Thursday, August 16, 2012

Holding Time

My heart is sad and heavy. It aches for my child who, at the age of 5, has never been held, never been rocked to sleep, never loved with an unconditional love by another living being.  At 5 years of age she doesn't even know HOW to be held.  You may think that is foolish....everybody knows how to be held. It is not true.  As babies we learn how to be held and how to receive love.  She never spent countless hours in her mother's arms as she sang sweet lullabies, looked her in the eye and told her how beautiful she was or how she was a dream come true, nursed her and rocked her to sleep.  As a result of this, my child has learned how to self-soothe and to put herself to sleep.  This involves some pretty severe behaviors.  She rocks!  And I don't mean a slight gentle rock or even a small sway back and forth. I mean her entire body flails from side to side, quickly, and violently.  All the time she is rocking she chews her fingers...not suck...chews!  She has bite marks on her hands.  We went to the dentist yesterday and he told us that due to this behavior she has completely re-aligned her jaw and will need extensive corrective therapy to repair it.  You can see it in her smile. I thought it was a nervous behavior of chewing on her right lower lip, but it is actually how her jaw is now aligned.

Last night I held her while she flailed, kicked, screamed and pinched me for an hour and a half!  It was not easy, but it was necessary.  She kept wanting to get into her bed and have me leave. I knew why. She wanted to resort to the only way that she knew how to calm herself down and to fall asleep.  She was angry, but I know that it will take time to teach a new behavior to a child who has lived for 5 long years only knowing one way.  We have to teach her how to be loved, how to be held, how to trust.  It is tough. It is exhausting. I wanted to give in...many times.  I found myself angry. Angry that a mother would give her child up knowing that she would never be swaddled or consoled when she was frightened, or sad, or hungry.  I was angry that I never had the chance to have a baby to love on and that God keeps giving us the tough assignments of teaching love to these vulnerable, previously unloved children.  It was a long night and I have to admit I'm not proud of some of my thoughts. But, we persevered by the grace of God. I felt His love flowing through me when my own was insufficient (which was most of the time).

We are going to be doing lots more holding, and touching, and showing love through our actions to this precious child, just as we did with the previous five girls.  If you think about us please send up a prayer, especially at bedtime, which should be a peaceful, quiet time of reflection on the day, prayers and book reading.  It will be a while before we have that scenario in our house again.  It is hard for the other girls to watch and listen to as well.  It has brought up many emotions in them.  But I will save that blog for another time....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Busy week!

Sorry that I haven't written in over a week. It has definitely been busy!  We stayed at our lake side cottage for 3 nights.  On our first day there we actually had to travel back into the city for Allison's doctor's appointment with the Embassy doctor. This was a quick, "meet and greet" kind of meeting.  She listened to her heart and lungs, reviewed her medical information and spoke to her A LOT in English.  She told us that Allison understood a lot of English and not to let her fool us!

The next day was a gorgeous day so we headed to the Baltic Sea.  There was practically nobody there and we had the place to ourselves so we settled in and had a great time.

The next day was a bit overcast so we headed to Sigulda, an ancient city with tons of history and lots to  do.  There were castle ruins from the 13th century, tragic love stories and deep caves.  We finished the day off with a ropes course and ziplining for the girls. They had a blast!  I was so proud of Sarah and Dee. It was their first time and they did great.  Bill took the Littles on their own mini version and they all had a great time.

We drove back into Riga Friday night and Edgars put us up in a new apartment.  This place is even bigger than the first one.  It has massive 12 foot ceilings, windows from ceiling to floor, rooms that are 20 x 20!  It is in a building that is over 100 years old but has all of the modern conveniences....including a bidet (some funny stories go with that!)

We didn't go anywhere this weekend.  We spent Saturday getting caught up on laundry, as we hadn't had a washer and dryer at the cottage, doing Anita's hair, playing games, and watching movies.  Sunday was more of the same but included a venture out to the park for some playground time with some friends from Alli's orphanage.  That night was hard for her as she was very sad at bedtime. I think seeing her friends had been hard for her and she was probably mourning the only life she had ever known.  These girls had all been together at their previous orphanage, before moving to the one where we picked them up.  So they had ultimately been "sisters" all of their young lives.  

Monday morning we had our final social worker visit which only lasted about 45 minutes and went well.  Tuesday we had to return to court, where we met with 3 different judges than we had seen previously.  They had to rule on 2 different petitions.  The first one was to prolong the care and supervision period and to rule that pursuing adoption was in the best interest of the child. The second ruling was to allow us to take Allison out of Latvia and to keep her in our home during the remainder of this period.  The second and final court hearing won't be until mid-November  most likely.  This is a huge blessing to be able to bring her home with us.  In other cases this part of the adoption process would mean either staying in country for 4 months, or returning her to the orphanage while we return home to await the court ruling.  We are so happy that Latvia has approved this special situation to allow these children to start integrating into our family as soon as possible.  They truly do want what is best for these children and for that we are very grateful.

Today we had to go to the US Embassy.  We had a brief interview where we had to state that we realized that Allison will remain under the guardianship of the Latvian court system until the adoption is final and that we promise to return to Latvia for the final court hearing as well as for the final US Embassy hearing.  Our 7 month travel visa was approved and we will get that tomorrow.  Then, we fly home Friday!  

We are all very ready to be home!  The older girls are getting "bored", but they have been troopers through all of this...helping with dishes, laundry, babysitting while we run to all of these different meetings, even running to the store downstairs for whatever is needed. We have seen so much maturity in both of them and we are amazed every day at how far they have come.  They are a true blessing to us!  Hannah continues to waffle between "good" and "bad".  She is having a hard time figuring out if she should look at Allison as an ally in making bad decisions or if she should be the "good" girl and help us out by showing Allison what is expected of her in this family setting.  Allison continues to make small improvements every single day.  She is an amazing little girl and we are all slowly falling in love with her.  She definitely has taken to Bill easier than me this time, which is a switch from all of our other girls who took time to warm up to their new daddy. Bill is eating it all up and I am trying to not take it personally.  I take it as a small victory when she will come to me now and we have seen improvements in this area in the short time we have had her in our custody.  Anita has regressed in some areas...thumb sucking, potty accidents, screaming instead of using her words...good times!  I am hopeful that returning home will reset all of our clocks and that we can get into a good groove of "normal"!

Well, that should get you all caught up with our adventures this past week.  Tomorrow we will walk around Old Riga in hopes of tiring everyone out for one last good night's sleep before flying home on Friday. Tonight we wrap up laundry and packing!  Thank you all for joining us on this journey.  I think it has just begun...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Half way!

We are more than half way through our trip here in Latvia.  I think it is safe to say that we are all very ready to be home.  (Except for maybe Allison who doesn't know where "home" is).  This has been a very trying trip for us.  I think the lack of sleep from living in the city has finally taken it's toll on all of us, so when our attorney offered us a chance to get out of the city for a few days, Bill all but jumped on the chance.  You see, our little "leak" in our bathroom, which caused our ceiling to fall in, left them all feeling very bad so they gave us the chance to get out of our apartment.  God works in mysterious ways I guess.

So, yesterday Bill left the apartment around 10:00 to get a rental car.  It's a really cool Volkswagen Transport, which is a 9 passenger van.  I wish we had some of the cool cars that they have in other countries in America.  In the good ol' USA there is nothing in between a minivan and a passenger van. I mean, I just need a little extra room...I don't need a 15 passenger bus to transport my kids to soccer practice, but a little extra room would be nice.  I mean we are not the Duggarts (yet)!

While he was out I took the girls to Hessburgers (local McDonald's type restaurant) for lunch, then we headed out. Thankfully, Edgars lent us his garmin so we could have some help getting out of the city.  We arrived at our cottage around 2:00, settled in, took the girls to the playground, visited the bunnies, then they watched a movie while mama took a nap!  After that, we packed a picnic lunch and headed to the beach.  How many times in your life can you say you ate supper on the Baltic Sea?  It is quite an amazing body of water.  It is shallow forever (it seems) so the girls can just play and play in it without worry of ever getting over their heads.  Sarah and Dee had to walk out about 1/4 mile before they were even at their hips!  And, the neat part is that it is less salty than the ocean...Bill had to taste it to make sure that was true.  (Sometimes he can be such a goob!)

I think everyone did sleep a bit better last night, except for me.  I was too hot and was wide awake at 4 am! Ugh! I give up! I finally relented to God that He was ensuring that I was trusting in Him completely on this trip and not on my own merits.  OK!  I GET IT!  Now, can I please have a full night of sleep?!?

We were going to go back to the sea this morning but it is now overcast, so we may just lay low, play at the playground and take naps.  Allison has to go back into town this afternoon for an appointment with the US Embassy doctor.  Originally, Bill was just going to take her but now we all may go if the weather remains blah.  Please pray for her as she is quite afraid. She associates the doctor with shots and blood work.

Overall, she is doing very well.  She is able to make herself known (most of the time) by taking us by the hand and bringing us to what she wants, or by pointing.  We also have become familiar with some of the important words "bathroom, hungry, drink".  Last night she became quite weepy when it was time for showers.  She definitely DID NOT want to take a shower, but this was nothing new to us as Anita still freaks out at showers!  (We've walked this road before).

Bill and I have been doing a lot of processing on this trip.  We are both very tired and weary.  I don't even think I can do an adequate job of explaining it right now. Please just continue to pray for us. Pray for strength. Pray for rest. Pray for patience as we parent our 5 children. Pray for each of the girls.

Sarah-she is doing an awesome job being the oldest sister to this brood!  I am so proud of her!  If you know her at all you know that she has always struggled with communication.  She has a hard time expressing her feelings and she often "stuffs" her emotions until they come out in some unforeseen and unexpected way.  She has at least been keeping herself open and keeps her quirky sense of humor at the forefront, which is a sign to me that she hasn't shut down yet.  I pray that she can keep herself open and that Bill and I can be sensitive to her needs and not take her for granted.

Dee-overall has been doing very well.  She was the one we were most worried about before the trip.  Dee struggles with a lot of anger issues and that has come out a couple of times on the trip, but God was able to turn it into a great moment, as I was able to share my angers with her as well.  Once she saw me open up about my hurts and anger she was able to open up a bit as well.  It is so painful to be vulnerable (especially in front of our kids) but God really used this opportunity and I can now see that this is what Dee needs and I pray that I will be more sensitive to this in the future.

Hannah-oh Hannah!  If you read my first blog post about the plane ride over here you know that she has been the one to push my buttons on a regular basis. It's almost like she is taking every opportunity to show Allison all of the things that we DON'T want her to do!  She has continued to "toe the line" this entire journey, but thankfully she also has the ability to be a very sweet and sensitive child.  She is trying to figure out how to incorporate her new "twin" as a buddy.  Pray that she can see the benefit of showing Allison all of the fun that can be had in a family setting when you obey the rules instead of all of the trouble that you can get into when you double up.

Anita-my sweet Anita.  She definitely has a sweet, sweet spirit about her and she can just melt my heart in an instant.  She seems to know when I am low on reserve, and it doesn't take much for her to run up to me, pucker up her lips and put her arms around me for a hug to turn my moods right around.  Thank you God for this fresh breath in the storm!

Allison-pray for her in all of the transitions she is going through right now.  She doesn't understand our language, our traditions, our family ways.  We are as foreign as you can get to what she has known her entire life.  Pray that she would feel safe, protected, loved!

Thanks for walking this journey with us.  We definitely could not do this without the love and support of family and friends back home.