Monday, February 16, 2015

Joyful January

We had a joyful January!  We started the year off with Miss Olivia’s 3rd Birthday celebration at Chinatown Restaurant with several family members.  She enjoyed getting to eat Chinese food and opening some gifts, even though she didn’t realize what exactly was going on.

 Everyone was a good sport about wearing the Minnie Mouse ears!

 Thanks for coming, everyone!

 I think she's irritated with me that I'm disrupting her noodle-eating by taking this picture!

She especially loved the cupcake!  She was very meticulous about eating it, however.  She carefully licked off the icing and then dove into the cake part.  She did a great job of not getting it on her clothes too much.  I foresee a lot of Chinese food on New Year’s Day in our future.  Growing up we never had Chinese food, so this is stretching my food boundaries.  Ha ha!  I’m finding some things I like, but most importantly, I love seeing Olivia getting to eat something she loves.

Olivia is transitioning to a new speech therapist now, and so far, so good.  The goal with the speech therapist is to help her learn to enter into play easier with her friends.  We had a Parent Teacher Conference on MLK Day, and they had so many nice things to say and has come a long way.  She is doing much better in wanting to play with her friends.  She plays trucks with the boys, and she plays dolls with the girls.  She doesn’t have a “best friend,” but will go from activity to activity and play with whomever is in the area she wants to play.  She has come a long way from strictly observing in the play areas to actually playing, so we are definitely making progress.  She is even being recognized in the daily reports as to having said some words recently.  Today, it was “hat” that she said while giving her friends some hats to put on in the “dramatic play” area.

She now calls me, "Mama," and she calls Philip, "Daddy."  Some of her favorite words and phrases include, "I do it!" "I did it!" "Help me." "Don't want it." "Eat."

The teachers did bring up an area of concern to me, and that was Olivia’s running and jumping…..her gait is different, and she is unable to keep up with her friends outside when they are running.  We had noticed the running/lack of jumping, but I thought it would come in time.  I spoke with the pediatrician about it as well, and to be safe, he has referred us to a pediatric physical therapist for their evaluation.  He couldn't find anything structurally wrong in the exam.  I personally think that it's lack of exposure. I'm pretty sure that she sat on a rocking horse or in a walker most of the time while she was learning to walk.  It was evident when we got her that she had never been up and down stairs before, so I have a feeling that just like everything else, she will catch up.

At her 3 year check-up, she is looking great!  She is on the growth chart for both height and weight.  She had 2 more shots (ugh) this check-up, but now she's caught up!  No more shots outside of the flu shot/mist until she is 5.  This is great news to me!  It is so hard to see her so upset when she gets her shots.  She clearly doesn't understand that it's for the best.

Olivia has developed some food issues.  She isn't hiding food, or sneaking food, but she does have some hoarding tendencies.  For instance, when I give her a divided plate, she has to make sure that each of the divisions has food in it.  Also, we were recently at a restaurant where my plate was bigger than hers.  She threw a fit until I switched plates with her.  We are trying to teach her that she can always have more, so we try to give her a small helping and when she is finished, give her more.  Otherwise, she wants large helpings of everything and very rarely eats it all.  It could be much worse.  I've read articles of children having to go to bed with food, hiding food, etc.

Olivia still sleeps with her shoes most nights, and now she has started taking other things to bed with her.  Examples include bracelets, chapstick, hair bows, etc.  Philip still puts her to bed, and he still has to be in the room with her while she is falling asleep.  I'm hoping that when we've been home a year that we can start leaving the room and doing some sleep training in that regard.  We'll see.  I know that some children are still bonding during that time, and I certainly don't want to reverse any bonding we've done thus far.  Sleep training with adopted children is SOO different than with biological children!!

She is definitely getting more comfortable.  She isn't as stuck to me, especially in public, as she once was.  While this is great, we have to be VERY careful to watch her at all times.  Teaching her to hold hands in the parking lot, in stores, etc. is proving to be more difficult than I expected.

In January, we also celebrated the 1st anniversary of our referral.  What a special day it was!  At the time, it didn't quite sink in with me that she had literally just turned 2 when we got her referral.  I remember "the call" like it was yesterday and can hardly believe that it's been a year.  Here is the first picture that we ever saw of Yong Ning Yu.  She has changed so much!

We started gymnastics for both Ansley and Olivia in January as well.  We go on Thursday nights at 6:05pm.  They go at the same time, but they are in different classes.  It works out really well.  The first lesson was quite an experience. Olivia wouldn't let me leave her side.  Of course, it was a new environment with all new people, so I sort of expected it to some degree, but she literally   So, I went around to all of the different stations with her.  I tried to sneak away at one point, but she noticed and started crying.  We weren't sure how to handle dinner, since class starts at 6.  That particular night, we decided to give them a snack after school and then eat afterwards - BIG MISTAKE!  We went to a Mexican restaurant afterwards, and it was a disaster.  Both of the girls were so HANGRY!!  Lesson learned: from now on, we eat BEFORE we go to gymnastics!

The second lesson was much better, but we have a new trick.  Philip takes them.  I go later and sneak in the side door.  I can see Olivia, but she doesn't see me until the end.  She is doing so much better and really seems to like it.  The teachers are so understanding and sweet with her.  She's really catching on.  I thought she would love it, considering she jumps on and off of everything in sight!  Ansley is doing really well, too, and developing some self-confidence that will serve her well in the future.  It is also causing her to overcome some of her fears (heights), so that is wonderful, too.

One thing that I have not done a very good job of in this blog is talking about Ansley and her adjustment to being a big sister and not an only child.  Ansley has dealt with a lot of adjustment in the past year or so.  She was pretty much the only child in our family for 4 years, and then everything changed.  Our family grew by two precious new babies and Olivia, all within 5 months of each other.  So, Ansley went from the only one, to one of 4.  She's a little mother to everyone, and she loves the babies.  But, I can tell that she also misses her one-on-one time, too.

It is also quite different introducing an older adopted child into the family, rather than having a baby.  When you have a baby, the other child is able to see your belly grow and change over 9-10 months.  And, while we knew about Olivia for about 4 months before we got her, it's still quite different.  Also, the fact that she is only 2 years younger than Ansley makes a difference, too.  Olivia wants to do and play with whatever Ansley is doing/playing.  We spend a lot of time taking turns and sharing.

In the beginning, it was really, really hard on Ansley, and it was very hard to watch.  Many tears were shed, by all of us.  I often sat in those moments and thought, "Have we done the right thing?"  Of course, I knew deep down that we had, but I still questioned myself.  I spend a lot of time praying for her adjustment, and Olivia and Ansley's relationship.  I pray that they will be best friends and oh-so-close.  The challenges started our last night in China and lasted until the beginning of August, so about 3 months…a painful and worrisome 3 months.

But, once August hit, it was like a light switch turned on, and all was okay.  She still has her moments where she says that she wishes it was the "way it used to be."  I know what she means, so we just talk about it, and I try extra hard to give her more one-on-one time when I can tell she needs it.   Olivia requires A LOT of my attention….from sun up to sun down….she still prefers me to do everything and is attached to my side 24/7, if I'm around.  Ansley used to get that attention, and it hurts me not to be able to give that to her now.  Ansley just wants to sit by me sometimes, and Olivia doesn't like it one bit.  "Our time" is usually a couple of hours on Saturday mornings when I take her to dance.  It isn't much time, but it's something.

Ansley has really grown up over the past year, and I am so very proud of her.  Even her teachers at school have praised her adjustment.  None of us knew how it was all going to go, but I have to say that she has done remarkably well, especially considering where we were back this summer.

Back in the fall of last year (2014), we began our search for a school for Ansley to start this fall, 2015.  Philip and I toured at least 5 schools (I've lost count.), and let me tell you, this is a whole new world for us!  We have learned a lot, prayed a lot, and we've done a lot of homework on each school.  We not only have to think about Ansley and what is best for her, but we also have to think about Olivia and what might be best for her.  It's a daunting task, and one that we have taken very seriously and prayerfully.

Applications were due in December, and January brought on the assessments.  The independent schools require each applicant to be assessed, and most of them also go to the day cares to observe the children in a learning environment.  Parents are also interviewed during this process as well.  In order to not put any stress on Ansley, we called the assessments "learning games," and she really enjoyed doing them.  Two of the schools did a one-on-one assessment with Ansley; one was in a larger group setting, and one was in a group of 4-5 students. From what she told me, they covered basically the same information:  colors, shapes, rhyming, money identification, what's missing in a picture, etc.  They lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours.  I'm so proud of how she handled each one!  We find out in a couple of weeks if we are accepted.  We then have one week to make a decision.  Stressful and overwhelming!!  We have not made a final decision at this time.  There are so many factors to take into consideration.

Well, I think that pretty much covers January.  Thanks, as always, for your prayers and support.  It's hard to believe that we've been home 8 months.  What a journey!!

Thanks for reading!