Many of you knew Randy had to make a trip to the states for his father's surgery. He just returned and the whole house is beside themselves!! That includes our dog, Tiny, who was elated when he walked in the door! If he could talk, he'd tell you that he is the only reason he returned! For him!! Then there was the cry of several of the girls who screamed "baba hui lai, baba hui lai (dad's home, dad's home!)" when they saw him!!
With dad gone, things weren't exactly a bed of roses. I know I generally try to keep things light and cheery on the blog, and while we do often have good times, those are the ones I generally tell you about, there are also the not so pleasant times that we also deal with because of all these girls have been through in their short lives. Today, however, I decided sometimes you just gotta tell it like it is! I know he needed to go and he really needed to be there for his dad and family during this time. Of that, we had no doubt and I am ohhhh so thankful that he was able to go and be there for them all!
On the other side of things though, 16 days was a terribly LONG time for these girls, and mom who had to deal with all the issues regarding dad's absence. While I'm missing him a lot too, I spent most of my time focusing on behavioral issues due to the fact that he'd left. I hesitate to use the term normal, but let's just face the fact that these aren't your typical average normal kids. They are orphans, who have been through way more traumas and tragedies than most children will ever experience in their lifetimes. As a result, they are hurting, insecure, emotional, and some of them have physical issues they are still healing from. It is the very reason we've chosen to give them a family setting rather than just another institution. We wanted them to feel the love and security of a real family, a place where they could heal not only physically, but emotionally from all the traumas they've endured in their short lives. To be able to know and experience the love of a family with a mother and father. And I have to say they've been through many, many tough times!! As older children, we continue to find out more of their stories as they feel more secure, other things are revealed as they begin to speak out. This healing is not a quick process but takes months and years for this type of emotional healing to take place. While we have seen so much improvement, there is yet much to go. Our hearts continue to go out to them as we love them the best way we know how and help them heal.
First, we have the dog's reaction to his absence. After-all, he's a member of this family too! His reaction is the mildest and easiest to deal with. Since Tiny has been around for several years, we'd already expected his reaction to the situation. See, it even affects the dog! How much more then do you think it will affect a child?!! For a few days, he's just mad and lets me know that by doing things like peeing on the floor a few times or shredding things everywhere. Totally not typical behavior of him! That only lasted a few days and then he was fine. That was mild compared to the reaction of many of the girls:) After he returned we expected his typical reaction of--first he'll be elated and all happy upon his return and then he'll be mad that he left by peeing on the floor a few times. He didn't disappoint, but got the very reaction we'd expected. First, he went ballistic and was elated, then today the mad part began. That'll last a day or so and then things will be back to normal with the dog.
Any of you who've adopted an older child know that there are many issues you deal with even if it isn't readily evident to others. Recently my sister told me she felt I should share more of the challenges we go through here as it all looks like everything is just a bed of roses. So today, I decided I would share this experience of what we've been dealing with for the past 16 plus days. So here goes our story:
Although we did many things to make the girls feel as positive about this short absence as possible, it all seemed in vain as their reactions to his leaving were various and not exactly pleasant. I'm sure all the things we did were helpful and I'd do it all over again, but their reactions seemed like these were all in vain. All I could do was try to reassure them multiple times a day, deal with the negative behavior, and love them through it as best I could.
First of all a few days before, as soon as we told them, the trouble began. Hannah, although not very vocal about it, was quite affected and upset as she peed in her pants for days!! Then other negative behavior began. Things she used to do but no longer does, suddenly returned. She was irritable and not very cooperative as well. No doubt, she was clearly upset and fear set in.
We also talked to dad on Skype every day, sometimes twice a day, and that was nice, but there were still doubts of him returning. You see, we've had many people who visit here at New Day and have had 3-4 interns who've worked here with the Forever Home girls for several weeks before returning to the states. All they know about America is it is a far off place where people go and never return!! In their minds, all they knew was their dad went there too and no one (that they knew of) has ever returned from this place. Imagine their fear! Now, when you think of it that way, it is easy to understand their reactions to this news. They were just beginning to feel secure, when all of a sudden, their little security rug was ripped right out from beneath their feet! It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it all as I write this!
Another thing we did that I'd hoped would help them feel more secure was a count down calendar. We made a calendar and each day we'd mark off the present day. Then we'd count and number the days until dad's return. Multiple times a day, I'd say "Only 5 more days until dad comes back!" Although, it's hard to tell if it really helped them, I think that in hind-site, next time it will mean more to them as they've now been through it. Even Serena, the oldest of the Forever Home girls, had much difficulty with dad's absence. Some of that I'll get to in a few minutes. Just a couple of days before Randy's return, we were talking to him on Skype when she asked him in Chinese "Are you REALLY coming back?! REALLY, REALLY?!" Although we'd done so much to reassure them, she still had doubts that she was voicing. After-all, no one they knew ever came back from this place called America! Something, I'm quite confident, that all the girls were experiencing but not speaking out themselves. Rather, it came out as negative behavior. Perhaps it was just too scary to voice but were fearing nonetheless!! Then, when the calendar reached houtian (the day after tomorrow), Serena got all excited!! Tomorrow and the day after, THAT is something she readily understands and can relate to!! She got plumb giddy!! Began going all around the house saying tomorrow or day after tomorrow dad comes home!! You see, most of these girls have little concept of time. So when we kept saying 10 days until dad returns or whatever, they just didn't understand. But........tomorrow THAT they (or at least Serena) understand!
Elizabeth's reaction to dad leaving was much more mild as she has been with us for more than a year now and she is much more secure emotionally. She also has a grasp on time concepts which makes it much easier for her to understand. Though she was still affected like Shawna and Elise, our Chinese adopted daughters. Nothing is the same when a member of the family is gone! At least these 3 were on the very mild side and were able to help me out with the others when necessary. Shawna and Elise were invaluable as they pitched in and helped out a great deal!! Still, even that was difficult on them as we all had to make many adjustments while dad was gone.
Serena..........well.....she had a lot of difficulty while dad was away!! It's hard to tell just how much of it was dad leaving and how much of it was other changes she's now enduring. I guess we'll never know, but I do know that it surely had a part to play in it all judging by the reactions of the other girls!! Serena has a new teacher. We hired a Chinese teacher to begin teaching the girls. While it is mainly Serena's teacher, she also gives Elizabeth, Jenna, and Hannah a short Chinese lesson each day. The new teacher began just a few days after Randy left. While there was no problems before he left, there were plenty while he was gone! After the first week, Serena demanded we trade her teacher in for a new one:0 Based on some of the behavioral problems we faced at home previously but not as often these days, I knew she was sure to face some discipline challenges, not to mention study related ones. I'd told her teacher to expect to be tested for some time when she began and told her how important it was for her to be in charge rather than allowing Serena to take charge. We also talked much about being consistent about discipline and her schedule. While it is natural and normal for kids to test people to see who they can get away with what, we have found it moreso an issue with these girls. They've been through soooo much change in their lives that often they just hadn't had to be accountable to anyone or had much consistency. If someone came along requiring more discipline or expecting more out of them, they'd learnt, just hold on--hold out and it won't be long before it changes and someone new comes along. Anyway, it wasn't long before these some of these difficulties surfaced with Serena and usually then there are problems. I'd told her teacher to call me any time if she needed my help. I was called in more than once while Randy was away to step in and help with Serena's discipline. We, myself and our special education teacher, Wendy, here at New Day, also tried to have meetings once or twice a week to not only continue to encourage her teacher, but give her ideas and help with discipline and creative ways to help teach Serena, who's never been to school. When she was informed that we would not change to a new teacher, but she was here to stay, well.....that's when the real trouble began. She became quite adamant about not listening to her teacher. She stated that she wanted to "go back to help holding and caring for babies (something she did in her former foster home) rather than learning!" She was quite disrespectful to her teacher and when she began to yell at her, call her names and such, I was usually called in to help out. Since we've also experienced these things in our home with her, it was no surprise to me. The one thing she did learn was not only was this not acceptable behavior with us, but there were consequences to such behavior. It usually involves time outs, loss of privileges, or loss of allowance money. We've found these all to be valuable tools in helping to discipline all our children. My biggest concern was that Serena's teacher may quit and readily admitted she was feeling more frustrated with her job than it was rewarding. Several of us have been encouraging her. One of the biggest things is if she was to quit, I know that the next teacher who took her place may have a nearly impossible job!! So you can keep that whole situation lifted up! Some of her behavior includes things like just refusing to listen to her teacher, tearing up her papers, getting on the floor and rolling around, screaming and yelling at her, calling her names such as foolish and stupid and a few other things. Serena has some emotional struggles that she is working through. We are seeing some improvement, but these things take a bit of time to work through. She also has low self-esteem. We are quite encouraged, however, as these times are becoming fewer and fewer as she learns more acceptable ways of dealing with her emotions. Love and praise in abundance we give her as we see it making a difference in her life! Most of the time she is such a loving, affectionate girl who often tells us how much she loves us and is happy here in her new home.
Then there's Jenna's reaction to dad's absence! I'm convinced there is no coincidence in the fact that the very two who've had the most difficulty with his absence is the two newest girls to the Forever Home! The longer they are in a more loving, stable environment, the more secure they begin to feel. That has been very evident these days. Jenna has been through soooo much change in her life. She was moved around a bit and we are seeing the results of that. She, by far, has had the most difficulty with change--any change that happens at our house. Some of it we spoke of before like when Hannah went into the hospital, then Serena joined the Forever Home, then Hannah returned from the hospital--all of them major changes that she had trouble dealing with. With dad's absence, we've had a lot to deal with regarding her behavior. It has ranged from just down right defiance, to spitting, biting, hitting, throwing things like when she first came, and generally having a hard time getting along with the other girls. She's just been plumb ticked off guys!! Of course, it didn't help matters none that there was a change in workers at the same time!! We are trying to get a more long-term stable worker to help with the girls for very obvious reasons. We've had a few interns come to work and visit the girls during this time so that we can see just who is best to work with these girls. Rather than just assigning someone who may or may not fit well, collectively New Day decided we should try them out for a few days to see which ones fit in which places the best. While I like and hate the idea, I think it makes sense. I hate it because of the too much change thing causing problems for our girls, then again in the long run, it is better for them so that the right person--the one fitting the best in our unique situation--gets the job. It can be a challenging but rewarding job!! Anyway, that happened to be going on at the same time as Randy's absence. Needless to say, not only the normal testing time of the new person was going on, but extra with the absence making things really difficult for all of us!!
Then there's the whole issue of trying to do so much of this without Randy's help! We have a teacher for Serena. An intern for Jenna and Hannah. But for Shawna, Elise, and Elizabeth, they home school using an English program. That is mine and Randy's job and it was trying while he was gone. Shawna and Elise are older and have a computer program that does a lot of the programing, grading, and such so they were pretty good, except when they had questions and mom wasn't home. But Elizabeth's school work pretty much requires a full-time teacher and that was sorely lacking. Of course, she didn't feel much like working while mom was away:) She needs someone to help keep her on track! Needless to say, much of her school work didn't happen while I was gone, so we spent many an evening finishing up only to fall into bed exhausted at the end of a looooooooong day! Here's how it usually works when Randy's home, while one of us is usually there working with Elizabeth and Shawna & elise, the other runs the kiddos to school, picks up groceries for the meals, and then returns to pick them up again while the other cooks the meal. With only one of us, it was a real stretch to do everything. We did manage, however, but boy were we ALL glad when dad returned!
The best news is that dad is now home!! Yeah!! I am feeling a bit giddy myself these days:) Perhaps it is contagious and I caught it from Serena--naaah!! So many positive things were reaped from his trip!! There's something about absence making the heart grow fonder! That definitely is true! I know that Randy needed to go and be there for his dad and family, and I truly am happy that he was able to be there for them. But, boy is it gooooooood to have him back again!! I think it has been good for the girls too. Although it was hard to see that at the time, I can think of a few reasons it was good for them. It gives them more security in the fact that someone CAN actually return from America--that far off place that they've only known people to go to and never return!! It also proves to them that when we say someone will return, they can believe that and have confidence in that fact! Dad, the hero that he is, also brought back many wonderful gifts for the girls! Of course, the best gift of all was his presence!! They'd all have been perfectly pleased if he just came back without any gifts. However, gifts are nice too!! Randy was also able to visit and see our two older children, Josh and Amanda, while there in the states. We miss them so and while talking to them on Skype and such is great, being there in person just doesn't compare!! They both had a birthday while he was there too! Then there's Hannah's elated behavior that just makes one smile when they hear her:) About every 10 minutes she tells someone in our home, usually Randy or I, just how much she loves dad and missed him!! Then--she wants to know when he's leaving again! He keeps assuring her that he isn't going anywhere for some time. This has been going on about every 10 minutes for the past two days!! Gotta love that girl who is still feeling a bit insecure about the possibility of dad leaving again! She doesn't know he has to leave on a 3-4 day trip next month with the foster home. Uhh ohh, won't be telling her until a few days before it happens again.
Yes, it's true, we are blessed in soooooo many ways!! We cannot forget to Whom we are thankful the most for all the blessings He continually bestows upon us!! So many ways that we aren't even aware of! 16 long, difficult days Randy was gone--yet 16 days I had to heavily rely on Him all the more!! Thank you for seeing us through ALL the difficult times BABA!!!
Let me just say a few last things. Although I didn't intend for this post to be soooo long, it just turned out that way as it took that long to tell you what all has been happening here for the past few weeks. I also wanted to say, I DID NOT tell you all of this for sympathy or for others to say, "oh, what difficulties you go through!" I only told you this story so that you realize that everything is not all a bed of roses with these girls who have endured more pain and difficulty in their lives. More than any kid should have to! They have much healing to do! Continue to lift us up and these girls as we work thorough some of these issues. Love speaks many languages and we are oh so very thankful for the opportunity to love and care for these girls!! Yes, there are many difficulties, but oh, how rewarding is our job!!! Just remember when you see all the good times we have here with these girls, there are other times, more difficult times that we also need strength, wisdom, patience, and much love to overcome. It is not done, however, without His help and guidance each and every day along the way!!
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