Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When You're Weary....Feeling Small...When Tears are in Your Eyes...

God will dry them all.

What an emotional day it has been on so many levels.

How exhausted I am in ways I can't easily explain.

It is not the madcap schedule we have right now, running hither and yon, that is doing me in. It is the attentiveness and being on high alert that keeps me from restful slumber, it is the awareness and anticipation of my next moves that is wearing me out. There are times when I wish I could move through this parenting business with a more relaxed, laid back approach, times when I envy others for their ability to seemingly have it all together when I just can't get there. I have messed up 3 or 4 scheduling issues this past couple of weeks, making me feel like a total idiot and heel. More importantly, it makes me wonder what is even more important that is subtly going on around me that I am not catching.

One of my biggest concerns right now is Olesya, who is exhibiting EXACTLY the same issues as Kenny does, so much so that she is almost the female version of him. There is growing evidence that for each of them, their institutionalization has done something to their brains that is going to cause them to struggle more than the average kid, especially if I can't figure out what it is and how best to work with it.

As we sat on the couch today reading to one another, I quickly saw that suddenly, for some reason, Olesya was struggling with super simple words that she has been able to read in English since before she came home. Words like "and", "into", etc. were causing her to draw total blanks, and without notice she suddenly burst into tears of frustration at her inability to recall these easy words that had previously come without thought.

She quickly left my side to go get some tissue, and Angela shared with me that at the orphanage Olesya often cried as this sort of thing happened. She looked up at me and said " help Olesya read good? You make her not sad and no cry?". I promised her I would work very hard with her and that one day she would read very well.

The frustration I am feeling tonight is coupled with an admittedly unfair anger at what institutionalization has done to my children. Kenny and Olesya are BRIGHT kids!! Anyone who meets them would see within 5 minutes that they are articulate and intelligent, and perhaps that makes their struggles even more aggravating. What part of their brain has a disconnect? What did institutionalization do that caused one tiny little circuit not to be wired correctly? And how in the heck am I going to figure out the key to unlocking their potential? How will I keep them feeling good about themselves while they fight this unfathomable enemy which did so much damage without being obvious?

She returned to me after wiping her tears away, and I held her close telling her "Olesya, learning to read in English is very, very hard. You didn't even know how to read in Russian well yet, you are doing GREAT so please don't be sad! You WILL read good, I promise! And no one thinks you are not smart." She smiled timidly up at me and whispered "OK Mama" and went on.

Interestingly, I can see the concern on Angela's face often when Olesya is challenged by things we both know she has zipped through somewhere in the past. She too can see that this doesn't add up, and although we do not have the ability to discuss it in depth we look at one another and I know she sees it, and she knows I do too.

Oh God, how am I ever going to teach all these kids? How will I meet their needs and fill in the holes in their brains? I had a moment of sheer terror last week, a mini meltdown of my own when I allowed fear to overtake me. Luckily, a couple of friends were used that day to lift me up, but underneath it all the low level anxiety remains. How I love my children!!! How I want them to be all they are capable of being!! And how scared I am for them, and for me. There is something wrong here that no one else seems to understand or see, and I don't know how to fix it. I keep thinking there has to be some form of remediation available, some brain retraining or something that I don't know about. I need to do some serious research, but I don't really know where to begin nor do we have the money to pump into visiting various specialists who may or may not just blow me off when something like this isn't apparent during an office visit of one hour.

But my beloved children are suffering, truly suffering at moments, over something that is out of the control of any of us. The longer Olesya is home, the more fluent she becomes in English, the more I see parallels to Kenny. We can share with her 15 times what we are doing later in the day, and get asked the same question over and over as if we never explained it. It is like with certain information their brains are sieves, with information being poured in only to leak out the bottom. It is not inattentiveness, it is lack of retention. Just like with Kenny who can be presented new material and forget it within 2 minutes, Olesya does the same thing. We can review and review something, and it is like we never touched it. However, it does not happen 100% of the time, as it seems it is only at odd moments something doesn't click, or something already well learned is seemingly suddenly lost. It is absolutely not an English Language Learning (ELL) problem as there is a stark difference between Angela versus Kenny and Olesya, whose learning issues are startlingly so similar one would think THEY are the biological siblings. The common thread is institutionalization at a young age and for a longer period of time.
So, my late night fears grow as does my love. I pray for understanding while working with them, for some sort of magical insight that will give me the keys to unlocking things for them, and for compassion and understanding when I have the tendency to get frustrated or exasperated. I also pray for courage to teach them, for at the moment that is sorely lacking.

Later tonight, as bedtime approached, the girls were on the couch as we read Curious George who is their new found favorite and I was BEGGED to read more than just one story (Thanks Lael for the PERFECT birthday gift!), and as even the boys said along with us in LaJoy tradition "...and he was veeeerrrryyy curious!", things came out of Angela, emotions and explanations. We finished George (I admit I love that little monkey too!) and she lay there with her head in my lap as Olesya went to grab pillows and blankets to tuck us in with, and she talked. Oh how it poured out!! She explained more about her fears when we came, about what others told her at the orphanage that terrified her about going to America. She was almost in tears when she said "I am sorry Mama...I didn't know...I am very, very sorry when you come I scared. I bad girl when you come, you love me but I bad but I very scared.". Hearing all that she was told coming from her own lips, I was heartbroken as well as proud of her courage.

I stopped her and cradled her head in my arms. I said to her "Angela, don't ever say I am sorry again for that. Papa and I ALWAYS loved you, even when things were bad, and we have already forgotten it all...'me zabeela' (which is what she says when she forgets something) is all over with and you never have to think of it again. We love you, don't ever say you are sorry for that are a little girl and it was not your fault.". She quietly looked up at me as she tried so hard not to cry and said "Thank you Mama...I know you love me, you always love me BIG love.". Olesya sat quietly next to us, taking it all in, and kept laying her head on my shoulder and nuzzling me saying softly "I love you Mama.", as if to also tell me that what happened back in Kazakhstan a few months ago was something she was ashamed of. The shame does not belong to them. They are mere children, and amazingly courageous ones at that. I grow ever more deeply in love with our new daughters with each passing day, and my respect for them increases exponentially.

I then started to tell them a little story, the boys had left the room to make camp on our bedroom floor, and we were alone in our living room. It began something like "Once upon a time there was a Mama and Papa in America and two girls named Angela and Olesya in Kazakhstan..." and it went on to outline the ridiculous paperwork struggles to bring them home, in a humorous way, but then touched on "and Angela and Olesya began to think their Mama and Papa had forgotten them and would never come.". Angela jerked her head around and said "Ya Mama, me think you never come! Me worry, me think you forget she and me (olesya and her)". My story then went on to talk about how Mama cried and cried often, how brothers asked over and over when their sisters would come home, and then included our joy when we got the phone call and was a dramatic replay of the call. Throughout the telling they burrowed deeper and deeper under the covers and into me, almost as if they were trying to crawl inside my womb where it would be safe. That may sound strange, but that is what it felt like. They interrupted when I told of their brothers waiting and waiting, and of the Christmas ornament we bought for them 2 Christmas's ago which they saw a picture of the other night. They both said "Brothers good, good brothers...we love our brothers!! Matthew, Kenny, Joshua nice boys funny, funny boys." and then we went on to talk about how they would always protect their sisters and Angela revealed that often she had protected Olesya from mean kids.

We all looked at the clock and it was time for bed, and as has happened almost every other night lately we piled into our bedroom where boys were already camped out on the floor, and made new beds for the girls there. There are seldom moments when I wish we had a different house, but our nighttime ritual has now made it harder for me to slip into the bathroom without stepping on someones noggin, as we really have very little floor space in our bedroom as it is relatively small.

However, I learned this week that our home is perfect, despite my having ungraciously complained about being too small at Angela's birthday party as we all crammed in around the dining room table and spilled out into the living room. When we were headed out to our weaving mentor's home, we drove around a bit as this is a new area for the girls to see, and there are some truly stunning homes there. Large mansion type homes with acres and acres of manicured lawns and personal ponds, and we all talked about this one and that one, how cool they all were, etc. After a bit I asked "Which one would you like to live in if we had a lot of money?" and Matthew selected one he liked as did Olesya. Angela declared "Me no like big house, me LOVE family LaJoy house! It perfect!" with her classic "fa-mi-ly" broken out and her "perfect" sounding more like "prefect".

As we settled into our room for the night, there were giggles and about 20 minutes of goofing around as first one, then all 5 of the kids piled on the bed with Dominick and I, laying on top of one another. Finally we called an end to all the nonsense and said it was time to get to their own little beds on the floor. Angela then crawled right on top of me, laying full length saying "Mama best bed, me sleep here!", as I stroked her hair and held her tight. Eventually she moved to the floor at the foot of our bed, and I am sure there were smiles on both our faces as we drifted off to sleep.

If I only could have remained asleep.

So much going on in my head that I can't turn off, nor should I, for I think God is helping me process it all in our unique way together, so here I sit at 3:00 AM having been up an hour and a half, trying to package it all up for another day.

I have always had a strong desire to be intellectually challenged, to never be "bored". It is probably my worst nightmare, odd as that may sound. Don't get me wrong, I am not one who has ever had the intellectual ability to grasp quantum physics, or to tackle complex mathematical equations. I will never write The Great Novel nor will I be a famous poet. I don't have a great strategical mind, and I am not what anyone would classify as a genius. But I have never wanted my life and my mind to grow stale, I have always desperately wanted to be engaged and feel alive in the ways that constantly learning and growing help us be.

This life of mine seems mundane on the outside. It is a mom playing taxi driver to 5 kids, hounding them gently about school work, getting dinner on the table on a budget. Nothing earth shattering or even seemingly all that challenging about it. On the inside though it is an intricate balance of so many things. It is far, far more than cooking and cleaning and sorting laundry. I know eventually we might get to that place, where so many conversations are not held with me on high alert, where hearts are not having to be healed and heard so deeply. I am sure that at one point homeschooling will seem routine and I'll be more concerned with who they are dating than I am with what they are studying. But for this moment, I am using every ounce of inner strength and resources I have just to make it through each day. All the skills God has given me, all the life experiences that I have had are coming into play in one way or another. This mommying thing challenges me in ways nothing else could, and I wonder what I might be doing wrong to feel so wrung out at the end of each day.

Thankfully...blessedly...there is rest in one place, there is nourishment and refreshment in my God space which keeps me going, and I am continually restored by others who are sent at precisely the right moment to renew me. I am ever so thankful for that. I know I am not running GM or am Leader of the Free World. But this job I have is very, very hard, and I need all the help I can get. Like a bridge over troubled waters, my mind is eased by the One who really is beside us all and can be counted on. And that helps me be the bridge that my children can walk on to cross their own troubled waters. Thank you to all whom God has sent, who reach out in a million little ways to be MY bridge.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Cindy,
If only it were as simple as putting our arms around another and praying them healed. First, my arms would be around you to heal you of exhaustion and worry, and then around the children to open and reroute and heal their brains and their emotions.

I wonder if another website--a chatroom for parents of learning disabled (should that be children with alternative learning skills?) would reveal that there are other children with a similar problem and offer some alternative methods for learning. Would you like me to research that for you?

Cindy, when I am on overload my brain cancels appointments without telling the rest of me or the person I have an appointment with. I find out an hour or day later that I have missed something. Is it just a bit possible...No, silly me, of course, you couldn't be overloaded or stressed.

I would also like to take away the worry. All I can do is remind you that Kenny and Olesya's problems took years to develop (or, in this case, years to not develop skills). It won't be solved in days. If it is possible (and as one who spends many nights awake reviewing and chewing over my life's events, I know it is not easy), take a vacation from expectations. Let the children know that this is something you will be working on, but that living and loving together, solidifying family, having fun together and seperately are the focuses now, that reading and mental organization will be developed in traditional and non-traditional ways as you go along.

Easy for me to say--one of these nights when I am awake at three, I'll say it again to let you know how easy it is to sleep through the night if you just put your mind to it. Actually, I think that is the problem; we put our minds to the "problems" and then, surprisingly, find we cannot sleep. I love your choice of song for the beginning of your blog. It is one of my favorites, soothes and comforts me every time.

I'll sing you lullabies in my mind now when I awake.

Love you,

Lori said...

Always lifting you up...

Anna said...

Cindy, I have shared the "Honest Award" with you today.Pop oer to my post today to get your award and read the details. I would like to share some personal experiences that may or may not help you with your situation.

Anonymous said...

Could it be a language processing disorder. My Kaz daughter adopted as an infant has just been diagnosed as having a receptive and expressive processing disorder. She also has a sensory processing disorder which apparently increased the likelihood that she has this receptive and expressive processing disorder. OT works with the sensory and a speech therapist works with the receptive and expressive processing disorder. I don't know if this will help.


Antares - Laura & Apryl said...

My tears are flowing but they are happy tears. You guys are the best!!!
Love, Laura

Lindsay said...

I know I suggested audio processing disorder re Kenny before? Could it fit them both? Also early trauma and/or institutionalization is known to impact working memory in children.

I don't know if you have read the Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis. I read it just recently and it has been a terrific book in helping me help Hannah with some recent problems which had surfaced. I bought the book right after listening to her do a web broadcast on issues that face adopted children; she was articulate, compassionate and for me, everything she said clicked. She is part of an organisation - or heads it actually I think - called the the Instituted of Child Development. They run summer camps for adopted children to work on attachment issues, language and cognitive problems etc. (as well as loads of other diagnostic and therapeutic work from the institute over the whole year) and seem to have incredible results: like children gaining years worth of language skills in a few weeks etc. She has won a tonne of awards. She is an academic working out of the Texas Christian Univeristy: (so not some crackpot basically, but highly respected, knowledgeable and informed).

I would bet that she could help you find answers as to what is causing this learning barrier for your kids and can maybe recommend someone closer to you who could help.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to so much of what you share about this type of mothering, Cindy. While the world may just see "well-adjusted" kids, we see little glimpses of things that make us wonder. Is this from living in an orphanage until she was 10 yrs, 11 yrs? Is this from being malnourished until she came into care at the age of 18mos? Learning diabilities? Language issues? Deep hurts that have yet to fully surface? And though my husband listens to my concerns and sees maybe a fraction of these things, he doesn't usually suspect what I might, but suggests it's just "normal" teenage stuff or personality. He might be right on some of it. But that leaves me as the detective, the one to keep thinking, mulling it over, searching for what might be more answers.

Our youngest daughter has a real memory/retention issue when it comes to math. She is finally being tested for learning disabilities. We don't know the results, but have another meeting next week to discuss the findings. Until now (home 2 1/2 yrs), school has assumed it was language. Her Title I math teacher is the one who finally suggested we test for other issues. We have also started some extra tutoring, expensive as it is, in hopes even just the one/one will encourage her that she can do it.

I sometimes forget what I've read, been told, or just plain imagine to be true myself when it comes to some of the issues our kids might face. But I think I've heard or read that while they are working so hard to aquire the new language, they sometimes "shut down" from the overload, sometimes math suffers, or memory lapses. Makes sense, anyway...even if I just made that up!

Maybe some of that is happening to Olesya, as her little mind is working so hard to aquire language. Or she might have some reading disabilities, which your school district should be able to help you discover through testing. Aren't they required to serve your kids? I would just encourage you that there are "experts" who could help you, that you don't have to figure it all out yourself. Somehow, they have tests that can sort all of that out and help you get to the bottom of some of her difficulties.

Even though you might be losing sleep over it, you seem to be giving your children the assurance that you will help figure this and other worries out, that they can relax and depend upon you and their dad to do what's best for them.

And we all know you will. Just don't be afraid to ask for help. You don't have to know it all, and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Someone else already did that, and someone else will probably already know some great ways to help Olesya to prosess all the information she is needing to.

And as an Art Education major from way back, I'm excited about the weaving and pottery "classes" your kids have access to. One thought on 4H. When our kids have their projects judged at fair, judges always seem to appreciate photos along with their goal card write-ups. So including lots of your photos with the weaving project should be well as lots of fun memories for later.
And I was thinking Matthew could also do a poster for a project, complete with lots of photos, labeling the loom, or showing the process. And even though this is NOT the goal, in our state, our club or county "pays" 4Hers a premium for each project. It's an added benefit. Though the cost of most projects isn't recovered (it's only a few dollars/project), it's fun for the kids to have that premium money after fair.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you definitely need to take both Kenny and Oleysia to a neurologist. Demand an EEG for both.

Do you ever noticed them starting out into space for a few seconds, and during that time you can't interrupt them? If so, and the EEG doesn't show anything, demand a 24 hour portable one. (EEGs often don't show things because they are done in such a short period of time)

4texans said...

Hi Cindy,
First of all you are such a wonderful mother to all your kids. I really understand about the lack of sleep. I'm a worrier, so I often have a hard time sleeping well. It's getting better though. Have you considered FAE/FAS? I read that alcohol affects can affect certain parts of the brain and I think that includes memory. There is no way to diagnose it without knowing for sure if there was prenatal exposure.

After meeting an International Adoption/developmental pediatrician, this is something I've considered with our son. If their brains are damaged from this or from institutionalization, their brains cannot be fixed. We just do the best we can to prepare them to live up to their potential.

However, I think I read a study that was done in Canada in which it discussed FAE/FAS and how to improve brain function by allowing the person to focus more attention on the things they do soccer or drawing or lego building/puzzles.

Also try increasing their vitamins to include Omega-3 and include more fish in their diet, it's brain food!

Anonymous said...

English is one of the hardest languages to learn. There are so many exceptions to the rules for grammar and spelling.

I'll second in-utero alcohol exposure possibly being a factor. My cousin's younger (bio) child is 11. If she were 60 years older, you'd think she had early alzheimers after being around her for even a short amount of time. She'll ask a question, you'll answer it, and 3 minutes later she'll ask you the same question again. She's always been like that, and her mother is an alcoholic who's in denial that she has an alcohol problem. The mom happened to be in rehab when she was pregnant with her older child, and he doesn't have this problem.

Ohiomom2121 said...

Dear Cindy,
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I find it easier to face the "worst" first. So, I would say, OK, how will I deal with it if my child can never read properly? Then, I explore the what-ifs from that perspective and make peace with it. From there, I tell myself that anything else is an improvement, and find joy in that. However, there is some part of me that needs to face the "worst" in order to not panic as I try to avoid it. We are still in a financial difficulty, and I personally find it easier to think about losing the house we have poured so much sweat equity into, and moving into a home similar to our last rental, which we all hated, and then think about the good things of that worst case scenario. After that, I can somehow work to achieve the financial successes that will avoid foreclosure with more peace of heart. I don't give up when exploring the worst, and I even try to "see" the best happening and claim it, but for me, facing the worst and finding ways to say, "that's not so bad" is the only way to find equanimity with the struggle to avoid that worst. I have even done that regarding our potential adoptions, thinking that if the worst happens and I can't fix them, then perhaps I will be instrumental in at least ensuring that THEIR children will not have FAS or institutional issues. Sounds bleak, but if I can live with that, then any improvement is a cause for celebration!
Just a thought. Sherry

Liz said...

I do wish for your children to go through this with the passion and commitment you do. We know that life was sad for them before, but now they have you and your husband to take care of them, to help them, to love them and make them believe they can... and you two are the example I want to follow as parent. We have a daughter (biological) and we are still waiting for our next child to come, we are adoption approved candidates since last year...

Tammy said...

Cindy, you're job is the hardest one in the world! Keep reminding yourself of that. (Although I hear the benefits are pretty darn good LOL!)

I have a friend who's son has a learning disorder and she is taking him in for a neuropsychological evaluation. It looks at the brain from a developmental standpoint as well as the social/emotional stuff going on. I know this may be a long shot, but maybe you can find someone like this who has a background in adoption and who understands all of those dynamics.

My other thought would be to take them to a specialist who specializes in adoption that is through a university (Dana Johnson stands out in my mind but I'm sure there are others) as they may be cheaper if they are a "teaching facility" but also have access to a lot of resources. Going somewhere that has an adoption clinic is also a good place to start.

I know you said you don't want to (and can't afford to) take them to a bunch of specialists but my humble opinion, based on what you have said in this blog, is that they need to be evaluated by someone who has way more education and experience. This is a very specialized area. Even my friend's son - who is a bio son with no other issues - was sent to a specialist. So your kids with all the other things going on will probably need the same. Put bluntly, this is probably out of your league. (As it is out of 99% of the population's league.) As you said, this is not about working harder or simple retention issues. It goes so much deeper than that. That may not mean they have to see someone for a long time. Hopefully the specialist could give you pointers on how best to approach these issues. But first you have to figure out exactly what you are dealing with.

Anyways, those are my humble thoughts. As always, you can take of leave them :-)

Anonymous said...

Other commentators have such good ideas, I can only add love and prayers coming your way from here. The kindness and good thoughts from the online community gathered to read your blog is wonderful!

There is an adoption clinic connected with the University here (we used it when we first came home) so if you find you need to travel somewhere for testing, and this clinic has what you need, we have plenty of room for as long as you would need it.

With much love and prayers (always!)
Peggy in Virginia

April Taylor said...

Cindy, you are an absolute wonder of a woman and mother. I feel priveleged to be allowed to read you words. Your honesty is a gift not only to your children but to all of us. Thank you!

Kikilia said...

Haven't read the comments so I don't know if this has been suggested... but have you ever had their eyes tested to see if they might need vision therapy?

My Pipsqueak (adopted from India at 18months) had similiar problems with reading as well as other issues with reading too- very bright kid- just couldn't seem to connect the dots with reading though she might be able to read the word one day and not the next.

Turns out she had issues with her eye muscles/brain not communicating the right way... it effects so much of their lives. Cognitive insufficiency disorder (not sure of the spelling) was her diagnosis and this is just one spectrum that they check for when testing for vision therapy.

Vision therapy was something I would do again in a heartbeat and maybe it's something they could be tested for- just to rule out vision problems of this nature if nothing else.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You might also want to try seeing if colored overlays will help with their reading. I've worked with a few kids who made great progress when we gave them the right colored overlay.
Good luck!
kim in korea

Anonymous said...

Cindy, Mike Yager here. I finally took some time to read your "Great Novel", because that is what you and your family are writing in your lives right now. We miss you guys, are struggling at times ourselves, but loving the gifts God has given us (domestically and abroad). I just wanted to say hi to you all and let you know we are praying for you from way out west here. I will try to send a longer note sometime.
Sincerely, Mike

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Matthew 6:34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
James 4:13.Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money."
14.Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
15.Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Let Him have it, my friend