It's been two years since we added numbers 11 and 12 to our family. It's hard to believe that it's been that long. It's just as hard to believe that it's been so short. Time is funny like that.
It seems as though the two year anniversary is a good time to do a little catch-up post about how everyone is doing. I'll do Y. first. It's a little more straight forward. Maybe.
Y. fits right in. She is bright, imaginative, engaging, curious, and more than a little stubborn and a bit perfectionistic. This pretty much describes a great number of our children. And since I'm also a (ahem) little stubborn and perfectionistic, I get that about her. I think it would be fair to also throw in the word driven. Driven as in, don't get in her way if she has decided she is going to do something.
In the past two years, Y. has developed a lot of muscle, and can now walk and run for great distances without getting tired. She can jump on the trampoline and ride a two-wheeler. These are certainly two activities she wasn't even close to being able to do when she first came home. She can read phonics-rule-following words as well as quite a few sight words. And due to her driven nature, she can still read quite a bit of Mandarin. Her receptive Mandarin skills are quite good, though I fear her expressive skills in her first language have plummeted. It was one thing we lost in the move... good friends who could speak Mandarin with her on a regular basis.
She loves her family, but still misses China and her friends there. It's completely understandable and normal. I'm all for normal emotional responses. In short, Y. is doing great and is a joy.
R. is, as always a little more complicated. Putting on my detached, clinical hat, R. has actually made quite a bit of progress over the past two years as well, especially if you consider where she started. We just had a neurologist appointment yesterday, so the realization of this is fresh in my mind. It helps to have the eyes of someone who only sees her twice a year.
R. is significantly stronger than she was when she came home, and she is slowly gaining some muscle control and proprioception. Her vestibular awareness has also increased. Her list of physical movements that she can do now, which she couldn't when she came home include: crawling, high kneel, standing on her heels, alternating feet down stairs, and... standing on one foot! This last was done for the first time in the neurologist's office when she asked R. to do it. R. even did one sort of hop on one foot... being able to do it with both the left and right feet. I admit to cheering when she did. It's what we've been working on (and on and on), and there has been much shrieking and side eyes. Followed by the inevitable statement, "In China, no me do this!"
When she came home, she carried her right arm as if it were palsied, with a claw-like hand. Over the two years, we have worked on that, and now she carries it down at her side, though her wrist still wants to turn up. That's a work in progress. The neurologist also noted that her RH finger dexterity was much improved over last time.
Other gains: We're hearing more English language, with less Mandarin thrown in, though it's still there. She is also still very heavy on the nouns, with verbs being nearly totally absent from her speech. She gets her clothes on the correct way nearly the first time every time these days. We have a lot less of her trying to clutch small items in her claw-like hand and carry them around and fiddle with them. (They were definitely an aid in disassociation.) She is better at looking at where she is going, and less-frequently runs into, through, or on things. There is less disassociation.
Academically, I've been doing a little more traditional preschool level work with her, rather than just straight toddler play. Perhaps I will actually be able to use all the books I stored away just in case, some day. I certainly didn't feel much hope in that direction six months ago.
Probably the biggest hurdle has been to figure out the whole seizure-thing. We are weaning down her second seizure medicine a bit to see what happens. Her neurologist is wonderful and puts up with my crazy ideas. But really, for her, it does seem that the more we can lower her stress and anxiety, the fewer seizures or auras we see. In her recent history, being in the same family every day of the week for two years is the most stability she has had. A brain that is relaxed and calm can learn (or begin to learn), because it is not on high alert and disassociated all at the same time.
R. still has a long way to go. There is so much I hope for her. I look at H. and would love for R. to reach the same level of cognition and functioning. I would love for R. to develop the same emotional knowledge that H. has gained over the past few years. But really, I would just really love to know who R. is under the results of all the pain and fear and hurt. When I look back at the list such as I just wrote, I think perhaps someday that might be a possibility. And that's good to know, because in truth, she is not an easy child to parent. What I've also learned, though, is that the issue of whether I perceive her as being difficult or easy, really lies with me, and my attitudes, and really has not a lot to do with the child herself. She is what she is. It's the learning to accept that which can be challenging.
I'm actually amazed at where we are, if I think back and remember carefully this day two years ago. One child couldn't stand us, did not want to be in our family, and loathed her new sister. The other child was a shrieking, flapping, essentially non-verbal, mess of anxiety and fear and trauma, who wanted to nothing except to cling to us, her only tenuous link to safety. We've all come a long way.
If you missed out on the circus the first time around, Here we go, is the first post of our three weeks in China to bring home R. and Y. If you click 'newer post' on the bottom, it will take you to the next installment. For those of you who don't want to wade through three weeks' worth of posts, here are the links to the posts about meeting each of the girls for the first time.
We now have 11 children
An even dozen
Rereading these two posts, I need to clarify something. Boy, I did a nice job of glossing over the hard bits. It all seems so pleasant and manageable to read about it. Usually I'm all about telling the whole story, yucky bits and all. I think it was because I was in shock as well as my girls. It's one thing to experience it, it's another thing to be able to process it to write about it. I couldn't actually write exactly how terrifying it was, because that would somehow confirm it and make it more real. I can be much more brutally honest about the hard now, because I am sufficiently removed from it, and my worst imaginings have not come real. Heck, I can even laugh about most of it. But not then, and not for a while afterwards.