I can’t believe I have been with the girls for two weeks already! Our Gotcha Day was August 31st. In my mind, my “worst case scenario” of the latest we would get the girls was September.
Haha, God. You’re so funny.
As September got closer, as we went through this summer of questions and difficulties with getting the girls home, my idea of a worst case scenario of course changed to November? December? 2017? Today I joyfully deleted about 100 screenshots of tuberculosis testing info I had gathered over the past few months…don’t need those anymore! Neither do I need to hear my email ding or stare wistfully at my phone. It’s truly as blissful as I had dreamed!
So I wanted to write a little about our two weeks, to remember it someday but also for others who may be adopting. I love it when people share details, so…if there’s anyone out there I could help prepare, I’m happy to share.
It’s interesting to me how they handle the food issue. These girls were starving before they came to the creche 2.5 years ago, and then once they got there they ate beans and rice two times a day, so they definitely want to make sure there’s food available to them in the quantity they desire. But at the same time, they’re picky and won’t mind to throw food away. That part surprises me! The first few days, meal times were the hardest times of day for me. And when I say “times”, I mean like 5 times – sitting at the table, plates, forks, napkins, the whole nine yards. They would ask for 4 eggs (they still do), bread and jam, rice and chicken, etc., all at once, but then sometimes when I would give them what they asked they would say they didn’t want it. Sometimes what they loved yesterday, I would put in front of them the next day and they would cry like I had given them Miss Hannigan’s cold mush! I knew I didn’t want any power struggles, so I had available alternatives if they didn’t like something, but at the same time I had a struggle in me because I wanted them to at least try things and I didn’t want to waste so much food and time! After just a week and a half at home, we’ve figured out a groove. If they ask for food, they can eat, but there have been a couple times now after a week or so when I’ll say, “You just ate, we’ll eat again soon!” and they know it’s true and they run away happy. We practice meal time when it’s not meal time! I offer a few choices to them, they tell me which they prefer, and I keep a bunch of their favorites as leftovers always ready in the fridge so it’s easy to make. If they have asked for something and then won’t eat it, I ask them to at least take 3 bites. Thankfully, they’ve been willing. Also, because they literally say “ban’m anpil” (give me A LOT) when I spoon anything onto their plate I tell them they have to eat what’s on their plate before asking for more of anything. They get up out of their seats 50 million times per meal, but it’s getting better. They learned right away that we pray at meals, and lately have been reminding us to pray if we forget in all the crazy rush of dinnertime. Sometimes little Woodjina gets to pretending she’s a preacher, closes her eyes and shakes her head and babbles a whole bunch of thank Yous to Jesus. 🙂
They say thank you for every every every every thing. They love having a closet full of dresses, and they wear them everyday, no matter what we are doing. The biggest surprise is how important socks and underwear are to them. They LOVE them. They take 2 baths a day (their choice of course…Yemi has NEVER been so clean in all her life!) They are really big on having clean socks. Both have cried over socks. Woodjina cried because her basket didn’t have any socks in it anymore (they were in the laundry, I guess she thought they were just all gone forever?) Orlanka cried because her white socks were “soiled”, she said. Running around in socks without shoes will do that and apparently our washing machine needs to be fired. Woodjina washed her own socks in the bath one day; she was really proud. She was like, “Look, Mom! WHITE.” Not really, but I’m sure that’s what she was thinking. 🙂 I took them to Target (we went to Target, WOW, I would have never thought I would do such a thing in the first 2 weeks but I did prepare them thoroughly about what we would and would not be looking at or buying) for new socks–dark colored socks, and plenty of them. Today was the first day there was any problem with 3 girls sharing clothes, otherwise it’s been totally fine, and that situation worked out with more maturity than I actually expected. I was impressed. Oh also yesterday at Target, they got tennis shoes. Last night, they slept in them. So. Happy.
Each girl has a tall bookcase with shelves, and we told them when they first came that that was their “special shelf.” I told them anything on their shelves is just for them, but everything else in the house was for sharing. This has worked out well! They’ve went around the house and put a few random items on their shelves, but when they tried to bring whole sets of toys to their special shelf we had to have a little talk. They handled it well, once I reminded them those items will be there daily for them to play with. They do imaginative play SO WELL! I honestly don’t know when they have had the chance in their lives to do this. They take towels and blankets and make tents, and play for one or two hours at a time with babies, doll clothes, doll food, etc. They love to braid their babies’ hair. I asked them to ask me before getting something out, and they faithfully do…they are so excited when I say yes to things they think I won’t say yes to. I say yes a lot, as much as possible! I am shocked by how well they clean up. Shocked. They pick up, clean up, organize, everything. They set the table. They have never been upset about being asked to clean up an area before going to another activity. Amazing!
What We Do
They couldn’t care less about TV. I know it was on a lot at the creche, but they just don’t care about it. They’ve got toys to play with and art, music, playing outside, dolls, etc to do! I’ve discovered just this week that they sure do love art! They say “I can’t, I can’t do it, do it for me” but as soon as I give them some encouragement and a little direction, they have drawn and colored the cutest pictures! These kids have had NOTHING. Their practice hours with crayons or markers are next to none because they would lose, break, or share anything we brought them. They painted at church on Sunday and we did stamps today. Orlanka especially just really loves things like this. She is so ready for school! Total surprise to me, they asked to do school already, so we’ve done 3 days. For about 45 minutes, they color the letter of the day, make the letter with clay, practice writing or tracing, and we look at books and videos about words that start with the letter. I’m trying to teach 2 English words a day, too, like big and little, up and down. I try to say everything in Creole and then in English, but I do forget sometimes. They’ve been getting up around 7:30, and we sing a worship song (YouTube!) together and pray around 8:30, then have breakfast. They eat for.e.ver and then take baths, get dressed, fix hair (I am sweating buckets at this point – I can walk 2 miles and just have a nice glow, but fixing three little brown girls’ hair, my shirt is WET), brush teeth, and then we have “sensory and connection time”. Lately, that has been outside…so I can cool off 😉 Right now, sensory time consists of playing on playground, swinging, monkey bars, and also having a tactile outlet such as playing with beans, sand, or water with small toys. Today we took a sheet outside and shook it up and down with balls on top, which was great for their muscles, coordination, and relationship building as we had to work together. Connection time means working on things like eye contact, building relationship, snuggling, talking, practicing what to do when certain difficult things happen, and talking about feelings. We use feeling cards and we role play what to do when feeling certain ways. We talk about accomplishments and things to work on during this time, and I try to make it as one-on-one as possible. I follow TBRI/Empowered to Connect as closely as possible, which has helped us incredibly with Yemi (age 8, adopted at 8.5 months from Ethiopia) who started grieving and feeling a lot of complicated emotions and stress at the age of 6.5 years.
Then we eat again around 10:30. While they’re still eating, I start school with Yemi and the girls really surprised me how well they could play quietly. The first few days being home I made them take naps, and they hated it so much. That was really the only time Orlanka has had a “fit”, so I told them we could try playing quietly while I did school with Yemi and it worked. Now, when we’re done, I do school with them on the kitchen floor and they love that, too. Afterwards, you guessed it, we eat again around 1!
That’s mostly our schedule. Then around 5:30 we have things to do to get ready for supper and bedtime, and they are in bed around 8. I stay with them until they fall asleep. I sing and pray over them. I’ve noticed they each (all 3) want and need special snuggle time, so I hold them and rock back and forth on the bed singing and praying, after reading a book together. I’m usually in there a whole hour for this, but there’s no place I’d rather be! Of course Yemi has had this for the past 7 years, and still craves it–I lay in bed with her every night until she falls asleep–but the little girls, I don’t know when the last time was they had this.
I had been told “Orlanka wants a mother so badly. She remembers what it’s like to have a mother. She needs you.” And that is incredibly true. She immediately fell into the normal relationship of nurturing mother and little child. She loves being held, she loves being taken care of, she loves helping me, she pats my back when I hold her, she’s just happy with mommy. I am so grateful–so grateful she finally has the desire of her heart, and all I can think is this beautiful worship song my friend wrote that says “You sing Your song over my life, it’s ‘I love you'”…God sings over me, and I sing over her.
With Woodjina though, she is just now beginning to realize how nice it might be to be held by a mother. She is only 4 now so she wasn’t even 2 years old when brought to the creche. We had to practice hugs and being held at first. Every day has gotten better and better, but sometimes she does still resist, and that’s okay. She’s just never had anyone wanting to hold her, rock her, sit with her as long as she wants before. But I see her daily warming up, and she also is really joyful. She has a special bond already with Selah – she’s a little more familiar with girls around Selah’s age than she is adults. In our Connection Times, she at first talked about being scared, and she is already feeling a lot more comfortable and relaxed. You can tell…because she runs through the house naked, plays tricks on people, and laughs a LOT.
My biggest surprise has been how positive they’ve been. It’s not that they’re happy every minute, but they’re just normal kids – ups and downs, highs and lows, disappointments and excitement, misunderstanding and making up. When visiting the creche, those downs for them were so low, those disappointments were so earth shattering…They have been through so much. They have experienced such loss. I just really wondered if they would be skeptical, think negatively, wait for the other shoe to drop, be able to trust us, etc. I really wondered if they’d be tormented by their past. And maybe that is going on and I don’t see it, or maybe it will happen later–there will definitely be things to work through later, but honestly on the whole they seem content and at peace. There’s every now and then a rebellious spirit (it’s way better when they’ve slept enough), or something that looks like being spoiled (which is really just inflated dreams being dashed!!), and they cry a couple of times a day over hurt feelings, but since I was expecting constant drama like we had at the creche, this is going really well! (Happiness is all about expectations after all!)
My biggest joy is just being with them all the time. I’ve wondered for over a year what that would be like, and it’s awesome. They give just as much as they receive, and they are precious, fun, and a joy to get to know, just like Selah and Yemi have always been. However, in these first weeks I have struggled sometimes and I’m sure I’ll struggle again! There are times Orlanka and Yemi are having a problem and crying and needing me at the exact same time. There are times I expect more, even perfection, from the older siblings who “should know better” and have to apologize when I realize I’m putting too much pressure on them. There are times when people are talking to me all at the same time and my brain just can’t function over all the noise. I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath but sometimes I have gotten really angry. (Sorry, Karyn Purvis, please don’t be watching me from above every moment!)
But the Lord spoke to my heart that the joy is in the engaging, not in the managing. A mom has to manage things…it’s how we have food in the house that actually is meant to be eaten together on the same plate, it’s how there are clean clothes on the days they are needed, it’s how our people don’t hurt each other with words or fingernails, it’s how so many important things happen–because we plan and schedule and make it happen, we keep an on time train the best we can. Managing is valuable and necessary, at least it is in this house. But engaging still wins. Engaging to me means both feet in, really listening, really looking, really being there, really loving. One of the joys of this adoption process being over is I don’t have anything else I have to think too much about right now! I can be ALL here. Now, I believe in having time alone. I believe in taking breaks. I believe in naps and chocolate and friends, hallelujah, praise You Jesus. I believe mommies can only give so much before they have to recharge and refuel in their own way, and no one is going to make that happen for the mommy except the mommy. (Can I get a witness?) But throughout the day, I have the choice to either manage my kids or engage with them. When I’m managing, I am thinking to myself, “How can I possibly do this every day for 10 more years? Like, seriously, I will die!” When I’m engaging, I’m thinking, “I love these people. Their needs are really coming out in their words and behaviors; I’m so thankful God is showing me their heart. I want to know them more today than I did yesterday.”
Isn’t God just SO GOOD?
This is quite possibly the longest blog I have ever written, maybe the longest blog anyone has ever written. Sorry. I’m wordy, and it’s past my bedtime, and I had a whole two weeks to write about! If there’s anything else anyone would want to possibly know that could be helpful in an adoption transition, do let me know and I’ll write again after awhile with another update! 🙂