get to the point where being held by us is a comfort even when we are sitting. Its a work in progress.

Kids with an institutionalized background struggle with the need for a parent and don’t really understand the purpose of the people they call Mom and Dad. This is one of the reasons adoptive parents seem so overprotective of their kids those first few months and years home. It is hard to teach a 6 year old that two people are going to meet their needs. Two people are responsible to love, discipline, train, and help whenever it is needed when there have been so many who have carried out this role, often with no emotional connection at all. These kids have learned to fend for themselves via manipulation, crying, affection (withheld or freely offered), distancing themselves from feeling, from connecting, with anyone.

They can throw themselves into the arms of anyone, a stranger, a family friend, a sibling and be seem to have an instant bond with that person especially if it allows them to disconnect with their adoptive parents. It doesn’t make sense to us. But it is one of the most repeated scenarios in adoptive homes. They feel a strong need to be in control. And while being a part of a family fills a void, it also makes them feel vulnerable. They expect the adults in their life to abandon them, to neglect them, and maybe even to abuse them. By keeping themselves distant, they protect themselves from harm…or so they think.

The more frequently another person meets my daughter’s needs the more likely she is to not turn to me when she has a need. So yes, we are protective of her. It is hard when her sisters or our friends just want to help. Our priority is teaching K about family right now. And we rejoice over even the smallest amount of time she seeks comfort or help from us.

I am amazed at the lessons I learn daily from adoption. How many times have I rejected my Heavenly Father and thrown myself in the direction of other people (or projects) because they give me the illusion of control for a short time? How often has my Father let me experience something frightening or painful so that I can learn that He is the One who will meet my needs? How often has my fear been replaced with faith because I call out to Him, desperate, after trying to live life on my own terms? And all the while, He is there trying to teach me what it means to be loved by Him, to be His child, to know Him as Father. I am still learning to be held by God when everything around me is crashing in. I am learning to trust Him more.

As I look back over the last week, there were many learning moments that thrilled me. But, the trip to the doctor, may have been the biggest leap forward we’ve taken since arriving home. I am thankful for the moments my girl spent this week just being held. I look forward to moments when trust is stronger than her fear as she begins to understand what it means to be family.

~ Regina

A few pictures from this past week.

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How Is It Going?

People ask, “How are things going?”

My mind whirls around the events of the past few days. Should I mention the day that I sat for four hours holding a crying child because a puzzle piece didn’t fit correctly into place on the first attempt and therefore everything else in life was out of whack? Should I mention the dozens of English words my daughter can now identify by sight and sound? Are they really interested in the screaming bout (higher and louder than anything we’ve heard so far) that arose because uneaten, unwanted food was removed from her line of sight?

Maybe they’d like to know how Kylah finally played with Hanissa (even if it required a lot of parental prodding) and not just endured her presence. Does anyone want to know the elated feeling we have because she is taking herself to the bathroom? Then there are the meals where she is trying to chew without being prompted. Should I mention the silent tears that come with bed time? Or maybe the tantrum that often follows the word no. I should probably mention the number of times she’s crawled up into my lap with a book and wanted me to read to her.

Are they interested in the activities my other kids miss out on because out of the blue she is needy, teary, and clingy and the mama bus has no choice but to shut down for a few hours? Or, maybe they want to know the times we’ve had to run a few errands and K has decided that the noise and crowds are more than she can handle. But then, there are those moments when we tell her not to scream and she says, “No, no!” to herself while covering her mouth. I should definitely tell them about how she folds her hands to pray before meals and during family prayer time. And, I can’t forget the morning snuggles and the kisses she’s starting doling out to us.

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The Orphanage

If the word orphanage conjures up images of a Charles Dickens novel, you would be shocked at the sight of the place K spent the last 5 years. Four stories. A huge indoor playground with skylights so natural light can get in. It feels spacious. A whole floor just for the boys, another floor for the girls. And then the top floor for those with special needs. Regardless of the “niceness” of a building, it is still a place that houses children that need be in a home with a family.

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