September 22, 2013

A Foggy Start

Is this really a first-day-of-school post over a month after the first day of school, you ask? Why yes, it is. That's just pretty much how we roll these days. We're behind....just behind. Behind in yard work, house cleaning, grocery-getting, meal planning, and overall life-living.

This FOUR-kid stuff is hard!

Just when I feel like we're sort of making progress, a bunch of new stuff gets added to my list and I get totally lost in the shuffle. Thankfully, we are managing to get the kids to school on time and fed (for the most part). Unfortunately, some people have gotten caught in the undertow of our lack of organization, like my super-sweet neighbor who stopped by for carpool caught me in my cruddy pajamas with hair all over and red swollen eyes from only sleeping five hours the night before. Thankfully she's still talking to me so hopefully we aren't losing friends because of our craziness (yet!)

School started here just over a month ago on a really odd, foggy day. In some ways it was WAY too early, and yet my kids were ready to get back in the groove, especially this little man:

Tyler: My firstborn and only boy....he's such a great kid. He's helped SO much with Meili and is just an amazing big brother to all his sisters. He knows how to make them all laugh and just wants everyone to be happy. He LOVES school because he's an extrovert like his daddy and seeing his friends every day makes his days better.

Jenna: My creative and sassy one. We could call her mini-me. She likes school, but wants me to home school her so she doesn't have to get up so early in the morning. Unfortunately she gets this from me too...don't try to talk to either of us for at least 30 minutes after waking. She's also been an amazing help and tonight when I tucked her in I told her "thank you" for always helping me and she said, "Why? I love to do it!"

Keira: My spunky one and snuggly one. She plays hard and crashes hard. It's been rough for her losing her spot as the baby of the family and adjusting to full days of school for the first time. The poor little thing gets tuckered out! We're hoping she'll get used to the long days soon. She makes me smile with her hugs and kisses and she loves to love!

Yes, Meili started school too! She was just as proud as the rest of them on the first day, if not more. She goes to early intervention preschool where she gets her therapies and such. You would have thought she won the lottery when we gave her that backpack, though poor thing tried to put her blanket in it one day and nearly fell over because it's so huge! When I say "Let's go to school" she responds, "backpack?" (more like "ba-pa?") and promptly grabs it and heads out the door.

It just about killed my hubby that I wanted to do a "first-day" post and wouldn't allow him to put the pictures immediately on his FaceBook wall. I just figure, better late than never :)

September 8, 2013

Six Months

Tomorrow marks six months since we came home with Meili. And what a six months it has been! It seems like in every blog post I write, I have to reference the roller coaster. And this one is no exception. There have been joyful moments and horrible days, sweet snuggles and frustrating tantrums.

First, a little health update. It's been several weeks since Meili got tubes in her ears. For the first 3-4 weeks, people kept asking if I was noticing a difference and it was really frustrating to have to answer "no." But more recently, I think the answer could be "yes." It seems like she IS finally starting to make an effort to say some words! Now, she was saying words before the tubes, just not nearly as many as we would have expected. Unfortunately, a lot of her attempts still result in a pretty garbled syllables. She does receive speech therapy through her preschool so we are hoping to continue to make progress.

In honor of the six month mark, I thought I'd record some then and now differences...

I will admit that sometimes I have to make myself think about this list when we have hard days. It helps me realize that we ARE making progress....even when it feels like we aren't.

I'm coming to realize that adoptive parenting is much like biological parenting in such a way that you can never be prepared for it. Before you have a baby, you get advice from everyone, watch "a baby story" on TLC, read "What to Expect when you're Expecting" from cover to cover and yet you can never be totally prepared for the ride that is parenthood. The same is true for adoptive parenting (or at least it seems to be so far) - we took the classes, read the books, talked to other families, and if you know me, you know I researched everything as much as humanly possible and yet we still had no clue when it would REALLY be like.

Since having bringing Meili home has really pushed us "over the edge" when it comes to parenting, time management and the like, my blogging has really suffered. Almost every day I write a post in my head that I want to publish not only for my own memory, but also to help present an accurate picture to anyone who is considering adoption. It won't be exactly the same, but I'm going to try to summarize the last six months anyway.

Month 1
Do any of you remember this month? Because I sure don't. We were jet-lagged, exhausted and totally overwhelmed. No one was sleeping and we all got sick. We tried keeping Meili home as much as possible so she would get used to our house and our family. Things were definitely miserable. I'd heard from other parents that the first few weeks are simply just "survival mode." They were right. We only got through it because of the help from grandparents, our amazing friends who brought us food and our resident teenager, Madie.

Meili - right after coming home

Month 2
Finally over the jet-lag. The food stopped coming. We were still mostly in survival mode. Two of our biological kids were adjusting well and one was not at all. The pain in that one hurt this mama's heart to the core. I was really questioning why we had done this, why God would ask us to do this, why we had screwed with our already-wonderful family.......what on earth have we done??? Those questions and ones like it permeated every minute of my time with her. It was a constant emotional struggle. Jon came home to a crying wife and various kids on a daily basis. Meili was sleeping in our room and it wasn't working well but we felt we needed to do it for attachment reasons. I threw together our son's birthday party with virtually no thought at all and felt like the worst mom ever. This was so much harder than we had anticipated. Two different families considering adoption asked to talk to us and we pretty much gave them the real-deal. I still worry that we scared them away from adoption completely. We found out she had giardia and it had probably been chronic. Just another factor that could be contributing to her poor development.

Meili in April - second month home
 Month 3
 Maybe the busyness of this month helped us adjust a little bit. School ended, my brother got married, and Madie graduated. Toward the end of the month we made the very good decision to move Meili out of our room. It turned out to be a good choice for all involved. We had been keeping her with us for attachment, but it turns out Mom and Dad are no good at attaching to anyone when they get no sleep! People seemed to stop asking about US but still ask about Meili. We are still constantly going to appointments, running tests and checking things. She's not picking up English as fast as we thought she would. We're concerned about other health problems and delays. One of our kids is still not adjusting well. Thank you Jesus for the two that did....I don't know if I could have done it without them. They were such HUGE helps and I was SO thankful to have them with me all day when school got out for the summer. Meili turned three and it was hard. She looked and acted like an 18 month old and it was (and still is) hard for me to say she's three. While she hadn't gained as much weight as we had hoped, she at least had gained enough to not look sick and emaciated anymore.

Meili in May - third month home
Month 4
Oh the weather! Why, oh why, oh why do we live in this miserable state?!? It rained and was cold the whole stinking month! We had discovered Meili loves the outdoors (probably because she'd spent her life up to that point in a 4-walled cinder block room) and having to keep her inside so much was a giant pain. My brother and his wife were home for almost the whole month and it was a highlight for our family. On one tough day, my sister-in-law told me that when she had hard days sometimes all she could do was just tell herself over and over, "God is faithful." It sounded crazy, but I did it and it actually helped. Still confused by her lack of language, we met with an ENT who suggested tubes. All other tests came back normal, which was a HUGE relief. So many kids from China have high lead levels or parasites or a various other things....we were thankful that we didn't have to deal with those.

Meili in June - fourth month home
Month 5
I think we started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in July. The weather got nice and we could be outside. We discovered that she was really learning to LOVE the pool and spending time in the sun has always made this mama just a little bit happier. Our biological child that was struggling seemed to be starting to show her regular personality again. We still had tough days but they were beginning to be fewer and farther between. Our parents really helped us by taking our biological kids often and making them feel special. While it still wasn't easy, it seemed like we were starting to settle into some kind normal. Meili got her tubes and we were hopeful that this would be the first step in an improvement in her language development.

Meili in July - fifth month home

Month 6
Meili is now very good at lots of "typical" toddler things. She throws a fit when she doesn't get her way, cries and whines and screams for what she wants. It's hard to believe this is a good thing. We almost never see the "stink face" anymore. We are getting much closer to normal. I'm still having a rough time adjusting to a "toddler" phase again. I had been spoiled by being diaper-free for four years. Meili's language is still really garbled, but she definitely understands much more than she can speak. We still have tough days and concerns about her development, and we still have a long way to go, but most days at least feel somewhat manageable.

Meili in August - beginning of her sixth month in the US
And that brings us to now. While she's still making up for lost time, in some ways, she is a very normal 3 year old. Today for example:
She was quiet for just a little too long....

Unfortunately this was the SECOND time today I found her like this.

Shame on me for not putting it UP after the first time!!

Oh, you thought it was JUST on her face?!?

Nope. Not even just on her! Ugh.

Well, it took me so long to write this post that it's now after midnight and therefore September 8th, making this officially six months since we've been home. And what a six months it's been.

Here's to the next six months! All those other adoptive parents tell me, "it only gets better." :)