Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beans & Birthday Pillows

Peter planted some bean seeds at the beginning of summer and we are finally seeing the fruit of his labor. He faithfully watered and cared for his one plant.

It was the first time they tried raw beans. They are not fans, but the rest of his chowed down on our one bean.

Gaelle got a present in the mail from Grammy. She has always made a pillow for each of her grandkids. A couple of pillows actually because they wear them out. My kids love their special pillow. This was came in time for her birthday and she was told she could open it when it came.

It's just perfect. Thanks Grammy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Westmount Park

On Saturday we headed to a playground in Halifax. We didn't even know this place existed until last week and so we went to check it out. It has wonderful water fountains for the kids. We just brought a change of clothes for them instead of their bathing suits.

Peter is trying to press the pole to make the sunflowers spray water. He never quite got the trick to it. But he still got wet.

The playground equipment was completely handicapped accessible including these swings. They were fun for the kids and super impressive. Emily would love to see the kids in Thailand with this kind of swing. Kids there have never experienced swings.

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Waiting for the elephant to spray. Waiting...waiting....waiting...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Future for 5

Future for Five

Emily spent last year in Thailand working with mentally and physically challenged children. Her heart was touched and now she has a passion for helping the children receive the specific care that they need... five children at a time.

Check it out!!!! Click on the above link.

Stay tuned to see how you can support her vision.

If anybody would like to contribute "seed" money, please contact her. This has been her idea and she has been supporting this by herself.

Attachment Disorder

Just a little information and then a funny from Gaelle.

Ever since we started this adoption process 4 years ago, I've been reading everything I can find from our library system on international adoption. I've become a regular reader of several adoptive parents and adult adoptees' blogs. No matter how much I've read and heard, nothing can prepare you for the reality of introducing 2 children to your home and family who have come from another country and who have spent time in an institutional setting. It is intense in every way and we are constantly learning new things about attachment, the children, and ourselves.

As the summer comes to a close and we are getting ready to start a new school year, we are seeing the results of lots of anxiety. I'm getting ready to write up some information for Gaelle's teacher on attachment disorder and her special needs and some observations we have and some suggestions we have for her and thought I would put some of it here.

The following information comes from Attachment Disorder Maryland website.

Survival: AD children deeply believe that their very survival depends on their being in control of other people and situations most of the time. AD children make a decision, early in life, probably not consciously, that they will never be in a helpless position again. They lack faith in anyone's control but their own. This leads them to avoid asking for help, regardless of their need for it, because it creates a dangerous context of dependence and is likely to activate AD children’s considerable shame. AD children seek to orchestrate not only events, but the very feelings and behaviors of those closest to them. They will work very hard to control the adults’ attention. This control can appear in many forms, including: oppositional / defiant behavior, passive aggressive behavior, withdrawal and withholding of information, hairsplitting semantic arguments, giving false information, sexualized behavior, aggressive behavior, infantile behavior, bizarre behavior, appearing “confused”, vague / circular or unintelligible language, noisemaking, running away, avoiding physical contact, etc. (significant changes)

Hypervigilance: Hypervigilance is commonly seen in AD children. Hypervigilance is the directing of a significant proportion of energy, attention, and thinking towards monitoring the external environment. Being hypervigilant, AD children tend to scan situations very quickly for cues and then make interpretations of entire situations based on only one or two details. This can lead to responses that are way off base. Because of the energy it consumes, hypervigilance limits an AD child’s awareness of what is happening inside herself and interferes with the ability to think reflectively, problem solve, or respond appropriately to external demands. Hypervigilance can be broken down into two kinds: threat hypervigilance and resource hypervigilance. AD children who are threat hypervigilant feel a constant sense of lurking danger and are always scanning situations for possible sources of danger. Those who are resource hypervigilant feel a terrifying sense of inner emptiness, almost as if they don’t really exist. As a result, they are always searching out their environments for external resources to “validate” or “prop up” their sense of existing. This validation is obtained by getting others to interact with, or attend to, them in some way. In the absence of such external support, these children begin to feel like they are disappearing, almost as if they were turning into ghosts. This causes their anxiety to rapidly mount. In situations in which they are not sure how to respond, resource hypervigilant children will scan the environment for clues as to how to assemble their respond

I've copied the information about survival and hypervigilance because those are the 2 main issues we see with Gaelle. She needs control and she's focused on what everybody around her is doing. Unfortunately, it is not healthy for her to be in control. I've started using the word "trust". As in, "You can trust me to take care of .....(insert a need)." In school this need for control will severely limit her ability to succeed socially and academically. She tries to dominate every conversation even if she doesn't have 2 clues what is being said. If she is in a group setting, there will be one child who is always interjecting...Gaelle. It doesn't take much imagination to see how draining this can be on a teacher.

The hypervigilance will also seriously limit her success in school and life. She thinks she knows what is going on around her but she constantly misreads situations. During VBS this summer she was in a class of 20 - 25 kids each day. Her face was in constant motion as she scanned the class. Did I say constantly? In a group of that size there was the usual jostling which most kids take in stride. But not Gaelle. If she was pushed as the kids rushed to an activity, her face would turn ugly and she would push back. She was misreading the situation. She thought kids were being mean, when they were just in a rush.

It was a good lesson for us. We have worked with her this summer on interacting with other kids. Are they being mean? Do they mean to push me? Do they want to hurt me? Did they do it on purpose? If not, then we don't make a mean face and we don't push them back.

Not only does Gaelle misread the situation around her, she expends so much energy on those external factors, she does not have any energy to focus on learning what is important. So there is no need for her to learn her alphabet or numbers or colors or other vital kindergarten topics beause she needs to know what the grade 2 teacher is doing. And by the way, what is the child 5 desks over from me doing? And Johnny wore his indoor sneakers outside. I need to tell the teacher. And on and on.

Anyway, those are a few of our concerns and issues we need to address with the teacher. There is the behavior and there are reasons behind that behavior. A little understanding can go a long way.

Ok... now a Gaelle funny that illustrates how she misreads situations and how she tries to control things.

Last night we were eating supper and Emily asked us if we had any plans for the night.

Robin: No, not me.
Beth: No, I'm not doing anything.
Gaelle: No. Nobody needs the car so you can have it, Emily.

At no point did Emily ask for the car and really, what 4 year old is in control of the family car? Needless to say, we all just burst out laughing. What else are you going to do? It turns out Emily wasn't asking for the car. She just wanted to know what we were doing? You know, family conversation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Toy phone

Gaelle's birthday is coming up and all she has asked for... well the one thing she keeps coming back to... is a telephone. She and Peter would both love a REAL phone but Gaelle has always been just as happy to have a toy telephone.

She and Peter have been scrounging money from the couches and various other places in the house. With 3 teens and 2 adults in the house they have finally managed to find $1.95. So today was the appointed day to go to the Dollar Store and spend it.

Gaelle wandered the aisles for 30 minutes and couldn't decide what she wanted. I wasn't in a hurry so I just let her wander. She finally spotted a toy telephone and her mind was suddenly made up.

It has been so much fun listening to her talk on the phone this afternoon. EVERYBODY is calling her and she's just full of news. So cute!!! If I had known a $1 phone would be so much fun for me, I would have bought it myself.

We picked up Emily from work and the first thing out of Gaelle's mouth. "I have a phone and it has buttons. Look!!!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Josh has been home for 3 months but on Saturday it was time for him to head back to school. Gaelle was spinning all week because this is a big change for the family and for her. So we tried to reassure her that he was coming back for Christmas. So that's been her mantra. She tells us all, "Josh is coming home for Chreesmus!!" Yikes, can you imagine the spinning and excitement when December rolls around?

Josh packed up his stuff with plenty of room to spare.

And away he went. The summer has flown by altho I know there have been many moments for Josh when the summer just dragged on. I'm so thankful he was able to be home for the summer. I loved having him around and I know it was great for him to really get to know Peter and Gaelle.

Josh and Gaelle really seem to have connected in their own bizarre way. I think it was over Survivor Man videos. But whatever it was, she even picked up some of his lingo. Whenever somebody has been put in their place by somebody else, Josh will let out a "snap" or "boom". On Joshua's last night home, Josh told Gaelle to stop something and she ignored him. So Robin stepped in and confirmed that Gaelle needed to stop what she was doing. Gaelle tapped her chest and let out a "BOOM". We all just laughed. It was just what Josh would have said.

We miss you Josh. We're praying for you and we'll see you at Chreesmus.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another step

We achieved another step today in our adoption process. Notice was served today which means the kids now legally have our last name. We signed paper after paper so I think it's official. We both teared up a bit when the notice was read to us. Tears always upset Gaelle so I felt badly because this was a happy moment for us and my tears confused her. But it's been so long coming to this point and it was more emotional than I expected.

The kids didn't know they didn't have our last name because that is what they were used to being called. So we weren't sure whether to bring this to their attention or not, but we decided to go for the whole party deal. Peter had his own official paper to sign.

And Gaelle had hers. All week she's been telling us about going to get our last name. The kids had to miss a swimming lesson but they took it all in stride.

And what's not to like? The social workers had gifts for the kids and balloons and cake. Yummy. Peter asked later, "Did you know it was going to be so much fun?" No. I really didn't know what to expect.

These ladies have been so kind and helpful. Our situation has been out of the ordinary for them and they've taken it all and made it work. We're so thankful for their compassion and generosity. I've actually enjoyed interacting with them and it's been nice to know that when they give us a timeline, it's going to happen.

We still have a few more steps to go but it was great to get to this point today.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New tricks

Every summer buskers from around the world come to Halifax for a week of busking. We took the kids last weekend to check out the sights.

We just caught the last end of this show. You have to be careful because some of the buskers are not family friendly. The crowds were huge on the day we went which definitely adds to the atmosphere.

We saw all of Bendy Em's show. She was a contortionist from Australia. Amazing what she can make her body do.

Bendy Em fit into a 16 inch box. Of course, Gaelle could do that. The kids have been bending their bodies all week to show that they can be just like Bendy Em.

The day ended with cotton candy. This was a first for the kids and they loved it!!!! Their sticky hands were proof that this was a great treat.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Family Camp

The camp that Kaylin works at always has a family camp during the first long weekend of August. We didn't think Gaelle would be able to handle all of the excitement but when Emily and Josh decided they would come with us, we finally signed up. The kids did great and we have some wonderful family memories.

What would camp be without campfires? With crazy campfire songs?

Who needs leaders when we have Emily? She has done her fair share of campfires and she helped Peter and Gaelle with all the motions and words. The kids are still singing zomma zooma zoomala...

Our first roasted marshmallow. Peter quickly discovered that he doesn't like burnt marshmallows. Time for a lesson on patience.

The campfire with hotdogs and s'mores was the first event of the weekend. It impressed Peter. He loves his food.

We had 2 big family games where each family earned monopoly money based on how well they completed the game. The money was used on the last night to buy pies at a pie auction. The first game was a giant scavenger hunt. Josh has also spent many summers on the island and was pretty certain our family would have an advantage.

And who was the only team to find a frog? That would be the Churchill family. Way to go Josh.

Most of the items were pretty easy to collect like seaweed, driftwood, purple rocks, etc.

The 2nd big game was a version of The Amazing Race. Each family had 9 events to complete and we were timed on how fast each event could be completed. We started with the ropes course where Peter raced through the giant net.

Then Gaelle tore through the squeeze net. She had already tried it the day before and was able to go through pretty fast.

We had to build a fire that would break a string. Note our master fire builder.

Emily and Josh raced through the kayak challenge easily beating every other team's time, even with Gaelle as a passenger. We had a bit of a competitive spirit and were able to get the most money for the auction. We handily won a peanut butter chocolate pie that was a hit with the 2 youngest kids.

The weather was perfect all weekend and the kids loved the giant slip and slide. It took them a while to get the hang of it, but once they got going, they didn't want to stop.

It's all in the run up to the slide. Once again, Emily showed the way.

Kaylin had to work throughout the weekend so she didn't always get to join us in the activities. She did introduce the kids to the joy of canteen. Each afternoon we let them buy one thing from the canteen. Ah... pure sugar.

Caton's Island has a large horse program which the kids were anxious to try. So we signed up and took our ride around the island.

Emily rode with Gaelle. She enjoyed it but there was also a look of pure terror at times. The horses are huge.

We stayed in a cabin as a family and Gaelle followed the Caton's Island tradition of writing her name in the bunk where she slept.

It was a wonderful weekend but with 3 very late bedtimes and jam packed days, the kids were exhausted on the ride home. Neither one of them could keep their eyes open. Gaelle was asleep within 10 minutes of getting in the car. I think it took Peter about an hour before he was gone.