December 29 – Christmas break and colds

American's giving some Russian orphans Christmas

American’s giving some Russian orphans Christmas

With Drew gone to daddy’s house Ana has chilled out a bit. She has (obviously) getting more attention with fewer kids in the house and my husband has been home which has also upped the attention. She still has had a couple of minor meltdowns each day about daddy but we’ve been able to talk through them without her resorting to extreme measures like head banging.

She did, however, injure herself once yesterday. We’re not sure how it happened. She was in her room ‘cooling down’ and emerged with a scratch on her cheek. She said she did while hitting her head, but the only furniture in her room (purposefully) is her bed which has no sharp edges. She lies quite a lot (over silly little things) so this may not be the truth behind the scratch.

We all have colds. Yeah. This has kept us locked up indoors for the most part since Christmas day which is not necessarily a bad thing for Ana. She enjoys the home-time with us and it keeps her agitation levels lower. It is harder on me though since I have the normal Ana demands, a sick infant, a sick husband (I’m not sure which one is worse) and a very busy toddler who is not slowed down one iota by a cold. Plus laundry. And cleaning. And cooking. You get the idea.

I did get out to go see Ana’s psychologist (without Ana) and her advice for now is to love on her more when she is getting agitated and not go into details about why she can’t see daddy. This seems to be the only course of action, however, since I’m not sure what is going to happen with the daddy situation.

So, for now, we convalesce, for next week brings surgery for Ana.

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December 25 – The sound of Ana’s heart breaking

Ana, 5yrs old

Ana, 5yrs old

Today Ana finally realized she REALLY is not going to see her father this Christmas. When I had to take Drew to daddy’s house the primal sobs coming from my tiny girl was truly the sound of a heart breaking.

She kept promising all morning that she would be good at daddy’s – a promise she truly means but is incapable of keeping because of RAD.

And her father is incapable of loving a little girl with RAD.

This blog is not the forum to discuss why he is incapable of having her visit like her brother, or even why he is incapable of loving her. This blog is devoted entirely to Ana’s day to day struggles with RAD and our family’s corresponding struggles. Our family being myself, my husband (Ana’s stepfather) and her siblings – in short, the people who love Ana unconditionally and are willing to walk to hell and back for her.

Holidays are stressful enough times for Ana because of all the change, people coming in and out of our house, junk food, and anticipation of gifts to come. Rejection by her father became the icing on the cake she needed to have a thoroughly miserable Christmas day this year.

It is almost 4:00pm as I type and Ana has had about ten fits, has been rocked the majority of the day, has banged her head repeatedly, wailed till there is no tomorrow and thrown items across the room. The rest of the day does not look promising. I’m glad I did not schedule any visits with friends or family today; I had a feeling it was going to go this direction.

At least we always have tomorrow (because we definitely need it today).

“…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

December 22 – Over the river and through the woods

What I like to imagine going to Grandma's house for Christmas looks like...

What I like to imagine going to Grandma’s house for Christmas looks like…

A weekend at Grandma’s house. Ahhhh, how relaxing and comfy. Unless you’re Ana.

Weekends anywhere are super stress inducing and quite often end in trips to the ER for sedatives. Thankfully, this weekend no hospital was necessary.

When we go anywhere Ana has to have some semblance of normalcy or she loses it immediately. At my parents’ house that is relatively easy since they live in a house, the same house they have been in since before I was born, making it the only Grandma house Ana has ever known. That is a great start to a survivable weekend.

Hotel rooms do not work for Ana. They are too small. There are too many people in them (seven in our family) and there are no clear definable spaces (i.e. kitchen, bedroom, living room). She needs all these things. So, whenever we travel we have to have a house or apartment. Or Grandma’s house.

The drive to and from Grandma’s is daunting. It is four hours not counting traffic which isn’t too awfully bad compared to Florida or some far away vacation hotspot. This time in an last minute spark of pure genius I stopped at the library to get some books on CD to listen to in the car. The other kids have a variety of devices to play but Ana is not into any of those which makes her a very bored girl (our mantra is ‘a bored Ana is a bad Ana’). The books on CD were a hit with all the kids so we travelled in relative peace. Even Ana was chuckling at a few parts in the story.

At Grandma’s house things got hoppin’ fast so Ana went along for the ride. We had lunch with extended family which kept everyone entertained and Ana enjoyed the attention. After lunch there were presents which are always a great way to keep Ana happy.

Later that evening we did Grandma and Grampa Christmas which was over the top, as usual, and Ana racked up some impressive gifts. To say the least Justice was well represented.

All during the day Saturday Ana was chilled out about seeing daddy (same city as Grandma and Grampa), but as Sunday night came around and no visit to daddy was in the works she began to talk about it. This combined with limited sleep (always a problem in a different bed than her own), junk food out the wazoo, and a lot of sensory overloading over the course of the weekend caused Ana to lose it.

Thankfully, my husband was with me for this trip so I wasn’t stuck with a meltdown-mode Ana and four other children (in similar states for similar reasons) all alone. We managed without her emergency sedative, but she will definitely need a few days recovery to get back to normal.

December 19 – Finally! A good pick-up from school

orphan

I am exempt from carpool at Ana’s school because the wait and the congestion of the gym is way too much for her. So, she is walked out to the parking lot to my car. This is great for me (if anyone has ever had to do carpool you know what I’m talking about) but the minute she hits the front door of the school she begins a major melt-down (see yesterday’s post).

She screams, kicks, cries, begins asking about daddy, nana, you name it.

But today was different. Finally, today she came out without yelling and screaming. She did ask about nana, but she asked when we were going and then answered the question herself (one day). Wow, Ana! Now, if we can just repeat this experience tomorrow, we’ll really be on a roll.

December 18 – Two steps forward, one step back

Chinese orphan

Chinese orphan

When Ana gets out of school she loses it. It doesn’t matter what kind of day she has had; she just melts down when her shoes hit the sidewalk beyond the double doors. There are many theories by many specialists as to why she does this (sensory overload, transitions, etc…) but regardless of theories her behavior is atrocious.

I’ve been really focusing the last few weeks, as a part of the attachment therapy, on being excited to see her, upbeat and cheery, and giving lots of hugs and kisses when she comes out, despite her behavior. It does not appear to be helping much, but I also figure it is not hurting either.

Today, she was in such meltdown mode they had to come get me in the parking lot to come to the door to get her. I just love these days. Truth be told, I was kind of expecting it because it was a field trip day. She and the entire fourth grade loaded the busses ( super sensory overload), saw a play downtown (more sensory overload), played on a giant playground (mega sensory overload), and ate lunch outside on the sidewalk at the playground (not normal – she doesn’t like ‘not normal’).

Me and one of the classroom assistants ‘helped’ her to the car while she was kicking, trying to hit her head on anything within reach and screaming her head off. If nothing else our entourage provides entertainment for parents trapped in the carpool line.

I was bracing for the worst and being very thankful we live only two miles from the school when she stopped. She got in the car asking her usual anxiety driven questions: where is Drew? can she go see daddy? can she go to nana’s house? can we eat out for dinner? I told her I didn’t want to talk about any of those things till we got home and she just stopped.

When we got home her calmness continued. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying TV, cooking dinner and playing. I am choosing to interrupt this as home equals safe.

December 15 – An “Aha!” moment

A playpen inside a Russian orphanage

A playpen inside a Russian orphanage

This morning at church I decided to give Ana’s helper a break so I kept her with me during Sunday school. Anticipating some problems, I put the baby in the nursery so I could focus all my attention on Ana. She got bored very quickly and started making some noises and talking to me while others were talking. I was able to shush her effectively; so effectively, she fell asleep.

So there I was with a ten year old asleep in my lap. I thought to myself this isn’t much different than having Gabe with me (four months old) except Ana is bigger and snores. Then I had my Aha! moment. It ISN’T much different at all!

I’ll go ahead and admit it. I spent most of Sunday school thinking about this and not paying attention to the teacher. At all.

I started with my newborn. I have observed with all three of my biological children that when I hold them for any length of time they fall asleep. When I hand them over to someone else they wake up. Why is that? Well, for starters, they know my smell. They also know my voice, and recently, scientists discovered they even recognize my heartbeat. Amazing!

Those are all interesting facts about babies and their mothers but it still doesn’t explain why the sleep on me almost instantly to be instantly awoken should I pass them around. I am no expert in human development, biology or any other science, but I believe they behave this way because, evolutionarily speaking, they sleep when they are safe. All those things that tell them that I am mommy also tells them that I will protect them, so they sleep.

If that is the case, that explains a lot of Ana’s weird sleeping patterns. She has trouble sleeping in new places. She falls asleep almost instantly on me or my husband only to awaken should we get up, and she requires a long time to fall asleep at night – even if she is exhausted.

So, my Aha! moment was that her falling asleep on my lap is a sign that we are becoming more attached. Instead of focusing on her acting her age and paying attention instead of sleeping, I need to encourage her sleeping on me just like I do my baby. Not only will I be eliminating a battle, I will be strengthening our bond.

Yeah! Score one for mommy.

December 14 – Ana cried

Haiti has a desperate need for adoptive families

Haiti has a desperate need for adoptive families

Yesterday, Friday afternoon, was a little better than I expected. Instead of getting all worked up about going to visit daddy, Ana shifted the anxiety to visiting Nana’ house, which we’ll be doing next weekend. Since I could see he signs that she was getting all worked up, I went ahead and gave her Clonidine, her ‘sleepy pills’.

So, what are the signs she is getting worked up? For Ana it is mostly her internal dialogue. I have no idea what runs though her head, but it is not good; I know that much. She usually will lay in the floor, rocking, and the jump up and scream and start talking about going to see daddy. When she does this you’d think she was telling me the house is on fire. That is how upset she gets.

I’ve read that RAD kids have a certain point of no return and that is so true of Ana. The explosions keep getting closer together until there is no break between them. She is in pure survival mode at that point and there is no reasoning with her. I try to give her the clonidine before that because it really packs a punch on her little psyche and takes a couple days for her to recover.

She must have been sleepy because the clonidine knocked her out cold for about three hours even though I gave her a low dose.

This morning she was in a good mood but slowly the talk about Nana started creeping in. While I was in the shower she was talking about going to Nana’s house and her true motivation came out – she thinks she’ll get to see daddy while at Nana’s.

Her step-dad told her she would not be seeing daddy. The end. And she cried.

Real tears. Ana never cries when she is sad. When she is hurt, yes, the tears come.

I came into the family room and told her, “I heard you crying. Your body is telling me you are sad. Are you sad, Ana?”

She nodded her head yes and continued to cry for a few minutes while my husband held her and rocked.

This is a huge step forward for Ana! It kills me that she is sad over something she has no control over, but I am so happy that our attachment therapy appears to be working. No baby step today. Today was a giant step.