I Don't Want to Forget...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HJ remembers everything... Where she left her toys... Who gave her what present... The store we visited just one time months before... Her sentences these days often begin with, "I remember..."

It makes me wonder, what memories does she still have about her life in Korea before we adopted her? Recently when Lila was crying inconsolably, HJ went to her room, and a few moments later came back with a podaegi that her caretaker had used to carry her everywhere. We probably hadn't brought out that podaegi in the past two years, but it amazed me that HJ instinctively thought of giving it to Lila because she knew it made her feel better when she was a baby...

When HJ first came home and we video-chatted with my grandfather and her previous caretaker in Korea, HJ would often get really sad and quiet and it just seemed like she was remembering and missing everyone in the orphanage. Some people have told us that children are so resilient and that babies can't remember that much, but at least for HJ it seems there are these emotional memories that she holds onto from the life she had before she came to us.

We often joke that HJ is a "f.o.b" or 1.5 generation and generally more "Korean" than we are, even though she was still a baby when she was adopted. She LOVES eating "bop" and "gook" and would prefer Korean banchan to American food any day. And these days she loves learning new Korean words from "nee" and "ha-ji" (grandma and grandpa), so we're thinking about enrolling her in Korean school before this moment passes us by!

This is all to say that I've been thinking lately... there are things that I don't want to forget either. I don't want to forget how far our daughter has come.... When there are days like today where there were diaper explosions and tears and naps that weren't taken, I want to remember the magic of meeting our daughter for the first time, the first time I held her when she cried at night, the first time she said "umma" and rested her head on my shoulder. I don't want to forget that it's a miracle she's here and part of our family, that people on both sides of the world said it couldn't be done, but God allowed it to happen, and for that, I'm always thankful.

Mommy too much people

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Mommy nobody come over! Too much people!" has been a favorite phrase of HJ's lately. Along with "Stop laughing guys!" "Oh no too much stuff!" and "Don't take my picture Mommy!" You can probably get a sense of my daughter's temperament based on the frequency with which she uses these phrases! Uncannily like my husband (in more ways than we ever expected), HJ is a true introvert, "true to herself" as I am trying to say positively, rather than "not very outgoing" or "not a people person."

This weekend while I took the girls to a friend's birthday party, Sol spent almost six hours rearranging and cleaning HJ's bedroom, putting up a pink princess canopy tent in the corner so she can hide out for some of her cherished alone time. When we came home, HJ was THRILLED to say the least. Ever since her room has been "fixed by Daddy" as HJ likes to say, her new favorite phrase is "NOBODY GO IN MY ROOM!" I have to laugh because it sounds just like someone else in our household, a certain husband and father who makes it clear that no one else should step foot in his office, AKA "man cave" :)

In a previous life, pre-children, I had always thought I was an introvert as well. After having two kids I quickly realized that I am becoming more and more of an extrovert... Some days when we don't leave the house at all, I feel like all the life has been slowly drained from me and I can hardly function. It's a strange feeling, but being home with two young kids has made me feel more alone than the days when I used to work from home for hours at a time or just read and write in solitude.

I have often thought how ironic it is that my daughter is such an introvert and homebody when I am discovering how much I enjoy being with other people and being out and about. Sol, the one who understands HJ intuitively because he feels the same way, is always reminding me to give our daughter more unstructured time at home to unwind and de-stress. I'm trying hard to find a balance so that HJ gets the chance to recharge but also socialize and try new things. Although she resists at first, from experience I know that she eventually really enjoys and appreciates those times.

There are so many activities that I sometimes feel like I drag her to... Little gym, apple-picking, the pumpkin farm, the children's museum, the waterpark... I know she will enjoy these activities once we get there, but sometimes it's a battle convincing her to go. I have to smile though when months after we've been somewhere she wakes up one morning and says, "Mommy, I went to the pumpkin farm. WIth Sarah and Corinna and mommy. I had fun on the strawberry ride." It must've made more of an impact than I realized at the time!

So while others may think I'm crazy, I plan to continue exposing her to new experiences and classes, because I know in the end it will be worth it for her. In Raising Your Spirited Child there's a chapter that discusses children who have a "nonapproaching trait" or in other words, have a cautious first reaction to everything. Again, that describes HJ perfectly. But as the author says, this doesn't mean that all new situations need to be avoided. Just like everything else with HJ, there just needs to be a little extra preparation, encouragement, and support before she can fully jump in and enjoy herself. Some of the suggestions in the book: arriving early, bringing along a friend, viewing a video beforehand, or creating a picture planner. Lord help me if I actually have the time and energy to do these things with HJ before we start a new activity, but at least I have some ideas now rather than wondering why I'm the only parent holding my 3 year old in ballet class while the other girls are happily dancing with the instructor. I do have to confess part of me was a little bit sad when the ballet classes had to be canceled. Putting her hair in a bun, wearing the same outfit as everyone else, quietly following instructions, not quite the thing for our spirited girl I suppose! But getting to do her own thing in art class, or running around in gymnastics, that brings a smile to her face.

Sometimes I've thought that my husband would be a better stay at home parent than I would, especially with the way that his personality matches up with HJ's. I picture their calm and scheduled days, an orderly house, the dishes washed and the laundry folded and put away, and a happy father and daughter snuggling on the couch. Perhaps it will happen in another stage of our lives if it ever comes to that... But for now, it's me and my girls, trying to make things work as best as we can... It's funny how things work out differently than we expect, but I'm trusting that God has a plan for us in this season of life and I'm hoping that being there for my girls is what they need right now... Ask me again another day and I might have a different answer, but for now this is my story and I'm sticking to it :)

Transitions for a spirited child

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who actually likes change? I thought I did... I thought I thrived on it ... until the events of this past year hit seemingly all at once and we were left a little breathless, like in the aftermath of a sudden storm where you're left thinking, what just happened here? In the course of a few months we bought a new house, moved to a new town, had a baby, started going to a new church, and HJ started preschool.  According to those life stressors scales, we were off the charts.

Now for my daughter, all kinds of transitions, big and small, are potentially stressful. I know lots of little kids have a lovey or security blanket that they like to carry around with them to help ease transitions from home to wherever they're going, but HJ is a little bit different in this way. Every time we have to leave the house (or go to a different room in the house), she needs to gather all her "stuff"... sometimes it's just putting random little toys into a bag, other times she wants to take a little more "baggage" -- clothes, books, food, whatever makes her feel safe and comfortable at the time... So when someone at church asks me why she's holding five pairs of her socks and a bag of chips I just have to shrug and say, that's my HJ...

So for my daughter, this past year has been rough to say the least. For the most part, she dealt with the changes amazingly well. We were especially thankful for the way that she adjusted to baby L, being more protective of her than jealous, and always wanting to make sure we were physically "all together" as a family. Sure, it made things a little uncomfortable when someone wanted to hold baby and HJ freaked out because she couldn't see her, and yes, it was inconvenient when we ALL had to go together to HJ's swim lessons, but overall we were really proud of the way she was handling everything.

That's not to say that there haven't been some crazy moments in the past few months. The book Raising Your Spirited Child mentions something called "spill-over tantrums" and explains how spirited children are often the "emotional barometer" of the stress in your home. HJ has always been sensitive emotionally, but it took me longer than it should have to realize that a lot of her tantrums and emotional outbursts were really indicators of how stressed we all were with the changes in our lives. When I remember that, it helps me to have just that extra bit of patience when we're at the end of a long day and it feels like we're all going to lose it. It makes me think, what's triggering this tantrum, rather than, oh Lord, here we go again...

There are other things I should remind myself of more often. Like how happy she is when I drop her off at "Miss Susan's school"... Even now when I zip up her pink and blue Dora jacket before I send her off in the morning, I sometimes tear up a little. I thought the day would never come when I could just wave and say "Bye, see you soon!" and she would go off with a big smile. 

I don't know if it's because she's our first child, or because she's adopted and it seemed like we waited so long for her, or if it's just because I'm an emotional mom...but everything we go through with HJ always feels so much MORE heart-wrenching than I expected. My husband recently said to me, "You really didn't think it would be like this? That it would be this hard?" I don't know what I thought before we became parents, but I definitely wasn't ready for the intensity and complexity of every emotion and decision involving our daughter... I guess my husband was a little more prepared than I was :) But yea, I guess that's why he's asleep right now and I'm up writing this blog...

Good Days and Bad Days

Friday, January 6, 2012

I've been thinking about starting this blog for quite some time now. After reading Raising Your Spirited Child (a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic) by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, I just didn't know what to do with all the thoughts racing through my head. Here was a book that described our daughter HJ perfectly. Of all the discipline and parenting books I had read, from James Dobson's The Strong-Willed Child to The Happiest Toddler on the Block to countless others, I could tell this book was what I had been looking for. Honestly, I was overwhelmed with parenting. My main question every single day was, how am I going to do this? How am I going to be the kind of mother my daughter needs when I feel like I'm barely surviving each day?

There's a story in Raising Your Spirited Child  where the author describes a preschooler who didn't want to get his hand painted when the class was making an art project for Thanksgiving. The author explains how the teacher successfully got the little boy to participate in the project, but only after several tries where the child first observed other kids making the hand-prints, and only after the teacher slowly got him used to the feel of a paintbrush tickling his hand, one little finger at a time. In the end the boy was thrilled to have completed the project, thanks to a teacher who was able to approach the child with a creative and patient way to help him overcome his sensory issues.

HJ actually went through the same exact ordeal when creating her turkey handprint project at preschool. Now my first thought after reading this example in the book was, if it takes my daughter that long to successfully complete a small art project, how are we going to make it through the challenges that face us each day? And by "challenges" I mean simply getting dressed, getting out the door, having a playdate or going to a class, eating dinner, taking a bath, and getting to bed!

But after my initial reaction, I started thinking Ok, we CAN do this... because first of all, we just have to since I'm a stay at home mom with HJ and her little sis L, but also because I want to help my daughter be successful in all aspects of her life and just ENJOY life. And really, my husband and I just love her so much, and we want to be the best parents we can be for her.

Long story short, I'm hoping that this blog will help me chronicle the daily ups and downs, the good days and bad days, and all the little moments that I don't want to forget (and maybe some that I do!)... Oh, and my husband also thinks it's a great idea... mostly because I'm always keeping him up late at night wanting to talk about all my concerns regarding HJ. So, here goes...

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