Thursday, December 24, 2009

The stockings are hung...

in hope that dear Santa will soon be here!

Gathering as a family....

Remember the real reason for the season!

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our day in court

Today the twins were officially re-adopted according to the laws of the state of Nebraska. Their names are now legally Candace Selam Spears and Sarah Fikir Spears, and they are United States citizens. This is the end of the road for the tedious international adoption process.
In the court room of the Saunders County Courthouse

Sarah and Candace posing with the judge up on the bench. They also enjoyed playing with the microphones at the lawyers' tables when the judge was out of the room.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I feel safe

We had our first working therapy session at the Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska on Saturday. I feel so hopeful now that we will be able to get some healing started. Candace and I learned a song to sing together when her "mad brain" is starting to take control.

To the tune of "Farmer in the Dell":

I am safe, I am safe. Hi ho, here we go, I am safe.

I am calm, I am calm. Hi ho, here we go, I am calm.

We're supposed to sing it in a place where Candace usually feels calm and relaxed, like Mommy's rocking chair. It can be done while rocking or while clapping our hands together in a clapping game. We've used it several times already, and it makes us both feel more in control. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The weather outside is frightful

But the Christmas tree is delightful!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Six months and the magic of Lite Brite

Today is the six month anniversary of coming home with Candace and Sarah. Here they are posing with their first complete Lite Brite creation. It's the same Lite Brite my teenagers played with when they were little.

They have come a long way in six months. We still have lots of work to do in terms of attachment, but maybe we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe it's the Lite Brite at the end of the tunnel... ha, ha.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The first glimpse

One year ago today, we got our first glimpse of our new daughters.

We were officially matched with the twins the next day. I still can't believe how lucky we were. We are so blessed to have them in our family.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A lot to be thankful for

Our five greatest blessings.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Things we struggle with, part 4

Grief, anger and guilt.

Let me start by saying I love both of the twins so much that my heart feels like it could overflow. They are a huge blessing to our family.

Tom and I read a lot of books about adoption before we brought our girls home, and we thought we were ready. Sometimes the grief felt by them is staggering... it's more than they can handle and more than we can handle, too. There is anger and rage both at their Ethiopian family for leaving them, and toward us for bringing them to America. And the guilt is piling up all around... we sometimes feel guilty for taking them from Ethiopia, and they somehow feel with the logic of little children that they are to blame for losing their birth family. I also feel guilty toward my other children for subjecting them to the now frequently emotionally chaotic nature of our home.

Compounding the problem for Tom and me is that we don't really know why the twins were given up for adoption. We were told their parents died, but we don't know the reason their great aunt brought them to the orphanage. We haven't been successful in prying any details out of the in-country staff in Ethiopia, and there is nothing in our court documents that sheds any light. I just want to understand so that I can help the girls understand. They miss their great aunt very much.

I think we are going to start counseling at the Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska for at least one of the twins. I have been taking a class on attachment there the last several Saturdays, and the counselors are wonderful. I want her to know she is blameless and that it is okay to love both her old family and her new family. I need the help too. The emotional roller-coaster has been tough.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things we struggle with, part 3

Food. I don't like to make meal times a struggle and am pretty lenient about food, but our twins give "picky" a whole new meaning. My daughter Anna has been an extremely picky eater since birth, and she was less aggravating at five years old than Candace and Sarah. At least she was consistent about what she would or would not eat. With the twins, they may love it today and hate it tomorrow. Here is what they will eat at any time: McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries, cheese pizza, pasta, Omaha Steaks hamburger patty on the grill (only-don't try to fool them with a cheap substitute), bacon and ramen noodles. Sometimes they will eat grapes, bananas and apples. They don't like "normal" kid foods like applesauce or macaroni and cheese. They don't like spicy food unless it is Ethiopian food. Forget milk. Or juice, unless it is mango. Eggs... no. Pancakes... no. Rice... no.

I am having a hard time coming up with food to feed them and the aforementioned older picky daughter. We are getting tired of spaghetti. Have I mentioned that I really don't like to cook?

For now, I am relying on the magic of multivitamins and calcium supplements. And hoping that an expansion of the acceptable foods list is in the future.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Losing my mind, one night at a time

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the miracle of bedtime snuggling and how it had solved our annoying going-to-bed woes with the twins. Well, I spoke too soon... it isn't working anymore. I lay up there for an hour and still frequently leave with wide awake twins. This evening, I forgot a book in their room, and turned around to get it after I had just closed the door. Candace was already out of bed preparing for her first foray downstairs.
The twins have been home for 158 days, and I have put them to bed on each and every one. Maybe 20 of them have been relatively stress-free. That's 138 days of aggravation, and I am just about ready to lose my mind.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Five months

Today Sarah Fikir and Candace Selam have been home with us for five months!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall fun!

The twins' preschool had a field trip yesterday to Vala's pumpkin patch. They didn't know what a pumpkin patch was, but they were very excited to go. Our local "pumpkin patch" is a rather elaborate autumn destination with many attractions as well as acres of pumpkins to choose from... right off the vine.

Sarah and Candace posing in one of the zillions of fall scenes

Chosen from the audience to pick a winner in the Pigtucky Derby. Darn, team purple came in second.

Making corn angels. It's Nebraska.


Choosing just the right pumpkin

Riding the John Deere train... what a fun day!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things we struggle with, part 2


Candace and Sarah are great sleepers... once they fall asleep. From day one at home, however, we have struggled with bedtime. Sometimes we have had out and out tantrums. Sometimes we have struggles getting the routine started. Usually we have multiple trips downstairs after tuck-in and ALWAYS we have resistance of some kind.

We've done all the normal things. We have a well-defined bedtime routine.

The one thing I didn't do was lay down with them until they fell asleep. I have never done that with any of my kids; I have always been one of those moms who wants her kids to be able to fall asleep on their own, and until now that has worked out well.

Until now.

One night after going through the usual rigamarole, I just climbed on Emily's bed and brought the twins up with me, one on each side. Candace pulled the bottom of my shirt up, laid her cheek on my stomach and was asleep in five minutes. Sarah snuggled into the crook of my arm and quickly followed her twin into dreamland. I put them each into their own beds and we were done for the night.

We snuggle like this every night now after Daddy finishes reading a story. I'm giving up twenty or thirty minutes of my precious alone time in the evening, but I'm gaining an amazing feeling of closeness with Candace and Sarah. Okay, they aren't soothing themselves to sleep... probably someday they will. Right now I feel like we are bonding in a way similar to the bond I had with my older kids when they were nursing babies. It's nice and I like it.

The moral of the story is that many of the strategies used to parent my bio kids need to be modified some to work with these girls. And also... you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things we struggle with, part 1

Getting along with dogs.

We have pets. Lots of pets. Three Boston terriers and two cats, to be exact. Currently, that's "all." I've been wheedling for a goat, horse or miniature donkey for awhile, but I don't think it's happening anytime soon. But I digress.

In the above photo, Candace is with Bridget, her preferred dog.

Both of the twins have had trouble adjusting to the pets, particularly the dogs, and particularly Candace. Sarah actually seems to be okay with having a dog sit with her on the couch now, but Candace still acts like they are carriers of the dreaded cooties. She especially has trouble getting along in a friendly fashion with Bruno, our mature dog who has an unquenchable interest in the game of fetch. Candace has been known to throw his toys away or outside in order to get him to stop bringing them to her. Today I found one in the toilet. This was all kind of funny except that she was starting to be physically aggressive with Bruno, and we were afraid that either she would hurt him or he would bite her. She didn't understand that dogs can't speak or understand human language. We have been encouraging her to try to be nice to them several times a day.

Here she wanted me to take her picture with Bruno... he doesn't really trust her yet and was beating a hasty retreat... but progress is being made.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October snow... first snow!

When I woke up this morning, I saw this:

Candace and Sarah were very excited and couldn't wait to go outside. Luckily I was able to scrounge up two pairs of kid-sized gloves and a couple of hats... no boots, though. I guess I better get on that, and they need snowsuits too. I wasn't expecting to need them quite this early, however!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Four months

Candace and Sarah have been home with us for four months now. Really, the anniversary was yesterday, but I was too tired to write anything. Too tired physically and exhausted emotionally. I love those little girls so much that sometimes my heart hurts. Sometimes I just gaze at them and think about God's miracle that placed them in our family. They are so cute and so smart and so resilient. Those are the good parts. But sometimes they have so much anger and sadness and other hard emotions... I just feel drained. I try so hard to be the comforting mom, the one who can make things better, but sometimes I just don't feel like I can stand one more minute of the demands of emotionally needy five year olds or the needs of the equally emotionally needy teenage siblings. So a lot of days end up with me being the tired and impatient mom who wishes her husband was less busy with his new job and that everyone could deal without me for just one darn day! And then of course, guilty Mom rears her ugly head.

I guess I know that I can't fix the past for the twins even though I wish I could. On the plus side, although grieving issues have intensified, day to day living is easier than it was two or three months ago. The girls love preschool and gymnastics and can communicate well enough to participate in both. We still have issues with bedtime, but there are far fewer tantrums. The sense of entitlement seems to have diminished and both girls act more appreciative of the things they have.

Step by step, I guess. We'll make it.