Monday, December 30, 2013

Year's End

As our year 2013 comes to an end, I feel an overwhelming need to share something so close to my heart--


The "secret" perks. Things you never realizes would change in your life when you adopted a child. It almost seems wrong to NOT tell about this.

So here goes-----

The 10 things that have changed in our lives since we began adopting older children------

1. We've come to learn what is really IMPORTANT IN LIFE. 

God. People. Love. So many people are out there looking for "something to fulfill them." We HAVE IT. Right here, in our daily life, There's not ONE THING we can think of that we could want, need, or buy that is better than opening our lives and home to  adopt our kiddos. The love we share with them, there's no material thing that is better than this. Our children are PRICELESS. 

2. We've learned to SLOW DOWN and ENJOY LIFE.

I can't tell you how many things I have noticed and been able to enjoy and take time for things having adopted Paisley and her gait is slowwwww. I'm so thankful she has "slowed me down." I really needed it.  She got us ready to help Phoebe when she arrived as well. and there's a special bond with those 2 girls, they understand, accept and help each other. It's sweet to see:)

3. We've learned to have PATIENCE in GOD'S TIMING. 

Kat's adoption-- 7 months. Phoebe's-- just short of 2 YEARS. Not sure I would have wanted to do it again (and again, and, well, AGAIN and again) if it had been reversed. But we "knew the ropes" and were able to hang in there to get our last treasure home and know that she would be soooo worth the wait.


Laughing with our children as they learn, as they figure things out, as they amuse us on a daily basis. I mean, what else are you gonna do when Chloe asks to use the "raccoon" and means the vacuum, or wants to get something from the "fridge- raider" instead of the "refrigerator." Or the "garlic" aka "attic?"  It's just funny. 

5. We've been given GRACE.

Grace to see a world that we never knew existed just 8 short years ago.   We WERE CLUELESS to the needs--- and yet here we are now-- able to be a voice for those children still there, as orphans. To advocate, to educate, to donate, to make a difference for 6 precious treasures no longer orphans, now our sons and daughters.

6. We've been given JOY.

Joy to watch a child come from not enough food, heat, clothes, teeth rotted and aching, a child who doesn't cry because they have learned no one cares to respond---- to children who BLOOM. Fill out. Teeth fixed, no longer hurt. Enough food every day, clean clothes daily and children who have learned they DO have someone who cares about them and they KNOW it. As well their joy in the smallest things, they share that with us:)

7. We've been given ABUNDANCE.

It's been amazing to watch God provide over and over to get these treasures home but also when a need arises, as it often does, He has provided for our needs. It's a HARD thing to give up, the "control of finances" for our big family-- just looking at Christmas costs  for 7 children at home and 5 adult children is DAUNTING. But each time God has provided enough. Always does. ENOUGH. 

8. We've been given PASSION.

About what really matters. Children going hungry. Children not having parents. Children who are dying without knowing LOVE. Families who are struggling with children adopted and having issues. We are passionate about these children and families and we do all we can to help. 

9.We've been given extra FAMILY.

God has given us these "extra children" to our family to not only add to the numbers of our "mega" family, but also given us the gift of the bond of the  adoption community-- people we now consider "family" that were only brought to us via adoption ties:) 

10. We've been given LOVE.

There's no lack of it here. We've been given 6 children we never expected to parent and been blessed with tons of love. We couldn't love them more. They are no different to us than the ones born from us. It just doesn't matter. Love in abundance. You can never have TOO MANY people to love or that loves YOU.

Our children were labeled--


Our children are now--

Forever ours
Amazing people
Meant to be
Identified as ours
Loved beyond measure
Youthful, able to be carefree

All of our adopted children were labeled Special NEEDS.

Yet, without a doubt we have learned they are indeed VERY SPECIAL, BUT--- the NEEDS?  Well, the needs were OURS, we needed them! 

Do you have a need? Let God fill you up, just ask, and He will show you the way. And if it's a call to adopt, here's an orphan, who wants to be a SON-----

Any questions about his needs email me. He doesn't have much time- he ages out in JUNE 2014. So the whirlwind of adoption will be yours if you take this on, but it CAN be done. 

I can connect you with a family who has met this boy twice and knows his desire to be adopted. He is a gentle, caring child.

If you will, please join me in prayer for this precious boy's family to be found. For him to become CHOSEN. For him to no longer be labeled an orphan, but labeled FAMILY.

2013. Our year of 2 more adoptions. Phoebe-- Jan 2013. Paisley-- (finalized) July 2013.  Such a blessed year we have seen.

I'm hoping and praying we see 2014 bring this boy (and many others) HOME.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A great holiday

In thinking back on how our Christmas went, I have to say-- it was one of the BEST holidays we have ever had. 

It's a rare Christmas that haven't had ---

returns needed due to wrong size, color, type, etc.
broken toys/gadgets
tears (not mine MOM)
jealousy issues
worries about a child not home yet

Our teens have had to learn how to handle gift getting in an appropriate manner. And this year they finally did it. If there was anything anyone didn't care for we didn't hear about it. We heard "Oh, I love it, WOW, Whoa, Awesome, Cool, Best ever" and even "Thank you."  Yep. We did. Nothing thrown back at us--- yep, that has happened in the past:(

The teens struggled to learn how to graciously accept gifts. Even Phoebe is learning-- she tends to be a bit "too honest" in blurting out "I don't like that" or "I don't want that." But none of that for our Christmas Day. Nope. It was all good.

We did not do many electronics, Chloe got a camera and Paisley a music player. But there was much happiness in the other gifts, all chosen with love and much thought by dad and I.

Bought over the last few months, one by one. Not much ""we need to get gifts" bought last minute, therefore giving us parents a peaceful, nice anticipation of the day. 

Allowing our focus to be on the Reason for the SEASON. The wonderful gift our Lord gave us in sending His Son.  So special to us. We really felt blessed this holiday season our sense of peace and joy clearly filtered down to the children.

We had a plentiful feast, I made 2 turkeys and a ham and all the fixings. The "boys" (including the older SONshines) ate at lunch then hit the fridge for "leftovers" at 4:30pm and again at 7'sh.  

Hard to believe how much food they can consume-- I did a whole extra turkey for more leftover than at Thanksgiving- when they wiped out all leftovers within 4 hrs. Seriously.

Someone who is NOT eating non-stop.  Check this guy out, our oldest, Derrik. Has dropped 130 lbs!! Doesn't he look great? Walking, smaller food portions are his "secrets"-- no fancy diet. 

So proud of him, we are. It's hard to lose weight and he's doing a bang up job of it.

The day after Christmas we took all the kiddos to the store to use their gift cards- at least the ones who wanted to. And I got to buy a few clearance items, another way to save $$ with raising so many kiddos. 

Shopping after Christmas sales when all the neat "gift sets" are 1/2 price the day after and I can buy them and store to cover birthdays for the kids and their friends, Gotcha Day gifts, etc. Saves us quite a bit. 

As well, some lights for next year, Christmas cards and all the wrap I will need next year. The kids were thrilled to get candy canes for 50 cents. Half price. Bringing up some "cost conscious" kiddos for sure:) Nothing wrong with that. Life skills, always a good thing to learn.

So I know you are all dying to know (or maybe not) if Phoebe got a chihuahua so here's the answer--yep, and she's stuffed. And named Taco. (Don't ask-- another kid who LOVES food) No more real doggy members needed around here.

Although we DO have a new family member-- I'm serious (MOM)

Meet Erin--  Yes, this is Kat's new little friend (the doll). And we are supposed to count her in on the family member count.  

This was Kat's big gift. She was so tickled to get matching girl/doll outfits, now with 7 kids we were not looking to buy the "name brand" outfits-- couldn't really justify the cost of those.  So I prayed about it when I saw Kat's wish list. 

And prayer was answered. A dear friend offered to MAKE the "red fancy matching dresses" asked for and even went further by making matching pj's as well.  Oh, was a certain girl H-A-P-P-Y! And no "brand name label" could have been nicer than the lovely work my friend did.

I told her she should go into business:)  She did a fabulous job. Thanks again Anita for making such special Christmas gifts for our girl.

We are still listening Christmas music and watching Christmas movies. I guess we aren't ready to pack away the great memories of Christmas 2013 just yet.

Phoebe's first Christmas--- she's home at last. 

We couldn't have gotten a better gift:)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry CHRISTmas!


God sent His Son, Jesus Christ.

We take this day to celebrate His Birth.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very, very Merry CHRISTmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa Visit

Don't think that our simplified Christmas season didn't make time for a Santa visit--- Miss Phoebe HAD to see Santa.

So she put on her pretty dress and had her requests all ready. Her excitement could not be contained.

Kat went along for the ride:)  Such a good sport, this big (but smaller in size) sister is to Phoebe. Even with the typical sister squabbles, they could not be better matched as sisters of their hearts.

So we got in line. I gasp at the obscene prices for "Pictures with Santa." A set- up much different than last year:( Because when we got to the entrance they had a sign stating "NO personal cameras or cellphones."  So I thought, well, okay, I'll PAY the obscene price, as they KNEW people would.

But when we got further in line where they asked if we were "just visiting" or "getting pictures" and I asked---- "Can you do a photo with no flash?" And the "helper" said "No." So I asked could I be allowed to use my personal camera because Phoebe can't tolerate light flashes (all my pics of her are flashless) and she said "Yes." 

And she walked up to the other "helpers" and told them. I saw her do it.

So we get up there and the woman asked me "Getting pics?" And I told we were the ones who needed to use my personal camera because they couldn't do a picture without a flash.

And she said "No, you can't do that. You will have to go behind the barriers."  And she meant behind the photographers, behind other people in line, way out of reach of my girls even.


So I told her "No, the other girl already told me I could do pictures HERE and I'm not leaving my girls."  

And she again said "No." So I told her "My daughter can not help that she has a disability. YOU can not take a picture for me to buy so I should be allowed to get my own non- flash pictures HERE."

I do believe my voice even ROSE as I said this.  (I do have some red hair, remember) And she clearly saw I

I wasn't.

And so I got my pictures...........

Moral to this story-- never mess with Mother Bear. Never.  

Wouldn't you think visiting Santa would totally be disability FRIENDLY. Honestly. I thought this was a no brainer?

Anyway, here's Phoebe's first Christmas-- 2013 visit with Santa. 

Now what did she ask for?

A chihuahua! (good grief) 

 Guess we'll see soon enough what Santa thought of that idea?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merriment and meltdowns

It's 2 days till Christmas. We've had a busy time with a rescheduled concert of the girls on Tuesday evening (moved due to a previous snow storm).  Then Chloe's concert on Thursday. 

Friday was the kids' last day of school and all their parties at school. Phoebe's excitement when SANTA came to school and apparently (or so I was told) she followed him all over school-- thus the picture of her with him and no picture of Kat with him.

Saturday our teens in church youth went to church very early to bake cookies then took those cookies and sang to some of the older members of our church while delivering fresh cookies. They were gone all day.

As well on Saturday--the younger girls went for play practice then came home to "chill out."  

Much needed---- you saw the heading of the post?  Yep, lots of merriment and fun--- but also the meltdowns have begun:( 

They began Thursday night. Here's ONE example of a meltdown........

Holiday time. It's a tough blend of fun but also doing "too much." This was during Chloe's concert as a certain someone kicked the seats, put her feet on the seats, refused to sit still, kept bumping Camden-- a SURE FIRE way to "get things going."

Amazes us how she KNOWS what will cause issue and yet she continues to do it.... but then someone is a 10 year GIRL.

And when ANGRY about--- well, pretty much anything and everything at that moment---- then who better to share that feeling with than YOUR WHOLE FAMILY? RIGHT?

Yep, actually it is. Because holiday time is STRESS.  It's overwhelming. And it's why we do our best to try to  keep things as simple as possible for our kiddos, firstly because we want the real reason of the season (JESUS) to come shining through.

Secondly because often times our kiddos do not handle holidays/ special days well. Even older kiddos. (Sometimes especially the older kiddos) 

I've heard one say (more than once) "I don't need anything, don't spend money on me, if you did get anything just take it back. I don't want anything."

Let me translate for you what that means....."It's too hard to behave and I am afraid of being let down so I would rather NOT worry and wonder (and maybe even TRY) to behave for so much time so it's easier to just expect NOTHING."

It's PAINFUL in some ways.  They want it to be ALL ABOUT THEM-- each one of them---- and they know it won't be. The gift giving will include all and someone else "might just" get something they really love Christmas morn and another "might not."  It brings up those nasty competition feeling from EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM.  

The anticipation of wanting something.  This also reminds our teens of "THE BIGGIE."  What's that? 

The biggie of the anticipation........ of WANTING A FAMILY. Of not being CHOSEN. Seeing baby after baby, even toddlers, school age children going to meet their new parents--- parents coming to see the orphanage--- but our teens waiting year after year as their "time" ran out and they lost HOPE day after day of ever getting a family:(

Yep. It does bring them back there. A place we wish to never see them go but........ this season brings them there and their behavior at times can be very much non-gift-giving inspiring:(

So we do a few things to "head this off"--- at least as much as we can.

Simplify.  YEP-- I said it. 

We do some fun stuff, for sure. But we also "opt out" of any craziness of-

Too much shopping
Too much decorating
Worrying that things are "perfect"
Cookie baking (Yes MOM, we do not bake cookies at home)

Dad and I do our best to NOT overload our schedules or leave too much for last minute (Don't mention dad trying to "put holes in doll ears last night" for a certain girl's gift-- note to self-- PAY extra to have done at factory next time)

We do not have an "Elf" on any shelf. It adds too much pressure. Our kids are older and as cute as that idea is (AND I LOVE what I've seen you all doing with those elves-- SO inventive!!) it's just not for us. 

We try to keep the "You better behave or Santa will bring you nothing's" down to barest level. Not going to lie and tell you I haven't been known to say "You are really pushing gift getting for it being so close to Christmas." Because I have uttered that once or twice this year.

The kids end up stressed to "behave" from school, other kids, TV, other adults. That's plenty without us adding in that.

Our shopping is done, wrapping pretty much done. We have enjoyed our kiddos over the weekend and I'm enjoying watching them play Scrabble Junior (an early gift from a friend and a great way to improve spelling).

I made my Winter Trail Mix. It's my Christmas yummy treat, in place of cookies. 

Did it in my BIG dutch oven (3x the recipe) and it takes all of 10 min prep time and 30 min bake time. It's delicious and covers many gifts (teachers, bus drivers, Sunday school teachers, etc.) and the kids love it. I made enough it lasted 4 days! That's rare here.

So what is my gift to all of you this Season of giving?  I wish to give you permission---to have PEACE. 

Peace to skip ANY activities that stress you, your children, that takes too much time, too much effort. That's turned into something no longer "fun or joy filled" but has become a burden.

And let it go....................  

Christmas WILL still come.  And it will STILL be about God sending His Son to us. The babe's birth.  In a manger. Doesn't get more plain than that. No decorations. No cookies. No fancy wrapped boxes.

It will still COME.  Even when pirates represent shepherds. Yep, our Christmas program was so fun-- the girls were pirates due to a "costume mix up" and yet the story still was told. That was the whole theme of our church program.  And WOW, did the girls have FUN being "pirate shepherds."  

Too funny, those "Arghhhhh's"  they were doing-- even Phoebe-- who is visually impaired as it is...... with an eye patch and a sword? 

 We were worried she would hurt herself or someone else---She ended up conking more than one person, but no injuries to anyone---phewwwwww. 

Even the picture is fun-- if you don't smile (She was doing the "Arghhhhhh") then you must be.... well.... SCROOGE. Oh no!  No Scrooge here, please:)

Nope, just lots of peace, joy and our focus where our hearts need to be, the Birth of Our Lord. Jesus. We are so honored to know HIM. To give our children that joy as well. 

The biggest gift any of us ever got-- God sent to us His Son. 

ENJOY celebrating our Savior's birth.   

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow Fun

It's Saturday and it's SNOWING!!!

The girls and boys were so excited to see the white fluffy stuff coming down. It started this morning and at 5 inches and still going strong (8 called for) the joy can not be contained.

Snow man building, sledding, ice breaking (that's left over from the last storm) snow angel making, 4 wheeling, all KINDS of FUN to be had. Everyone is home and safe so no worries about travel------ the perfect time for it to snow, snow, snow.

Enjoy the pics of the kids having a BLAST. Nothing more fun than a HUGE SNOW.

 God's beauty abounds:)

Dark now and still coming down!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Football Banquet

Last night was Camden's football banquet. He was honored as one of the "12 year old" senior players, even though he is now 13. 

It's his last and only year of Pee Wee football. Yep, he was just dying to play and he really had a blast this past year. 

Next step is junior high football and he insists he is going to play--- as far as he is concerned he's going PRO.

Coach said he was like a "breath of fresh air" which cracked us up. He has become passionate about football--he drove us nuts during the season with wanting to be at practice an hour before he HAD to be there. 

As in "Mom, I' m ready." Repeat 10 times. Then go get in car with all equipment and blow horn till mom yells at you to "Knock it off." PASSIONATE.

Coach and Camden
He played "tight end" --now, this didn't mean much to his "sport naive" mother. Except that I got to see him catch some balls and make some touch downs. 

 Yes, I knew what those were. And he did make quite a few. He liked to run and catch those passes, which is something the kids are just starting to get better at during this stage/age range in football play. 

And we are proud to say he's really good at what he likes to do. Catching those balls and taking off. I remember one play he caught a pass and took off, he looked back as one guy was right on his heels, the boy even caught Camden's sock but it didn't stop Cam. He made the touchdown. I was the one yelling "Don't look back, just RUN." 

He was happy to get a jacket, shirts, and a DVD of the games.  

Vision teacher and Phoebe
His team didn't do so well in points, but the coach said that didn't matter, it was the learning, the team work, the effort these kids put in. I was glad he said that- because it's true. The games were played by 9- 12 year olds and the team only had 4 kiddos that were 12. Most of the other teams had 10 or more. And there's a big difference in sizes there. But these boys played their best and worked together as a team to make it a great season--- no matter the scores.

In other things--- Friday Phoebe did a presentation to her class on her vision. With her Vision Instructor. (VI) She just loves her VI. They made a smart board presentation about Phoebe and her devices she uses to help her see better. 

At the end it was neat because she was able to answer questions and give everyone in her class the ability to understand how well she can see. She compensates so well no one realizes she can't see some things.

So she demonstrated the devices and explained why she uses the things she does. How it helps her.

She was quite funny too- I soooo wish I had video taped her for all of you to see. Someone mentioned about how long she has been here.  And she said "I don't know-- ask my mom, she's right there." (pointing at me) Then she continued on, "I just know I not have any Christmas yet because I not here yet and I miss it but now I gonna have Christmas first time because I here NOW!"

Yes, she just goes on and on all the while making everyone smile at her, well, her enthusiasm for life. Because, really, that's what it is. She lives life happy about everything, enjoying the smallest things.

Bloomed. That's all I can think of when I see her, how she has gone from a timid, scared little girl-- to a confident, happy, blossom. If ever a child was meant to be adopted to thrive, it was HER. 

She follows the other 5 treasures we have, that have thrived as well. A joy to see them grow. To see them relax and BE KIDS-- just be kids. Because they have parents that love them and have their backs. Able to let go of all those worries about the label of ORPHAN because they hold it NO LONGER.

Daughter. Son. Such simple words. But oh, soooo special. So very special. And yes, even SON by birth, we love all of our kiddos no matter how God sent them to us. 

You would think at times it *could* be rough with a bio kid right smack dab in the middle of our family. But it works for us. Just today Camden and Chloe were talking and she was trying to pronounce the name on a tag, he asked her "How long you been here?" And he added (cause he's a brother) "You should know how to say that by now." Her comeback?

"How long you been here, you didn't get it right either. So there." And they cracked up laughing. Yeah, she doesn't take any of his snot, she gives it right back. Brother and sister. Doesn't matter that he's a redhead and she's Chinese. It's typical behavior of SIBLINGS. 

I had listened to them and then said  "Oh, I feel the love, I feel IT." As I often do when they get to snipping at each other, as they will do. They know what it means too.  (Knock it off) All but Phoebe-- she said "Oh, that's good, 'cause you are loved MOM. I love you. I think dad love you too, at least he kiss you yesterday and that mean he love you."

I did feel the love from a certain someone--- Paisley. Phoebe, as usual was talking and saying something about "Someone taking me somewhere." and I said  (jokingly)" No one would take me, who would want me?"  And who pipes up first but our PAISLEY-- she said "ME."  Warmed my heart completely:)

She, as well has bloomed. Doing so well. Even with the cold her aches are at a minimum and she's been feeling much better. 

We are all snuggled in and keeping warm-- watching the snow fall and feeling very, very blessed, indeed:)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prayers please

Can I ask that you storm the Heavens for Joseph? Remember him?

There's been an issue with court, so we need prayers for the issue to be resolved. Momma is there with Joseph, spending her time with her new son AND teaching in an older child HIV  home.

Such a blessing she is. Dad flew home because they have been there 2 weeks and they have other children here at home. 

As much of a blessing mom is there, we NEED to pray her and Joseph HOME.  Christmas is coming. Let's pray them on home. 

Please, will you take a moment and join me in prayer for this family and for their court hearing?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Immaturity Part 2

So now I'm moving on to when you have been home with your teen/child over a year. At this point you probably have a decent understanding of your child-- their likes, their dislikes. Favorite foods. Worked on getting them to understand we do indeed, expect them to change clothes every day and have decent hygiene. That each day there will be another meal and another. That you are there for them even if they don't always understand WHY you wanted them.

You've most likely heard about other kids they care about/left behind. Maybe their life story-- which could be quite different than what you read in their adoption file.  You will probably have heard things that break your heart. Make you realize this person, this CHILD-- that you now call son or daughter is an amazing survivor-- someone who can inspire you in so many ways. 

Unless you have a quiet (older teen) then it may be harder because it's really tough to get to know one who chooses NOT to communicate. And some do this. These kiddos may be more traumatized, more withdrawn. Or it may be their personality. 

Sadly this not only makes it harder to build a bond with a child who is like this it  hinders adjustment and their progression. And you can't force them to be more social/ outgoing. It's a tough road for the child and family,  but it does happen.   And often with  a child like this you have to lower your expectations and expect their immaturity to not progress fast at all:(  

A place where a teen and even Phoebe's age (younger child) immaturity can be a big issue is school.  Schooling is a difficult thing- It's tough to have a teen and realize at a year home they are basic (if that) readers-- meaning not even first grade. And it's tough to have a child who looks like a high schooler but is working on elementary work. But they HAVE to. The have to start at the beginning and get the foundation or they will not be able to proceed. 

This is where it's really cool when people home school-- I do not but am SOOO impressed with all of you that do. It's a huge difference for the kids who will struggle educationally, because you can teach them from the beginning and work on behaviors as well. But if you don't then you will have to work with your school to get the basic foundation of reading and writing started and moving along.

One big issue is the huge gaps our teens have because they do not have a good education base from China school. Our schools struggled with placing our first kiddos home in lower than their ages grades not understanding how poorly their education had been. They did not even have basic MATH skills and math is universal. Add that with immature behaviors and lacking English it was very helpful to put them in lower grades. And we do not regret it. They fit nicely right where they are at.

Because our kids will be forever affected by ---again--- orphanage living.   Because they were not taught study skills. And here's a big one-- MOTIVATION. No one in an orphanage is motivating orphans to learn, to study, to get homework done, turn in work on time. It's also hard to teach this later on:(  As well, some kids don't WANT to work hard. 

Many times growing up in an orphanage does not give children any reason to THINK for themselves. They are told when to get up, go to sleep, what to eat, when to eat. In an environment that does not allow them to use their imagination.  They are actually discouraged from using their own brains to think because that would mean questions that aunties have no time to answer, children doing their own thing and it's just easier to teach them to blindly FOLLOW what they are told to do.

This is HARD. Because it leaves our kiddos with huge deficits of learning.  Then we add a whole new culture and language AND family life to their "to learn" lists. It puts them at a different level of maturity per their age FOR MANY YEARS to come. Some grab on and run with it. Others DO NOT. 

Chloe has been home almost 5 years now. She is 17. She is very well bonded. She is at about 15-16 in maturity. She's thinking about driving. She's wanting to go to school dances. She's self motivated, a rare one at that, but she has been that way since we adopted her. She is our only one of 4 that is that way. So I have to say she's an exception in that. Even so she is still lagging 1-2 years behind in maturity.

Chance, Chase and Paisley  are further behind. They have had to learn study skills, be encouraged, even pushed to "get on the ball" with studies, school work.  We've had to work on life skills, social skills, there's very few areas that the immaturity DOESN'T affect  an older child.

When adopting older you have to understand that the commitment to our kids goes way beyond that  "magical age 18."  Honestly 18 doesn't MEAN a whole lot when you adopt a child who is a teen. They may or may NOT be ready to drive. 

They may or may NOT be able to handle a job--- and I mean a job YOU help them get, YOU help them fill out their application, you take them to the interview, even prepping them for the interview- even at 18, 19, 20 years old.

Because between the lack of social understanding many of the older teens believe life HERE is like life in China. They can "live on the streets." They can "tell someone they work hard" and get hired for a job. They do not understand resumes, interviews are for MANY people wanting the same job.

Matter of fact---many teens have a "movie star" view of life, meaning they believe they will be rich and famous just by being THEMSELVES. Odds are not so good on this-- but seriously they believe they can easily become rich and famous. Just yesterday one of the kids  asked us "If I jump off the highest cliff ever would I be famous if I died?"  (No, MOM no one is looking to die-- don't call)  

But it shows the immature thinking process. They don't realize that's just plain silly-- it's gonna make them dead, for sure, -- not famous.   We asked  "What would be the point? And, of course, they had no idea. (Again, that lack of thinking)

It makes me glad that our kids have quite a few years left here to learn what they needs to learn and with us protecting them.  Because they clearly need it.  And it falls under the "cherish and protect" your teen.

It can be difficult, again, to be looking at a teen body and hear some of the things that they "think" is correct, or how things work. And yes, some of it can be chalked up to being totally oblivious to things that normal teens are like that too. But many of these issues are clearly from lack of life experiences. 

As far as dating-- we haven't seen the maturity until recently for our kids to even consider "real dating." Although don't think CAMDEN didn't ASK-- just turned 13 and thought he would "test some waters" by asking if he could date?Uh NO. He is not. 

Another issue. Friends. It's a huge help to have some kids, such as a youth group at church willing to take your kids in and accept them as is. As much as possible. Because coming from a situation where they were not valued in their society and add in our kids immature behavior and it's very hard to have them "fit in" with kids their age. Not to mention the lack of knowing "how to be a friend." Our kids have been blessed with a great youth group. 

It's allowed them a place to find healthy role models, peers who care about them, a place where they really fit in. And again, they are with kids younger than our children's number ages. BUT they were with kids that were the ages of our kids levels of maturity or older--- this is a good thing. 

Our kids could see what other kids behavior was like and teens are usually pretty honest, so if one of ours was acting immature they would quickly get a "Why are you doing that- how old are you?"  And coming from another kid sometimes goes much, much further than good ol' mom or dad saying it 10  (or 100)times.

Immaturity-- it's a huge and long term factor of teen adoption.  Yes, it is. But these kids are wonderful, they can and will do well. A huge amount of patience is needed.

 Expect to see long term immaturity and be prepared to have them home longer than usual to get them where they need to be. Unless some health issue precludes them from being independent, they can and will be, just later than most other children. 

Protect and cherish them-- they need it. Teen treasures they are indeed. I'm excited to see where our precious ones will end up--- just not too soon.  When they are ready.......... which will be soon enough:)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Immaturity--- Part 1

This would be a HUGE topic around here. And it's not about Black Friday shoppers- ha ha. Nope, no Black Friday shoppers (or Thursday) shoppers 'round here. Total craziness for sure. I want no part of that. 

But, anyway, back to the title-- Immaturity--- You see, we have 6 children adopted from China. 4 as teens. One adopted as a toddler. One adopted at age 8, almost 9.

One of my most favorite things is watching our kids grow in maturity. Because when we get them they have little to no language, delayed social skills, almost all were behind in fine motor, gross motor skills a little.

Lack of care, lack of guidance. It really doesn't work well for children to be raised in an institution:( EVER. For any length of time.

Because even when there is a caretaker or 2 that really, really cares for a child, there isn't TIME to work with a child to get them where they should be. Even the environment is not positive for a child-- having to "beat out" others for favors, foods, etc. 

We've seen the big and sad issue of no empathy from more than one of our children. They would LAUGH when another child got hurt. But in a "dog eat dog" lifestyle you learn to not care that someone fell down and that you are "better than them" because you didn't fall thus the laughing at the person instead of helping them out--- such a sad thing to see AND hard to retrain them to HAVE empathy. (but you can:)

In some ways this is where Phoebe and Kat made out well. They were fostered by older people that they learned from, they were loved by and they consider their "grandparents." It's a HUGE difference.

Anyway-- on to the maturity. Adopting a teen, is a huge mix up of a teen body, teen attitudes, cultural differences, and maturity of a toddler. YEP. A toddler. 

Because in the first few days of adoption you very well may see crying, even screaming, fighting, hitting, biting, peeing, anger. All kinds of stuff you would see if a toddler was unhappy and couldn't communicate that.

Then very quickly, even in weeks, they come to a better place, about  age 5-6 in maturity. Pre school. Finding where they fit in, although they may still be hitting siblings, pinching, playing dirty tricks, worrying about sister/brother having more than them, getting more than them.

Fast forward parenting. That's what I call it. Because you really do go through many of the same "new baby, sibling, etc" adjustments you have when you bring home a baby. You will probably need to cocoon at home, many older kiddos can't handle the stimulus of so many things, stores, church, school, parties, etc, need to come LATER. This can be a hard one for others (outside the adoption community) to understand. 

Having had a structured life in the orphanage (told when to get up, get to school, eat, be back to orphanage as well as times they were NOT supervised and no one checked up on them) doesn't give them the tools to handle this new life they have been thrust in to.

And you are adding in the reality that your child has figured out much of what they were told about US, our families, what adoption means, what we adopted them for-- is totally UNTRUE.

Our teens have ALL confirmed they were told untruths about adoption. Because most orphanage workers are clueless as to what our lives really are like. And the misconceptions they feel they share with the children:(

Chloe was talking with me and dad the other night. She happened to bring out the book I sent her with pics of us and I had used scrapbook stickers to "jazz it up." She was laughing and said that the one sticker that said "Father---  guide, teacher, leader."  

I had it ALL translated for her to read. Translation read-- Father is a school principal. HUH???  Yep, NOW, I know not to send any such thing- it should have read "FATHER"  That's IT. Because I know NOW that translation is a very tricky thing and it's sooo much better to go simple than to have wrong translation.

Chloe also shared how she was told we were not coming for her. We were the first Hague (New rules for adoption started in 2008) Adoption for our agency. It took MUCH longer for the paperwork to happen for her and because of that the staff took it to mean we were NOT going to come for her.

I was heartbroken for her. Even the day I arrived in China to get her, they told her while she was in the train, on the way, I was probably not going to show up for her? 

WHY? I don't know, other than not many older children were being adopted from their orphanage at ALL and this was 2009 when many people didn't consider an older child for adoption so orphanages thought these children were not wanted. Thankfully we have CHANGED THAT for the Min sibs orphanage:) They now list older children for adoption-- Whooo hooo! Every child deserves the chance to be chosen.

So back to your child's adjustment stages. You are sitting at home, getting over the jet lag and starting thinking about schooling. Yep, school. It's a terrible PUSH to get your child educated as fast as possible!  They are sooo behind.  Please read this, if you read nothing else of this post. 


At the very least. 4 weeks. 1 month. 

If you can do 3-4 months, this is even better. AND--------- DO NOT stress their education. YEP. I said that. 

 It's soooo important that you learn about your child. Strengths, weaknesses. Personality.  

Do not discount what total immersion will do for your child-- so use English, as much as possible but keeping it simple. Not "This is a fork."  Just simply "Fork." 

  At first they will be very quiet, most likely. Some are more outgoing. Outgoing ones tend to pick up faster, but even the quiet ones are picking up. Often the first month they are like sponges, taking it all in. Especially the language.

Keep as much of a routine as you can. Daily routine. This is comforting to your teen, they are used to daily routine. Even a chart can help, pictures-- get up, change clothes, eat. Because when the start talking to you they want to know "What's next." Yep, they expect you to plan their every minute of every day.

They often DO NOT KNOW how to entertain themselves. Child (animal) movies with easy themes (Finding Nemo comes to my mind) easy puzzles. Chinese music is a way to let them "zone out" when they are overwhelmed hearing English all the time.  And it's okay to let them zone out some. 

BUT----I do not personally recommend free computer access, I pods, phones, etc. It just isn't good. They will zone out in to the computer and if they are struggling they will hide in media instead of looking to YOU to help them. They also do not have the skills for safety, they are still not so sure about your family-- do not add any situation that allows them to be negative about your family.

This includes, Chinese church, a friend's house (our kids didn't spend the night ANYWHERE else for at least a year), even contact with children adopted from their orphanage before them. We don't give the OPTION-- and yes, this is strict but we keep our kids CLOSE----- for our kids to be influenced in negative ways about FAMILY.

Our bond with our teens at first is like a newborn. They WILL go to ANYONE. They will look at their friend who has a cell phone and was adopted a year before them and think they got "robbed" in the family department. It fosters unhappiness.  I spoke to all the kids orphanage friends FIRST before our kids talked to them. And I explained we did not give phones, so that was to be explained it was too soon when our kids asked their friend "Do you have a phone? Will you tell mom I want a phone?"  (And trust me they did this)

PROTECT and CHERISH your teen.  We only get one shot at this. We didn't feel we had the option to "get it wrong." And for all 4 teens, we have the same rules. When your maturity shows us you can handle something then it will happen. And yes, that means we have younger than others with privileges that older ones DO NOT HAVE.

And our kids have pulled that "It's not fair." I've discussed that before. We can't make everything fair in life, hard lesson but it's true. If things were fair our children would have never come to us as it's not fair ANY child ever has to be an orphan.

So we don't DO "It's not fair."  And we use a number of things to show them this, including the scenario of buying 7 dresses of size 14/16. Who will this fit? Chloe. Only Chloe. But if we are being fair that is what we would have to do. Would this make anyone but Chloe happy? No. It gets the point across. Lots of "visual" teaching so they get it.

Often it's hard to cope with them being so physically attached to you, this is something to work on slowly-- so they don't feel rejected but also you have to teach them so when they are among peers they aren't offending people. And they will. They have soooo much to learn about our culture and often they "miss" social cues.  

Another issue commonly seen is the "hyper vigilance" while in one way can be really helpful to know everything that's going on with your other kids, but it can also backfire when new child thinks they need to know everything everyone is doing. And I mean EVERYTHING. They can't miss out on anything that's going on. 

Usually this diminishes over time but it can be highly annoying and certainly does not endear them to their new siblings when they are telling everything on the other kiddos. Finding a happy medium with that takes time.

Just the other day Phoebe was making Kat mad by telling her everything she said was "a bad word." Kat said she was being ridiculous. And Phoebe told her THAT was a bad word. So Kat comes to me irritated with Phoebe and Phoebe comes to me saying Kat is saying bad words. OIY.

I think at 6 months home you feel a kind of sigh of relief. People often say that-- just make it to 6 months and you'll be okay. I think what it means is that you really feel a bit settled in, you know your child somewhat, you can, at least, understand what they need in English. Lots of things are easier. 

But I think too that at around 1 year we often see some negatives. It's a time when we think "WOW, they have been home a whole year." 

And yet it's highly likely we are thinking--- goodness, why aren't they further ahead in this or that way? There's times Phoebe's behaviors are annoying-- now have no doubt, we love her, of course we do. But she does things that are close to 5-6 year old in maturity and I get impatient wanting to get her "caught up."

It's those times I have to ask God to forgive my impatience with this precious treasure, she's still learning and she's really the sweetest child, her and Kat both. 

 I mean, these 2 are making cards right now for God, and Phoebe wanted to know God's favorite color (answer ALL of them, He made them all!) and how to get a card to God ( tie to balloon and release).  

Yes, immaturity. It's part of the walk. Of adopting and parenting an older child. Some of it so sweet and innocent, some frustrating and difficult. For us it takes patience and love, as well as guidance from God. All part  of the commitment to the children we have adopted. To see them through and always try to do our best for them:)

 I'm going to end here and work on a Part 2, which is going to address the immaturity and longer time home, where we have gone with the older children, driving, schooling, dating, up to independence as an adult. 

Because as more people adopt older there's a world of difference to bring home a preschooler, even elementary school compared to a middle school/high school aged child as far as a "few years down the road."

So come on back and I'll get Part 2 up soon:)