I'm sorry to say this, but I'm becoming a culture warrior. I don't want to sugar coat my life. On Facebook I try to pull out positives of every day, find joys to share with those who want to stay connected to our family but can't because of distance and busyness. Some days they aren't there and you get to see some of the nitty gritty of life with 5 kids. But I really feel the need to be real on my blog.
Our family dynamic has become even more unusual since Lottie has come home. Not only are we a family that is committed to Jesus and is heavily involved in church, but we have 5 children, we are a special needs family, an international adoptive family times two, we are an international ministry family, we are a homeschool family, we live in a 160 year old historic home our family is slowly restoring, and we have an uncommon career schedule/lifestyle to follow. This makes us weird. Really weird. And it's a good thing I don't mind being different. Because we definitely don't fit any molds anywhere.
This month Lottie has made some more improvements. She can now kick a ball with both of her feet! She can go up two steps without a railing by herself. She can break into a shuffle-like jog! She can take off almost all her clothing unassisted and can put some of her clothing on at bedtime. She is beginning to love cuddle time at the end of the day and initiates it with me. She is doing great in her classes at church and is getting familiar with the three year old group we are placing her with (since she is being held back from Kindergarten this fall). She tries to imitate lots of sounds, has perfected a kiss, and can initiate a few single syllable words intentionally, like "no", "yeah", "hi", "bye", "stop", and "up". I have even heard a call for "mama" a few times this week, but am not sure if she says it babbling to herself or if she's talking to me! She is able to open the screen door and step down to go on and off our back porch now too, but only to watch others who are outside (no wandering, yet!).
She loves music, rhymes, and prayers, and wants to copy them (and sometimes can get a few sounds out successfully). She is also learning to do some self care, like getting a cup of milk out of the fridge and putting it back (but we often have accidents with other contents and big messes ensue!). Her eating is getting faster so meals don't last an hour anymore (yay!). With a specially ordered fork and spoon to accommodate her poor muscle tone in her arms, she can scoop up food with less effort and mess!
Lottie has also learned some not so great behaviors. Now that she is comfortable with our family, and she started developing from a 12-18 month level when she came home, we are now experiencing some "terrible two's" behaviors on a daily basis. There is lots of screaming to communicate dislike in things, mostly when her brothers disrupt her or take something away. There is lots of crying when she's teased by a brother or pushed hard to do something she doesn't feel like doing. Her screams and cries are her way of talking at this point, but they are very distracting when the other kids are trying to do homeschool. She wants to be with them and gets bored, so gets into all their things if they are sitting out, or finds her way into the bathroom and plays in water. Toys, papers, books, household items, you name it gets strewn all over, in every room of the house. The quiet, calm little girl we took home has come alive in many ways, and while it is good developmentally, it is very time consuming and exhausting!
This month has been a crossroads for us. I have come to admit we can't do everything we are doing perfectly. The kids and I can't manage four trips to therapy a week, five full days of school for the other four kids a week, my manage trying to work a night shift a week, minister to international students throughout the week, spend individual time with each kid and as husband/wife to keep our bonds/relationship close, stay committed to our church, do extracurricular activities, keep our household running smoothly, and nurture friendships and relationships we have elsewhere. My body and mind just can't take it, and the kids all admit it's not working for us. So we have decided to modify or eliminate things that are non-essential at this time. It was very difficult, as everything seemed important. The kids had already given up so many activities and trips they love for Lottie to be adopted. I sought counsel from other special needs adoptive moms in a private group who shared with me their experiences over the years. It was such a comfort to know that even though I've never met them, they have been there. They get the heart wrenching feeling that I can't do it all, that I'm over my head, that something has to give. After talking it over with Kris and trying not to make an emotional decision, we decided to cut Lottie's therapies in half. We will intentionally work with her at home to do what the therapists have told us they are doing in their office. We are also modifying homeschool in a big way for the boys. They need more structure and independence in studying, with less distraction. The chaos in our "classroom" has been unlike anything we've had over the years. They need change. We are still making decisions but they are favorable to them. There are some other changes we know need to happen, but we trust that God will open those doors for our unique challenges we have as a family.
The more we fight to get Lottie what she needs, the more I realize the incredible lack of resources in our area. Making phone calls to people in our community who answer "I don't know" or "we don't have that" is very disconcerting. To find understanding over special needs children and the challenges they and their families face is a rarity. I never knew this until I was there myself.
I am continually reminded by the special needs adoptive community I connect with daily that the first year is "survival". We were so spoiled when Anna Faith came home. While she was just 18 months old, she still fit into the groove of our family quickly. Even with her medical special needs, getting 5 surgeries scheduled, handling healing, and follow up was rather simple and uncomplicated. It didn't consume every day like Lottie's needs so. From a statistic section of adoption training some time back, Anna Faith was considered in the 33% of internationally adopted kids that jump right in and thrive. There's the 33% who struggle, but can eventually overcome with lots of work, effort, investment, and adaptations. We anticipate Lottie is in that group. Then there is the last 33%. For those my heart breaks. They are the adoptees who always struggle medically or developmentally, may never bond, may never trust, and have poor outcomes as adults. When you look at a photo and a medical report of a child in China, you are never sure which percentage group your child will fall into. When you commit to adopt, you commit to the possibility that child will never thrive despite your best efforts and most desperate prayers. There are thousands of American adoptive families today who daily struggle to make it. Please pray for them. They are the bravest of the brave, the most selfless, sacrificing people I've ever come to know. They are in the deepest trenches as they battle with their children who will never return love, trust, or affection. They will only cause pain. These are the stories that go untold, because they scare people away from adoption. But this is the reality of adoption. It is a calling you go into blindly, despite your best efforts to remain in control. When you step in to commit to a child, there are no guarantees of a happy ending. Many, many adoptions turn out into beautiful stories. But even underneath those positive stories, behind closed doors, there has been struggle, pain, and sacrifice.
Our lives have truly been altered by Lottie's adoption, but with time, we will find our place, renew some old friendships and make new ones. We don't expect everyone to understand. Like I started out this post, we are a very unusual family. We are still trying to find our new normal, still struggling through days and weeks with stress and transitions, but still finding little joys in each day to celebrate as well. We are so thankful for people who have helped in little ways, sent encouraging messages, out of the blue wrote they are praying for us. I consider myself a very strong, independent person. But in this season, I am so thankful for the "helpers" in my life.
Here's a few photos of this past month with "Boo".
|Lottie's Certificate of Citizenship came after 2 months! She now has a SS Card :-)|
|Playing at Discovery Park|
|Encouraging Lottie to crawl through tunnels- she was pretty scared of them!|
|Learning to hug- she's getting the hang of it now!|
|At SkyZone Homeschool Day- it was a good way to exercise and try to balance but she got worn out quickly!|
|Smelling a Rose after physical therapy- she doesn't try to taste flowers anymore!|
|Playing in her swimsuit for the first time- this is at the local splash pad|
|Trying to learn forming sounds in play/imitation. She's picking up quite a few to build on for future words!|
|Snuggles- Lottie initiated now!|
|Mother's Day 2018|
|She's beginning to pose for photos now- and wants to see them afterwards!|
|Lottie's first Mother's Day with her Mommy|
|Parent/Child Dedication on Mother's Day in church.|
|Our friend's mother came from Beijing to watch him graduate. She stayed with us over a week and Lottie had a Chinese "grandma" to spoil her and speak to her in Chinese (she knows no English). She enjoyed being babied.|