Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Day

And it came again.

The first day of school. Came early this year, and by the look on a certain child's face (huh... Chance) some were not ready for this.

Chloe and Chance- 11th grade. High school.

Paisley 9th grade, High school.

Camden 8th grade, Middle School.

Kat and Phoebe 5th grade (different classes) last year of Elementary school.

Wow, is that odd. Last year of having anyone in elementary school?? How will I cope?

I just will, right?

We have a new ESL teacher, I guess we will all meet her tomorrow, the kids didn't even see her today at all???

Doesn't sound positive to me, so far:(   Guess we will see how that goes, I have a meeting with her tomorrow.

I didn't hear too much complaining although CHLOE did say on the way out the door this morning-- "Why won't you let me just quit school and work a job?"

I said "No way!  Have a great day:)"

I have surprisingly managed to fill out all the forms for the 6 of them-- there were MANY less this year-- yeah!!! Most of the stuff is now online and I signed a single form saying I would read the "guidelines" there. What a relief.

Paisley was doing her dish chore tonight, it's funny that Chance goes and helps her by putting away any leftovers and wiping the counters (without being asked because she would NEVER ask for help) as they always BICKER--- he said something to make her mad, and she said something about smacking him-- his response?  "You little girl, I'm not scared of you, who do you think you are?"

Her reply?  "YOUR SISTA."  Cracked me up. Totally. Can't let her size fool ya:)

The older kids all said "What about Chase?" When picture time came, then laughed when I reminded them--- "He graduated."  He was off to job training for BOTH his jobs today.

Busy kiddos.  It was very quiet here, I slept quite well (worked night shift) with them gone all day.

So a quiet, so far easy, new school year begins.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Still here, busy days

I am TRYING  to get the last 5 from previous post done, but you'll have to wait for it.

Too much busy-ness. 

 Multiple trips for twice daily field hockey (Chloe) football (Camden) that can't possibly be scheduled close enough to field hockey to make it one trip for both (NAHHH), add in job interview, then training for not 1 but now 2 jobs for Chase (he's going to have to give up job #1 for the better job #2) and driver's permits for Chloe and Chase (Chance wasn't home).

Add in a job interview for Chloe and both us, "ol' parents" working--- life is just downright nuts.

We gotta get these kids driving, somehow. Both our vehicles are huge, not sure they will be able to learn to drive in either-- but if they are all going to work they will need to be able to help with transporting. Mom is only one gal.....

And I learned something else about my darling children--- they have no clue how to ASK "Does Thursday 8:30 am work for you MOM?"  Nope. They just say "Yes, okay." AND HANG UP. Then look at me like I will be thrilled that they have now made me a 4th trip in ONE DAY to "town" to get them to their job interview/training.

Totally not funny. I've learned another thing too-- when mom works nights and they all sleep--- they think mom doesn't need any sleep because they all are well rested. So those 2-3 hrs then gotta be up to take them all over is "No biggie" to THEM.

I'm very thankful they are finding jobs, passed their permit tests!! (YEAH)

Chance has gone missing, (just kidding MOM) he's been working with Uncle  (Ron's bro) for weeks now, what was to be a week, turned in to almost a month now. He came home today (via the train, all by himself!!)  because they start school next week, so he HAD to.

I missed my Chance. I mean it. There's no one else coming to me multiple times a day asking "Do you have anything I can do?" And meaning ANYTHING. I've said "Scrub toilets" and he will go do it. That boy is a worker. He wants to be busy.... I don't just miss his working either, I missed that easy smile of his:)

We didn't really get to celebrate the twins' birthdays, Chance was away and Chloe was at field hockey camp. So here's their 18th birthday pic together, can't believe how much they have grown. Both of them such wonderful kiddos.

Did I mention school???? Yes, back they go early this year, just in case we have many snow days again this winter.

We didn't have enough snow make up days last year so they go back early to hopefully avoid that this year.

Two 5th graders, 8th grader, 9th grader and two 11th graders. WOW. Down to "only" 6 sets of forms, I will hardly know what to do with myself on the first night of school.

School clothes are bought and ready, supplies packed in backpacks, and everyone (except Chance) is looking forward to going back. Summer has flown by just they always tend to do................. 
 
 






Sunday, August 3, 2014

5 More

Not kids (MOM)----5 more elaborations:)

6. Child's view on adoption/ reaction

Yes, your child has to AGREE to be adopted at age 10 and up. In one way I can see how helpful this is- this is the child making a commitment to your family. BUT, on the other hand they do not often know what it really means and are too scared or even bullied to sign:(

Not by new parents but orphanage staff. They *think* it's a totally amazing opportunity for the child, but if a child really, really doesn't want to be adopted then they really, really should be allowed to express that. And preferably before adoption day.

As far as coming to you with open arms--most teens are NOT comfortable with hugs, kisses, being told you love them, etc. They ARE TEENS- we didn't force hugs, we DID tell them we love them. We didn't go nutso saying it but we made sure we showed them the adoption certificate (in the red booklet) then said "Woooo eye knee" (I love you) "errr zahh" (son) or "new r" daughter. Even with our butchering Mandarin they got it:)

There's lots of things you can do to promote bonding in physical manners besides hugs and kisses. High fives. Playing with a ponytail. A quick touch on the shoulder. We painted nails, we compared hand sizes:))) Lots of creative ways to bond.

Also body language is huge, most parents are used to "reading" body language (in a younger, non verbal child) and can figure out the basics with a teen. Don't go overboard thinking you gotta understand (in China) what an issue may be. Keep it simple, if they are crying don't try to "fix" everything, sometimes it just takes sitting with them, rubbing their back if they will let you, and accepting they are sad. We CAN NOT fix it all for them which is HARD.

Sometimes they are the opposite, so close to you it's hard to breathe, which leads to--------

7. Personal space

This cracks me up. Seriously. Because it's funny NOW. It's not so funny when you have kids who doesn't want to be hugged but are literally in your LAP if you dare sit down. Who will be right next to you, as in, you turn to get a fork while cooking and they are right there next to you, even leaning on you.  It takes time and it can be quite annoying when they are "Up your butt" as we call it around here:)

We were VERY tolerant of this at first. Because pushing them away is rejection. And not good. But really, truly, this is a big issue in our culture. People will think they are rude, and that's not cool. So working on having them "move back" takes TIME and should take time, but will need to be worked on.

Another area of work---getting the kids to understand  my corrections of them was NOT yelling. How I did this was when they complained (and they did) that I YELLED at them, I asked them if I said whatever it was "like THIS" (yelling) or "like this" (normal voice). 

And AGAIN when they said "Mom yelled at me?" I would ask "Did I yell (whatever) or do you need me to yell so you know what yelling is?"  It taught them in a very direct way what YELLING was compared to telling them something for correction. 

We also had to point out "being in trouble" and "being corrected" were not the same thing--- being in trouble meant they did something wrong and knew what they did was wrong----- being corrected was working on something wrong that they DIDN'T know was wrong to do aka NO punishment.

AGAIN-- this takes time. It takes trial and error. Repeat lessons. Pouting happened. Crying happened. Sleeping to avoid "being in trouble" happened. Threats were made to "not eat."  We handled that one by making everyone come to the table and sit with a plate in front of them. And suddenly the "I'm not going to eat person" was eating. No big deal made about it. We did NOT allow hiding in rooms sleeping/pouting for days on end once we realized they would do this to avoid any issue.

8. School.

Well then. This has been a HUGE learning curve for us throughout the years our teens have been home. Very first thing I suggest to EVERYONE who adopts a teen is DO NOT STRESS SCHOOLING FOR A MONTH. At least 4 weeks, give you, your child, time to get over jet lag, learn the household routine, learn something of your child's personality, find some favorite dishes (It can be hard to get them to eat) before you even consider starting school in any manner.  Don't stress it. It's AMAZING what immersion can do, just keep it SIMPLE-- not "This is a spoon."  Simply "Spoon." 

So when it was time to look at school we did this---

We got Chloe a "buddy" (now her BFF) and put her in 6th grade as a 13 year old. Yep, behind her peers. Had to fight to get the school to do it too-- they tried to pull that "They should go to the grade per their age." And I said "Show me the law that they have to be placed there? (There is no law) 

So that's where we started with her. The boys, we got them buddies, didn't work out as well for them, or Paisley either but it did give them someone to "show them the ropes" of lockers, where their classes were, etc. If you do not know any child to "buddy your new teen with contact your guidance counselor and ask for a child who is NOT an "A" student-- as they go over an assignment a second time (with our teen) they will get extra lesson and not be impatient with your child. It's a win/win for BOTH kids.

We put the boys lower, but quickly saw Chase was struggling with social aspects of not fitting in. So at half the year he was bumped up to high school. It takes a TON of communication with your ESL (English Second Language) sometimes also called ELL (English Language Learner) teacher. Because they are NOT typical ESL students who have mom/ dad at home speaking their native language and you have all the bonding/ adoption stuff on top of trying to get them taught in school.

This is where I love, love, LOVE you homeschoolers. You ROCK. Seriously. Because it doesn't matter if they have to do Kindergarten work for 2 years to get a base then "take off" learning. There's not the pressure of public school. There's not the questions, "Why are you here, where did you come from, can you still speak Chinese, how old are you, why don't you know your real birthdate, did you flunk?" 

As well as the "making fun of" as we have encountered in our district:( 

We have had a hard time with schooling, from ones who are self motivated to others who were not and begged to quit. From tears, usually at least 1 meltdown from schedules that are not correct to assignments not being adjusted for our kids and them believing if they do not sign that they WILL learn and do a 20 page report on DNA within the first month of school that they will be in TROUBLE.

I've written "This is NOT an appropriate assignment for my ESL child" on too many assignments to count. And sent them to the ESL teacher to adjust for their level. I've talked to the ESL teacher/ guidance counselor and others at school probably 10X the normal amount other parents do. It takes INVOLVEMENT.  It just does.

9. Unreal Expectations

We handled this one actually quite well. With fostering special needs kiddos we learned to treat them at their maturity age, NOT their number age. So we were prepared for the immaturity and having to parent "that way."  It only gets sticky when others say "OH, you turned 16, are you dating, driving?" Or when they first came and wanted cell phones and there was NO WAY they were ready for any of that.

It's hard to get them to understand (as it is any teen) we are NOT giving you the world. No cell phone. No personal computer, no dating, no, no and no-- seemed to be the answer a lot. And not their favorite answer. There was grumbling. Complaints--- many of them, some even came right out and said "Auntie told me I would get a cell phone", or Auntie said I would be given ANYTHING I wanted." 

And yes, my response was "Does Auntie live HERE? Do you see Auntie here parenting you?"  Not their favorite answers and they had to "get over it" often at first. We were NOT their friends, or even people they LIKED very often at first--- but we are their parents and weren't trying to be their friend. Don't be AFRAID to parent. That does not mean MEAN-- it means caring guidance-- "This would not be good for you." Even if they don't like that answer or even believe it-- it's in the context we want them to eventually KNOW----- We care about you enough to say NO to something we, as adults and parents do not think is good for you." 

10.Back to Normal

What is normal anyway?  Seriously, you WILL find a NEW normal. One day instead of thinking, wow they really feel like a guest here and possibly an unfriendly, immature, hard-to-love guest---- to "This OUR KID." You start to SEE ways that they fit in, that they belong, even if it's something as simple as a much younger sister helping them read a beginner English book. You DO come to the place where you realize that you can't imagine life without them in it.

And what I really loved in the comments from the original post was someone who said "We are at the BEAUTIFUL SIDE OF ADOPTION."  Yes, it's possible. It's hugely possible to "get there." And "there" is a wonderful place,  a place where even though tough times can still be seen at times, you are seeing gains your child is making. You have reasons to be SOOOO very proud to call this child your son or daughter.  It does COME!!!

Adopting a teen is totally different from raising bio kids. But it does HELP, although in my book is NOT a requirement to be prepared enough to adopt a teen. You have to go in prepared for the worst. Then if you get anything less than that- it's GOOD.  Seriously-- have realistic expectations..... this can be hard because we want to give them EVERYTHING--- all the benefits of being our child, education, clothes, food, dental care, etc. Everything they haven't had.

Just understand that for some teens, they take it RUN...... as in, they do wonderfully.  They thrive in life with you. BUT....... sometimes they Do NOT. Sometimes they are angry, frustrated, sad, do not want to be adopted/ parented.  You may become more of a host- like family for them and this can not be considered a failure. Even disruption is not a failure. It's trying to find the best solution for an adoption that is not working out for the BEST OF THE CHILD.

Lots of times OUR EMOTIONS get thrown in here-- DO NOT DO THAT. Do not look at yourself and say "Why does she/he act that way, what am I DOING WRONG."  Sometimes for certain teens we have to accept their progress even when it comes at a snail's pace (remember the snail WON THE RACE) because that's where they are.

What WE want for them may not be a realistic goal/ desire of the child. It's VERY hard to accept that sometimes. It's also hard when you are struggling and other people do not "get" where you are with this child/ why you have to do some  things you do with them, they want to PITY your child and give them everything. It doesn't help that at times tougher teens can totally pull off being total ANGELS in ANY SUPERFICIALLY relationships. Church friends. School.

I've had people tell me how WONDERFUL my child was--- soooo helpful, pleasant , kind and thoughtful when they were just RUDE, LOUD, DISRESPECTFUL, wouldn't answer me when spoken to----- 5 minutes prior to running in to this person telling me how delightful my child is being TO THEM.  They can do SUPERFICIAL well-- it requires little/no effort-- it's when you get to the deep rooted stuff that you get the behaviors we have had:(

And that's a hard "pill" to swallow at times. It makes us sad for our child, knowing that FAMILY is too hard for them to make the effort they make with an acquaintance:(  But again,  we are a work in progress and the "so called friends" we have lost that don't understand where we are/ what we are doing with our child to help them heal and get through tough behaviors, well, we don't figure they were worth being friends WITH if they don't care any more than that.

I'll work on the last 5 next time and leave you with pictures of Paisley-- looking so determined (not angry) to hula hoop and was doing a great job. She was trying to teach Phoebe who could NOT catch on, but Paisley was doing so well with no hip flexion at all this is something she likes to do,  but has to put tons of effort in to do.

Also she was soaking up some sun, another good thing for her:)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Follow up

Since there was such a HUGE outpouring of interest over the "You shouldn't adopt a teen" post, I wanted to go a little further in depth with each issue.

Because trust me when I say there's not anyone who will adopt a teen (or younger) and not have some adjustment issues. Some children adjust easily and some don't but there IS adjustment.

1. Gratitude

We do have very polite, well mannered children. Some are very good at the "please and thank you" stuff, others not so good and have to be reminded often. But they all do KNOW how to be polite and well mannered most of the time. As far as feeling gratitude we aren't looking for them to be eternally grateful to us, it's not what we adopted them for, so we aren't stressing what could be very well seen as ungrateful behavior for some.

And we ALWAYS keep in mind that our older children didn't exactly seem grateful to have what we gave them as teens either-- aka these are normal behaviors.

 It CAN be hard to not wonder why there isn't MORE gratitude from adopted teens leaving behind an orphanage life-- gaining the "American dream."  But there just isn't. You can't expect it because teen adoption is HARD for all parties involved and feeling they "owe us" is nowhere we want to go.

Gotta tell you a funny here-- I often joke with my Chance and say "What dream are you living in?"  And he always says with a smile 'The AMERICAN dream MOM." He's such a hoot to live with-- everyone should have a Chance in their life:)

2. Maturity

This just is what it is. They are immature for their number ages. We have seen it, lived it. We parent per behaviors, NOT by number age. We have to. Because the immaturity also brings with it a need to keep them safe, give them room to grow but in a protected place within the family. 

We love, love, LOVE our church youth group for this exact reason. No matter if we have kiddos 2,3,4,5 years behind in maturity, our kiddos have been accepted AS IS. Not just accepted, but included, given a church family that loves them as well as some wonderful people who are so supportive and caring of us, the parents, while we walk this harder road with older adoptees, now our sons and daughters.

3. Buddy adoption

We really strive to give EACH child their own place in this family. No matter age, they are a valued member of the family. The biggest issues we saw were with first the boys when they came--- finding where they belonged, what their place was in the family. The worry about everything being equal, since sister had 14 months of time with us already under her belt and functional English skills.  It was tough for all 3 of them as well as everyone else for a LONGGGG time.

We saw it again when Phoebe joined us. Because she was so close in age (not adopted to be a buddy, just happened to be close in age) and she was checking out everything Kat had from 7+ years with us. And wanting us to give HER all that to "make up."  You see in an orphanage, EVERYONE gets the same stuff. Doesn't matter if you were bad that day, if oranges are delivered for a treat, everyone gets one.

Doesn't make a good example for trying to make consequences for behaviors, because they aren't raised to see any consequences. VERY HARD thing to overcome. This is why when we have to ground children from something we take it for how long it takes to see the behavior/attitude change. Because they will "wait us out" if we do a set time of grounding and go right back and do the bad behavior AGAIN.

It's not easy when they "Bean count." It just isn't, it's tiring, annoying. BUT-- it can and does get better. Learning how the family works, lessons about "everyone getting a size 8 dress and it only fitting certain people"--- many visual lessons to "get it" but they DO get it. They do. We do not have bean counting much at ALL anymore. Not going to lie and say it's totally gone, nope, but it's a typical amount when you have more than 1 child.

4. Hormonal teen

We really went to China with very low expectations for their behavior. We didn't get excited when they did some of the crazy things (Chloe climbed out of a taxi cab window!) they did. We just got through getting their adoptions done and heading home. We didn't sweat much, we were firm when we felt we needed to be but we also gave LOTS of leeway for emotions/ behaviors from the kids.

 They really aren't much like what they present to you in China. Chloe is still shy. Phoebe still likes to question everyone and everything. Chance is still ornery:)  But beyond that I can assure you Chloe has never again crawled out of a taxi window, Chance has never again tried to slyly make me say a Chinese swear word. Phoebe has chilled on the questions, her nervousness replaced with comfort of knowing we have her back.

It's really something to see the growth they go through- might be slower with some but it DOES HAPPEN.  And often, you will come to find out that the "crazy behavior in China" had some reasoning behind it. The taxi escape?  I found out much, much later (like 2 years later) that Chloe was getting car sick. It didn't occur to me, even when I learned she got quite car sick going ANYWHERE-- but she crawled out to avoid barfing--- not to escape me or run:) 

And as far as safety- we did not have anyone (of either sex)  play in a room alone for over a year. Till we were sure there were no indications of any abuse/ bullying that we needed to protect a younger child from. We were very diligent (as every parent should be who is bringing home a teen) that they understood the family guidelines (hands to yourself- no tickling, NO HITTING) and we have baby monitor with video and intercom in the younger girls room piped directly in to our room for viewing.

We were used to having special needs foster children who required a high level of supervision so this wasn't anything new to us.

5. Table Manners/ Hygiene

We have made HUGE strides and did this fairly quick with table manners, hygiene. I am very fond of zipl*k bags and took them to China for ALL with an outfit for each day (repacked after laundry was done) and pj's for bedtime-- handed them to the kids and pointed to the bathroom.  If they came out with any of the clean clothes still in the bag, they were pointed out and sent BACK in to the bathroom, until everything was changed.  They learned quickly (even if they didn't agree to it at first) to change clothes EVERY DAY. 

Now they wear something an hour and it's in the laundry! As well, we do have ones who will wear the same outfit/clothes (clean) over and over since I do laundry every day and have had to make some of those things take longer to come back to child so they would wear something else...... I guess from not being used to having more than a few items of clothes they have favorites and want to wear them constantly?

We did have some mishaps (deodorant in the shower?) but otherwise shampoo pointed out, loofah with body wash pointed out and really if they erred and washed everything with shampoo or everything with body wash, no biggie-- they would still be clean.


If anything, we have had some go the route of OVERKILL of spending time in the bathroom and showering obsessively... a few that I have to keep track of "Did you shower?" but calendars have helped Phoebe and Kat (every other day showers due to dry skin) stay on track. The hardest thing was teeth brushing, something they are NOT used to doing and back teeth needing extra brushing that doesn't happen. 

All in all this is another thing that besides saying "Stop slurping!!" probably more than most parents, the hygiene and manners are typical for their (maturity) ages, same amount of reminders from mom, being sent back to "brush those teeth again and try harder," being something I told my adult children as teens/ tweens the same.

That's gonna be it for today- I'll get to the next 5 next time, so stay tuned:)) And get any questions you have in the comments and I will address them in the next post.

Pictures are from after Paisley's baptism, the kids got to swim and play afterwards, Camden even tried to help Phoebe learn to float. They  had a great time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dedication


Guess who decided to dedicate her life to God today?

 Our precious Paisley girl, that's who.  We couldn't be prouder of this huge step she has taken in her life.

To know that she has Him in her heart just makes us so happy for her.

She is such a wise ol' soul sometimes, her many physical challenges and living with daily pain has placed limitations of what her physical body can do but her spirit soared today as she accepted Him as her Savior.

She just SHINED with the joy in her heart.

She is VERY LOVED!

I wanted to be sure and follow up on the post of "You shouldn't adopt a teen" with everyone because these kids are so incredibly important and special to us. Every single one of them.

The post was not written to discourage adoption AT ALL. 

No way. 

Please DO ADOPT. Just PLEASE, be prepared. I can't say it enough--- you gotta be ready for the behaviors. Just to know they are typical, normal, others are making it through can take you VERY FAR when you are suddenly living it with a new teen/ child adoptee.

Expect the behaviors and then if you don't get them, YEAH!!! Good for you--- whooo hooooo!

But honestly (you know I am) I don't know many who do not have ANY of the adjustment issues I mentioned. And the very few I do know of --- they are definitely a minority:(

BUT--- here's the good news..... all of the issues mentioned in previous post-- they get better with TIME.

They really, really do.  It's the "getting there" that's super hard.  It DOES get easier/ you learn to cope better.

If you met our kids today, home 7.5, 5, 4, 2.5 and 1.5 years--- you would think they are younger than their number ages, if I told you them. Otherwise, you would see polite, kind, fun to be around, neat kids. Seriously.

While we will be a "work in progress"  probably forever, they have ALL made huge strides in learning the language, culture, how family works, what we expect of them, empathy for others.

There are still some who have more issues than others. But honestly, we have changed with adopting the 6 of them to understand we may not see what we hoped for with some of them and gone the way of way of changing expectations/ acceptance of the limitations because sometimes that's how it goes.

Our commitment and love for them will remain steady and we will always want the best for every single one of them.

I was able to write the post with the experience of parenting the 6 of them, but also because I do not have to  (and will not)  point out or embarrass any one of my 6 adopted children because some of the points made we do see with some but not others. Some we see with all of them at first. Some adjustments are long term for some. I will not now or ever sit down and point out who-has-what-issue because I have NO desire to shame any of them.

Matter of fact, Chloe (and sometimes Kat) read my blog and they had no issues with the post. Chloe will bring up sometimes things she "used to do" and we laugh because some of it really is downright funny, but also because it's fun to see how far she has grown. They all have and will continue to do so.

In some ways, home as long as they have been now,  they ARE like typical teen kids. Our kids. Not "our adopted kids from China." Not "former orphans."  They are different and special only because they are individuals. Each one of them special because of who they are, not their "issues." 

 They are proud to belong to BOTH countries, their birth country and their "family" country.  They are---

Fun loving. 
Inspiring.
Happy.
Kind. 
Amazing.

I could just go on and on:)  So for those of you who are considering adopting an older child/teen or are living with an older adopted child and you have any/all of the issues from the previous post--- please know there is HOPE.

It doesn't ALWAYS get better, but you learn to cope. You find a new "normal" life. It really IS a blessing to have them. We can't imagine life without them at all. We are honored to parent them and very happy to help others adopting as well.

And to answer Sarah's question in the comments-- Therapeutic foster training is training you can take for fostering special needs children in the US.

 Contact your local Child and Youth Services and ask them about agencies who do the therapeutic care for them. (Most CYS special needs kiddos are fostered through a contracted agency outside of CYS) and then go to the trainings the contracted agency offers for fostering SN kiddos.  (usually these classes are FREE). 

You are NOT required to ever take SN foster kiddos here, but you will have the training which is very, very helpful because it's geared for parenting traumatized children with a variety of different issues.  This applies to ALL states for anyone else who is wondering.

Adoption is an amazing adventure, not always a blast, but an adventure for sure. And a blessing from God.

 Always.

Friday, July 18, 2014

You shouldn't adopt a teen-------

How ya liking that cool header Savvi did for me again?? Pretty neat girl, that Savvi. Thanks again to her for keeping us "up on the times." Aren't the "kids" all looking so grown up?  Sigh......

Now-- I gotta tell you all some things that have recently been on my mind along with some conversations with some other moms of teens adopted from China.

And it SEEMS soooo complicated.  HOW do you know you are ready to adopt a teen?? One mom even asked me how I ever thought they were ready to adopt a teen, out-of-birth-order child when she first contacted me.

And I told her honestly-- "After I warned you about everything you didn't run screaming."

Seriously- they were still willing to take it (no matter what IT WAS) on.

So how do you know if you SHOULDN'T adopt a TEEN?

Here's some clues--(speaking on what I know here so it pertains to China teen adoption)

1.  If you expect undying gratitude for adopting a teen- You shouldn't adopt a teen.
They are losing everything they know, you are causing them TRAUMA, even to give them a "better" life.

Some do NOT want to be adopted and there's no way to know if they do or don't.
They don't KNOW any other life so they don't see what they have as terrible so don't think they are coming to you being thrilled about this new life and that they will show you ANY gratitude. Even "thank you" and "please" are not standards in China like they are here. If it annoys you to no end to never hear "thank you" you are gonna need to do a LOT of work to make it a habit and if that's a deal breaker for you .............. you might want to reconsider if you are up for this. 

2. If you are expecting to adopt a 11, 12, 13 year old (even down to babies this really applies to ALL adopted kids) and think they are going to be their number age in maturity and you EXPECT them to act that way any time soon----- You shouldn't adopt a teen. These kids will have YEARS and YEARS that they lack maturity and do not "catch up" for a very, very long time, IF EVER.

You very well could have a 20 year old who may/may not be able to graduate school, can't fill out job applications on their own, have no job history/driver's license or even motivation to work to support themselves. They may read at a 3rd grade level yet think they are going to become "famous" and be a movie star. There's huge gaps in the REALITY of life/taking care of themselves. Teen adoption is a longgggg haul commitment, not "Get them to 18 and phewww, we are done." Nope, not gonna happen. If you are cringing at the thought of your 20 year old thinking they will be the next Jackie Ch*n ..................then you might not be ready to take on a teen adoption.

3. If you are adopting a teen to give another child in the family a "buddy"---- You shouldn't adopt a teen.  Again--These kids lack maturity and the 12 year old you think will be a great pal for your 11 year old at home, will be about 5 year old behavior in China, and 6-7 year old behavior for a least 6 months, gaining slowly up to about 11 years old behavior home 2-3 years, maybe even 4-5 years post adoption, so they will NEVER be the same maturity. 

Adopted child may even be annoying to sibling and jealous of same age sibling along with the issues of having one child who is ready to drive, have a cell phone, computer usage, etc. and often adopted teen is NOT ready for those things at the same time. You DO have to be prepared to parent per their maturity age and not number age and take the heat for them not being allowed the same things sibling (or kids at school) are getting at certain ages.

Your new teen WILL count everything, even down to BEANS on their plate compared to sibling and even YOU. Do you have more than them?  Do you not love them as much????  If the thought of hearing "Why does so and so have MORE?"  every single meal drives you nuts........... you might not be up for teen adoption.  

4. If you don't get that this is a hormonal teen with toddler behaviors at first and you are inpatient/ unable to have tolerance of that-- You should not adopt a teen. Yes, they will bawl, hit, scream, pee, fight, ignore you on purpose, cause you to cry, act out, try to manipulate you in to buying them everything.  You GOTTA have tolerance and patience with these things.

As well you gotta understand they have hormonal changes and all that comes with that and may not have any clue how to take care of those personal issues (periods). You may have a child who knows NOTHING about their body or how it functions, or in the rare case, you may have a child who has been abused/ seen things they shouldn't. You HAVE to HAVE a plan in place to keep younger siblings safe. Baby video monitors, door alarms, even your local crisis center number and how/who to call if you need immediate help and it's Saturday night.  If this seems overwhelming to you and you can't imagine living "like that"...................... you may not be ready to adopt a teen.

5. If you expect great table manners and good hygiene to be the norm--- You should not adopt a teen.  It's totally cool in Chinese culture to slurp, throw food on the table, eat and run (so if you take your time they will find messy things to do at the table since they are DONE and done fast), it's not the norm to shower daily, use soap, use deodorant, even change clothes daily.

 All these things can be worked on, but some WILL take time. Especially that slurping habit!!  If this drives you bonkers.................... you might want to reconsider if you are up for adopting a teen.

6. If you think you will get a child well prepared for adoption and who comes lovingly in to your arms-- You should not adopt a teen.  They may/may not get what "adoption" even means. Usually it's a MAY NOT-- they think they are coming here for education, days filled with gifts, Disneyw*rld, riches galore, opulent rooms just for them. They don't get chores, siblings being equals, they have false ideas of what our lives are like and what we are adopting them for. From crazy stories like organ harvesting to cleaning/babysitting for us-- there is little understanding what being a child within a family MEANS.

Often they don't even like the sight of us-- we are different looking. We smell different. We talk different. Even smiling at them we are scary.  They don't understand why we want to adopt them and most are told we will send them back if they are not "good" thus causing 1 of 2 reactions-- extreme fear (acting out, crying, peeing, hitting, screaming, running, etc.) or shock (totally zoned out, scared to death, afraid to upset you, crying.)  If you don't think you can handle this craziness for your China trip and until you can show them with TIME that you are okay and get them to understand you aren't sending them back EVER.................... you might not be up for adopting a teen.

7. If you think you will have personal space for the next 6 months (or year and a half) -- You should not adopt a teen.  There's no personal space in China and they will be rough, in-your-face, on your lap even, touching everything, grabbing things they shouldn't, trying to nose in on everything that's happening and even be a part of it all no matter if it pertains to them or NOT.  You have to work on this slowly to teach them in this culture we value our personal space and they will offend people if they don't get this.

There's soooo many things we have to teach the teens that you wouldn't think of having to teach.  Orphanage care encourages NO thinking. Don't ask, fall in line, do as you are told and do it fast, don't get called out or you are in trouble--  that's orphanage living. Even correcting a teen can bring BIG, HUGE issues when they decide everything you tell them to correct them is "yelling" at them.  And since they are living in this culture it's really no less than cruel to NOT teach them how to get along here. Because they will be offending people/ unable to make friends, get jobs, marry if they aren't taught how things work here. It takes a lot to work through this and it's not a one time deal, it's LONG TERM. If that sounds daunting to you................ you might not be ready to adopt a teen.

8. If you have no idea what ESL means-- You should not adopt a teen. Get familiar. English Second Language teacher. It's either going to be YOU-- if you homeschool, or your new best friend-- meaning the teacher stuck--- Ooops, I mean BLESSED-- to get your new teen to teach English to. Now understand, if you think your child is coming to you with ANY great school skills-- you will be greatly shocked. Schools are not free to all in China and orphan children are not placed in good schools. Some don't even get to GO to school at all.

They are missing HUGE chunks of skills, areas of learning,  even homework is an issue-- because no one pushed them to do it. Motivation- some come with it, others have NONE. You aren't going to PUT motivation in them. Ain't happening. YOU have to become your child's greatest advocate and you have to be open to more than "We homeschool and that's how it is" attitude. You may have a very social child who does better in a school setting. Or vice versa. Or have a school that is clueless how to teach your child and have to FIGHT to get them educated year after year after YEAR. Till they graduate and then they are usually 19, 20 + and may STILL not be ready to go to college, leave home.  And if you think you can't handle that......................... you might not be up for adopting a teen.

9. If you have unreal expectations that they will drive, babysit, even use common sense sometimes-- You should not adopt a teen.  They DO NOT catch up quickly. And if they have any issues- learning disability, speech delay, even just long term orphanage care for their history-- you are going to be looking at YEARS of "catching up." 

They will not likely be ready to drive at 16 if they come at 14. They will probably be reading at about a 1-2-3 grade level and about 10 in maturity-- so would you let a 10 year old drive??? If you can't grasp that, or even have issue with kiddos taking much longer than 18 to graduate/ be independent, heck even to leave them HOME ALONE can take years-- if this sounds insane to you empty nesters thinking adopting a teen and it will give you freedom to still go places alone...................... You might not be up for adopting a teen.

10. If you think your life will be "back to normal" anytime in the next 2-5  (possibly longer) years after adopting a teen-- You should not adopt a teen. Just because you raised ANY amount of biological children to successful adulthood paths do not, DO NOT think you are NOT going to be slammed by some issue/s with your adopted teen. There's gonna be something, probably more than 1 thing that will take your breath away, steal your joy, rob your hope and leave-you -in-the-bathroom sobbing. If you think this won't happen to YOU, you are stronger than this-- YOU ARE WRONG. 

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT have a false sense that you got this covered. NONE of us "had it covered 100%" and anyone who tells you they do is lying.  There's a common issue with teen adoptions- people don't want to admit how darned hard it is because others love a "happy ending" therefore there's all kinds of adoptive families out there thinking they are failing.

You are NOT failing. You are normal. There are days you feel you have done NOTHING right and all you can do is go to bed and pray and wake up to try again tomorrow. And being slapped daily in the face by issue after issue (or even the SAME issue day after day) wears EVERYONE down.

It's often years and a TON of strain on other kids, marriage, extended family, friends-- times when others do NOT get where you are at with this child/teen and trust me when I say it's a LONELY, LONELY place to be when you are doing the best you can but there's no sympathy from anyone directly in your life because YOU ASKED FOR THIS (it's the attitude you get because you CHOSE to adopt.)  You do not have an adorable, cuddly, bundle of joy. You have an acne laced, sharp tongued, razor eyed, raging teen who isn't CUTE to ANYONE. If you aren't thinking you will be ready to claim this "treasure" as your own...................... you might not be ready to adopt a teen.

11. If you think you will be "safe" because your computer is in English, you have firewalls/ parental guards and you actually believe nothing will ever "go missing" when you adopt a teen-- You should not adopt a teen.  You will be the parent whose laptop is suddenly in Chinese and you can't figure out how to get it back to English. Or the one who will have a heart attack when the bank calls you about "charges on your bank card" caused by your little darling. You may not survive the news that anything and everything that catches your little "sweetie's eye" has made it's way to a hidden "stash" that only your teen knows the location of.

Often teens have deep rooted fears (going hungry) coupled with little understanding of right and wrong, as well they want to make friends and will often give things away to try to "buy friendships." Some will do anything and everything to hide away in social media (Chinese movies, music, contact with former orphanage friends or foster family) to keep from having to accept the WORK it takes to become part of the family. If you don't think you can/will be able to become a sleuth of sorts to keep up on all your teen is going to try to pull on you..................... you may not be up for adopting a teen.

12. If you think your child is going to appreciate and respect your brand new ANYTHING (home, car, bedroom furniture, camera, I pad) You should not adopt a teen.  Pretty much EVERYTHING is "fair game" in the orphanages with cement walls and floors, steel doors being the norm. Slammed doors, broken dishes, burned up microwave from foil being put in it, lawn mower being broken-- you name it, they WILL break it.

If you have "nice things" and think you will "teach them" --- think again. Even your beloved pets, will you be able to handle your new teen who kicks your dog repeatedly even when you say NO and you know they totally understand you?  What about your other kids? Got another adopted child and think they will LOVE a China sister or brother? Try JEALOUS-- because that's what you will get. Jealous they were here longer, they have more "things," they are closer to you, they understand you.

If you do not feel you have the patience or can have the understanding of where the anger comes from and the mere thought of your precious poochie getting kicked or even worse, the thought of your much younger, tender hearted child getting secretly pinched, made fun of, told bad things about you/family makes your blood want to boil.......................... you might want to reconsider if you are really wanting to bring home a teen.

13. If you think your adopted teen will come with a full report and all needs disclosed, along with no issues from their past--You should not adopt a teen. You are not going to get a child with "orphanage issues only that can be LOVED away."  It's not going to happen. You can and will get undisclosed medical stuff, baggage from past relationships or lack of relationships. Even ones in foster care can throw things at you that you never expect. Teens come with layers of hurt. Some overcome this well. Some DO NOT. You have to guide them to learn how to overcome and keep going forward, not let their past (no matter how ugly or bad) cripple them. 

 And it's also ongoing, you WILL visit this over and over issue. Many times teens will RUIN celebrations here (we BTDT parents call them "traumaversaries")  because "Gotcha Day", birthdays, Christmas, sometimes one, sometime ALL gatherings turn in to melt downs, and not just on the day- we have seen issues up to a week BEFORE and AFTER those dates!   If that sounds wayyyy too hard for you..............you may not be ready to adopt a teen.

14. If you would never once consider letting ME (or anyone else you don't know) pick a child from US foster care system and send you a great picture of the child, a short phrase on their personality and a very general medical report and expect you to adopt that teen right away without meeting them--- You should not adopt a teen. Please understand me here--- you are getting a teen with HUGE unknowns.

 Understand, we think Chinese culture, medical issues, this "poor abandoned child" NEEDS to be adopted and love will make it ALL BETTER. This is NOT true. Children in long term orphanage care have the SAME trauma/issues as long term foster care here. Changes of caregivers, no real bonds, needs unmet, school lacking/lagging behind, no positive role models they get to stay with.  Add on top of that you speak a different language, are bringing them to a different culture, etc.

 Can it work? Yep, it can. BUT-- if you are unprepared for the issues-- Oh, not YOUR child? YES-- your child. Even when someone met them and said they are quiet, gentle?  Yep, quiet while they hid your things. Gentle while they are pretending to hug their sister and are pinching her on the side you can't see?

If you don't have a clue what you are going to do if this happens or even who to ask "Is this normal?" ..................... you may not be up for adopting a teen.

15. If you think you can dress them up in matching American clothes and send them off to school and they will make friends, be happy, totally FIT IN-- You should not adopt a teen. I hate to say this. But our kids have faced racism-- IN.THEIR.FACE racism:( 

You gotta be prepared to teach them how to cope with it. That it's wrong. You also will have people who will want to "baby them" thus allowing them to "get away" with stuff . (This happened at our school) The mentality is that they were "a poor orphan from an orphanage," so they need to be pitied.   It's a fine line from "my child needs help and consideration of their lack of language/understanding of this culture" to "teen is manipulating adults to get away with things." 

And if you think they don't pick up on who they can pull this nonsense on the easiest, or you don't believe me, you are in for a shock. I don't know ONE child who hasn't done this of our 6. NOT ONE. Parenting these teens is what one mom said to me---- "rehabilitating dysfunctional kids."  They really ARE dysfunctional. And lacking language.

They are street smart but that doesn't WORK in a family.  The family stuff is HARD to learn and they don't always WANT it once they get here and see how hard all this is.  What adoption really and truly means. As my friend and fellow momma said "If you are spending more time painting the bedroom and picking out curtains for their room instead of reading books/ blogs, talking to BTDT parents" (and I add in here) doing therapeutic foster care training, preparing the other kids for every realistic behavior that may come, lining up sitters................... then you probably aren't ready to adopt a teen.

Now, trust me. I am not an expert. I am a mom. Of 6 "older adoptive kiddos," including 4 adopted as teens. One of those adopted from a disruption.  So if you read this and say "That mom is crazy." You would probably be right about that.

And you CAN certainly ignore ALL of this and go ahead --- ADOPT A TEEN.

 I will be happy for another teen to gain a family and will hope and pray it all works out well for you. And trust me when you get in too deep one (or many) time/s and think "What were we thinking, we are failing at this, we didn't expect this, we don't know what to do-- why did we do this?!?!"  I will  tell you to reach out and ask for help. I WILL NOT judge no matter what, I promise. Because sometimes God calls and it doesn't make a lick of sense to anyone but YOU.

And I do NOT know more than Him, so if He really calls you to bring home a teen, then go for it. Just note my email addy at the top of the blog there and be sure to know I will probably say "Yep, I've BTDT" since there's not too much we haven't seen with our 6 and I will be more than happy to be a support to you/ give advice as you need in your new journey with your teen treasure. 

And yes, TREASURE. They are indeed. Worth every-single-time I've been reduced to a sobbing, sloppy mess crying on the bathroom floor. WITHOUT ONE DOUBT.

Lest I get too long written here, which this is already pushing it--- read back through the blog and see, the joy, the accomplishments, the hope, the fast forward parenting. The lessons. The blessings.The love.

 Our family.

 Each one meant to be. We have no regrets, not one, for adopting all 6 of our kiddos. But prepared? Yes. Willing to admit this is one of the hardest things we have ever done? YES. Stretched more than we thought possible? YES.

But again-- OUR FAMILY. The way God meant for it to be. Thus we keep on, keeping on.  With His guidance and love to ease this journey of a lifetime:)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Born in your heart

You just gotta hear the amazing story of a little 5 year old girly who was adopted from China by friend Tammy. 

It's a blessing to share the wonderful joy she has brought and something I love JEWELRY  representing our love for our adoptive children:)

Here's the link to click on-----   Born In Your Heart