Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Ok, I know, I know-- great picture of me. Parker took it. I wouldn't have posted it, but it tells a story.
I feel like I’m in this very strange place right now. It’s a place I’ve never been in before, because I’ve never been quite so overwhelmed, and I don’t know quite how to describe it.
A beautiful mess?
A spectacular storm?
Something like that. I am barely keeping my head above water. It is so crazy busy around here. Every day there are feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion. Sometimes there are worse feelings. Yes, I am overwhelmed.
And yet, I don’t know if I’ve ever been so at peace in my life. I am overcome with love for my little ones-- all eight of them! I am blissfully happy with our decision to add our two precious new daughters. I am completely and unabashedly smitten with them. Jeremy and I often look at each other and say, “We won the lottery!”
We have been going through a very tough spell with our Elli. She has had big ups and downs throughout her life, and we know her well enough to know that when she is “down” that she will go back up. But this one lasted a LONG time. And it was particularly hard, partly because she is older and stronger and louder. People would tell me that she was just struggling with the new additions, but it really began before we even left for China. Basically, she went through a period of yelling/screaming/tantruming that lasted weeks and weeks (with a few good days in between.) I am not exaggerating when I say that she would rarely go five minutes in a day without being VERY difficult. I was at my wits end. It was exhausting for the whole family. She was waking up several times a night screaming at the top of her lungs. I would go down to her room, and she would stop immediately and ask for a drink, or music, or something similar. Then as soon as I would get back into bed, it would start again.
I can’t tell you how many times I repeated the following quote in my mind: “To despair is to turn one’s back on God.” (From Anne of Green Gables.) Over and over and over.
I knew that things had to get better, but didn’t know what to do. I called my mom and told her, “I NEED techniques!” I felt like I was losing it with Elli, and I needed advice on how to handle her. She gave me some good information, some of it from my aunt Debbi. The thing that stuck the most was how many kids with autism will do anything for attention—even if it’s negative attention. She suggested ignoring the screaming. I must say that I have tried this before, but have never been able to be consistent with it, as her screaming makes me want to pull my hair out. SO… for over a week now I have been doing my best (which isn’t perfect) to not give her any attention when she screams. Instead I wait for times she is calm, even if they are few and far between, and give her attention THEN. We have also decided to ignore her screaming at nighttime. My philosophy used to be that I HAD to go and quiet her down or she would wake other kids up. However, we absolutely needed to get some rest, and thought that maybe this technique, though hard in the short run, just might work. AND (drum roll) I am happy to say that it has! For the most part anyway. (: We are getting so much better sleep at night, which really helps in all aspects of life.
The bottom line is, I’m not sure if it has to do with ignoring the screaming, or getting extra sleep, or more positive attention, or change in attitude (from me), or the meds that our doctor prescribed to help even out her moods—but something is working. (: I do know that all of the prayers offered in her behalf are a great part of the change we are seeing. And I do know that were it not for sweet friends giving me a break here and there and even taking her away for a couple of hours, that I would have likely fallen apart. So I am very, very grateful. And, I hope I don’t need to clarify this—I do love her very, very much. She is my little angel. Which is what makes it all the harder.
Besides our struggles with Elli and the day-to-day struggles of trying to get everything done, our life has been so very good. I am beyond grateful that bonding with Sophi and Lexi has not been an issue AT ALL. We know without a doubt that they are meant to be here and we love having them in our family. These girls do not lack attention! They are like little rock stars with the kids’ friends and neighbors. It is so much fun to see how quickly they have captured hearts.
Tomorrow I’d like to write a little about Sophi, and tonight just a bit about Lexi.
Lexi is seriously the most amazing little girl. Have I mentioned I’m in love with her? (: She has the most loving nature and is so gentle. She smiles almost ALL THE TIME. I say almost, because she does have several times a day when she gets sad and says she wants to go to school. This has been just heartbreaking for me. Our initial plan was to just enroll her in kindergarten next year, so she’d have several months to be here with me and to learn English. However, she has had it in her mind that once she came to America, she would get to go to school. We have already decided that we want to mainstream her. Unfortunately, the charter school our kids attend doesn’t have a kindergarten opening right now. The only way to get her there is to wait until next year, then enroll her either in kindergarten or 1st grade (they are adding a class next year, so there would be an opening either way.) In the meantime, we could put her in kindergarten at our regular zoned school, but we’re not very keen on that for a number of reasons. So… we have decided to enroll her at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. JUST for the rest of this year. It is so far away and she will be on the bus for an awfully long time. It’s honestly just killing me to think about. BUT… this girl really, really wants to go to school, so go to school she shall. I figure that the worst thing that could happen would be that she doesn’t like it and we end up pulling her out. At this point, we’re just trying to get through the process of enrolling her. I am sooooo excited to be able to finally say, “YES, you can go to school!” She gets so lonely when the others are gone.
A few of my favorite things about Lexi: She got a CTR (Choose the Right) ring on her first day of Sunday School and now she calls all rings “CTR.” She has a puppy that talks, and she calls it “Happy.” We kept correcting her and telling her that its name was “Puppy,” but she wouldn’t have it. Parker finally figured out that one of the phrases it says is, “I am happy!” So she’s obviously listening. (: She carries it everywhere and says “Wo (I) love Happy!” and “Happy tickle Mommy” and other such phrases. So cute!
She is beginning to put more English words into her sentences, and I can’t wait until she is able to fully communicate. Lexi is very good at feeding herself. She gets messy for sure, but she has such a good attitude about it. If she spills, she just giggles. She always says “thank you” when I give her something. I think my favorite phrase of hers is “Wo (I) want weeee!” This means she wants Daddy to spin her around or throw her in the air. (:
Anyway… Lexi is the whole reason I’m writing this post. Because tonight she really opened my eyes. Earlier this evening, she was acting tired. Then out of nowhere, she threw up. It landed square in the middle of Taylor’s opened homework folder. ARGH. It got in every crevice, and we just had to throw the whole thing away. Afterward she was just so quiet and still. I held her for a long time. Throughout the night I would get a few things done, then come back and hold her. At one time I looked at the poor living room that not only was messy, but is still housing the Christmas tree and decorations and it just made me feel totally inadequate. I sat there and thought how any number of my friends would have been on top of things enough to have it all put away.
Then Lexi, still closing her eyes, felt for my hand, brought it up to her mouth, and kissed it.
And I thought, “She has a mother.”
Just a couple of months ago, she did not. And despite not knowing much of the language, and not being able to go to school like she wants and not being able to see, for crying out loud, she has a mother. And she knows it.
She knows how much I love her, and somehow, that makes Christmas decorations in February beautiful. It makes piles of dirty laundry magnificent. It makes a smallish house feel like a mansion.
And that is why I am living in a beautiful mess. A spectacular storm.
Because she has a mother.
This is my apron-- she was wearing it to eat spaghetti and I thought she looked so cute. (:
You'll notice she's often wearing this headband. That's because every time I put it on her she gets a big smile and says, "so pretty!"