Friday, February 22, 2008

Where does the time go?

Milagro is six months old today! She is such a blessing. Her personality continues to emerge and thank goodness she is still an easygoing baby. As long as she is in her sling she goes along with whatever is happening. I can take her to work with me, shopping, errands, or even around the house. Her "happy place" is with her moms. She only fusses when hungry or very tired. Otherwise she patiently observes the world while we go about our days.

She has continued to try and stand up although she shows no interest in crawling. She loves blowing raspberries and "zerpels" on my chest, arm, and neck. It cracks her up and she laughs a raspy and hearty belly laugh. She has also figured out her siblings pretty well. Depending on whose attention she wants she knows exactly how to get it. If Pollito is her desire she puts out her hands and smiles or scrunches up her face to get his attention. He comes right to her. When she wants Corazon, she throws her toys to the floor and makes some cooing sounds to get her to come to her. Even with Tortuga, who shows minimal interest in her most of the time, she has found the one way to engage with him. She screams AT him. It sounds like she is chastising him for some infraction or yelling a him for the hundreth time and he responds. He laughs with her and yells right back and they go at it. Laughing and yelling as though they were a couple of infants carrying on a conversation. It is quite clever if I do say so myself.

We celebrated Milagro's half birthday with half a cake which she managed to get her fingers into. The rest of the kids enjoyed the fact that we seem to be celebrating all year already given the three anniversaries we have just acknowledged. They genuinely seem to be doing well(today).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A year ago today...

Tortuga arrived one year ago today. I cannot remember our household without him although I am certain it was much quieter. He is our oldest (although our 3rd in order of arrival) and yet, in many ways, our youngest. He loves dinosaurs, books, magazines (Ranger Rick and Highlights), Power Rangers, Transformers and drawing with a pen. He eats anything and everything (and lots of it!), plays basketball and ice skates, loves doing household chores and has better manners than most kids his age (most of the time.) His favorite activity is to spend time with me. He loves the outdoors, family time with stories and game playing, and offers to help anytime he sees me working. A lovely boy who makes my heart jump everytime I see him. He also has daily tantrums, regular agression towards his 3 and 7 year old siblings and the lowest self esteem of any child I have ever met. He has a beautiful smile and a shy side that makes him endearing. His love of learning (about anything) and his engagement when studying something new for the first time have erased much of the memory of the child I met over a year ago.

When I met him for the first time in December 2006 he had just been moved to living in a residential setting for troubled children after having been sent there from his foster home of over a year. He was practically catatonic as he sat in from of the television watching tv with a handful of other boys. While a well-reputed facility for children, the place gave me the creeps. The staff and children sat around the tv room doing very little interacting except to check behavior or welcome visitors. I only wanted to watch him although the staff worked hard to have him interact with me. When he did it was to stare at me or run away. In the weeks that followed I visited him almost everyday bringing books, gum, drawing supplies, and taking him out for outings to meet Corazon and just trying to get a sense of him. He was on meds that were supposed to "stabilize" him and at times he was more of a seemingly "normal" kid than other times. His speech was a challenge to understand and at 7 1/2 years of age he looked "BIG" for his age but acted "YOUNG" for his age. I never doubted that I would bring him home. I only doubted that he would want to be there. On February 12, 2007 he came home and after several weeks of best behavior, laughs, nightmares, tantrums, middle of the night fits, insomnia, wolfing down his food as if he was starving, losing his temper, learning to hug, harassing Corazon and Pollito, taking meds, loving school for the first time, and learning the household expectations WE settled in for the long haul. And a long haul it has been!

I can honestly say that Tortuga is the last child I think about before I go to bed at night and the first one I think about as I wake up. He has made SO much progress in every area since he arrived. From meds four times/day to none, best behavior to make sure we would keep him to "I hate you" and "You are the meanest mom/family in the world" and barely decoding some letter sounds to reading at a second grade level, it has been a whirlwind.

Tortuga is a very hurt child and a seriously neglected child. He behaves most like a three year old on a developmental level yet has learned all the habits, behaviors and attitudes of a nine year old. This challenges us to serve him best while teaching him how to be who he is but remembering that he responds and processes much in the way his three year old brother, Pollito, does. He is jealous of everyone and everything and has to state he is "better" than everyone and everything at least a dozen times a day. We take things one step at a time with him and struggle to give the other 3 children the attention they need because Tortuga requires more time than the other 3 put together. I have begun treating him as if he is 3 in my expectations, explanations, and evaluations of his behavior and that is helping me stay sane and I hope helping him go through a more "normal" developmental process than he had the first time around. Each day brings new insights into his behavior, new challenges, new hopes and new joys. He is a different child than he was when we first met him and the progress he has made is astounding. That gives me the hope that one day he will be able to fully come into his own and grow into a happy, healthy adult.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Corazon is the child of my heart. Three years ago today my life changed forever. She came to live with us after a whirlwind courtship. We met on January 25, 2005 and less than 2 weeks later she moved in. She was a 4 1/2 year old spitfire. Beautiful, charming, strong-willed, manipulative, engaging, intelligent, scared, dramatic, powerful, are all words I used to describe her then and would still use today. Of course, today she is also my daughter. She came with a history of disruptions between foster homes, birth mom, paternal aunt and other unknown caregivers. She started off in the world as a 3 lb preemie and is now a 46 lb powerhouse.

She called me "Mommy" from day one and she melted my heart with her smile. She is intellectually ahead of her peers and socially far behind her peers. She had developed a whole slew of coping mechanisms for dealing with her unpredictable life and the hurts experienced in such a short life. She became what I wanted her to become and she fought every choice, expectation, request and demand as if her life depended on it. Several months after her arrival I discovered that she was suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and my life became a battle for her life. She appears like a normal loving child to every friend/stranger we meet and at home she plotted her escape and my demise. She lied, stole, hurt and fought for the "fun" of it countless times a day. She built a wall around herself and worked hard to make us hate her. She charmed the pants off strangers, asked them all to take her home, created a reputation for me as a "controlling" parent and her energy and attitude made her a menace to every living creature smaller than her.

My fear for her survival led me to read everything I could find on RAD, change therapists several times and ultimately turn her into my sticktight. She has grown into a caring thoughtful child who I believe has and is learning to trust and love her family. She keeps me on my toes but I think we have made a number of breakthroughs that give me hope for her future. She is a beautiful spirit who enjoys dancing, gymnastics, ice skating, writing about her adventures, being with family, helping with chores and cooking meals with me in the kitchen. She loves being a big sister to Pollito and Milagro and even Tortuga, who is older chronologically, but is younger in most other ways. She still craves incredible amounts of attention and will do ANYTHING to get it which makes her a challenge and danger in many instances. She is sweet and thoughtful and has adjusted tremendously to the three sibling additions that 2007 brought.

She loves science(planets, bugs, animals, earth, rocks and sticks) and history and is currently obsessed with famous people including Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Harriet Quinby, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman. She has become more sensitive to the needs of others although she still needs to be watched constantly. She feels safest when we make the decisions for her and choice often signals uncertainty and stress rather than independence and freedom for her. I fear I have neglected her in the time since her brothers/sister arrived and I give her as much one-on-one time as I can. That concern prompted my decision to homeschool her and she seems to be thriving in that arrangement.

I cannot imagine my life without her and in fact, barely remember my life before her. Happy Anniversary my little one....

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