Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Home For 6 Months: Moving, Struggling, and Settling In

 Our new view.

We moved... we made it... we're alive still... even if just barely.  Well, we're actually doing much better now, but this move was HARD.  Not only were we put though the ringer with our buyers (don't get me started!) but such a major life event, right after joining a new family, was crazy-hard on Hallie.  She went from being the new family darling, who was settling in and happily bouncing around her new home, to feeling lost in the busyness of packing and unsure of where she stood.  Every box we packed left her wondering what was happening and no amount of explaining could help her understand or ease her underlying worries.

It's common for adopted children to regress to their orphanage behaviors when going through stressful times... and Hallie was no exception.  In her previous life, at the orphanage, things were painfully difficult for the children at "the bottom" so there was some major motivation to make sure someone else was always below you in the hierarchy of your peers.  Hallie's uncertainty brought out some regressive behaviors that were tough to live with.  It can be majorly challenging to get along with a sibling that continuously tattles on you, even when you're not really doing anything wrong, or when they smugly gloat after receiving any and every little thing, including any show of attention or affection, or when they work to make sure someone is always excluded from the play.  I could see how this was difficult for the other kids, but I would still get crazy frustrated with them for not being more patient.  There is nothing like yelling at your kids because you are tired of contention.  Oh the irony.  It was just hard all around.

Although I could reason why Hallie was acting this way, it was still so utterly maddening to have to deal with during an already stressful time.  Moving a family of eight is enough work to be considered a full time job... and with a hard deadline, I had no choice but to keep packing up, box after box, even though I could see it was starting to have a negative impact on Hallie.  I kept questioning the timing of our move and Ryan and I had frequent conversations about just pulling the plug on our move.  But even though, logically, it seemed like the worst possible timing, Ryan and I kept feeling like it was what we needed to do.  Through all of this, I knew Hallie needed reassurance, but it was getting more and more difficult to give it to her when I knew she would turn around and throw my affection into her siblings faces, creating problems and causing bitterness.

The honest, painful, truth is that, to varying degrees, we were all beginning to resent Hallie... or more accurately, Hallie's behavior, but it was becoming harder and harder to separate the two.  The more Hallie sensed any frustration, the more she used unproductive means to try to achieve "favorite" status.  Of course I knew that Hallie was coming from a place of devastating hurt and loss and what she needed most was my time, love, and affection, and I had just spent ten long months yearning to give these things to her, but circumstances were making them so darn difficult to provide or to even want to provide!  I felt terrible about that.  The combination of the stress of our move and the intensity of Hallie's neediness overwhelmed me.  I was really not my best self and guilty feelings consumed me as I could see that we were in a deep downward spiral.

We made the move, but then there was still unpacking to do, so things didn't get much better.  If anything, they got worse... two days after we made the move, I started to feel sick but just kept pushing forward, trying to get things settled. (Burnout is real!)  It wasn't until after feeling terrible for two weeks that I finally made time to see the doctor and found out that I had been fighting a nasty strep infection.  A few days after starting antibiotics, I began to feel like a functioning human again and things continued to look up once we achieved a degree of functionality in our unpacking just before Hallie's upcoming surgery.

Much to my surprise, Hallie's surgery was the event that really pulled us out of our tailspin.  Hallie has thoroughly enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.  And the fact that Hallie's pain was now visible made it easier for her siblings to be sympathetic and more patient.  The surgery and body cast have been hard for Hallie in different ways, (another blog post for another day) but they put an abrupt end to the negative behavior patterns that we had been battling.  We still have a lot of work to do in the bonding department.  We're realizing that it is just going to take a lot more time and effort than it did with Jordan.  There is a whole lot more negative life experience to have to work through.  Hallie still regresses some when she is feeling insecure, and I'm sure she'll continue to struggle with this until she gets to a place of complete understanding that our love for her is unconditional.  I pray every day that we'll get there soon!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Home For 6 Weeks

Here are some of the few pictures we snapped since we're been home with Hallie:

This girl is a nut!

Oh, and so is he...

Crazy hair day every day.

These two are starting to connect and it's so fun to watch.

Just after we got home from China we made the crazy decision to move.  It was horrible timing, in my opinion, I really just wanted life to slow down for a bit so we could enjoy getting to know Hallie better, but when you feel like you need to do something, you do it, even if you don't understand.  So things got hectic, trying to get our home ready to sell, and have continued to be hectic as we prepare to move, but Hallie has done amazingly well in spite of it.  She is learning English quickly and finding her place in our family.  She is sweet, affectionate, and funny.  We're so happy to have this girl home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hallie's First Weekend Home

 We're home!  And so happy to be home.  Our cute sign making friends welcomed Hallie home in style.

Now I know why we had such a hard time getting a smiling picture of this girl.  This is the face she pulls whenever she's around someone new.  Don't worry, Hallie has warmed right up to Maddie and Mason and Jordan too.

 The kids showing off their "cheater" chopsticks.  I love these things and I'm already wishing I would have thought to buy a few backup pairs.

We unpacked in record time!  Really I think it took over a week last year.
The kids had fun trying on their gifts.

Jordan is looking so grown up.

Our first breakfast with all of us at the table... I keep looking at this full table in disbelief that I really have this many kids.   That's a lot of little humans and they're all so stinking cute.

 There was lots of giggling.

Like I said before, this girl has practically no muscle tone.  She fell down the stairs on her first day home.  I felt terrible!!!  Jordan, our 2 year old, is totally fine on the stairs, so it didn't even occur to me that she might not be.  We've now taught her how to turn around and crawl backwards down the stairs until she is stronger.

We had a lot of firsts over the weekend, including her first bath in a tub.  

Dumping water over her head.

She was initially afraid of the bath toys with faces, but didn't take long to get over it.

I didn't realize they both wiped the baby shampoo all over their faces before I took this picture.  Oops!

Hallie found Kaitlyn's play glasses.  She's looking good.

Again, look at all of those little people around our table.  They are officially more than a handful.  Six!

These two have quickly fallen right into their brother/sister roles:
They're silly together...

They bug each other...

They love each other...

 All within a matter of seconds.

 Walking barefoot in the grass was completely new and scary at first, she was truly terrified, but after watching Mama walk around, she decided it was safe enough to try.

We're pretty sure Hallie has never been on a swing before.  We had to take it very slow because stabilizing herself is very tiring, but she liked it.

Our baby bunnies got 100x cuter while we were away.

 Hallie can appreciate their cuteness... but only from a distance.

Speaking of bunnies... anyone want one?  No, Really.

Hallie is taking in so many new things at once and handling it like a champ.

We let her try the out trampoline with a "No Jumping" rule in force for all siblings.  She'll get the hang of it soon...

But this is the face she pulls when she is even slightly bounced.

It's great exercise, even just trying to stand up on the unstable surface was a chore.

Everything is more fun with Baba.

Hallie wants to please us so much, it's almost painful.  She puts a great deal of effort into making sure we see everything that she does right and also pointing out everything she thinks her siblings, especially Jordan, might be doing wrong.  I think that's how she got by in the orphanage.  Hopefully in time, she'll understand that we can love her and her siblings and that she doesn't need to compete.

Another first: backyard garden tomatoes.  She put it in her mouth and spat it right back out.  But after she saw me eat a few, she gave it another try. 

A new favorite food has been discovered.  She devours these things.

I missed this fun face!

 This is what the backdoor window looks like when you have six kids.  Okay, it probably looked like that when I had two.  Either way, I clearly need to wash that window!

Just before we left for China, Jordan started expanding his list of foods he found acceptable.  Chicken used to be most detested, and now he can't get enough.  Uh, yikes!

 This girl is digging chicken too.  She is all carnivore.  She'll appease us by trying other foods, but loves all things meaty.

Even though we've been having a lot of fun, we're all still fairly tired.  Enoch has struggled the most with jet lag, he woke me up the other night and said, "Mom, I'm so tired it hurts, but I can't sleep!"  I've done slightly better but I've still been tired enough to fall asleep in line at the car wash and to accidentally give Mason a dose of Jordan's meds.  Luckily it wasn't one that would hurt Mason, but I still couldn't believe I did that.  With all of us being so tired, we're working on being patient with each other and adjusting to our new normal.  Emotions have running wild and everyone is need of a little extra love.  It's tricky to balance bonding and Hallie's neediness with everyone else's needs.  Monday morning was brutal thanks to jet lag and jumping back into our school routine, plus it was picture day.  Luckily we have two weeks to get back into the swing of things before we start tackling Hallie's medical needs with a lot of doctors visits.  For now, we're taking things one step at a time and enjoying getting to know our Hallie.