Tuesday, July 28, 2009

1st Month Survival

Nika's invention. Check Video at the bottom. We found Nika and this invention upstairs. Oh to be this creative again! I loved being a kid.
Preemptive Shoe! j/j You'll realize what I mean when you read to the bottom. Auntie Rakel's shoes fit Milana nicely. This was another pirate moment.

Ok so I'm not on some deserted island in the South Pacific, but it is survival in a sense. It's been about 6 weeks home and I feel a ROUTINE coming on! So I'm going to attempt to write down some of what I've learned. First week home is honestly the survival week. Survive jet lag, crash course of "getting to know you", food, schedules of bathroom breaks, reactions to food, etc. Everything is a new adventure. No matter how many books you've read, you will never completely be prepared regardless of how you bring your child home. This post will kinda be a journal of what we did as well as a rough guide for anyone who brings home a toddler, especially one with vision difficulties.

Ideas for survival, utilize your natural talent to "ham it up". Instead of trying to jump in and teach your child by having them be the guinea... you get to be the star. Milana was scared to brush her teeth, bathe in a tub, scared of lights outside at night, didn't understand why we flush toilet paper, thought cleaning everything is what children do for fun, etc. If you have children already at home, USE them and they love it and crave that extra time with you. Milana started crying at bedtimes on cue almost as if that is just what you do at bedtime. We keep things super fun and upbeat so we decided to lie her down and go around (while she cried at first) and let her see how much fun we have putting the other kids to bed, same with baths, brushing teeth etc. Now, she thinks it's all a blast. She says Thank You! every time you brush her teeth. She loves her bed and now, allows Daddy to tuck her in and even lay with her until she falls asleep. Role play with hand puppets or dolls if you don't have other children. Keep it light and fun no matter how much crying there is. Supportive hugs and cuddle and kisses slowly bring on a round of thousand kisses every night to every inch of your face. We also used this time to name body parts, like eyes, ears, nose. Since our daughter can't see super well, we get in her face to show everything we do.

Gender roles. She didn't like calling Donnie Baba or Dada... she was very confused that he did the same stuff as myself so she decided we were both mama for about a month. She really didn't believe that a man could do all the mama stuff. It was freaky to her. Keep that in mind.

Food: ha ha Ok so she ate everything from the start but she also has no "stop button". The girl will eat until she is burping it up and then try to eat more. She was also extremely possessive about feeding herself, so she now is fed by me... sometimes I let her feed herself but only when she lets me alternate back and forth so she understands that I give her everything she needs. She screams for food anytime someone puts something in their mouth as a snack or otherwise. I have snack times every two hours with the kids and sometimes my blood-sugar gets low and I have to eat after them (not with them). Nika, Kole and Jadyn all know this but Milana flies into a frenzy if I eat and she doesn't. Well, that is what happens when people live on scarce mode (I know because food was very scarce during my childhood). She had blood work and her vitamin level was good, and I'm not saying that her foster family didn't feed her which is obvious they did. She either went into instinct scarce mode or she didn't have super plentiful food and was frightened it would disappear or "who is going to feed me now?". Either way, she is learning that she can wait for snack time and that there will always be enough food. We distract her with play. Sometimes I hide in the closet and eat cookies or chocolate! ha ha

Finding an achilles heel: Milana's is music. Tried food, touch, smells, colors, visual anything, eye contact. Her's was found by accident. I always sing to her and one time the kids were watching a movie and Milana recognized one of the songs I have sang to her and squealed with so much enthusiasm, ran to my arms, grabbed my face and insisted I sing it. So I got the idea of singing a song and then using youtube to show her.... oh it worked like magic! It was as if she had learned songs in her life but her life long dream was to have someone sing them with her. So tantilize your child's senses, find the magic.

Dates with other children.... HUGE MUST! We've spent the last month taking daily temperatures of the kids of who needs the extra emotional attention that day. We spend time alone with each one each day but sometimes one needs a little extra something. You can tell immediately who it is and they seem to take turns (most of the time it's not all at once). Milana needs us all the time which is expected, but lately she has had moments where she is content (and not hitting) and playing with the others. That is when I sit back and watch. I don't want to interfere with their connecting time together.

Habits/Survival Skills/Cultural Differences. Changes. Let's face it; if a child were to move next door, their whole world and even culture changes. We have family skills that Milana has to learn. Here in my house I run a tight shift. Didn't realize how tight until we brought Milana home. Hitting is just not going to fly; neither is being a "snatchy pants". Those were two habits that had to go. So did scream and drop to the ground at mom's feet when we wanted picked up. We changed that quickly to "Up Please" So much nicer. How we did it: other kids demonstrated for us. That's how we actually had everything accomplished the last month. If your child is an only child and you're having difficulties, might I suggest you borrow some kids in your neighborhood from friends, families, neighbors. You can also use puppets or videos or books about this. Milana doesn't do well with TV as she can't focus with her eyes.

Culture: Keep it alive! Honestly, it made her sad before when I sang Taiwanese songs or played them or showed her pictures, but now she is coming around with a much more peaceful way of listening and looking at them. Even if she went into a Taiwanese family, it would be different for her. Of course, we are the ultimate different probably, but it doesn't mean I shut her off from what is familiar and comfortable. it may bring sadness and reflection but she is now running to me at breakneck speed anytime she hears me sing in Chinese or look at pictures or watch a show. She holds my face lovingly and rubs my cheeks and snuggles in for a hold.

Getting along: Well, that one comes with a love hate relationship for sure. We decided to do games with them that require group effort or the game won't work. Such as playing with a parachute. We bought one at Walmart with reinforced handles. See, we think Milana was a pirate in a former life ;0) "Take all you can, give nothing back." In this game... you can't snag anything and if you don't work together, no fun. So beware the Pirate. Also, sometimes children who can't see well resemble Stitch... they lick everything (the windows at McDonald's playhouse and any and all other surfaces... including people. The eating of anything that may resemble food. All these are actually very endearing.

Complaining: I'm not writing any of this as a complaint or vent... just it is what it is and we are having fun figuring each other out. I'm sure if you all studied me and my habits, you'd be scared. ha ha Each of my kids have odd habits and we fit them in to the family nicely, so Milana and her quirks fit right in.

Books are great for demonstrating opposites. That's important. Sounds odd but it is! I love Maisy books. Get TONS of baby board books from the library. Board books important as they usually withstand the brute force of your new little Hercules. I use a mei tai carrier (forward facing) when we go shopping or to the library. It helps her focus on my eyes better because she is 6 inches away and she doesn't have to stare at strangers in a stroller. Carts are fine but they just don't give the closeness I want.

I jumped right in with my rules and positive and negative reinforcements (aka discipline)... I did it with love and it is paying off big a month later. Milana knows what is expected of her and she knows what happens when she follows and what happens when she doesn't. It has hugely helped our other children's relationship with her as they see us being consistent. My kids understand that they are raised uniquely and according to their needs...we don't choose sides and we don't promote sibling rivalry. This was a hard concept for Milana because she thinks everyone should get everything equally (or mainly, she should have everything). Nobody said life was fair and if I teach that, I'm setting all my kids up for disappointment. It doesn't mean I'm not loving when things aren't fair. I'm sympathetic and show love, but I can't give in just because they want it. I had 9 siblings, I know you don't get everything everyone else did... and I am just fine. No greedy meany here.

Of course with setting the rules, you get to see a very ticked off child, but I hang out with her until the episode is over and then off we go to learn more about the world. This too shall pass. When things get rough and you have those "crazy thoughts", I take a breather... either get hubby, family, someone to take over for a few minutes while I recoup. if no one is available, I place children in front of tv with learning video (Milana strapped into high-chair) and I step away with some food and a nice quiet corner. Stay sane, get sleep, eat well and you can handle it all. Both Donnie and I agreed this is easier than bringing home a newborn. Just our own thoughts. So we are still plugging along and I could see things not feeling all together for a good 6 months or even a year, but we have all improved together as a family by leaps and bounds.

Ok... I'm sure I'm forgetting tons that I wanted to say but oh well. And really, I'm not up for anyone complaining about how I'm doing something or saying that I'm complaining so here is a preemptive "stick a shoe in it or suck on my big toe". If you have suggestions, ideas or techniques, I LOVE THEM. By the way, this is not aimed at anyone specific. I have just had worries about posting my parenting styles and someone blasting them, as well as, saying I'm not doing something correctly or complaining about my expectations etc. (which is part of the reason my posts are fewer) but I'm back to my braver self now. Next post will be a bit more fun. I have to write it all down before i forget.

Oh one more, write down all your thoughts you are having in a notebook, in country at home... all of them, even the ones that are somewhat raw. It helps process thoughts and later if you want to make them more "politically correct" you can recall them. =0)

Monday, July 20, 2009

redirect Baobei

Something this good needs to be shared. =0) Lots of Babies to gaze at in this video with a beautiful lullaby to sing to your children. Judy has this post about her son's 2nd birthday (HaPpY BiRtHdAy Little Keeper of the Cherub Cheeks, Mr. William!) and I had to pass along the sweet song that Judy unknowningly has given to me as a present.

Milana is now curled up in my arms looking into my eyes rocking with me, as we both sing and listen to this song. I've given Milana bits and pieces everyday of things that are inheirantly her's from Taiwan. Sometimes, they make her sad and reflective but she does crave them. She often times becomes more determined to work on family skills and English, after we look at pictures of her past or listen to Mandarin and Taiwanese. She has become very cuddly and loving during these times of reflection and I see this as a good sign. I want her to give her opportunities to process the changes around her no matter what emotions arise. How can she understand her future without understanding the present and past? I may not have all her language nor she mine, but we have a connection deeper and I feel something very strong coming from role playing and keeping her connected to all things Milana Lee Hsiu-Yu... my little neu neu.

Doc update: She has intermittent exotropia strabismus, but her vision is good (she does have it more than 80% of the time). She is a canidate for surgery but we have to wait until we measure her eye muscles a few more times. She has another appt. in two months. Her coordination and running into walls and falling down should improve greatly. Until then, we make sure we get right in her line of vision a.k.a. "up in your face" so she can see us. Finding ways to make eye contact has been a challenge but one we have taken on and seem to finding tricks to get her to focus on us. One thing is for certain: we will give her everything she needs to help her. She is such a joy. Each day, she pulls tighter on our heart strings and has become such an important unique part of our lives. We love you Milana.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Before I Forget

Blurry 4th of July pic with Auntie Rakel & Uncle Aaron. Milana liked the fireworks a bit too much and would have been burned had I not taken the car-seat out of the car and strapped her in over and over until she got the hint (she wouldn't hold still in my arms and I ran out of arm power), "Don't run in the street little missy!" She wasn't thrilled at first but earned freedom in the end and now is a champion stay on the curb girl!

This is what ten children look like. 6 neices and nephews and my four! There are ten, just one is hidden.
Milana thought "The Thing" was sooo funny!
Miss P got a new do! Kole's teacher! Milana is raiding Kole's bed while he's not looking. haha
Yeah... Mom just cut my hair and I don't have hair in my eyes anymore! Oh, someone asked if her hair is curly... well it was permed before we met her. We had to cut it off to make it healthy again... it had started to break off when we combed it.
First Dress Up Princess Day!
More of her hair cut (there are bangs but I pinned them back)
Hoooorrraaaayyyy! I'm being sneaky and climbing on Mom's eliptical... oh no, that's a camera, I'm caught!
This one is just funny. I found her in the play-room in this bucket. I carried it out to Dad with her in it! I had to get a picture!
Before I forget, I want to write about the moments that steal your heart and make giant crocodile tears well up in your eyes (thank goodness I don't have time to put on mascara). We've been working on a lot of family skills, basically 24/7 and it takes a lot of patience. I said a big prayer last night that Milana would start to really understand.

One of the things we've been working on is kitchen etiquette when Mom cooks... aka, get to your high-chair if you can't keep your hands off the stove or what I am cutting etc. So Milana can smell things a mile away (loves food beyond love). She saw me today starting lunch and instead of diving into full destruct the kitchen mode, she climbs on a chair and slyly looks at me. I can't resist and start ping-pong calling silly things. Instead of taking this as a green light to destroy.... she runs to me and says, "Please up". I lean down and give her a huge hug and tell her, "Mommy can't right now, mommy making food, cooking food, num-nums. Please Wait". Instead of huge tears, I get "ok mama" and she smiles and starts to walk away. Then she turns and runs back and clinches my leg and whispers, 'Momma is Awesome.!" Then she puckers up for a kiss.

Ok, tears is not the word. I full out sobbed. I've still been slightly crying for hours. That was the best gift ever.

Friday we go to the pediatric opthomologist... wish us luck. I'll be updating more. I'll back-track a bit but I'm finally getting a bit more of a handle on a routine. Whew. Much love, Sara