Home Sweet Home

My homecoming went EXACTLY as I envisioned it would!  I got off the plane, came around the corner and spotted Travis and the girls.  Madeline came the quickest, kind of walking/running up to me; Emma walked towards me watching my face to see if I was excited to see her; and miss Garmai didn’t want to look at me or hug me, and walked holding Travis’ hand.  I told the girls how excited I was to see them and told Garmai that she could take her time and let me know when she felt ready for a hug.

Once in the car I thought I would break some of the tension for Garmai, so I took out the girls’ necklaces that I bought in Annapolis and asked Garmai first if she wanted hers.  She said yes, and about 3-4 minutes later she was hugging my arm all the way till we got home.

All of the girls found ways to get their anger out that first night for me being gone.  Its interesting seeing how badly they need to protect their hearts from abandonment and grief.  They are constantly looking for some way to regain control when they are feeling fearful or vulnerable, and outward anger is typically what they resort to…except Garmai, who typically withdraws in her anger.  Fear runs so much of their lives, and understandably so, but one of Travis and I’s current goals is to help the girls learn to problem solve when faced with the option to “fight or flight”, so they don’t have to rely on their current tactics.

One of the things I did on my trip was read most of “Attachment in Adoption.”  For those of you who have adopted…this needs to be required reading.  Its phenomenal!  I went through and highlighted, flagged, and wrote the girls’ names beside the info that applied to them.  It gave me SO MUCH understanding of the girls, their experiences, their reactions/behavior, and our responses.  And it gives very practical advice and ideas as to how to respond to them.  I think this book is by far the best book and most applicable book I have read regarding adoption.  So so good!  AND, it outlines almost every mistake we have made and tells us why we did it and why we change.  The book is validating as to the challenges that parents face who have adopted traumatized kids…and in our case, adopting a whole sibling group, which has its own unique challenges.  So, read the book or suggest it to someone you know who has adopted and might benefit from it!

Well, I’m off to do a little more laundry.  Its midnight and Travis just left about 30 minutes ago to go buy a new battery to put into our truck that is currently sitting at a gas station 5-6 blocks away, dead as a doorknob!  Hopefully he is not out all night long!  I told him that if someone tries to hurt him (the area gets a lot of late night foot traffic…not the safest spot in town), to scream like a girl and run! 🙂 

Halloween is only 2 days away…can’t wait to see all the kids in their costumes! 🙂

I’m Headed Home

A few more of my favorite pics from the trip! Rebekah is doing such a good job with James, especially with the added stress of working full time, but I’m super proud of what a good mother she is! And, he is such an enjoyable little guy! You can see from his eyes and his smiles that he knows his mommy and daddy love him! Good job Rebekah! 🙂

I get one more day to sleep in and then I’m off to the land of corn! And I could not be more excited! This was the perfect length trip…long enough to feel like I got some good time to relax with the Latchis family…but not too long to where I am dying from not seeing my family. I sang to Madeline tonight while she was laying in bed crying and when she heard me singing she started wailing even harder. The girls have done so good with daddy while I’ve been gone. They’ve had LOTS of activity and spending time with extended family, and Grandpa Thompson has even bunked at our house because his place got flooded. But I know they are all ready to have me home again. I’m expecting my reintroduction to have some bumps along the way as they readjust and open themselves back up to mama, but I can’t wait to rub their backs and sing them to sleep tomorrow night!

This trip was just what the doctor ordered. I think I’ve been edging up on burnout for a while now. I was telling Rebekah and Mark today that I haven’t been away from the girls for more than a day in the 2 1/2 years we’ve been parents. And its nice to get away from the stresses of daily life as mom. But it also feels good to want to go back because I miss them all so much. I’m glad its not just relief I feel being gone! I think having time away is good because it makes you realize all over again how grateful you are for the people in your life, no matter what challenges and stresses come along with that.

A few pics from the trip!

Some pics from the trip! We had a quiet day today again because it was pouring down rain…not the best day to sight see! We did have a big shopping trip to Target! I’m so enjoying spending time here (the chance to spend time with Rebekah and family will not come around too often!), but its killin’ me to hear my family’s voices over the phone and not get to see or hug them! 

The pics of James in the lumberjack hat…umm…that was a hat I bought him that I thought was super adorable! I put it on him while mommy was in the shower and did a little photo shoot! The slippers are from me too! Both Rebekah and Mark came in and just died laughing at how adorable he looked! So, I take full responsibility for any and all “oooh’s and awwww’s.” You can’t tell from these pics, but the underside of the bill of the hat is red plaid…just like a good ole flannel shirt! 🙂

Enjoy!

Goodbyes and meltdowns

Goodbyes are always so difficult for the girls…for obvious reasons…but especially so for Garmai.  She is normally grouchy and withdrawn to Grandma before Grandma leaves to go somewhere, and not always real receptive to her being back.  All the girls have to adjust to family and friends coming to town and then readjust to them being gone.  Any kind of transition or change upsets the norm and for kids who’ve had so much change…its hard.

This time, Garmai didn’t want to look at me when I dropped her off at school.  She let me hug her goodbye and then kept turning around as I walked away.  She got through school okay, but when Travis went to pick her up, the meltdown began.  She sobbed all the way home, hid in Travis and I’s bedroom closet sobbing more, Travis coaxed her out of the closet, put one of my t-shirts on her, let her jump into our bed to watch a movie, and she soon fell asleep.  I was actually quite surprised that when I called later from the airport in Minneapolis she was willing to get on the phone.  Normally when Grandma is out of town she doesn’t want to get on the telephone for anything.  She’d just rather pretend she doesn’t care that Grandma’s gone!  Or its just a little way of getting her anger out for her being gone.

I saw Travis and the kiddos on skype tonight and it is so good to see their faces!  The girls each jumped in front of the camera for about 10 seconds, Garmai for the longest, and said their hello, but they were anxious to get laid back down to start their movie! Daddy’s letting them do a late slumber party tonight! Lucky them!

Madeline was so cute when they dropped me off at the airport.  She was the only one able to come because she isn’t in school.  When I was getting ready to walk through the security, she gave me a big hug, a kiss on the cheek, and said, “We will miss you mama!”  Then as I walked away she said, “Mama, don’t go too far!”  🙂  It reminded me of a time not too long ago when I had to spank her, and right before I spanked her she said, “Mama, can you do a gentle spanking?”  I guess every question is worth asking! 🙂

Emma seems to be doing great!  She complained the most about me leaving before I left, but once I explained that I would be gone the weekend and then be back Monday, she calmed right down.  I love my girls and I miss them a lot!

Well, I’m pretty exhausted!  We had a big day today so I’m pretty worn out!  I slept till 12:30pm, when Rebekah came home from work, then laid around with James and Rebekah, watched a movie, laid around more, left the house briefly to go to the grocery store, and amazingly…I’m dying to go back to sleep!  I did manage to squeeze a shower in between the laying around and grocery trip, which I’m quite proud of!  I think when I don’t have as much responsibility my body kind of poops out and I realize how tired I am and have been!  Tomorrow we are either gonna go to Annapolis or Baltimore, and enjoy getting out of the house, but I’m really quite happy to veg too!  Being able to veg without little ones saying, “mama” is not something I get super often.

Just some fun pics we took a few days ago!  As you can see, Madeline’s current favorite outfit is her panties and a tail…its hard to keep clothes on that girl!  Tonight Garmai dressed Madeline up “warm” for a walk down the street and her little getup included daisy duke shorts, tall black boots with heels, a t-shirt and sweatshirt over the top with the hood up, with a tail hanging out the back!  Seeing her try to run down the street in those little go-go boots and short shorts was hysterical!

Our Total Transformation

Last night all our girls went over to Bridgito’s house, as they like to call her.  It was a slumber party, with the agenda including sewing, hot tubbing, movies, and of course, food! 

So, Travis and I had the house to ourselves…and we went to bed the earliest we have all week!  PAR…TY…ANIMALS!  I told Travis that there is little else as exciting these days as getting to wake up when I feel ready to get out of bed!  Bridget is a Godsend…she is a good friend and she loves our kids…quite the blessing!

One thing that Travis and I did last night was begin a parenting series called The Total Transformation.  http://www.thetotaltransformation.com/  This program was created by a man named James Lehman, who was abandoned at age 2, adopted, had severe behavioral problems throughout childhood, ended up quitting school, living on the streets and getting addicted to heroine.  He served 6-7 years in various jails and prisons, and then was ordered to participate in an accountability focussed program, which he attributes his turnaround to.  He went on to get a master’s degree and now counsels families and kids who struggle with different behavioral problems, and helps the parents institute new techniques in dealing with these struggles.  We watched the jump start DVD last night and did the pre-evaluation, and this program looks perfectly tailored to deal with the struggles our girls face.  So, Travis and I are excited about learning and getting “our” total transformation.

When Travis and I think about our journey into parenthood, its amazing that with my counseling background, and his experience working with youth, how totally unprepared we were to helpfully respond to our children.  Our girls had very honed systems in tact designed to protect themselves and achieve the outcomes they wanted.  They entered our home ready to “survive” another life change and new environment, and survive meant doing whatever was necessary to keep them from hurt, danger…or vulnerability.  And we were just learning how to set boundries for a child for the first time.  They had much more experience being a kid in survival mode than we had being parents of hurt kids, so we were at an immediate disadvantage.  Now that’s not to say we haven’t done a lot of things right along the way, because we have, and all of our previous experiences haven’t been for nothing (they’ve helped a great deal), but it continues to take a lot of time to get to know each of our children, learn what it looks like to parent them well, different from any other child, and then implement it all in good ways.  Every child is so different whether adopted or bio, diagnosis or no diagnosis…its always a learning experience.  But one thing he emphasizes is the importance of parenting the child you “have” instead of the child you “want them to be.”  

Emma told us the other day that she was in different homes all the time, adjusting to new surroundings constantly, and in each home that she moved to she was unsafe and abused, which is the norm in Liberia.  And, she was raised primarily by females, so there was little to no positive experiences with men, whatsoever.  But, she knew how to function in that type of environment.  She didn’t know how to function in a supportive and loving environment.  Emma deeply desires to connect with and attach to us (and trust us), as do all the girls, but they are conflicted inside (and fearful) and so they sabotage or try to control things to keep themselves from getting hurt again.  And as siblings who are constantly watching out for one another, they are consistently communicating to one another and reinforcing the sabotaging/controlling behaviors.  None of them truly want to stay self-protected, but it makes sense to them given their past experience with trauma and abandonment…it seems foolish to them to take the risk.  So, it is our goal to adopt a more helpful style of parenting, tailored to our children, that will enable them to learn better behaviors, relate more effectively, and ultimately feel more safe.

One of the things that he says about kids with behavioral difficulties is that they lack problem solving abilities to deal with the situations they are presented with.  So, a child who experiences a lot of anxiety in a certain situation and doesn’t know how to problem solve their way out of/through the anxiety, they will rely on the maladaptive behaviors to get through it.  So, they might start jumping all over the furniture to get their anxiety out, they might cause a disruption in order to change the focus from what is anxiety producing to something they feel more competent to deal with, or they might turn that anxiety into agression so they can feel a sense of control or power in a situation they feel powerless in.  Doesn’t that make sense?  A parent’s role is to help the child problem solve the initial anxiety producing situation (and draw boundaries for the inappropriate behaviors) so that they can choose more appropriate behaviors in the future when faced with similar circumstances, and grow in self-esteem and confidence about themselves and their abilities…as well as experience more fulfilling relationships.  And he said with abused children or children who have cognitive or emotional disabilities (ADHD, Bipolar, PTSD, etc.), they are at an even greater disadvantage when it comes to problem solving skills and are in greater need of problem solving abilities because they are going to face more challenges.  And abused kids are going to struggle with more faulty thinking, which will generate more unhealthy actions to compensate.  And although their struggles are unique depending on the disability or background, the same rules of engagement and behavior (in society) apply to them!  So, this is for everyone.  But we are just at the beginning and have a great deal to learn!

It feels good to hear someone talk about specific struggles your child is having and we are looking forward to learning more and becoming the kind of parents our children need us to be!  I think they will be grateful as well!