Friday, May 28, 2010

Four months ago

Four months ago today we walked into an orphanage in China with so much excitement and uncertainty to meet our new seven year old daughter. While the first few minutes of our meeting were happy, Claire eventually realized what was about to happen. She was about to leave with people who don't look like her, don't speak her language and her hope of returning to her foster family wasn't going to happen. This picture is the last one we took at the orphanage before Claire started crying. While I'm smiling, you can see the pain and fear in her eyes. Looking at this picture brings tears to my eyes now; just seeing her emotions written all over her face.

And now, four months later this is what we see. No more fear, no more sadness, her anxiety of being abandoned is starting to diminish, she's speaking nearly fluent English, and she's even beginning to read! Her face looks much happier now, almost relaxed in way. Do we still see some grief? Yes, but it's getting more and more rare that she cries for her China family.
Some big news that I haven't shared yet is that she remembered her phone number in China and we had a contact in the country call it to see if it was indeed her foster family. It was. We have their phone numbers and email address and I've been in contact with her foster aunt (a yi). We have sent them many pictures of YaYa and I've talked on the phone with her a yi. Claire knows that we have contact with them and that she can talk with them if she'd like; she doesn't want to. The one time she thought she did want to call her foster grandfather answered the phone and Claire melted into a puddle of tears on my shoulder; it was too hard for her. We don't know the entire story yet of what her life was like in China. She tells us lots of stuff and we ask her questions but it will probably be a year or two before she can really tell us what her daily life was like with her foster family. One funny story she told me is her two a yis (one big, one little she says) took her at nighttime and they went swimming and came back in the morning. The tone she used made it sound like it was a secret swimming trip. I know her a yis loved her very much. The one I have email contact with has said she will send us photos of Claire when she was little. This would be a priceless gift!

Another long update. You know, I would be able to stop posting such long updates if I did this more often but with 4 kids to raise and a house to manage, the time just seems to slip by so quickly.
Wow, Claire loves school! She fits in wonderfully and has made many friends. She's somewhat of a celebrity among the students and has sparked a puppy love crush in many boys. She decided that she'd like to ride the bus so I let her try a couple of days and she liked it. I still pick the kids up in the afternoon but they ride it to school in the morning. She has abandoned sitting with Emily or Matthew on the bus in favor of sitting with a friend from her class.
She has found her independence while at school and will push Emily away in the hall if she feels like Emily is trying to help her (read: control her). Her teacher is amazed at her progress and has been extremely helpful in Claire's transition. At the start of next year I have consented to have Claire assessed for extra reading help. If she qualifies for the help she will get daily sessions with the reading intervention teacher. This extra help has made me feel secure that declining the ESL services was the right decision. With the work I am doing with her at home and daily reading intervention at school I am confident that she will be caught up and achieving grade level skills by the end of 1st grade, if not before.

All things medical
Claire has a huge amount of anxiety when it comes to doctors or dentists. It took us 20 minutes just to get her to open her mouth at a recent dentist appointment, and that was after I reassured her over and over that it would not hurt.

A bit of advice for parents adopting older children- if any way possible, try to get both parents to attend medical and/or dental appointments. If you both can't attend then try and split them between mom and dad. With J's job it isn't feasible for him to attend appointments during the day and I understand that. After a few appointments where blood was taken or dental work scared her it really started to impact other areas of her attachment with me. I was the bad guy. I was the one picking her up from school and driving her to appointments and I'm sure in her eyes, I was the one allowing others to cause her pain even though I know it's actually to help her. She doesn't understand that we're trying to help her, trying to treat her teeth to make them better; right now she only sees it as pain and I'm allowing it. Not only would splitting up appointments between mom and dad help with the attachment stuff, I have to admit that it is emotionally exhausting on me. I feel selfish even saying that because I know it's 10 times worse for her but it's the truth. For over an hour recently at the dentist I reassured her, stayed positive, gave her choices, tried rewards, tried bribes, got a little irritated and said she needed to open her mouth, felt bad for telling her that and went back to being happy and positive, etc. Then I gave up. THEN, that night she said it didn't hurt. grrrr

The other bit of advice is start out with a dentist who will do sedation dentistry. Claire did so well with her first dental appointment and let them clean her teeth and do x-rays so we stuck with our family dentist to start treatment of her many dental problems. I would count on any child adopted from China over age 2 or 3 to need fairly extensive dental work. Claire needed 4 extractions and 4 fillings. The first treatment visit started out very well but when one tool popped on her tooth and made a loud noise she freaked out. I really don't think it hurt as much as it scared her. From then on getting her into a dentist chair willingly has been difficult. We had an oral surgeon sedate her for the extractions and now we just need to get her fillings complete and her space maintainers in. She won't do it so in June we have an appointment with a pediatric dentist who will do conscious sedation for treatment. If I knew then what I know now, I would have started out with that route to begin with. I do not want to scar her forever with dental anxiety but I think it has already happened.

Claire bonded very quickly to Emily and Jacob but Matthew took a bit more time. I don't know if it's because they are the closest in age or something else but Matthew really had to try to win Claire's affection. If he did something wrong she was right there to dime him out and he really couldn't do anything right according to her. Once she got over whatever it was that she didn't like about Matthew she realized he is actually a good big brother. She even chose to sit with Matthew on the bus at first, which really irritated Emily. Look at this picture taken in the airport when we returned home. I love how Matthew and Claire are checking each other out. He was so happy to meet her and she's thinking "yea, who are you and why is MY mommy so happy to see you?"

Now we hear and see this around the house a lot between the two of them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sight Words

Wow, Claire is learning amazingly fast! About a month ago I asked her teacher to send us home a list of sight words for the entire year. I had planned to work with her over the next few months so she knows all 57 kindergarten sight words before starting 1st grade in July. At the rate she is going I'm fairly certain she will know all 57 of them before school is out in 3 weeks.

On the official kindergarten list she knows 39/57. I have also added words to her flash cards that I thought we should work on as well; they include the written word for numbers 1-10 and the word of the most common shapes (circle, triangle, etc.). I printed those off on Monday of this week and she can already tell me what they are without any clues.

She's also taking her known sight words coupled with phonics to read! To say she's blown away any expectations I had for one quarter of school is an understatement.

Here is a picture I took of Claire earlier this week. The cards on the right of the picture are words can recognize by sight; the words on the left were the ones she didn't know that day. She learns so much every day that some of those words have already moved across the table!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Climbing the Wall

Here is Claire, climbing the Great Wall of China in January. I love this picture and plan to frame it for her eventually.

We originally took the picture to show how the stones are wore down close to the handrail but now I love having a picture of Claire on the wall without anyone around her.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

While I cherish my four blessings on this Mother's Day, I can't help but to also think about the mother on the other side of the world who does not know her daughter. The little girl who is now my daughter, my blessing.

Legacy of an Adopted Child

Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.

Two different lives shaped to make you one.
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first one gave you life and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name.
One gave you a talent, the other gave you aim.

One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.

One made an adoption plan, that was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.

Now which of these two women are you a product of?
Both, my darling, both. Just two different kinds of love.