October 07, 2013

Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs

It's been a season of reflection for me lately.  There are seasons when I go on auto pilot, and then times when I micromanage the pilot within an inch of his life.  I'm cycling through these two things in rapid fire lately.

We are all still just settling in as a family of 6.  It still feel infinitely easier than when we brought Miles home and when we had a foster child.  But infinitely easier doesn't always mean easy.  I've been joking lately with my husband that whenever I get around to writing a book the title is going to be, "The first year is probably going to suck and doing homework with four young kids will make you an alcoholic".  I think people would pay good money for that truth!

But in all seriousness, one thing having Scarlett in our home has taught me is just how classic all of Miles' attachment difficulties were.  Those two are clones out of the same mold.  She exhibits the exact same behaviors that he did.  Selective mutism, freezing on the fight/flight continuum, insane fear of dogs, asking random women if they can be her mom, etc.  It's so very weird to watch her do these exact same things and remember that Miles was at the exact same place three years ago. I'm waiting for her to do that stiff leg walking that Miles did that was the bane of my existence. I'd say that 90% of the time, these behaviors just don't bother me anymore.  It is life.  But the little girl drama flair that comes with it is new and it does get to me sometimes.  It's really hard for me not to engage.  It fights every instinct that I have not to engage in these little battles that don't matter and do not foster healthy attachment.

I'm just having to retrain my brain to engage in better ways:

I'm not gonna lie- getting a note depicting my big, black, mean, bad heart is not super fun.  My friend Ellen says that it's okay because she drew me with a nice rack.  

But here is what IS fun. In a passive aggressive move, my mother suggested that I draw a picture of my own.   I put it on a post it note and stuck it to the top of the bad heart note.  I never said a word about it to Scarlett.  That night when I put her to bed, the new shiny heart note was stuck to the middle of the wall for all the world to see and the black hearted mom note was wadded up in the trash can.  Y'all- it was awesome!

In an effort of full disclosure, I screw this up just as many times as I get it right. When a "You don't care about me" was muttered under a certain little girl's breath, I did lose it.  I did what I am dubbing "the stomp heard round the world".  Our house has big open spaces and very little furniture so when a loud noise happens it echos.  When I lost my cool and stomped my foot it echoed for YEARS.  I knew immediately that stomping was oh so juvenile and that stupid stomp would not stop echoing.  It was a continual reverb of a bad choice I made.  But I didn't stop there.  It's possible that I then made everyone endure and quite snippy list of all the thankless things I do for them.  Think- growly yet shrieky voice shouting things like: WHO MAKES YOUR BREAKFAST?!  MEEEEEE!  WHO WASHES YOUR CLOTHES!?!?!  MEEEEEEEEE!   WHO HELPS YOU WITH YOUR HOMEWORK?!?!?!?!  It's MEEEEE!!!!  WHO PLAYS CANDY LAND EVEN THOUGH I HATE CANDY LAND.  IT'S ME AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT"  It was not my finest parenting moment.  I hate it when I have to eat crow and apologize to me kids for my behavior.  Ick.  Thankfully, they can laugh at me and it becomes, "Hey, you remember that one time mom stomped her foot really loud?" 

But I'm watching this girl, who has no reason in the world to want to make connections with anyone, establish LOVE with and for PEOPLE.  If I were her, I'm not even sure I'd still be standing.  I sure as heck wouldn't trust people to take care of me and meet my needs. But she genuinely LOVES us.  It overwhelms her a lot and creates a little short circuiting, but she loves us.  She seeks me out when she is scared.  She seeks out Kamron when she wants a lap to sit in.  She trusts us with deep, personal stories about her birth country and first placement.  She spontaneously gives real hugs and wants to hold our hands.  It is a gift that I never expected.

When Kamron and I met with the therapist before Scarlett started seeing her, the therapist was asking about Miles' progress since we hadn't seen her in a while.  I said, "Well- it's like at the two year home mark something just switched and it was GOOD!" She looked right at me and said, "Megan, something didn't switch.  Remember how HARD you WORKED for that?"  I think sometimes it's like labor- you forget the pain. You forget how much hard work is involved.  But the hard work makes it mean something! I'm so grateful to have this opportunity again- even if it is hard and exhausting.

Just to update on how all the littles are doing, here is a rundown:

Sadie:  Sadie is about to be 10 years old.  She's one of the smartest kids in her grade.  She's still totally working that responsible, oldest sister thing.  Except that somewhere along the way, she's starting to get really annoyed by the immaturity of the other kids.  And the eye rolling has started.  Oh lord, the eye rolling.  Every time one of the littles bugs her she just looks at me and rolls her eyes.  I kind of don't blame her- the littles are kind of annoying and I want to roll my eyes, too.

She started singing with the choir at school and she sings non-stop at home.  She wants to be around her friends constantly.  The requests for having friends come over starts the minute I pick them up at the bus stop and it ends, well, never.  We feel fortunate that she has great friends, but the child is relentless about having people over.  I thought that we had a few more years until that started, but I think she hit that phase early!

Sadie and I started doing a Bible study together with some other moms and their daughters.  It is such a blessing to both of us.  It is something that we have never done together and we are both enjoying that time together so much.

She's still an outdoorsy gal and she spends most of her days outside jumping on the trampoline or making paths through the woods.  Despite getting to the point where the others annoy her- she still had this to say about her family: (it makes me melt)

Noah:  Noah is going gangbusters at school this year.  The lightbulb just turned on for him and he is reading like a crazy person and he just blows through his homework.  At our kids' school, they get a homework packet for the week and they are supposed to do some each day.  Noah wants to do the whole packet in one sitting.  He's very driven this year and that is something I never expected.

The changing of seasons is always our hardest time of the year with Noah.  Due to his sensory issues, changing from shorts to pants or from t- shirts to long sleeves is truly painful for him.  He will come home from school and immediately change clothes because his body is bothering him.  It usually involves some tears in the morning.  He's beginning to be aware that the other kids don't have trouble with the way everything feels and it is discouraging to him to be different.  He rolls with it the best he can but it's tough.

Noah has always been our kid with the biggest imagination.  He builds things and creates these little worlds for himself.  Reading and writing are opening up whole new avenues for his creativity and it is so fun to watch.  While the other kids were watching TV and playing video games last night, Noah was planted at the kitchen table with a stack of paper and pens and pencils writing his newest book.  He is just sweet beyond measure.

Miles:  Ah, Miles.  Our social butterfly.  At school open house this year Miles' teacher said, "Well, Miles has trouble focusing at school because people won't stop talking to him.  Everybody wants to sit next to him and be his friend."  Yep- that's Miles.

It's so funny for me to think about how Miles started out in our family so closed off because this child is so clearly made for connection.  He's really maturing and becoming more independent.  He gets himself dressed in the morning, puts on his own lotion, puts on his own shoes (if he can find them- poor kid can NEVER remember to put his freakin' shoes where they are supposed to go).

Miles is the one kid in our house who can get along with any other combination of siblings.  The rest of them if left together too long will start a mutiny.  But Miles just goes with the flow.  He will play with anyone and be content.  He's just joyous and silly all the time.  

Miles is now in kindergarten and learning reading for him is excruciating.  Our nights go something like this:

Me: (pulling out Miles' sight words)  What is this word?
Miles:  MY!
Me:  close, but this word is "and"  Try again, what is this word?
Miles: MY!
Me: This word is AND.  It starts with an A.  What sound does A make
Miles: aaaaaah
Me:  Yep- and then N make a nuh sound.  And D is duh.  Put those sounds all together.  What is this word?
Miles:  MY!

We do this every single night.  It may very well do me in.  It reminds me of when he first came home and we were teaching him body parts and I would say ARM! and he would say ASS!   

Scarlett:  Scarlett is making so many new friends at school.  When I ask her who her friends are she will ramble off a list that includes most of the first grade.  She's working so hard to catch up at school.  It's fascinating to me to watch the "twins" (Noah and Scarlett are 10 days apart) and see a tangible example of how different a good start to life is as it pertains to school.  But Scarlett is determined!  She has every reason to get discouraged and give up but she doesn't!  Reading with her hurts me physically, but she keeps trying and she's improving by leaps and bounds.

Scarlett wants to be Junie B. Jones for Halloween.  She has never gotten to dress up before for Halloween or go trick or treating before and she is counting down the days until this happens.  A few weeks ago I asked her what her favorite holiday was.  She said "Christmas and Halloween!"  She has never celebrated either one of these and so I asked her why they were her favorites.  She said, "I just know they are going to be so good!"  This child has a faith in things that inspires me.  She is really insightful and so in tune with her thoughts and feelings in a way that I doubt very many other 6 year olds are.

This morning she told me that she was going to pray for God to come down and fix the road in front of our house.  She said, "That way, I'll get to see him and our road will get fixed."  Her child like faith shakes me to the root of mine almost daily.  It is so fun to watch the world through her eyes.

"Mom. I would like it for you to get me one of these babies, okay?"  (With our friend's precious new baby, Knightly)


And lastly, I leave you with the view from our front yard last night.  I love Kentucky.

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