Friday, May 7, 2010

Homestudy visit-- the first one

Ahh, today I can breathe.  It still surprises me that no matter how many times we have visits w/ social workers, I still get nervous.  I guess I  should go back to our very first homestudy visit over 11 years ago.  I remember sitting in the living room thinking that it must be a 110 degrees in the house.  Hands clamy, heart practically beating outside my chest, and every other nervous habit you can think of.  An interrogation to the 10th degree.  I mean think about it, this is the person that is going to determine if you are fit to be a parent.  A person that can change your life forever.  Nobody is perfect but would they point out those imperfections on the report?  I remember on the first visit ever that every time that pen wrote something on that notebook, I thought I would fall over.  Nerves were getting to me.  Would the dog behave, would I look okay, is the home clean.  These are all questions that run through your mind during that first visit.

Fast forward to yesterday when I greet my social worker w/ a load of laundry in hand.  I didn't stress about what to wear.  Mostly didn't stress b/c I was too busy making more banana nut bread for all the teachers.  LOL.  And when you've had 4 homestudy visits previously and 28 post placement reports done, you tend to get more relaxed each time about the little things.  Still, even yesterday my mouth was dry wondering if I said something I shouldn't have.  Would she care if my kids got grounded?  Would she care if Alyona's area was still (and yes, it is STILL a mess...remember, the battle?) a mess?  And I'm sure there was a half eaten apple on the table in the dining room.  --noticed that one later.  No, I don't think that stuff really does matter as that is all part of life.  A normal life.  A little chaotic life at times, but indeed, a normal life.  She was here for about 4 hours/ 45 minutes.  She will becoming back to interview Warren and the kids as well.  When is she coming back?  Well, of course at a time that she will see the Boyd Bunch in true action.  I can't guarantee what will happen that day.  Why?  Because it is the day before our big mountain trip.  We'll be packing and getting ready.  Checking and double checking.  All while trying to be calm.  "No, you pack the dinosaur."  Yes, you have to take underwear."  And I'm sure she'll hear all kinds of phrases she'd never thought she'd hear.  LOL.  Does Nik have all his gear.  Yes, you have to brush your teeth while there.  No, you can't bring your running leg.  You know, the normal stuff hopefully.  These are just some of the things that were said last year while packing and some that I think will be said this year as well.  I'm hoping she'll see them work as a team and not get into a tiff over who gets what duffle bag.  Typically, they all just use their backpacks for  a trip.  But since we'll need so many changes of clothes due to weather and activities, we take the bigger bags.  Anyway, I'm hoping she'll really and truly see how this family functions together.  How even though none of us are biologically related, we all do things together as if we'd been family all along.  I am one of those adoptive parents who doesn't really keep track of gotcha day.  For me, it just feels as though they've always been here.  Really does.  Every child we've brought home has fit in very well w/ this family.  Every single one was meant to be here.  I truly believe that.  Same with the next 3 coming home.  I know in my heart they belong here.

Visit went well yesterday I think.  I hope.  She is easy to talk to.  Lots of questions have to be answered just due to our situation here.  And I'm glad they're asked and the social worker is doing her job.  I think this is a crucial point in every single adoption.  Here is my opinion for a homestudy visit.  I really think a social worker should just drop by around dinner time one day. That is when you really get to see families be themselves.  I know some people think big families must have a chaotic dinner.  Sometimes, but not really.  Usually, it is rather organized.  We may do things a little differently here but it gets done.  The blessing... we sing it.  Other kids spending the night think it is interesting.  We do that so that Nik can hear it.  It's so cute when he tries to sing along.  Sometimes the converstaions get ridiculous.  Sometimes, they have to be redirected.  What I'm getting at is this is life.  For those new to homestudies, don't stress it.  Life happens.  I think if I were a social worker and went into a home where everything just seemed too perfect, I'd be worried.  Normal things happen here as they do in every single house.  Kids forget to tell me they have a project due.  Boys are trying to determine who's toothbrush is who's(this was Bojana nd Alex this morning) b/c the dentist gave them the same one.  Irina wants someone to spend the night.  The list goes on of daily happenings.  Main thing is, how do you handle those things when they arise and how would you handle more children coming to your home.  I'm guessing this is what social workers want to know.  So, I survived our first visit.  Our next one is next week.  All of them home.  Life happening.  Maybe a video tape would be in order.  LOL.  They'll do fine I'msure.  Kids will be kids.  I remember doing crazy things as kids as well. 

It is becoming more reality that we are doing this again.  Some have asked why we didn't start earlier on the homestudy.  Easy answer.  Money.  We had to wait till we had received our tax money back.  HOld up was our state was auditing big families.  We had to prove we existed and the kids too.  Lots of paperwork for that.  Once it was done it took awhile to get the refund back.  But, we did and then started right away.  I wished we could have done this a few months ago but also know to be patient, that the kids will come home.  We have talked about downloading the I-800A and filling it out so it is ready to go once the homestudy is approved(keeping fingers crossed here!).  Once that is back, the dossier is submitted and told it goes fairly quickly from there.  I'm ready to go.  I really am.  We feel so ready to complete our family forever and start doing some more things with them all.  Can you believe next year at this time we won't be discusssing travelling to Bulgaria, but instead discussing what we're going to see when we travel cross country w/ all 10 kids.  Yikes!  They asked me at the school today what grades I think the new kids will be in next year.  I think they're ready too.  LOL.  So, as you can imagine, we're ready to do what we need to to get the homestudy done.  Some more reference letters need to be received yet.  That should all happen very soon.  Social worker is checking on a few things as well.  We want to make sure all this is to the letter.  You know as well as I do countries can easily reject these for one missing piece of paper.  So, today I'm going over some paperwork and making sure we have what we need.  SO excited and we haven't really done anything yet.  But know right now, we are getting ready to do quite a bit here and enjoy every step for we know it is our last adoption.  We are so ready to complete our family.  Warren has kindly reminded me that we have said this is our LAST adoption for every single adoption before this one.  LOL.  Yes, we have said that for every single one.  Even the first one! 

Now, I'm going to go have lunch w/ my son Nik.  Why?  Because it is life and life happens here.  Enjoy your day. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Homestudy today

Yep, our homestudy visit(well, the first one anyhow) is today.  11 am.  Yikes!  Done this so many times before & yet still nervous.  House is not the way I want it but after our episode w/ Alyona last night, I just gave up.  It is what it is.  All the kids were responsible for cleaning up their rooms/ area.  Alyona refused.  She is now in "prison camp."  She is NOT liking it even this morning.  Good.  That is the whole point of prison camp.  All the other kids warned her.  "You're going to end up in prison camp!"  "Better do what you're asked.  You're not going to like it.  It's no fun.  You'll miss out this weekend."  And the list goes on.  Yet, our stubborn one refused, back talked and the list went on.  Someone so sweet & innocent can turn in a heartbeat.  Main thing is here is that you have to remain calm and muddle through it.  You kind of become this statue and just do.  Don't think about what they're saying as they're trying to escalate things.  They want to see you get mad.  We won't.  That would be caving into them.  You can't do that w/ an FAS child.  This took us years and years and years to learn.  The yelling w/ them will only escalate things and so the statue thing kind of works for us.  being silent.  Anyhow, she still has her area to do.  So now I have to explain all this today to our social worker.  Looks like a twister hit her area.  But, I can't pick it up or it would defeat the purpose.  Hopefully, she will understand this is all part of her punishment process and not us being lazy.  This is actually Alyona's first time ever in prison camp.  I'm hoping it will be her last time.  We'll see. 

Anyhow, the rest of the house isn't too bad I don't think.  It has a lived in feel.  LOL.  We are definitely not a show place but do like our home.  Now, it was also teacher appreciation week.  I managed to get all of Alex, Bojan and Alyona's teachers taken care of w/ homemade cookies and banana nut bread at midnight last night.  Went to make more this morning and my OCD daughter struck again.  URGHH!!  It's driving us absolutely bonkers.  I know some of you think it is cool to have someone always cleaning but trust me, it's not.  She has gone ov3erboard.  Taking stuff away as we're cooking.  Craziness.  We're working on a solution but if any of you out there have ideas, do let us know.  I'm better than yesterday. Don't know what boy did it but a snake (rubber) ended up in the washing machine.  I was NOT amused.  I moved on though.  I will seek revenge one day.  LOL.  Of course, my boys love critters and all kinds of garbage.  Hard to scare them.  Got to finish getting ready for this visit.  HOpe everyone has a great day.  I am not watching the kids today so I have a day off.  Going to use it wisely.  ow, that the homestudy is underway, it is time to high tail it on that dossier paperwork.  Ahh, and so the adoption paperwork chase begins.  BTW, we received our SBI fingerprints yesterday.  One step closer.  We've proven twice now that we're not criminals.  LOL.  Now, today is to prove that we are good parents.  So glad my grounded one isn't home.  Her view of me is not too nice right now.  Again, I'm dreading the teen years w/ this one.  I'll let you all know how the visit goes.  Oh, and tell of some previous visits.  Always fun.

What a weekend!-- part II

I left off at snow cones I think.  We continued on w/ the company picnic.  More like a carnival for sure.  Love it.  We try to go every year.  On with the happenings. 

They have many inflatables there.  First pic is Alyona coming down. Second is Nik going up.  It is only AFTER he went down that we realized he hadn't taken off his implant.  The static electricity can fry an implant and keep it from working.  Didn't happen this time but we do try to take it off of him.  Bojan went up too.  Alex decided to do something else.

Okay, I have to say something about this one.  This was a giant alligator blow up.  the kids go in the mouth and out the butt.  Yes, they do.  I have another picture of Irina climbing in this alligator's backside to get Nik but thought it was just to mean to post.  LOL.  She would have been way too embarrassed but we have all cracked up at that picture since the weekend.  Who designs these things?

I just love this picture b/c it is just sheer joy he is experiencing.  Love it.  The kids also got to play some music.  Nik liked being able to bang on stuff that he could hear.  

A couple group shots. Remember, Max was at work that day.  Alex was very proud he won that dolphin.  He played games instead of doing some of the inflatables but was determined to win a stuffed animal.  He did.  Great that he stuck w/ it.  Yana went to help Alex at the end.  She knew he needed a few more tickets.  Now, I have a confession to make.  See Nik's outfit?  It wasn't until we were all in the van that we realized he hadn't changed from when he went to school...the previous day.  That's right.  He went to school Friday, slept in it and then goes to this event.  How in the world did none of us catch this?  I don't know.  Yes, our children typically get a bath every night.  but, sometimes Friday is a freebie as we usually have a family movie that night.  We all watched Avatar.  He's dressed, I should get points.  LOL.  

One of the last pictures of the day.  3 boys, wiped out but full of fun.  Alex once again showing off his dolphin.  All in all, we had a great time.  We were going to take the kids to a lego exhibit this coming weekend.  We have realized it would just be too much for them right now.  We leave for deaf camp the following weekend.  Too many activities and FASers have a hard time getting balance back into their routine.  Trust me, we've tried it many different ways.  They are getting better but it is still hard to recover once they go somewhere.  So, we're styaing home this weekend and the kids are actually relieved.  They've all asked me "do we have to go anyhwere this weekend?"  So, right decision.  Yet, they're all counting the days down till deaf camp.   So are we!  Hope you all enjoyed some of our family fun.  more to come later. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What a weekend!-- part I

Yes, I do realize just how far behind I am this week.  It is now Wednesday and I'm just  getting around to what we did last weekend.  Figured I'd make it easy and just do it in pictures.  Though, apparently, we have lost quite a few pics from our camera.  So, bare with me.

Okay, I had a picture of the entire car stuffed but that one is lost.  This is Nik trying to wrap his head around what seems like Christmas.  LOL.  Irina, Alyona and I went to yardsales.  We took Warren's car as mine was in the shop.  I packed the entire car that at the last yardsale we went to, I was going to leave Irina w/ Alyona, drive home and then come back & pick them up.   (Irina is 17yo you know).  Anyhow, while there, we ran into a friend and she actually drove my kids home.  Now, how much nicer can you get?  Thanks a bunch Renee!!  The kids were beyond thrilled.  We got tons of pool toys, water guns(the boys have had their share of water gun fights already), crafts, shoes, etc.  Just about anything you could think of.  A cool remote control dinosaur too.  So many things and just so much fun the girls and I had.  Yana never goes.  Not b/c she doesn't want to.  Every single weekend I wake her up, she goes right back to sleep and says she'll go next time.  LOL.  I just can't believe how many new things people practically give away.  In the package new.  Anyhow, we had fun and they want to go again this weekend.  Of course.  Now, Bojan is begging to go claiming I always take the boys and never the girls.  I'll see.  After the yardsales, we cleaned up a bit and then onto the company picnic.  It was family day at where my husband works.  (not sure of rules of mentioning the company so that's why I haven't).  All the kids went but Max.  He chose to work instead and was proud he made that decision on his own.  So, we went onto Warren's work for some relaxation and fun.  Had to be about 90 F that day and I of course had that leg brace on.  Eskimos would not freeze w/ that thing on.  Hot is all I can say.  We ate first and then let Yana and Irina go off together. 

This is Irina.  She & Yana decided they didn't want to hang out together and preferred being w/ the family.  Shocked?  Yeh, me too.  Two teens actually wanting to hang out w/ their family. Who would have ever thought it.  I can't believe how much she is growing up.

The kids got to go on a rickshaw ride.  They thought it was cool.  Bojan and Irina went together.  Have a shot of them but they're both squinting so badly b/cof the sun, they almost look mean.  LOL.  Everyone enjoyed the rides.  Of cousre we were asked why we don't have these kind of bikes.

Right before the rickshaw rides, the kids did a rock climbing wall.  Bojan chooses to not wear his prosthetic when climbing as his knee locks up.  Didn't stop him though I'm surprised he didn't make it further.  He has incredible upper body strength and usually goes to the top. I think it was the heat that day.  Click on the pciture & you can see it closer.  

Minnie Mouse was trying so hard to get to the top.  Believe it or not, she has wonderful upper arm strength.  

Nik was incredible!  He almost got to the top.  Very proud of him.  He was smiling the whole way up.  No fear.  there was a button at the top to push and it made an alarm.  he almost got it.  Yana went later on and managed to get the button pushed.  We have many kids with no fear.  Watch out world!  

Part of having kids w/ sensory integration disorder is that they love, love love to spin.  This was no exception.  They had a blast on this thing.  I was surprised Alyona actually went on here b/c she really is my chicken little.  But she did.  All four of ours got to ride at the same time which was nice.  Each one was trying to out do the other.  Too funny.

What is better after a few rides on a hot day?  Why snow cones of course!  This is part one of the weekend.  We have more pictures.  But, for now, I need to catch up on the cleaning of the house a bit.  I mopped the floors this morning and made the stupid mistake of giving the kids bright blue icee pops.  What was I thinking?!  So, part II of this and part II of the older child adoption will be coming up soon.  I don't have to work tomorrow.  Wahoo!  So, I may have time to get some posts done.  Now, time to get back to work.  Warren just uncovered a liar.  Something SO simple as a question to my kids turns into a big production and then we have a lecture for two hours.  Ridiculous.  My simple question that turned into one huge episode..."who gave the bowl of beads to Alyona?"  Yep, I just wanted an answer.  URGHH!!!  Some days I am reminded I live in a household full of FASers.  Each day is a lesson.  One step forward two steps back some days.  Other days, leaps and bounds.  Where is my chocolate?!  LOL. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blooms and bananas

Well, you know I need something to get my mind off the upcoming homestudy visits, right?  So, I decided to purchase some bananas that were on sale.

There were many, many more than this.  I thought banana bread would be a great idea.  Till I realize it only takes about 3 bananas to make just one loaf.  Yes, I have about 19 loaves to make.  LOL.  I gave some to Yana's teachers today and some to a neighbor.  There will be plenty more loaves to give away.  So, if you are local or a neighbor, come and get it.  I'm making more tomorrow.  Kids love it so it helps.  I will freeze some as well.  For now though, I'm frankly tired of banana nut bread.  

More blooms to keep my mind occupied as well.  I love spring and love color.  I seemed to have globbed onto purple, pink and white this year.  But, I think it has done well so stickign to it.  Some pics to follow.

I just am in love with the brightness and clarity of this color.  This is a close up of one of my hydrangea bushes.  You can click on it to get a better look.  It just makes me smile going up the walk and seeing these.  I think we have 12 hydrangea shrubs now.  I  Warren divides them at the end of the season and replant.  It definitely helps w/ free shrubs.  

Ahh, my fushcia plants.  These are on my front porch entrance.  I tried them one year and have been hooked ever since.  They last the entire summer w/ continuous blooms.  Definitely make sure you keep them watered though or they'll die out quickly.  How can you not smile looking at these things?!  I have yet to find a way to make them a perennial though.  LOL.  They are shade loving.  The ones above are just starting to bloom.  You should see them once they get going.  Just gorgeous and something to really take in a good long look.  Yes, it helps to disguise the mold growing on the handrails.  

No, I know it's not pink or purple but it is beautiful nonetheless.  This is my first blooming Iris of the season.  We have yellow irises.  NOw, they are all in full bloom.  You can see some of the ones behind this one getting ready to bloom.  Makes the yard pop as well.  Best part, they come back every year and we don't have to do a thing to them.  Low maintenance for sure.  

I have more flowers, of course.  Just needed to post something different.  Bojan's concert was short but sweet.  Cute to see the 4th graders attempting music.  Yes, he can play the recorder even w/ a missing finger and shortened digits.  We do get asked that.  Only thing I wished he'd do...practice more.  Bojan did fine and we had a nice time.  We let the teens stay home.  They did okay but Irina and Yana got into some tiff about cleaning up.  Remember, we're talking Oscar and Felix here.  Tomorrow I'm taking the kids I sit to a church story time.  Should be fun.  Then, a wasted attempt to get the house in a little better order.  Will it be successful?  It's anybody's guess.  I call it the lived in look.  Doesn't help that we are trying to rearrange the rooms upstairs.  Well, need to get some more stuff done and more banana nut bread made.  More posts to come.  One specifically about homestudies.  The good, the bad and the ugly. 

Nik's big event...

Well, we knew it would happen at some point.  And, it did.  What is it you ask?  Well, just take a look:

Yep, he lost his very first top tooth!  He was so thrilled.  I believe he had lost the bottom ones back in December but can't remember.  He had made a special tooth fairy pillow that same week in school.  So, he went to go get it and put the tooth in it.

He wasn't quite sure how to put the tooth in there though.  LOL.  He sewed it shut.  His tooth had been hanging by a thread.  So, while he was touching his tooth, Irina knocked his arm (yes, on purpose) so that the tooth flew out.  He was no worse for wear though.  Tooth fairy mouse came.  It is some Russian thing.  DOn't get it & maybe it was just their region but it has stuck w/ all the kids.   The tooth fairy mouse.  We have to leave a window open for that stupid mouse to come in.  Got to love it.  

Now, the very next day Warren and I left to go pick up a bike I had bought from someone.  while there, we get a call from Irina.  Something bad happened is all we got from her and that she'd tell us when we got home.  Once we were assured that it was not life-threatening, we came straight home.  This is what we found:

Another tooth gone!  Nope, this one was NOT ready.  Blood all over the bathroom.  What happened?  Well, Alyona decided her brother's tooth needed to come out.  You know the old string on the tooth trick?  Well, it worked.  His tooth was loose, it just was barely loose.  So, now Nik is sporting a new look:

He is very proud and wanted to take the tooth to school to show his classmates.  However, he had the tooth in this little baggie and swinging it all over the yard.  You guessed it, out came the tooth.  He even conned Max into helping him look for the tooth w/ a flashlight that night.  They never found it.  Oh well.  Nik has bugged me ever since to take him to the dollar store to buy something w/ his money he got from the mouse.  Soon, kiddo. 

Tried to tell all the kids no more pulling each other's teeth.  LOL.  I have more to write today but have a performance for Bojan to go to tonight.  6:30.  Starts at 7.  Taco salad for dinner, something easy for a change.  Just had to share about the teeth.  Never dull here, that's for sure.  BTW, I have two days to turn this house into something other than a demilitarized zone.  Social worker comes Thursday.  Umm, guess we really should have finished re-organizing after a homestudy visit.  Hey, we live here and it's life.  Most social workers understand this especially visiting towards the end of the school year.  So newbies to adoption that are reading this, don't stress it.  Bojan has a performance tonight that we're going to.  That is more important to us than finishing the laundry.  Well, secretly we all hate laundry in this house.  When a punishment chore is folding socks, you know we all hate laundry.  LOL.  Well, Irina's home and we need to wake up some kids from their naps.  Hope you all enjoyed his toothless smile.  Cracks me up.  Yes, you try teaching a toothless deaf kid to use his voice when his teeth are out.  IT's hilarious!  I will have to record and put it on here.  Not to make fun of him but it is just too dog gone cute not to.  My baby boy is growing up!  Got to run.  Have a nice evening. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

We have dates!!!

For our homestudy!  I know I need to go to bed but had to share as this is just another step closer to getting our kids home.  Fill you all in tomorrow.  Just know, it's soon.  Maybe this week!  She's confirming her dates.  Can you tell I'm excited?!  More tomorrow.  Oh, so much more to say too.  Maybe I can write during nap time.  We'll see.  Usually, that's my cleaning time here.  Got to go.  Have a great evening.  I know I am!  It's real.  It's actually real.  Doing this so many times before and yet, we're still excited.  After 4 homestudies and 28 post placement reports, it is amazing how we still get excited.  Okay, really got to go. 

older child adoption

Hey before I get started on such a broad & important topic, I wanted to answer a question about the flowers.  Someone asked me about the impatients.  They do indeed come back every year.  They actually get about 8" tall and spread like crazy all over.  They have spread further and further down the walk each and every year.  But, what I do do is buy a few plants in the beginning of the season to just get them started.  Plus, helps fill in the gaps.  I am definitely not a gardening expert but love to do it as a hobby and have learned a bunch while working in the florist shop around people who really did know what they are doing.  LOL. They are annuals but they go to seed every year. 

Okay, a topic near and dear to my heart....older child adoption.  This is going to be open so be prepared.   I'm going to be honest about it and that's just a fact.  I can't stand when people tell all the rosy side of the story w/out telling the whole story.  Well, this is going to be the whole story of older child adoption and what all it entails.  I'm going to be blunt as I wished someone had told me a bunch of these things before I first went over.  Seriously.  Maybe then, I wouldn't have felt like the worst parent ever after my first two kids.  Now, by the time we are done adopting(and YES, this is the very last adoption we're ever doing!) my  children at time of adoption will have been 3,  3,  4,  4,  6,  6.5, 7,  8,  8.5, and 9.  Think I got them all.  So, I think that being the case, I have the ability to speak on this topic of older child adoption.  Here goes.  Get ready as this is going to be a bumpy, choppy ride.  Hold on tight for it is not for the faint of heart.

With every adoption we've done, we have set out to adopt an infant.  Yes, even this time.  For just this past August, we became aware of an infant adoption opportunity and wrote a dear birthmother letter while watching 11 kids swimming in the pool.  I do remember that day well.  Long story short, she wanted someone w/ absolutely no children.  We did not qualify obviously.  but, it did get us seriously thinking about adoption.  I started scanning the web a bit more and talking w/ my former agency whom I advocate for anyhow.  That's when I found out about the Bulgaria program.  And, long story short, that is where we are today.  I truly feel we were destined to parent older children.  Yet, I babysit for younger ones.  Go figure.  parenting older, adoptive children is a challenge.  It is like preparing for one battle yet facing a totally different kind of war.  I guess I should start with brining them home and going from there.  Max and Irina were our first two home at 4 and 6.5yo.  They were tiny.  Max wore size 18 months and Irina a size 2T.  Yet, I had to remember that they were 4 and 6 even though they don't act like it at all.  Adopting older children from an institution has its interesting moments.  Like when we picked up Max.  Gave him a lollipop and tried to stick it to his head.  He had no idea what it was as he had never had one before.  I will focus more on the once home part versus the picking them up at the orphanage and also the plane ride home.

So, once home, it is a new battlefield.  And, you best be prepared to battle!  It is a war once home.  Most of the time.  With older kids, they are more aware of what is going on.  And remember, some have been told some horrific stories.  The Americans are going to use you for body parts.  Yes, indeed!  They are told this.  Not everywhere but a good chunk of places.  Ridiculous.  No wonder the kids go ballistic once home.  URGHH.  What's even worse?  The total fear of dogs.  Even if they have dogs at the orphanage as two of my kids did, they are absolutely petrified of dogs once home.  Some of mine were told the dogs would eat their legs off.  So, for the first few weeks, my kids tuck their legs under them.  We have a 100 lbs. dog and when all our kids came home, we always had 2 dogs.  Aspen passed away last fall.  You walk in the door w/ jetlagged children terrified of dogs and you have a big problem.  My suggestion for new families, the first night home, try to have the dogs somewhere else.  IF this is not possible, as in our cases, have a secondary plan.  First, we NEVER go into the house together w/ the kids.  One of us goes in first, calms the dogs(for they haven't seen us for weeks!), and let's them out back.  Next, we come in w/ the kids and try to tame their fears and then let the dogs in.  Yikes~!  The screaming, the horror of it all.  It is literally as though we're peeling leaches off our bodies.  The kids hang on for dear life.  With Alyona & Nik, we were starving by the time we got to the airport.  We stopped off at Wendy's and got some food.  Amazing how french fries to the dog make everything okay.  Within 2 days, the kids are usually okay w/ the dogs.  Now, I wished they'd at least be somewhat afraid of them.  LOL.  Poor Bear.

Okay, so we talked about the dogs once home.  Let's discuss what the kids are going through when they are older.  A number of things really.  They have left ALL their friends, ALL their families, their culture, their language, their identity, their foods, and anything else familiar to them.  They are scared, angry, and sad.  They are NOT grateful you adopted them.  Really, when first home, they could careless.  I'm not being mean folks, I'm being honest.  They have to have time to grieve.  I can not stress this enough ... they have to have time to grieve.  Every single child will grieve in a different way for their loss of everything I just mentioned.  I've had sad grievers, angry grievers, screaming grievers, etc.  You name it, I've had it!  Some kids are going to slap you, some will want nothing to do with you.  It is part of a grieving process.  You must not give up, you must not back down.  I know w/ our first two, we thought we were horrible parents, our kids didn't love us, etc.  Our last two, we were more like hurry up and get this part over with b/c we know it's coming.  Part of a process.  Find out how they are grieving.  For Irina, she finally grieved after a few months of being home.  One night, she crawled in Warren's lap and literally sobbed for 2 and a half hours straight.  After that, she was a new kid. 

To ease transition for older kids, I have learned what works and what doesn't over the years.  First off, do NOT go anywhere the first month home w/ the kids.  No grocery store, no park, no Walmart, no Target, no parties, etc.  Nothing.  Go nowhere.  There is way too much stimulation just inside the home.  Go anywhere outside the home and it just sends them into a tizzy.  It really does.  The first month home, we basically stay home w/ the kids.  Kids first and foremost need to bond. They need to know what family is and what home is and what it means.  If you are constantly taking them somewhere else, they won't grasp that concept for awhile.  Trust me, they'll be plenty of times in their lives to take them somewhere.  So much so when they're teens, you wished you hadn't gone anyhwere that first month home.  LOL.  Another thing I think first time adoptive parents of older children do is to try to give their kids too much.  This includes their rooms.  Do not make thier rooms look like Disney World when they come home. They do not need 50 outfits nor tons of toys to make up for what they did not have.  It stresses them out.  I have seen too many older kids come home and go nuts over having too many clothes to choose from.  YOu can easily add it in later.  The rule here is 7-7-7.  (of course, this rule is permanent for our FASers).  7-7-7 is simply having 7 shirts, 7 pants and 7 shorts to wear.  The less is more concept works wonders for PI kids once first home.  The first few months they do not need the added stress of having too much to choose from and too much to do.  Irina must of changed ten times in the host family's house at the very least.  She just was not used to making a choice and w/ all the other changes goin on, it gave her one more thing to stress about.

The less is more approach works best when first home.  The less choices the children have to make, the better.  Think about it for a moment.  They're already having to choose what language they should answer you in, who to call mom & dad(they are used to calling every stranger this in the orphanage), etc.  The less the kids have to think about, the better.

The language barrier.  Got to love it.  Kids want so, so much to communicate.  What we do in this house is first month home, they are allowed to speak Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian or whatever language they want and I'll answer them in that language.  On the last day of that month period, we cease whatever native language they are used to.  Yes, cold turkey.  We make them repeat us in english.  I will explain this all so it doesn't sound so harsh as I know it does.  Older kids justwant to fit it.  Plain and simple.  When I lived in Germany as a teen, I quickly learned German.  Why?  B/c I wanted to fit in, wanted to be able to speak to people.  We had a friend at Warren's work speak to us when the kids first came home.  She is Russian and from Moscow.  She has children raised bilingual.  She said she speaks to them in Russian and they answer her in english.  She told us they just wnat to be regular kids and since we don't speak fluently, we'd be doing our kids a disservice by keeping the Russian..or trying to.  The faster they acclimated to language, the quicker the friends would be able to play.  And what kid doesn't want to play?  Now, understand they can learn their language any time they want to.  The girls are finally showing an interest of learning Russian again.  And, I think they could.  Now, for older kids, having a cheat sheet the first few weeks home and in-country is a God send.  Really is.  Kids will indeed be fustrated when they can not communicate. This is totally normal!  Totally normal.  Just let it go.  There will be tough times when you can't figure it out.  You both will find a way.  Trust me on this.  Now, we found the last time if we added ASL, they tended to pick up english faster.  We plan on doing that again w/ this Bulgarian adoption.  Plus, they have to learn it anyhow in this house.  Nik is deaf.  My kids are already starting to get some Bulgarian words in.  Another piece of unsolicted advice, do NOT take them to someone else who speaks their language.  Most kids will regress.  Some, think they will be going back to the orphanage.  Some, get reminded of the orphanage.  It just isn't a good idea even if you think it may be doing some good.  BTW, we learned this the hard way w/ Max.  How you speak to them is important too.  The kids are not going to listen if you speaksweetly to them.  The Russian language is rather harsh.  The kids are not used to sweet soft talking.  It was the same way when I lived in Germany.  All cultures speak differently.  Shoot, Texans speak differently than northerners.  It is just the way it is.  Whatever country you are going to, you will learn how they speak.  Use that SAME tone w/ your new child when first home.  It is simply what htey are used to and they need that sense of familiarity.

Chores.  This may seem ridiculous to some but hear me out. Kids are very regimented at the orphanage.  Chores are done daily.  Having chores as soon as they get home, does give it a little bit of a famliar feel w/out being harsh.  Our kids have chores the day they get home.  Trust me, nothing major so no one freak out.  We have found though that they had wanted to do mopping, sweeping etc, daily.  Umm, yeh, like we mop daily here--LOL.  So, instead we give them little things like making their beds.  For them, it is habit anyhow.  Plus, it is something they can show you.  Older kids when they first come home want to be proud and more than that, they want you to be proud of them.  Little chores help. 

Okay, this is way too long.  I will divide this into 2 parts.  Tomorrow will be more of regression therapy and how treating an older child like a younger one, is not a bad idea.  Also, the role siblings have when adopting an older child.  Again, these are all MY opinions based on MY experience w/ MY kids.  I am NOT an expert nor do I claim to be.  Just been in the adoption world for 11 years now and done it 7 times that I have learned things along the way that I hope will help others. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Little path to peace

Kind of an odd title.  As some of you already know, our family loves the outdoors.  We find it very peaceful and truly do enjoy our time outside.  Kids even do homework outside(if the stupid deer flies and horse flies aren't so bad).  We were just able to find another patio set at a yardsale recently so now have seating for 12.  PERFECT!  Our yard is small to us, just a little under an acre.  Like .97 acre.  We'd love to have a minimum of 10 acres but for now, this is home and we have to make good use of what we have.  Last year, we found a colorful hammock at Target at the end of the season.  Actually, bought it as an impulse buy b/c it was such a great deal.  Figured we'd find a place to put it.  Well, we did and it has had way more use by every single person in this household than we'd ever anticipated.  Here is the path to our little hammock area:

Very small path.  We're actually trying to get some moss to grow between the stones and it's coming along.  Ironically, there is moss gorwing everywhere else in this yard including the roof!  So, I'm sure it is a matter of time it grows here.  

We climb up that short little path and lay down.  You can see a couple of the colors of the hammock in the bottom right of the phto.  This is one of the views looking out.  This is some of our yard.  Nice, and green.  Look up and this is what you see:

All green.  Isn't it just beautiful?!  When you are laying there in the hammock, it seriously feels like you are in some sort of treehouse.  We all love it.  And, it changes through the seasons.  This time of year, it is bright green w/ lots of shade but just hints of sunshine popping through.  While laying and either just relaxing or reading, this is what we hear:

The sound of windchimes.  Just a really light breeze to make them sound so sweet.  Just relaxes you all over.  Makes whatever you are reading that much more meaningful.  Or, when you hear those windchimes, you start listening for other sounds, like birds.  

Boy, I hope these pictures actually show up b/c they are not showing up on here.  Anyhow, this is another view we have of laying in the hammock.  There are the big oak trees, some hostas and hydrangeas.  Some azaleas too but most have already bloomed out.  There is also a birdhouse IRina made.  Near that is a birdfeeder that we get to watch the birds go in and out.  

Bottom line, a lot to do in just a little space but it is really peaceful for all of us.  We love it.  So many times we can just reflect on something or go there for a little bit of peace and quiet.  So, sometimes that spur of the moment purchase can turn into something really meaningful.  I can not count the times I've come out and seen one of the kids laying in it.  And most of the time they were actually reading!  Yes, shocked me too.  LOL.  So, if any of you come for a visit, you will have to visit one of the most peaceful places in the yard.

I have a couple more posts but Warren and I are trying to get some errands done today.  My drive time is limited w/ my hurt knee.  Next, taking Nik to get his haircut.  Warren does hate it b/c he says he gets older w/ every haircut.  I agree.  Alyona is going to go to church w/ a friend and her family.  Bojan is at a friend's house and Max is going to be at work.  So, just 3 of them home.  Now, a test to see if just 3 can get along.  I'll write some more tonight.  Some other things happening here.  Some changes going on.  Hope your weekend was just as pleasant.  We had a blast yesterday at the company picnic.  Can't wait to share.  As they say in Bulgarian...Chao!