Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Small Window

Every now and then Nia will just start talking about life at the mission, aka orphanage. This morning at breakfast was one of those rare, wonderful glimpses into the window of her Former Life.

We met Mother Brown when we brought Nia home. She's a large Liberian woman with a loud, booming voice. Nia was telling Jacob (8yrs) about how Mother Brown used to beat children all over their bodies, including the face, and that she, herself, was the recipient of such a beating on her backside. Mother Brown would tell children that the witches would come at night and carry the children up into the air to be sacrificed if they didn't obey. Nia told us about 2 children at the orphanage who were supposedly Witch Princesses and Witch Prince, the children of a witch.

Honestly, these children may have truly been children of a witch, or from how Nia described them, they may have just had a physical deformity and were the victims of labels and verbal abuse.

We told Nia that, yes, indeed there are witches, but they don't fly in the air and they will never take her away in the night. We tried to stress that Mommy and Daddy will always tell her the truth about things. We don't want to scare her into obedience, but we want her to obey from a heart that loves God. I don't know about her salvation, it's just too hard to tell. She obviously knows bible stories and things about Jesus, but it's so mixed up as Folklore Theology. Some truth, lots of folklore.

And then the window closed....for now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hard Days with Nia

I don't post enough about The Hard Days, mostly because I don't want to scare anyone from adopting. We have about 4 hard days each week, and here's the definition of a Hard Day:

~Nia wakes up turning on all the lights in the house at 6am (this is a sure-fire indicator that it's going to be a long day)
~Nia antagonizes her siblings, trying to make them mad at her so she can justify hitting them and verbally abusing them
~Nia twists things any one of us says to make us look like Liars or like we favor someone else over her
~Nia starts writing her given name, Maryann, all over napkins and paper
~Nia starts writing letters that start with "To any mom and dad" just to get some feelers out there
~Nia won't make eye contact with me when confronted and stares just slightly to the right of my face when I talk to her; her mouth will be tightly closed and no amount of encouragment or bribes can get her to speak. Usually, I have to flash my wooden spoon a few times in some very dramatic casual conversation to get any results from her when she's like this.
~Nia moans, wails, flails, thrashes, kicks, rolls all over the floor because I've discliplined her (could be just taking away a priviledge); the rest of the family is reduced to yelling just to commuicate "Mom, I want to color."
~Nia makes a run for it out the side gate of our back yard (I caught her before she actually got out; we have promised to call the police if she gets out of our yard)
~I have 5 other kids, so the chances are high that there will be some weeping and gnashing of teeth by someone at some point
~I am tired, dealing with sinus pressure, have a migraine, have a full schedule, or am just plain sick of dealing with Nia's baggage....therefore, am not able to help turn a Hard Day into a Regular Day by representing Christ to Nia

Today has been a Good Day. :- ) That doesn't give good odds for Tomorrow. :- (

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When Kids Take Pictures

This is what happens when you let your kids take a few pics unsupervised. I have a few shots of the inside of the toilet bowl, as well. But nothing beats the photos Isabel took while seated on the potty....she got some good ones of her bare knees with undies around the ankles and the TP holder.

Princess Eva


This morning Hudson was calling for his sister, Eva, while I had her in the bathroom getting hair and body greased up. She said, "Hud, I'm in here getting beautiful."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bowling

We went bowling as a family activity last Saturday. It was the first time for most of our kiddos. They used a lane with a bumper, whilst the grown-ups bowled in a regular lane next to them.

Isabel (4yrs) was absolute precious. She would lay down on her tummy, give the ball a shove, and then prop her chin on her hands, lay there and swing her feet back and forth...much like one would lay in the grass to watch an ant mosey around. There were several times I just knew that the resistance of the pin would bring her ball to a complete stop. But, no, she always managed to knock at least one over.

Eva (3yrs) had the Grannie Roll approach...you know, bend over, put the ball between your feet, shake your hiney, and roll the ball. But then she'd just forget about ever having rolled the ball at all and entertain us with some twirls and dancing while her ball lazily rolled down the lane. For Eva, it's all about being the center of attention. We just know she'll be on stage someday.

Nia is a powerhouse. We know that's she's made of muscle everywhere except her ever-expanding tummy area. She could really hoist the ball halfway down the lane before it ever touched the floor. After a few lessons in bowling etiquette, she only hoisted it 1/4 of the way down.

Jacob (8), the most experienced Child Bowler having gone once before, was ever eager to explain the game to all. He had the knack of holding a drink in one hand, sucking it through the straw, while bowling with the other hand.

Clive (7)....well....he doesn't like to be "bad" at anything. The Spirit of Eeyore was upon him most of the game. It didn't help that he forgot to let go of the ball once sending his feet into the air and causing quite an impressive slide on his fanny down the lane. Those darn track pants are slick!

Hudson (5) ended up winning. I don't know how he did it because his head was in the clouds the whole time. He even perfected his hip-shaking dance after each bowl.

We had so much fun that I decided we should buy a Bowling Alley and have church there on Sundays with mid-week bible studies, too. I even thought we could add a second floor for a skating rink. I never felt cooler as a kid than when I was roller skating backwards to You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen......Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine....You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.....See that girl, watch that scene, dig in the Dancing Queen. I was so cool cuz I could cross over one foot in front of the other around the corners of the rink and lean into the turn. Much cooler than just letting your outside foot go wide as you coast around the turn. And with my to-die-for feathered hair with a part down the middle. But, I digress..... You can only reach a certain level of Cool when you're wearing culottes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Nia's Real Age is.......Drum Roll, please

Seven years, 10 months. Yep. It's official! We were relieved to discover yesterday after the Bone-Age Scan that Nia's Birth Certificate is incorrect. We've always suspected that her birthdate wasn't April 1, 1996, which would make her coming up on 12 years. But somehow we still felt like we were lying when people would ask us her age and we'd cautiously say "8......or 9......um, we really don't know."

We'll probably make her birthdate November 11, 1999, which would put her a couple of months younger than Jacob. November 11 is the date she came home to Nashville. That puts her on target for 2nd grade. She's starting to read 3-letter words right now, and math is quite a challenge, too. She is used to learning by repetition and memorization, which is not how I'm used to teaching. I still think teaching her phonics will help her in the long run, even if we have to slow down for now to really grasp the concept.

And one last interesting tidbit of info from the stool samples......there are no parasites worth treating. Yay!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hep C Education

Today I took Nia for more bloodwork regarding her Hep C. So the scoop is that she has Hep C, but we just don't know what level, I, II, or III. Level I is the worst and only has 50% chance of being cured. Levels II and III have 80% chance of being cured. Treatment involves weekly shots (which will be administered by her Daddy), along with some oral meds for a minimum of 24 weeks, but possibly up to 72 weeks. http://www.atdn.org/simple/pifn.html is a website that gives more detailed info. The chances of her children or spouse getting Hep C are slim. The only way she can transmit the disease is blood-to-blood contact. Like if she ever shared her razor.

We also got a bone scan done of Nia's wrist today to give a better guesstimate of her age. She was mostly a trooper, but got freaked out at a pic of human innards. Actually, it was just a drawing, but the freakage was still high scale.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Liberian War

Read this link to get a better idea of the war that raged in Liberia for 14 years. Once you get past the main guy's nickname, it's a very informative article about the brutality of the war. Imagine my two girls living in this place. Imagine your own children living in this place.

http://tinyurl.com/2z62sr

Friday, January 18, 2008

Morning Entertainment

This morning's entertainment brought to you by Nia, an 8yr-old Liberian girl. For your dining pleasure Nia will demonstrate how to carry your breakfast on your head and then walk down the hallway without spilling a bit of it. Yes, you too can carry a plate full of rice on your head with a great deal of practice and natural-born finesse.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Isabel working off her noodles and cookies from the holiday binge.

She Loves Me

Yesterday I was in a fog of sinus pressure, congestion, and 3 days of mouth-breathing whilst throwing ingredients into the crockpot for supper. Nia was in one of her 1000 Senseless Questions moods, like
"Who dis gul (girl) in dis magazine?"
"Why dey call dat crockpot?"
I had tuned her out at some point almost missing,
"I love you, Ma."

"What?"

"I love you, Ma."
"I love you, too, Nia."

It was the first time she's said that to me. Just out of the blue. Thank you, God!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Isabel Pregont, aka Edith Head




Here is Isabel wearing some borrowed glasses from her friend, Mr. Emil. Actually, Isabel is secretly Edith Head, the fashion designer from the 50s. Edith Head was used as the basis for the fashion designer in The Incredibles animated film.

Hair Day


Today is Hair Day. We washed Eva's (3yrs old) hair last night and Nia braided it this morning into a lovely "country plait" design that she created herself. Eva hates Hair Day, but loves how beautiful she is when it's all over. This design took 2 hours and several episodes of Strawberry Shortcake to complete.

Monday, January 14, 2008

School Days

The boys (8, 7, 5) have been going to a homeschool enrichment program on Mondays since last fall. Lately, Hudson has been a little clingy and not wanting to go. So, this morning I pulled him out of pre-school and put Nia in the 1st grade class with Clive.

I was a bit apprenhensive about the whole thing because I hadn't given her any Heads Up that I was even thinking about it. I even called at lunch time to see how she was doing. A friend picks up my kids and her's, so when Nia walked through our front door this afternoon I was anxious to see how it went.

She was all smiles and wants to go every day! (Not sure what that says about her thoughts of having me as her regular homeschool teacher). She made lot of friends, she said. Whew!

My own day was filled with a quick trip to Kroger, swing by the bank, Starbucks (got a free small coffee after buying 1lb of beans), return a movie to Blockbuster, 4 loads of laundry, general picking up of clutter, and supper prep. Mopping to come later. Maybe.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Orphans

Today has been hard. God continually shows me more about Himself through my relationship with my daughter, Nia. He longs to give me good things, draw me close, amaze me, love me. And yet so often I act like an orphan trying to meet all my own needs by myself, pushing others away and adding more bricks to my walls of defense against hurt.

Nia pitched a hissy fit for 2.5 hours today. I'm talking kicking walls, rolling on the floor, wailing, screaming, moaning, crying. Fortunately, today I went to God instead of responding in my sin like the other day. Still, it's very hard to stay calm, loving, and keep your arms open to someone who's fighting with every breath they have to not be loved. I have purposefully decided not to let her isolate herself when she gets in her funk. I force her to continue to engage with the family even though it would be w-a-y easier to send her to her room. Or outside. I have to keep the pathway open and make it easy for her to come back into the fold.

Now she is eating popcorn and watching a LeapFrog video with her siblings, and all is well. As for her brothers and sisters, they watch her fits and ask me about the behavior. I just tell them that Nia is having a hard time accepting love and that we need to continue to show her what it means to be part of a loving family. How to act like the daughter of a King instead of like an orphan? Just rest in Him. Abandon yourself to Him. He longs for us to long for Him.

Disturb Me

Disturb me Lord to see the plight of millions, homeless, starving and fighting for life each day. Disturb me Lord when I complain about my lack when I have NO idea what lack really is!
Lord, disturb me, so that I can see past myself and venture forth being Your hands and feet. Help me to dream big dreams only You can bring to pass.

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.
Sir Francis Drake

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Potty Party

This is the video from Eva's Potty Party. She had to poop twice in the potty before she could have her party.

Rebuilding

Well, I lost it yesterday with Nia. We had several days of her just begging her siblings to get mad at her (by teasing, taking favorite toys, yelling, etc). And I snapped yesterday afternoon, responding to her in explosive anger. Of course, I immediately felt like crap afterwards.

As she was sitting in the bathtub crying (there's just something therapeutic about baths), I sat on the floor next to the tub and cried with her. We didn't make eye contact...we just cried together. I told her I was wrong to respond in anger to her...that I made a bad choice and needed her to forgive me. She reluctantly forgave. I asked her if she was happy to be part of our family ....a question I have avoided because I don't want to make her feel pressured to lie if she's not happy, and also because if she actually says No, then I'm not sure I want to know it yet since nothing can be done about it. She said Yes, she is happy to be part of our family. I told her that she will always be part of our family no matter what.

And so we continue the rebuilding process. Rebuilding burnt bridges of trust. One of my children in particular is holding on to every wrong deed done by Nia. He has a hard time giving 2nd chances, although Nia is in need of 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so on. To quote Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, "My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. " I suppose it's better for him to learn to deal with difficult people at the ripe age of 6.8yrs than at 26.8 yrs.

We have the opportunity to go to Panama City Beach at the end of February, thanks to the generosity of some friends. I'm really looking forward to lots of down-time and family play.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Questions

Why dey call dat 'sandwich'?

Why dey call dat ' address' ?

Why dey call dat 'fridge' ?

Can I go swimming?

Why you put tomatoes in dat?

Ooo, I hate tomatoes.

Why we go dis way?

Why dat car following us?

Why we following dat car?

Can I have noodles for breakfast?

Why you still sleep when after de day breaks? (as she flips on my bedroom light the first millisecond that the sun even thinks about rising)

Can I have hot dogs for breakfast?

Can I watch Strawberry Shortcake?

I should off the fire? (Turn off the stove)

I should push dis button? (on the VCR, cell phone, alarm clock, car radio, house alarm, dad's laptop, computer, thermostat, doorbell, microwave, dishwasher, elevator)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Stealing Tears

Every night after Nia climbs up to her bunk, she takes the ladder off and leans it against the wall. When we ask why, she just laughs. We figured it had something to do with feeling safe and protected...that no one would climb up and hurt her in the night. Every morning she puts it back and climbs down, leaving it attached to her bunk.

Last night about 3:30am, Isabel sauntered into our room and climbed into bed with us. 30 seconds later Nia came running 100 mph into our room and threw herself between me and Matt. She was screaming, crying, and trembling, and calling for her Daddy. She shook and sobbed while I held her tight, then drifted off to sleep. I got up and went into her room to turn off the lamp that we leave on every night. I noticed that her ladder was still up against the wall, which led me to believe that she jumped out of bed due to a sense of urgency.

This morning, she shared her dream......Her enemy (there were 3 identities that equalled one enemy) was hurting Isabel's face. The enemy was going to take Nia's tears. And something about from Nia's head to her feet. Then she ran.

We told her that God is bigger than her enemy. If she will say His Name over and over the enemy will flee because it knows it will never win against God. We told her that the enemy can never hurt her, but it just wants to scare her.

These dreams are spiritual. Most kids dream about things that happened that day or something they saw on TV. We believe these dreams are demonic and straight from the enemy to terrorize our daughter. She has seen and been exposed to things we will never begin to fathom. But God knows, and He is bigger. He knows He is the Victor. And so does the enemy.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Strength

Physically, Nia is as strong as an Ox. She can carry my 40lb 5yo son on her shoulders and run, yes run, through the house without dropping him. She can pick him up and flip him over her shoulder. She's really very solid.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Accepting Love

Today I had to talk to Nia about hitting her siblings when she's mad or for no reason at all. Just talking to her about this kind of stuff can send her into The Distant Stare and Silent Mode. I was proud that she whispered and apology and asked for forgiveness. That's a HUGE step of progress. After the Forgiveness, she continued with Silence and Distance. She slumped on the kitchen floor (on top of the heating vent for warmth) and just sat. I sat and wrapped 'round her like a pretzel, just rocking her back and forth while she fought me and moaned loudly. After about 10 minutes of this I told her she was gonna help me make muffins. She refused, but I told her she had no choice. So, she sat on a barstool, stirring ingredients, cracking eggs, and crying/moaning the whole time. I just went about my business like everything was fine, making sure to do a one-armed hug every few minutes and rub her back (both of which made her cry louder). It's like she physically hurts when she is touched in a loving way. I just kept telling her that I would always love her no matter what, that I'd never leave her.

Once we got the muffins in the oven, I ran a bubble bath for her. A few minutes of bubbles seemed to help. I know when I feel like crying, a bubble bath always seems like a good idea. She's soaking now and no longer crying. She will probably emerge refreshed with a different view on life. I, however, am thorouthly exhausted from the whole ordeal!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wailing

Today Nia woke up feeling sassy, I guess. She started off teasing and disobeying right off the bat. After we had a stern talk with her, she tried to isolate herself. Matt put her on his lap and held her tight to keep her there while she struggled. She wailed and screamed as if she were being beaten. This closeness was just too intimate for her to handle. He finally carried her into our room and held her on our bed. She continued to fight him. We kept saying, "Just receive the hug." This went on for about 30 minutes with full flailing and screaming (like a grief scream, you might even say moaning). So, Good Morning New Year.

Things are back to normal several hours later. During the battle, we have to remind ourselves that normal is just around the corner (sort of).

Nia has been doing computer games to help her learn phonics. The games always encourage her by saying things like, "Great Job!" She has picked up on it and I've heard her say to her siblings, "Fabulous! " "Super!" "You've Got it Now!" It reminds me of someone who might learn to talk by listening to the radio only.