Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tears and fears

Annabel's Earthquake proof home that included landscaping!

Grace's earthquake proof home that included curtains in the windows. Very sound structurally!

The other night the girls had just completed their earthquake proof homes for their science projects. I was so impressed with what they had done that I was in the middle of taking pictures of how they had incorporated the material they had learned about making a structure earthquake proof and then the extra touches Annabel put on hers like the flowers and the wind turbine, when Grace came in to tell me that Annabel was crying.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have really been trying to look at some things that have been consuming us, financially, emotionally, mentally, and overall just eating up our time.

When I went in to check on Annabel, to see why she was crying, it precipitated my decisions on changes that needed to be made.

Annabel was crying so hard she could not tell me what was wrong.

Partly I knew she was too tired. They had worked on designing these homes for over a week and then building them the next. Because they wanted theirs to be "above average" (my words) it took longer to complete the project and bedtime was compromised.

BUT when she could finally catch her breath, she gasped out that she was afraid she was going to fail.

Fail? On the science project? No way!!

No she insisted, not the science project.

I began to guess what she thought she was going to fail at and it finally came out that she was afraid she was fail 7th grade, high school, college, and overall, life.

Wow! This from a child who spent the first 11 years of her life being shuttled from an orphanage to foster care, who brings so much joy to everyone she knows, who constantly puts others before herself, ok, I can just go on and on.

But her concern about failure worries me and makes me know she needs more of me, right now. 

It is a very fine line for me, trying to help her build up her confidence, learn English, do homework, maintain discipline, and help her believe she is loved.

But I feel like we are facing a very critical phase for Annabel, where she has to "get it" right now before school gets any more difficult, where her ego can be built up, or otherwise we will be facing major discipline problems very quickly. PLUS it is just time for her to be loved. I know I keep saying that, but I worry that is part of what she does not "get". There have been so many people in her life and I am guessing they have promised to love her, but none of it has lasted. And when you are 13 life is rough enough without all the extra baggage.

So I continue to look for ways to cut back on all the distractions and be able to focus on what is important. It is so frustrating dealing with trying to end some of these distractions. I keep trying to focus on my goal and know that I can take a little beating up because Annabel deserves/needs me more than anything dished out to me.

An end note on Annabel's progress - I got an email from the principal asking for my presence at an awards ceremony on academic performance for Friday. Guess whose getting an award? Yep! Annabel!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some thoughts

Life lately has gotten way too complicated, if it has been two weeks since I sat down to write.

I tried last week to quit some things that are taking up way too much of my life, my emotions, my time, my money, and it was just not pretty.

People do not like for you to quit. It doesn't even matter what you are trying to quit, if you have been doing it, it is wrong for you to stop doing it, and no one asks why you need to quit or if maybe you might need some help for a change, rather than you helping them all the time.

These situations have been on a constant loop going off in my head and really been quite distracting.

It dawned on me a few weeks back that I really could not remember the last time I had enjoyed something. Not that I have to be entertained, but I could not remember a really good meal, a conversation, a laugh. I know there were some and so dear reader, if you have been in my life lately, don't take it personal, but it has felt like all of my energy has been spent trying to maintain or even survive, but nothing more.

Back in the 80's it was popular in to draw a circle and determine how much of your time was devoted to each area of your life and if it was not balanced, you were doomed to fail.

I haven't seen anyone draw that out lately and the last time I did, the only person I had to care about was me, so it was pretty lopsided in those days, but now it just had begun to feel like it was flat, with some areas being a giant weight dragging the bottom of my circle down and the areas that I really want to focus were continuing to be neglected and dropping down into the weighty section as well.

This is surely not the way things are supposed to be.

But just as things seem to be murkier than ever, several things began to happen last week to give me that infamous Oprah, "Aha!" moment. Places that I am normally not, caused me to run into people I normally would not have seen, some who held specific answers for some of the problems I have been dealing with, others offering solutions that I had not even considered, and hope that a balance can be found that will make my circle more evenly divided.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unqualified but still showing up!

Even without my glasses on and trying to read from my Blackberry's tiny screen, I felt the article at the end summed up what I have learned from parenting better than I could say it.

I don't know about parenting birth children. I don't know about parenting with a spouse. I don't know about parenting babies.

I only know about parenting older children from a foreign country as a single parent. I have to say it is the hardest but by far the best job I have ever had. It is so good that I wish I could do it full time and not be distracted by things like jobs, but I know I have to set the example for my daughters and one of those things is having a job. I digress....

Yesterday Annabel and I went to the grocery store together. She is always ready to go, it rarely matters where.

For whatever reason she stuck to me like glue. I could not move the basket without rolling over her feet. Everything I tried to do was amusing to her, which grew tiresome very quickly, especially since I was tired when we got there.

This is when I wonder if the loop playing inside my head is being heard by anyone else. I recognize that it is me, not her, with the problem. I finally sent her to buy me some coffee from Starbucks to buy a few minutes to breath and ask for patience in a quiet prayer.

Recently I was reminded by Annabel's ever brilliant tutor, that Annabel has been through enough in her life.

She spent her first 11 years trying to please everyone so she could survive. That's a HUGE job for anyone, but to know that it is required just to survive, not even trying to thrive, but so you can have food, shelter, and what little affection you can get, you are required to please people and do it from infancy, well it must have been overwhelming at times.

So with the tutor's voice in my head also and knowing God would help, we got out of the store without incident.

We got home, started dinner, and I made a quick escape with a short bike ride, but left Annabel to make brownies on her own. I know better, but was really in a hurry to ride before our cornbread chili pie was done, so did not check with her that she understood exactly how to make the brownies.

When I came back, she had that deer in the headlights look and casually mentioned she might have put in too much oil. Yes, three times the amount is too much. She tried to fix it by stirring it a LOT!

Deep breath.

We ended up adding the other 2 boxes and making a HUGE recipe of brownies. I know she knows I am annoyed but verbally I keep saying that it is a mistake anyone can make and I appreciated that she tried.

I get all teary eyed when I talk about Annabel and cannot even explain why. I know more times than not that I fail but I keep reminding myself that even though I am unqualified, I keep showing up!

Unqualified, but Still Showing Up

October 3, 2010by Janet Morris Grimes Share 7 Comments I read recently the following quote by Tom Peters: “There is no such thing as a minor lapse in integrity.”

The same is true for parenting. Being a parent is not something that you clock in and do only during your waking hours. It is much more of the person you are; day in and day out. Not only does it take over your waking hours, but permeates your sleeping hours as well. Parenting rules your work week as well as your weekends; your lazy days and busy days. It determines where you live, how you spend your time, and your thought process throughout each day. Not only does it become who you are twenty-four hours a day, but only when you multiply that by the number of days in the rest of your life, do you begin to get the picture.

And this can be a comforting thought.

Always present, and always aware, your children remain in the shadows, picking up on your good habits as well as your bad ones. They have a front row seat to your tough days in progress, but they are also there to witness your victories. They are the first to detect a bad temper, financial problems, health problems or an upcoming major family change. They are also the first to celebrate with you when you overcome these challenges.

I recently saw an Australian television commercial called “Make Your Influence Positive.” It shows scene after scene of a child following in the footsteps of his or her parent. A mom with a cigarette in her hand, and a child doing the same. A father passing by a lady who needs help, and his son does the same. A mother yelling at her infant to stop crying, and her daughter does the same. Though this particular commercial demonstrates the negative side of the influence that a parent holds in the life of a child, the opposite is also true.

Our children recognize how we live, the way that we love, and the times we choose to do what is right, especially when no one else is looking. They sense our motives behind our actions. They recognize the unspoken dreams we still long to pursue. They notice the moments when we rise above our own needs to touch the lives of those around us.

Our kids are influenced much more by our actions than by our words; our hearts more than our habits; by what we do not say as much as by what we do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dear Walt....

Dear Walt Disney,

I know you are gone, but you keep hounding me. Please leave me alone. I have enough stress as it is without you constantly reminding me that it would be a GREAT family vacation to take my group to Disney World! I know you are offering 25% off but that really doesn't help.

You see, I am very busy.

I have subscribed to a number of websites that are teaching me to be a great parent, not a good one, but a great one, because we all know I am extremely competitive and if there is a prize to be given, by gum, I will work my tail off to win it and obviously, there must be or there could not possibly be that many websites telling me how to do it!

The only trouble is, I have so many emails, I can't get through them all to absorb the brilliance they are willing to share!

So I subscribed to some of the websites that will help me control my time, manage it is the usual word, but I think that managing time must be very similar to trying to manage liquid mercury or as my friend puts it, herding cats. I try, I honestly do, and I have great intentions, but I continue to fail.

Oh I am behind on those emails too but I think that is because I am trying to plan the most delicious, nutritious meals for my family, and so I have subscribed to some websites that will shoot me a recipe on a regular basis that is quick and easy and most of all nutritious. I know my family needs good nutrition, but really, all I want for dinner are some fritos and bean dip and a coke. It used to be my go to meal when I had a bad day. Now I recognize the fat content will clog up my arteries and the sugar from the coke will put me at risk of diabetes, so I will comb through your brilliant essays on easy meals but it is beginning to stress me out, trying to balance organic with my budget, easy with prepared, nutritious, with tasty. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who can make it happen, but it is just making me feel like a failure, so I have subscribed to some websites that will provide me with a minute of meditation, or deep thoughts, like they used to have on Saturday Night Live.

I believe the meditation people are right, slow down my breathing will help me clear my head, but sometimes the very minute I try to slow down my breathing is the exact instant the dogs begin to bark and warn me of some dangerous predator like a squirrel, so I fail at that also.

Because I need to provide the most warm and comfortable house, Lowes, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Home Depot all want to help me achieve my goal and bless their hearts, they have some great ideas and love to send them to me and so I have started a folder on things to do as soon as I get the nutritious meal prepared after completing my meditation.

Of course I am missing one of the most elemental needs of a good family, and that is family time! Not just sitting around laughing at a TV show together, we are supposed to be doing any number of the very worthy projects from Family Fun magazine, the various museums, much less the fun we are supposed to have with our dogs that Rachael Ray will help us plan!

But to do any of these things takes money, so I have started subscribing to all the "group" coupon offers and actually bought quite a few. The only trouble is, now I can't find which group I bought the coupons from and it is stressing me out to think I wasted my money trying to save money to have a good time!!!

So Walt, if you could just back off on the commercials, the emails, the banners at the top of my email page, I would really appreciate it. I have got to go buy the nutritious elements to prepare a fast, nutritious meal so we can have family time with our dogs while saving money in our warm and comfy home and still have time to pay the bills!

Your friend, Jerri

P.S. Walt, 25% off, really?? I mean, we are old friends. Surely you can do better than that! Free is the favorite price! I'm just saying....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Annabel and dogs and school and misunderstandings

As I was coming down to the final days before adopting Annabel, several urged me to write a blog about the experience. I could not imagine how you could do that. Thankfully google made it very easy and I started writing, A sister for Grace, as that was the focus, adopting a sister for Grace. I don't think I am the exception in not fully understanding and/or appreciating just how valuable each addition to a family can be. My primary goal was to ensure that Grace had a "family" in case something happened to me and a sister seemed to be the best solution.

Two years later I can tell you that not only does Grace have a sister, but I have an amazing daughter who continues to overwhelm me with her huge strides in learning, her kindness, her energy, her humor, and thankfully now, her love.

Part of what has amazed me about Annabel is her relationship to our dogs.

I write about them some, but to explain where and how they came about adds to this story.

Two and a half years ago I had to have my dog Buster put down right before Thanksgiving. It was very sad, but with the addition of Grace in my life, my priorities and focus had shifted to her instead.

Two days after Thanksgiving, while visiting the mall, we came across the SPCA exhibit and the cutest terrier looking dog, just the right size, was out there wagging his tail, hoping someone would love him and take him home. Unfortunately I was with my sister Lisa, who has become a dog nut, not a doughnut, and she urged me to check it out.

The people who run these exhibits are VERY smart and when they had us hooked in with the cute terrier, they pulled out his sister, who looked more like a dust mop and was considerably smaller and seemed a little psychotic even from the start. How could I consider taking one without the other???

So we "adopted" Nina and Ollie and almost immediately I knew why their previous family had taken them to the shelter: they were just bad dogs. They both bark constantly and bite every chance they get.

Only if your daughter is adopted and the term "adopted" has been used on these animals, how can you take them back? I mean, how much would the psychiatrist bill be for permanently scarring my daughter making her think that if she did not work out, I would take her back.

So we persevered. A dog trainer was called and this is when I knew these dogs were smart. They behaved PERFECTLY while she was here. But the second, I mean the very second, she got into her car, they started back to their old ways, barking and biting.

A second visit was no better and she could not understand what my problem with the dogs was so we persevered.

Then as the time to travel to China got closer, my Dad, for just the second time ever, shook his finger at me and told me I had to get rid of those dogs before I brought Annabel home as they would scare her to death and terrorize her and who knows what else!

I couldn't, but I did take Nina to a dog therapist who agreed to put her on medication for her biting, which has helped, some....

Anyway, we return from China, I go pick up the dogs, and inside the house Annabel is waiting.

We have no common language and it has been difficult to try to act out that we have these dogs and they live with us in our house and they are not dinner.

We all held our breath as the scene unfolded and they made a beeline to Annabel.

Certain that I would be calling 911, I lunge forward to put my body between she and the dogs, but she has dropped to her knees and hugging and petting these wild and crazy dogs.

I call her the "dog whisperer".

She has been their best friend they could ever have and they were there for her when she could not tell us what she felt.

This week she gave Ollie a bath. That night she wanted Ollie to sleep with her because he smelled better. Much of the time he smells like the locker room of an elementary school gym, but she had even put the deodorizer on him.

So that night she is yelling for him to jump up on her bed, but Nina jumped up first and Ollie would not then because Nina will growl at him. So Annabel tries to get Nina off her bed, but now she is growling at Annabel, not really, but it makes for a better story.

So I have to call Nina to get her to jump off because she always wants to be with me and about the time she jumps off, then Ollie jumps up on Grace's bed, so Annabel is still fighting to get Ollie and so Nina jumps back on her bed.

It went on for quite a while with the wrong dog being on the wrong bed and Annabel continuing to try to lure Ollie on hers. It was quite amusing! Finally they both just got on her bed and she was satisfied.

Annabel carries each dog around like it is her baby, which amazes me when I think about how mean they originally were. She rocks them and swings them as you would a baby and won't put them down even while trying to do multiple things, as if they cannot walk on their own.

OK, obviously I need to get some pictures of this, but I think it says a lot about Annabel's inner self that this really bad dogs tolerate and LOVE her for all she is for them.

School for Annabel has not been as easy and while she does amazingly well, 7th grade is just harder. Early in this school year I realized that their math seemed like where I left off in high school and I was no help.

They had a big math test this week and part of what I love about this school is that the teachers want the children to learn. There is no emphasis on the annual state testing, the focus is on learning, so when they don't understand the concepts in class, they are given another chance, by going to school on Saturday, where they can get more one on one and if needed, re do their work, including a test that did not have a passing score, which is what happened for Annabel , and put her in a miserable mood tonight. And I can't say I blame her because I hate for her to have to go, but so glad she has the opportunity.

I'm trying to put a positive spin on it and the only thing that has helped is that we will go to McDonalds for breakfast.

Trying to catch up with all the "lingo" that makes English so difficult to learn at times makes for some really funny conversations.

My brother in law is a state trooper and from his job we have learned the slang term "black and white" as what they call their cars.

Recently we were driving along and Dad asked if I had seen that the Dallas Police were going with black and whites.

Annabel immediately shouted, "POPPA! DON'T BE RACIST!!!"

When you are laughing so hard it is really difficult to explain that he was only referring to their cars.