Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Doggies (A post for all you dog-lovers)

If you are not a dog-lover, just a little warning that if you continue to read this post, you will be convinced that I am totally whacked. If you are a dog-lover, read'll understand.

One of my biggest concerns before heading to Ukraine was our dogs. We have two dogs. Tifa, a schitzu, and Anson, a chihuahua. (That's right. His name is Anson Carter....for all you hockey fans!) Our dilemma was trying to think of who would want to dog sit our babies for an unknown amount of time....possibly up to two months, which it turned out to be.

Thankfully, our wonderfull sister, brother-in-law and niece fell in love with our dogs while they dog sat during our Hawaiian vacation earlier in the year. They were up for the challenge.

This was a huge answered prayer because the thought of leaving them in a kennel that long made me sick to my stomach. My only problem once finding the dogsitters was wondering how I would live without them for so long. What if they forgot about us? What if they're so mad they never want to come home with us? On top of it all, we will be bringing home a new little person! Tifa is a real people person, loving anyone within sniffing range. Anson is way more reserved. Very picky about who he licks and doesn't lick. And kids were definitely not on his "lickable" list. In fact, kids are prone to end up on the "I like to try and bite you" list. I was really praying that we would not have to find him a new home once we arrived home with a little one.

We dropped the dogs off with the family the day before our flight left. They live about twenty minutes away from us. I cried all the way there, but managed to maintain my composure when we dropped them off.

Once we arrived in Ukraine, I tried not to think of them too much. Thank goodness we had bigger things to distract us at that time. One night, shortly after a bad appointment at the adoption center and really missing home, we were able to Skype Terry's sister and brother in law. I cried as soon as I saw their faces on the screen, and when they held up the dogs for us to see, I completely lost it! How I could have used one of them contentedly resting on my lap to comfort me.

I'm now having second thoughts about publishing this post...sharing my craziness with the whole world is a little unnerving. Oh well. I already typed it....on we go!

Well, as it turns out, all of my worrying was for nothing. When we arrived home with Emma, one of the greatest moments is when the dogs came home. Despite the awful flights home and the stress on us trying to adjust to our new lives, it brought such joy to my heart to see the dogs and to see Emma's excitement when she met them. We had shown her pictures of the dogs while we were in Ukraine, but when she realized that they were really hers and she got to live with them, she was jumping up and down screaming. It was so cute, every time we left the house and came back, it would be like she had just met the dogs all over again....jumping up and down screaming, "Dva Sabocca! Dva Sabocca!" (Two dogs! Two dogs!)

Surprisingly, the dogs took to Emma right away. Especially Anson, which was very strange. He seems to be Emma's biggest fan. She was never on his "bite" list. Even though he had no problems with her, he still doesn't like other kids. Weird. Oh long as he loves the one who lives with us it doesn't matter! :) It makes playdates interesting, though!

Before we had Emma, her room was a spare room that was rarely entered by human or dog. Since she's been home, the dogs practically live in that room. Everyday when Emma goes to school, they mope around her room, waiting for her to come home.

Here's a picture. That's Anson smiling in the front. And see that white, grey and red thing sticking out from under the bed? Thats' Tifa! She is especially fond of being under the bed lately because she just got shaved and there's a heat register under there.

Aren't they the cutest? :)

Just a small update concerning last week's post: It has actually been a much better week this week. It's almost as if the "honeymoon" is back on. Emma has not stolen anything from school this week. Poor kid. Teacher and mom and dad are constantly "patting" her down like a criminal! But, so far no issues this week. I don't think the problem is totally over. I think Emma figured out that it's too hard to get away with at school. Who knows? We're workin' on it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Smiles and Trials

I've been meaning to post for awhile now, but it's been a rough couple of weeks. It's really easy to share all the good things that are happening in our family, but when the going gets tough, I'm not as eager to sit down and share. Even now, I'm not too sure how this post is going to go, so bear with me!

I've been hearing a lot about the "honeymoon" period after adopting. I read about it on message boards, blogs and have been warned about it by our pediatrician. Apparently, it's common for adopted children to come home and be perfect little angels as they are afraid they might not be kept by their new parents. This period is said to last about six months...and then the "honeymoon" is over. After that, kid's try to push your buttons to see if you will really keep them. (This is all just a theory and obviously not the case for every adoption) Well, the DAY Emma was home for six months, it's like someone flicked the switch and there ended the honeymoon.

Our main problems right now are lying and stealing. Let's start with they lying I guess. This has been quite an issue, as Emma lies to keep herself out of trouble. Even if we ask her a question and she thinks she might be in trouble, she'll lie to cover herself. It's quite frustrating, as the lies are blatantly obvious.

Next is stealing. The first couple of times we thought it was quite innocent and Emma didn't really understand about ownership and that is wasn't right to take something that isn't hers. We reprimanded her a few times for this. But, soon enough, she was sneaking around, taking items that we would later find in her pockets or hidden in her bedroom. The issue has ranged from finding objects on the floor (not a big deal) to going through somebody's purse (huge deal). After the purse incident, I was quite shocked. It turns out that she got caught taking chapstick out of the purse and the owner gladly gave it to her after she was caught. A very nice gesture, but maybe added fuel to the fire.

Last Monday was the first time Emma was caught stealing at school. She went through another child's desk and stole some chapstick. After dealing with several incidents already and knowing that Emma knew it was wrong, Terry and I were livid. We took her straight home from school and issued some serious serious I thought stealing would not happen again.

Tuesday after school, the teacher advised me that it had happened again. OK, now I was mad. Off we go to tell daddy what happened. We decided to dole out the same discipline we had the night before. We wanted to stick to our guns and show Emma that she could not get away with this. After the second night of punishment, I thought FOR SURE it would not happen again.

Wednesday morning we had a good chat before school about stealing. Emma listed off the consequences of stealing and reassured me that she did not want to be punished again and that she would not go into anyone's desk. Well, Terry received a call later that day that Emma had been sent to the principle's office for stealing. My heart absolutely broke when I heard about it. I couldn't take another night of punishing her!

That night, Terry and I sat down and had a long conversation. Obviously, the techniques we were using were not working. In fact, after the punishments last week, we saw some regression in Emma's behaviour. She wet herself, which she hasn't done in months. I was very distraught over the whole situation. It was awful to see Emma regress, but at the same time we didn't just want to dismiss the stealing.

After our long discussion, we discovered (like, duh!) that as much as we want her to be, Emma is not a child who has been born and raised by us, so we can't expect her to behave like one. Not only that, the life she lived before she was in our home was in no way stable. We are dealing with a little person who has dealt with a ton of trauma and grief in her life. There are so many things that can be triggering this behaviour and we realized our reactions may have been a little harsh and may even be causing the behaviour even more. The discipline on Wednesday was lighter than what she had received earlier in the week and that night we spent some time and really loved on her.

I wish I could say that resolved the stealing issue, but it didn't. Emma was also caught on Thursday and Friday at school and by us over the weekend. We've lightened up on the consequences and are just trying to instill in her that what she is doing is not good.

As far as lying is concerned, we've lightened up in that area as well. We are easily able to catch Emma in a lie. Instead of getting upset, we've started talking to her about why she is lying and telling her to never be afraid to tell us the truth. We know lying comes instinctively to her out of fear and we are trying to get her to change her thinking in this area. We've let her know if she tells us the truth about something she has done wrong, there will be no consequence. She has since then told us the truth a couple times about things she had done.

This past week I came to the realization of how challenging it is to parent an older adopted child with "baggage" (as Terry would call it.) It's hard to know how to react in all situations. We know things were not good for Emma at the orphanage and my stomach turns when I see fear in her eyes when we get upset. I can only imagine what she's thinking or what sort of memories this brings to her. I don't want her to ever fear us as she did her caregivers. But at the same time, you can't just let bad behaviour go...see my dilemma? This is difficult for a type A personality like me, who has to know the answer to everything. For now, we just take one day at a time and ask God for guidance as new situations arise. We really believe the choices we make now and how we react to bad situations are going to determine the relationship we are building with Emma. And we want that relationship to be one of love and trust, not of fear.

One thing I've learned over the past week is that I am not alone. I've been doing tons of reading online and have come across similar situations on message boards and blogs. I have to commend so many adoptive parents out there who are dealing with problems on a much larger scale. I know lying and stealing are some of the easier things to deal with in an adopted child who may be suffering from RAD, PTSD, FAS, FAE or ADHD. I feel like a little whiner writing this after reading what some parents have gone through. Truly, my heart goes out to you and your families. Thank you for never giving up and for sharing your stories to encourage people like me!

On a lighter note, I am posting some pictures of our Valentine's Day. We spent an awesome day together swimming at the wave pool. I still can't believe how fearless Emma is when it comes to swimming. The wavepool is very dangerous and I've had to pull her out of waves that were overcoming her a couple of times, but she still loves it.

Unfortunately we didn't take the camera to the wave pool and I was just kicking myself for it. The pool has a dive tank with a diving board. It took some coaxing to get Emma on the diving board and when she got to the end, she was too afraid to jump in. So we had daddy jump in the water and wait for her beneath the diving board and I walked with her to the end and encouraged her to jump to daddy. She finally took the leap of faith....face first. She completely submerged underwater, but her lifejacket quickly popped her back up. She came up screaming at the top of her lungs. Not a scared scream, but a totally excited I-wanna-do-it-again-and-again type of scream. I swear she went off that diving board at least a hundred times...face first each time. And she totally loved it.

After swimming, we came home for some chinese take-out and cookie decorating. Pictures posted below:

Daddy's Cookie:

Mama's Cookie:

Emma's Cookie:

And, of course, the dog's cookie:

Eating Cookies:

Auntie Kim's birthday is on Valentine's Day, so we celebrated on Sunday.

Emma's idea of helping mama bake a cake:

Borrowing Uncle Chad's sunglasses:

Souvinir Auntie and Uncle brought back from Disneyland:

Well, there you have it...some good stuff and some bad stuff.

Today I took Emma to pierce her ears. Boy, was that an adventure. I'll have to save that post for another day. See you soon!

BTW, yesterday was the first day Emma didn't steal from school. I'm sure the issue is not resolved, but it's a step in the right direction. :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance

For those of you who have heard of this show, you know how awesome it is. For those who haven't...I feel for you. :) So You Think You Can Dance is a dance competition on TV that is similar to American/Canadian Idol, except dancing instead of singing. The first season of the Canadian version started shortly after getting home from Ukraine and ended about a month and a half ago. It was our tradition every Wednesday to sit down and watch the show together. It was Emma's favorite (mama's too) As soon as I found out the top ten dancers would be touring Canada, I was one of the first ones online to buy tickets. I knew Emma would go absolutely wild seeing her favorite dancers in person. Well, yesterday was the long awaited day. We started out our evening with a nice supper at the Mongolie Grill (build your own stirfry)..... Emma at the restaurant, eagerly awaiting her surprise for later: Watching the chef cook our stirfry: Daddy's Girl: And Mama's Girl: After supper we headed off to Rexall Place. We told Emma to keep her eyes open for a big building, because that would be where her surprise is. She pointed at almost every single building and asked if that was it. We kept telling her no, it's a BIG building. When we got there and she saw it she said, "OH!" as if to say, "Oh, that's what you mean when you say big!"

The show was absolutely amazing. It was priceless to see Emma's reaction when the lights went out, then all of a sudden the whole place was lit up with lights and lazers. When the theme song of the show started blaring through the sound system, Emma knew exactly what she was there for and she was EXCITED. Although I'm not sure which excited her more....the dancers or the huge tub of popcorn she had on her lap! I wish I could have caught some of her reactions on camera. It was hard for me to watch the show, watch Emma and try to catch the perfect moments on film. I gave up after awhile, as I like the show just as much as Emma and I wanted to enjoy it. Emma quickly figured out how to clap and scream along with all the other young girls in the building (much to Terry's delight. Yes, he was there and yes, he liked it!) Every time a dancer was introduced individually, Emma would go wild. The announcer would say something like, "Ladies and gentlemen, heeeere's NICO!" The crowd would go wild and Emma would throw her hands up in the air and scream, "NICOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" So cute! You can watch the video below to see a taste of what we enjoyed: (sorry, the quality of the video gets really bad when you put it on blogger)

And here's a short video of Emma:

After the show, it took forever to get out of that place. We were so crowded with people pushing from every side...very reminiscent of a Kiev bus ride.
How not to lose Emma:
Souvenir....Emma's thinking "Enough pictures already!"

So that was our evening. We finally arrived home after 11pm (on a school night!) This morning was the first time ever that I had to wake Emma up for school!

Our First Date.....Well, Sort of

OK, OK, Terry and I have had about a billion dates in the fifteen years we've been together. But when we returned from Ukraine with Emma, we decided it be best that we spend our time as the "Three Musketeers" until we were satisfied that Emma was truly attached to mom and dad. In the past six months, aside from school, she has only been away from us for a total of about an hour. Had it not been dinner theatre tickets given as a gift to us, we may not yet have gone on a date...... not because we don't think Emma is attached, but because we are enjoying spending our time together. And, well, things are pretty tight right now with me not working. :)

So we gave Emma a couple of days warning about what was going to happen. We explained to her that we would be going out and that Auntie would be coming over to play with her. Her first question (big surprise)...."Why?" And this wasn't an inquisitive kind of "why." This was a whiny, "Why on earth would you want to leave me?" kind of "why." So we explained a few more times over the next couple of days to which Emma would reply, "Mom, you can stay home with me" or "I want to come with you."

I was a little nervous as date time approached and we awaited the arrival of Auntie. I didn't want Emma to be sad or upset when we left (although the fact that she was going to miss us brought me some secret happiness on the inside ;) Well, as soon as Auntie arrived, Emma was jumping up and down excited. Auntie said she would take Emma out for supper. So, instead of "Can I come with you mom and dad?" it was "Can I go with Auntie now?" So off she went. And I'm very glad that she and Emma had a good time together while we were gone. Perhaps Auntie will want to come and do it again sometime. Or perhaps another Auntie is feeling a little jealous and wants a turn! LOL!

Anyways, we had a lovely night out at the dinner theatre. We were there mainly for the buffet (there went the diet for that day!) but the entertainment turned out to be pretty good as well. I thoroughly enjoyed mommy-daddy time!