Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Hospitals

Two Sundays ago, a local park hosted "Kids Day on the Farm", a full day of baby animal feeding, pony riding, face painting, tractor riding & other such farm-o-licious activities. Needless to say, the kids loved it. But it was HOT. When we finally returned home --red-faced and sticky-- we all just wanted to plop down on the couch and veg. So it wasn't a surprise that Josh just wanted to lay around all evening. It was odd that he put himself to bed before 8pm... but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? The next day the kids and I met friends at the beach and spent the day splashing in the water, building sandcastles, searching for shells... but not Josh. He curled up on one towel, covered himself with another, and wanted to be left alone. Then he crawled into my lap --an everyday occurrence for Cara or Yao, but not Josh. He burst into tears when a friend's daughter touched his pine cone. Still only mildly concerned, we went home where Josh sat idly staring into space while I unpacked the car, then fell asleep on the dining room floor. I put him on the couch. Where he fell immediately asleep. Also, he had started incessantly sucking at his lower lip. I started googling "lethargy"...and that's when it crossed my mind that he had been hit in the head by a heavy door on a friend's boat the week prior. Lump, ice, back to swimming, no-big-deal. But when my search of lethargy+blunt force trauma to the head+personality changes = things such as brain bleeding, then I called the doctor. Who said to bring him in right away.

At the pediatrician's office, we saw a different doctor in the practice. The doctor was concerned about the lip sucking most of all. He asked if Josh was developmentally typical. He said Josh was resorting to "primitive behaviors" (um, doctor, want to see primitive behaviors, come check out my house any day of the week!) He was sure Josh was having a seizure, was bleeding internally, or had meningitis. By now, our regular pediatrician came in and was asking Josh cognitive questions, which Josh was responding to with a mix of blank stare and lip sucking. We were sent to the adjacent hospital for a CT scan (ok.) and a spinal tap (YIKES!) I said I preferred him to be seen at Johns Hopkins instead and the doctor said we didn't have time to get to Hopkins (DOUBLE YIKES!) He said to enter through the ER and they would be expecting us.

So off we went for tests. I have to say that Josh's lethargy certainly came in handy --he was relatively calm through receiving his first IV, sat perfectly still for his CT scan & didn't bat an eye when, at about 1am two crazed teenagers were admitted who spent the night screaming, attempting escape and being restrained by the police. He even slept quietly when, at 3am, they sent us to Johns Hopkins by ambulance to be seen by the pediatric neuro team. He never woke until he was in his new room.

By the time he woke at Hopkins, Josh was showing signs of getting back to himself. His primary concern was that there was no remote for the tv like there had been at our local hospital. He was still quiet and compliant (so not completely back to normal ;) Concern lessened over the hours --at one point the doctor was asking Josh questions and asked if he liked Dora the Explorer. I said, "Oh, Cara does, huh?" to which my 4 year old wise acre replied, "Cara? Who's Cara?... Oh... is she the small one who likes pink and eats Band Aids?" Um, messing with the neuro team --not funny, mister. Josh was back and within a half hour he was breakdancing in the hospital cafeteria to prove it.

So after all of that, it was likely just a quick virus combined with a little nervous lip sucking. Josh is back in full force --bouncing, yelling, laughing, running, bothering his siblings. Still primitive, but oh, so wonderfully four.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

To sleep... perchance to dream...

I am no stranger to sleep deprivation. As a baby, Cara deemed sleep utterly useless and opted instead for alternating between nonstop screaming and nonstop nursing. For 13 months. I spent the later part of 2007 and most of 2008 in a sleep-starved fog. There were times when, intoxicated with fatigue, I had to pull the car over and regain my wits. More than once I pulled over and took a quick cat nap in a random parking lot. I once went to work wearing non-matching shoes. One day I heard the song "Crazy Train" (Ozzy Osboure... don't judge me...) while driving (why was I always driving?!) and, realizing that the song encapsulated my life at the time, I turned it up so loud that I feared I would blow the speakers "I know that things are going wrong for me..." You get the picture: I was tired.

And I'm tired once again. Like Cara*, Yaojie has always wanted me over Eric. Me to wake with him at the crack of dawn. Me to sleep beside his bed. Me to wake with him in the night. This has translated into me not having slept in a bed since China (and if you've been to the White Swan Hotel, that is more board-with-hospital corners than bed) and not having slept in my bed since February.

I know what you are thinking: Let him cry it out. He'll get over it. Lay down the law, Woman. But the truth is that it's easier for me to sleep on his floor. On the rare occasion that I'm feeling risky and try to sleep on the couch --about 10 yards away-- Yaojie wakes in a panic and then starts looking for me. And then I've got two** crying, clinging children on my hands. And Cara likes to sing herself to sleep --and I'm just not usually up for participating in or even hearing her befuddled rounds of Mary Had a Little Lamb at 3am. But when I sleep next to his bed, Yao doesn't wake me in the night. He must sense my presence and dozes on happily and securely. This is important, this trust and security, to all children but to a newly adopted child especially. And when he is in pain during the night, which is often the case, I am right there by his side to smooth his hair and pour the Tylenol. And Cara's babyhood made me realize that I don't care where I sleep... so long as I get to sleep! So I've accepted my new roommates for now and am focusing on the positives, such as the fact that he draws so much comfort from me in the first place. He knows I am always there for him, regardless of time. To him, I am home. Maybe things aren't going so wrong for me after all.

* I should note that Josh has always sought Eric and I equally. And has slept through the night since 3 months. And will sleep until 10am if you let him. Which is why he's my favorite.

** No amount of screaming, wall-banging, or round singing would rouse Josh from his slumber. But Cara will wake if the neighbor opens up a can of Coke.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday

Today Eric took a personal day from work --after yesterday, can you blame him?-- and the five of us packed a picnic lunch and headed to a wonderful local park. We played on the playground, rode our bikes along a wooded path to the water and then rented a paddle boat & had our lunch on the Bay. It was a beautiful 70 degrees and one of the best family days we've had. Just 2 months ago, Yaojie did not have the leg muscles to pedal his tricycle, now he can patter along, nearly keeping up with Josh and Cara. One month ago, he was still terrified of dogs, today he reacted with only mild annoyance when a strange German Shepherd licked his face. Only weeks ago, he was still unsteady on the backyard swing, today he showed off how he could pump his legs to swing higher. It's staggering when you take stock of his improvements. And he's not the only one learning and growing each day: When Yaojie started to gear up for a tantrum on the ride home --his first of the day-- I tried a new approach: "Oh, Eric," I said loudly and excitedly so that the kids would be sure to overhear, "didn't Yaojie do such a great job sharing today? Wasn't that so nice of him and Josh to take turns steering the paddle boat? And wasn't Cara a fast peddler on her bike!" Sure and begorrah, it worked. The impending tantrum defused and soon all the children were smiling over the happy memories of the day and beaming with pride over my complements. Eric glanced at me in the rear-view mirror. We were beaming, too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Growing Closer by Falling Apart

Anyone have May 18th in the poll of when Jamie would finally lose her mind entirely? Consider yourself a winner!

As any parent knows, some days are just hard. This morning was marked with screaming, arguing, & ill-temperedness all around... with some physical assaults thrown in for good measure. Both Josh and Cara were sick last week, so we faced 10 days of limited outside time, zero playdates and criminal amounts of Sprout. By yesterday, everyone was fully recovered... just in time for the rain to start. So I get it, we're all a bit stir crazy. But Yaojie was just having an especially tough morning --the cereal was not poured quickly enough, the wrong colored spoon was offered, he did not get the carseat of choice in the minivan (causing him to chant "Never! Never! Never!..." the whole way to Josh's preschool --thereby causing Josh to shriek "You can't say never! You can't say never!..." and me to wonder how I can safely soundproof the entire second and third row seating.) I then had two friends and their children over and Yaojie remained just one baby-step above full tantrum mode the entire time. We've been trying to be stricter with Yaojie --you're welcome, future kindergarten teacher-- and this has proven to mean that a meltdown is never far from the surface. And the meltdowns came in force today --I couldn't locate the "small red basketball" he wanted, the puzzle pieces wouldn't snap together correctly, Playdoh and the couch don't mix... Eventually, he started doing things just to get a rise out of me: Cara would walk by and he'd say, "hit" and give her a swat; he'd topple a chair for the fun of it. I tried reverse psychology: "You threw all the balls down the steps? Good idea! Studying gravity at such a young age!" I tried ignoring: "Ho, hum, I do not see you ripping the page from the book". I tried praise: "Good aim!" But as the day wore on and my patience wore thin, and Josh and Cara grew bitter from the dose of neglect I was forced to dish out --that's when the hitting started. Yaojie started hitting me, kicking me, biting, spitting, all in a whirlwind of sadness and anger.

At 3:30 I sent Eric a text to the effect of if he didn't leave work right now then there was going to be a Jamie-shaped hole in the wall. And then I burst into tears. I was alone with Yaojie in his room --Cara and Josh being kept busy by the box of Popsicles I gave them so I could engage Yaojie in yet another "time in" in his room. Oh, I know --I know-- that seeing your mother cry is scary. Bad idea. Bad parenting. (I'm still reeling from seeing my own mother cry. After the Pirates lost a playoff game to Atlanta in 1992. OK, it was my mom and dad... and brother, but I digress...) But I had reached the pinnacle of frustration --and when it rains, it pours. I went into the boys' bathroom, sat down, and sobbed. It had been a long time coming --months of paperwork, waiting, anticipating, traveling to China, leaving behind Josh and Cara, bonding with Yao, ending up in the hospital, dealing with behavioral challenges times three. 'What,' I couldn't help but think 'have I done?'

And then there was Yaojie, by my side. By then I was calmed & embarrassed. He handed me a Kleenex and put his arms around me. He kissed my cheek. I pulled him onto my lap, told him I was sorry, told him I was trying hard and that I knew that everything was hard on him. And then he did something he had never done. He told me a little bit about China. He told me "China different". He told me he liked America. He told me that in China no one read to him and that he didn't have an mother, only "aunt". Oh, Yaojie. Oh, my 5 year old boy.

So I am going to make some changes --changes to build a closer, stronger, happier family. Isn't that what every mother wants? Ours may be a longer, more winding road. But there will be plenty of beautiful scenery along the way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2 Months Home!

Last week marked out 2-months-home anniversary. It's been a time filled with highs and lows, happy tears and sad tears. Here is a look at some of our triumphs and challenges.

*Yaojie's English is incredible, he speaks hundreds of words and understands the gist of everything you say. He is unbelievably bright.
*Although he's not joining the AKC anytime soon, Yaojie has accepted the dogs and will even pet and walk them.
*Yaojie no longer screams and bangs on the window every time I leave --he even stayed with the babysitter so I could go to an event at Josh's preschool and then stayed with Grandma and Grandpa one afternoon so Eric and I could go to lunch.
*I have been able to move from the floor by Yao's bed to the couch in the living room... slowly working my way towards the bed I haven't slept in since February.
*Yaojie loves being out and about and welcomes any outing as the adventure of a lifetime, whether it to the park or grocery store.
*Yaojie continues to be very affectionate and loving. There is a real bond forming between the kids, who laugh, play and argue like siblings.

*We knew going in that adopting an older child --and adopting out of birth order-- would pose some challenges. I remember our social worker once saying that she had no doubt that Yaojie would flourish, it was Josh and Cara she was worried about. While I don't think they actually realize that Yaojie is the oldest --he is very small-- Josh and Cara are having a hard time with the new competition for my attention. We've seen regression in both --Cara demands much more lap time than she previously needed and Josh now speaks in broken English. At Josh's 4 year well-check, the pediatrician was asking him some cognitive questions: What is your mom's name? Where do you live?, etc... Josh answers were immature, partially in Chinese and outright outlandish. I told the doctor, "um... please stop writing this down..." Most days are like a circus of attention-seeking behavior. Yaojie also continues to have blowout tantrums, and since he often requires restraint* this allows Cara plenty of time to indulge her 2 year old quest for unsupervised mayhem. Also, Yaojie is very demanding. We often wonder if this is borne of now receiving enough attention at the orphanage, or if, being sick, he is used to being doted on and getting his way. We are working on patience with him as well as delay of gratification. This is also a key part of the tantrum cycle, he will ask for something, I will say yes, but he will ask for it repeatedly until he receives it: "Eggs, please, Mommy" "OK, I'll make you eggs" "Eggs, Mommy... eggs, eggs, eggs, Mommy,....EGGS MOMMY... (repeat until served)" I know part of this is a language barrier issue, as well as a maturity issue --in many ways he is two years old, not five. But this continues to be something we work on daily and subsequently work on with all three children since a bad habit for one now equals a bad habit for all. A final challenge is Yaojie's medical issues and the sub par care we have been receiving so far. With kindergarten looming, this will need to be addressed in a new way.

In all, we all have been doing very well. We fully anticipated and were prepared for a huge transition and many challenges. In some ways, the fact that Yaojie is doing so well causes me to have too-high expectations all-around and that's not fair. We will continue to work to meet Yaojie's needs medically, socially, and emotionally, just as with Josh and Cara. It is so exciting to watch our children grow and blossom.

*For those not in the know, I am a special education teacher who has been trained in proper restraint technique --who knew it would come in handy at home? :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things I Will (almost) Never Hear All Day Once I Go Back to Work

1. "Moooooommmm, Cara's eating Play-Doh!!"

2. "Boom, boom, bang, crash" *the sound of someone falling down the steps.

3. "Look, mommy, I don't wear clothes!"

4. "Whooosh, glug, glug, glug." *the sound of an entire roll of Charmin being flushed down the toilet.

5. "I'm just a kid who's 4, each day I learn some more, I like exploring, I'm Cailou..."

6. "Hermie is stuck in the VCR."

7. "Here, a booger."

8. "Sllluurrrp, sllluurrrp,..." *the sound of a two-year-old and her dog sharing a Popsicle"

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's a Girl Thing

Getting Dressed in the Morning: A Play in Two Acts

Act I
Me: "Cara, let's get dressed."
Cara: "OK!!" Runs into bedroom, excitedly. "I want to wear pink!!!"
Me: "OK, here, wear your Care Bear shirt and these pants."
Cara: "Nooooooo!!! No Care Bears!!" Tosses shirt to the ground in disgust. "Wear pink dress"
Me: "Cara, it's 50 degrees and raining today. Too cold for a sundress. Here is another pink shirt..."
Cara: "No!! Dress! I want to be a pink princess" Scowls in a decidedly unprincesslike manner. "Give it to meeeeee!!" Uses the nightstand in the closet as a springboard to pull down her choices. "Wear this!
Me: "Cara, get down, you can't wear a pink tutu to the dentist."
Cara: "Where is my princess dress?"
Me: "That's a costume. You aren't wearing it."
Cara: "Mommy, can you get out?"
Me: "No, put on this pink shirt and pants."
Cara: "OK, Mommy."
Me: Looking suspicious of my easy victory as I help her dress and then leave
Cara: Emerging from her room wearing a blue summer dress inside out. "I'm ready! But am I still the pink princess?"
Me: Returning to her room to find that not only had she completely changed clothes, but she had managed to hang the original clothes back in the closet. "Always."

Act II
Me: "Josh, wear this. Yaojie, wear this."
Josh: "OK."
Yaojie: "OK."