Don’t Try This at Home

July 17th, 2017

Just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse in this fiasco, we found out that our “door-to-door”, “we’re committed to delivering your household goods on the 14th” move was actually completely stalled out…and our stuff was still in NY on the date of supposed delivery. We’re beyond frustrated as we found this out on the day of delivery, and just before the weekend, of course when it’s impossible to actually speak to another human who works for any of these corporations. Our moving company’s motto “Call a Mover Who Cares” has been the brunt of many jokes that aren’t that funny as we attempt to call with no answer, leave messages that aren’t returned, and truly, they could care less as we debate who to call next up the chain of command. We got booted out of our hotel that had no more nights with any vacancies, and we were in a hotel in Kansas City that can accommodate our family comfortably, but it’s twice the allotted amount of our hotel allowance, we just found out, so we called all over a 30 mile radius to find a hotel we can move to that has enough rooms at a decent price. We showed up at our new hotel last night only to find out that only two of the three rooms we booked are actually available- something went wrong and the third room was given to someone else, and there are no more vacancies. So, Joey is at a local friend’s house with two of the kids, and my mom and I are in the hotel with the rest. We’ve accidentally left chargers, toothbrushes, razors, and our peace of mind at hotels all across America. To say this has been a major inconvenience is an understatement. Joey has had to report for briefings and in-processing starting yesterday, and the whole family is just sitting around at various hotels (largely on our dime) waiting endlessly with no news of what is happening, and no delivery date for our belongings. We are now being told that the earliest date we can expect delivery is Saturday and our stuff has just been sitting in┬áNY with no driver. I can’t. Even.

We were within striking distance of establishing our new home…or so we thought.

We’ve tried to make the best of things, going to the ‘Blue Star’ (i.e. ‘Free for military’ in the summer) children’s museums in Kansas City and St. Louis, (Joey took the kids to one while my mom and I went shopping- score!), and killing time trying to all get along and put on our happy faces, but by now we’re just longing for a place to call home after being displaced for over a month after the China trip and now this. A couple nights ago we were invited by a friend to her new home (they just moved here from West Point two weeks ago) for dinner and it was so nice to be in an actual home with furniture! I made the mistake of forgetting to inform Chad that they had a big dog. Oh, boy, did I forget. She gave me fair warning, and it never crossed my mind until her huge dog came galloping from around the corner as we were heading up to the front door. Imagine ‘Marv’ in the spider scene in the movie “Home Alone”- that was the terrified scream Chad let out, as he almost jumped into Joey’s arms – he was absolutely petrified of the big furry beast charging on us without warning. Poor guy. Once he saw the giant, friendly dog roll over and show his belly for us to rub, he started laughing, but he was truly more scared than I have seen anyone since Charlotte met Flash 4 years ago. And, if that wasn’t enough, our friend’s daughter also had 7 Gecko/Chameleon’s in a tank in her bedroom that she was taking out for the kids to hold- that just about put him over the edge. I know he is baffled about how we live here in America, and I can only imagine what must be going through his mind. He let out another scream and shuddered when he saw the amphibians, and he wanted nothing to do with holding them. On the way out of the house, Gwennie’s Wub-A-Nub pacifier dropped on the ground and the dog ran to get it, licking it just as I reached to pick it up. He again started yelling and with extreme disgust he went straight to the garbage can to throw it away. I motioned that we would wash it, but he just hung his head and nodded as if he couldn’t believe I was okay to ever let the baby have the paci ever again. If only he could see how Gaige used to kiss Flash on the lips, licking his tongue and letting Flash slurp his face- he would be absolutely mortified. Today we took him to the T-Rex restaurant “for fun”, and just showing him the brochure about the place beforehand had him shaking his head in disgust and confusion over why we enjoy such oddities here.

Friends who care make a big difference.

We already have the keys to our new house since we got them just as we arrived in town, thinking our furniture would be arriving the next morning. Silly us. So, now we are paying for two houses, neither of which we can actually live in. Overall, we were excited about the house in downtown Leavenworth. It’s an older home in the historic district with lots of charm and character. However, the previous tenants were convicted drug offenders that I would bet money had a meth lab in the basement, and they rescued shelter animals…which means the house, even after being cleaned, has animal fur and dander all over, and the house has not been well cared for. My mom and I spent the first two days polishing woodwork, scrubbing floors and cupboards, and wiping cobwebs from the ceiling and basement. It’s a beautiful home that just needs a lot of TLC. We went from being in a very secluded, safe neighborhood in West Point, NY, to “the first town in Kansas” -an area that is famous for the many prisons surrounding it, including the federal penitentiary, so in many ways I am glad to only have 11 months here. It’s a beautiful area, but the heat and humidity is stifling and the yard we have now is an incredible disappointment after the English garden we had before that overlooked the lake with geese, fish and turtles, a fountain and park with swimming pool across the street. It can’t be beat, and this house doesn’t even come close in the running. Again, we’ll make the best of it, and once our stuff is in it, I know it will feel like home. Chad has questioned why we have to move and he can’t believe we are going through all of this to only be here for 11 months…and that we have to do this again next summer. I feel the same way.

Fun at the St. Louis Kids Museum…

…and it was even educational.

Get me somebody. Anybody. And get me somebody while I’m waiting.

Chad has continued to have daily meltdowns, each lasting over an hour where he sits around in a funk, refusing to let us talk to him or touch him, over reasons that make little sense. The most recent meltdown occurred when he instigated a rowdy game of pillow fighting and crazy with all the big kids, but when it came to him being hit and teased, he can dish it out, but can’t take it himself. An issue we’ll have to repeatedly address, especially when he has more language, is the fact that he “hits” the girls and even when it’s playful, he doesn’t stop when they ask him to. He again yelled at Chaela and sat in tears inconsolably for the hour he needs to cool down. We’re learning to roll with it. I think it’s a mix of grief and hormones, which are all over the place right now. He’s breaking out more everyday due to the stress of the situation, new diet (which right now consists of many unhealthy ‘kids meals’ and ‘fast’ food) and deteriorating hygiene habits as we move from place to place. I wasn’t prepared to have to start buying Clearasil right off the bat, but he’s more mature physically than my ‘late bloomer’ thirteen year old son.

We had dinner last night at an Asian restaurant “Stix”. Right now it’s as close as we can get to food that even remotely resembles what he’s used to. At the end of the meal, an Asian lady came out of the back and said she’d been watching our family, and she was very impressed by how well they behaved during the meal. She told us she was from Taiwan and she was interested in our Chinese children, where they were from. English was clearly a second language for her and when we told her we just got home from China two weeks ago with Chad, she lit up and started talking to him in Mandarin. She asked him how he liked it here, and he said something back to her, while holding up his fingers to indicate “a little bit”. Hey, I’ll take it. If he even likes this place or us a “little bit” we’re way ahead of where we were two weeks home with Chaela. I can’t even imagine how he can like this completely unstructured chaotic lifestyle right now even “a little bit”. This sweet lady continued to stand around our table, telling us she was “proud” looking like she was going to cry and in disbelief that they all call me “mama”, admiring the children and offering us free food to take home. She then asked me, “how did you get all of these children?” What she meant, and I knew exactly what she meant, was: “how did you adopt such beautiful, healthy children without visible special needs?” I simply told her we were very blessed, but what I wanted to say (not in front of the children) was that their scars were just invisible. If we lifted up Carrigan or Chaela’s shirts, you would see the gigantic scar across Carrigan’s abdomen from his cancer removal and complete liver re-section; the scar across Chaela’s chest is proof of her open heart surgery that indicates she hasn’t always been so fortunate and healthy, and lifting Chad’s pant legs would reveal scars from corrective surgery on his ankles and legs that left him crippled for the first 8 years of his life. What no one will ever see, though, are the ‘scars’ caused by years of institutionalization, neglect, and sadly, abuse, that some of them endured.

Farm to Market at the KC Children’s Museum.

We’re concerned about Carrigan. He’s been complaining about a headache for many days now, and this is not something he has ever had going on before. With his cancer history it is not something to mess around with. When he wouldn’t eat breakfast this morning, I knew it had to be bad. This kid typically eats like a truck driver and I have never seen him refuse to eat, especially when there is meat involved. As frustrated as we get with Carrigan, and as annoying as he can be to pretty much everyone in the family, we have to remind ourselves continually where he has come from. Knowing why he acts the way he does unfortunately doesn’t make him any easier to deal with on a daily basis, but it should. Every single meal with Carrigan is a job- when food is served he pouts until he has every single thing on his plate, even if he doesn’t really want it or like it. He won’t start eating until he has all of it. His eyes dart around as people get seconds in fear he might not get more. He guzzles water and asks for it all. Day. Long. At the orphanage, food was scarce, and water was given to the kids once a day to limit bathroom trips for the management of 600 children. He’s getting better in that he doesn’t ask strangers for a drink or a bite of their food anymore, but it’s tedious. Most people who meet him think he’s cute and friendly- he is. But, that’s not really a good thing because he has no discrimination at all and would not hesitate to go with any stranger if they even so much as offered him a bottle of water. It’s called “indiscriminate affection” in the adoption world, and Charlotte did the same thing for years. When they’ve never really attached to anyone in their most formative years, they will then attach to anyone and everyone. Carrigan is so developmentally and emotionally and educationally and psychologically and physically (motor skills) delayed that there is absolutely no comparison between him and other 7 year olds. He functions exactly like my newly 5 year old Griffin who is a bit babyish himself. Carrigan is a giant toddler, but it is harder to have patience with him because he is the size of an average 7 year old, so you expect more from him. He requires so much, and is so incredibly draining. He’s sweet as can be and generally a very happy guy, but he is always somewhere out in la-la land, he can’t make eye contact (like physically can. Not.) and trying to teach him anything from counting to ten, walk down stairs with alternating feet, or which hand to use to hold a fork is completely useless because he doesn’t retain anything from one minute to the next, much less one day to the next. He requires speech, occupational and physical therapy because he is so weak from 5 years spent in a crib, living with a significant hearing loss that was untreated, and early hospitalizations with harsh chemo and radiation treatments as an infant and toddler that likely damaged his brain. His progress is slow-going, and while we are thankful to have him, his daily care is exhausting both mentally and physically. He needs constant supervision and re-direction- these are some of the things you ‘sign up for’ when you choose to adopt- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Carrigan is not atypical for an adopted child from an orphanage. In fact, he’s doing better and having less issues than many other adopted children we know from similar circumstances. He isn’t a “worst case scenario” by any means.

The historic carousel at the local museum. 100 yrs old, and works!

I’m still feeling like I won the lottery in many ways with my newest son. He continues to want to “help” me with everything and tends to actually follow me around at times, even while I’m cleaning the new house. He carried the cord behind me all over the house while I used the Shark mop (which is a bit annoying, but who can chastise a kid who wants to help clean?!), he talks at me all day long in Chinese and exaggerated hand gestures, and wants to know the English word for everything. He then can be heard practicing his new words and phrases as he walks around muttering things like, “thank you, honey” and “un-der-wear”. He also wants to tell me Chinese phrases and have me repeat them while he laughs at my pronunciation and lack of proper tones. Apparently the word for “Dad” is the same exact word for “poop” if you use the wrong tones. The English ‘word’ “Nigh-Nigh” which we say to Gwennie when we want her to go to sleep is the same Chinese word for Grandma…no wonder he’s confused! He’s enjoyed the fact that Grace can communicate with him a little bit as she’s studying the language herself. This has caused some problems, however, as she understands just enough of Chaela and Chad’s conversations to pick up a few words here or there, but she can’t really join the talks. She ended up in tears one time because she thought Chaela and Chad were talking and laughing about her. We have two languages in our family which means at all times someone is excluded. It’s not easy. I feel like I have a middle school group of kids now with their jokes and talk about boy/girl issues, how they can’t wait to drive eventually, and what kinds of cars they all want. This talk led to a funny conversation between Chad and I. He’s pretty upset by the fact that I also have to drive the 15 passenger van around. Our family has just the one car (that’s part of how we afforded the past two adoptions- when our second car died, we didn’t buy a new one and have been living with one vehicle for the past year so all of our money could go to the concurrent adoptions) and Chad thinks it is quite funny that our car is so huge. He wanted to know what kind of car I used to have. There was a minivan parked across the street from our new home that was exactly the minivan we used to have (that was our “small car”)- same color and everything. I pointed to it and told him that is the car I used to drive. He literally hung his head in shame and said, “Mom, no. No, no, no, no.” Too funny! He then described how he is planning to buy me a car when he is older, and he pointed to the sportiest, smallest car on the block and said, “Me…You.” What a guy. In addition to his crazy side which is coming out more and more, he also has that sweet, melt-your-heart side to him, too. I found him playing with Gwennie telling her, “Wo-Eye-Knee, Gwennie”. I love you, too, sweet boy. I really do. I hope he can feel the secure love of family amidst the chaos that is our life right now.

Admittedly, she’s easy to love!