Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's all good


Well, it's amazing how far we've come with our girl and I'm preferring to be with the kids rather than away from them now. The girl has been awesome -- she's helping with chores, she's cooking, cleaning the cat box, washing dishes, and being fun to be with. There's little fighting these days, except when my husband nags her about homework, etc. She doesn't fight with my boy, unless he provokes it, which he does, but that's little brothers for you.

So, that's why I haven't written for so long. Things have calmed down to such a degree that the need to get my feelings out has mostly gone. I'm sure this situation will change when adolescence sets in full swing. My boy already alternates between calling me "okaasan" and by my first name -- pretty much 50-50 now. But that's okay.

So, we got through the worst of the testing period. There will be more, but now there is an undercurrent of love and appreciation among us, so that will keep us from losing it completely, I hope!

Thanks for all your support and love through this difficult period in our lives. We lived through it to tell the tale and are stronger for it. My advocacy for adoption and fostering in Japan continues!


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Finding the balance


Well, motherhood these days is like a see-saw, where I'm trying to keep both kids happy. I read to my boy, then wash my girl's hair. I have to buy two of any treats to make sure there's no obvious favoritism. Of course, there are times when I slip a treat to one kid secretly -- at my school's festival, I saw the cutest kitty key chain made by a student, so bought one for my girl on the condition that she not say where she got it.

I can't believe how much she demands of me now. She really wants to hang out -- to watch videos together, to bathe together, and she likes to leave the house when I do now. I'm so happy about this -- it happened faster than I expected. My boy, seeing us getting closer seems jealous, so he's making demands as well. I find myself running upstairs to see to the needs of one kid and then back down the stairs to see to the needs of the other. I feel more like a mom than I did when it was just the three of us and my boy clung to my husband and I sometimes felt that if I weren't there, no one would notice except for less money and western food.

However, my husband is worried because my girl has to think more seriously about junior high school. She'll have to work much harder than she currently does if she intends to go to high school. She rarely does homework and will really have to buckle down. Now that she's more stable and happy both and home and at school, we hope she will be motivated to work. Sadly, though, JHS is the time when a lot of Japanese kids start refusing to go to school. We hope she'll stay in sports and want to be with her friends enough to stay in school. It is realistic for my husband to be worried, but for a change, I think he shouldn't stress out about it until it happens. Rare for me to be more relaxed about something than he.

My boy has put himself on a diet. He's eating less and at my recommendation, eating more slowly than he used to (and making sure to tell us that he did). I told him it's a combination of diet and exercise to lose weight and that it's better to lose it slowly rather than quickly. I think he really listened! Why is he doing this now? Could it be a coincidence that he likes a girl in his class?

I'm really enjoying being with the kids more than I used to. I no longer hang out at work longer than I really need to because I'm afraid to go home and hear yelling and fighting. It seems miraculous.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

it goes deep


Usually, when my kids sleep with me, after they fall asleep, I whisper affirmations into their ears, like "We love you very much. You are strong. You are smart. You are amazing. You can do anything. We are always here for you."

My boy was sleeping with me last night and although he was fast asleep, he shook his head "no" both times when I whispered, "You are strong. You are smart."

The lack of self-confidence of these kids runs right to their core. I will start doing the affirmations every night, I think.


Monday, October 24, 2016

One kid up, the other down


Things with my girl have been going swimmingly of late. She wants to hang around with me more and more. Now she insists we bathe together (this is normal in Japan) and today we had a most lovely time shopping for dinner, which she prepared. She is sweet, generous, and very funny, and I'm enjoying being with her. She has really made us into a family, I think.

My boy, though, is now going through pre-adolescent angst and identity issues. Lately, he's been pretty hostile and disrespectful toward me, although he does it with a smile at times, pretending to be joking, but I know he's angry. He accuses Tatsuro and I of taking him away from his hometown -- last night, he said he wanted to go back by himself (I know he doesn't mean it). He's been thinking a lot about his birth mother lately and now fluctuates between calling me okaasan and by my first name. He's always been whiny, but he's stepped it up now and adds demands for things -- a new bed, a dresser, a mat for the floor, more money, a different house, a different car... the list is endless. Every day, he asks me for games for Christmas and tells me what he wants to do with the money he'll get for new years from Tatsuro's family. He's also eating a lot, so it's obvious that he's trying to fill a void with stuff or food. It's hard for us to tell him that won't work.  Last night, I listened to a litany of complaints, ending with "You're not my real parents." I knew it would come and frankly, it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would, but it's not nice to hear. He's defiant, but still babyish, so perhaps that's why it didn't bother me. He still needs us. However, I do get fed up sometimes and have to leave the room.

Last night, my husband wanted to do some role plays with the kids about what to do if they are being bullied, having money extorted, etc. While my girl was fine and gave very thoughtful answers, the role plays hit too close to home for my boy and he fought with my husband, cried, and left the room. Once he'd calmed down and returned, we were able to talk about what to do in various situations. My boy is very sensitive and is being teased at school. He acts like it's nothing when he's at school, but he shows his frustration at home. We are trying to find some strategies to help him. I was also bullied, as I have written, and like him, turned it inward, rather than facing the bullies or asking for help. We reminded both kids to go to a sympathetic friend, their teacher, or us, if they have issues -- that they are not alone. My girl understood clearly what we were doing, but I'm not sure if something went in for my boy -- he was clearly uncomfortable and kept jumping around while we were talking.

Both kids will have to deal with their respective pasts -- I think my girl has a better chance of coming out okay, although I doubted that before -- she's very sensitive, intuitive, and thoughtful. I just hope my boy will not start getting into trouble, although that's a normal part of adolescence, teenage years, etc.

The fun never stops!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

... but then...

This morning my girl and my husband had a blowout, and he said he could see by her face that she was having a flashback and that something bad was going to happen.  I think she hit him hard on the shoulder, and I could hear him telling her to leave the room, although she wouldn't. Happily, she got over it and was calm and cheerful by the time she had to go to school. There will be times in her life when something will trigger a bad feeling for her and she'll act out. We'll never be able to predict it, but hopefully we can act appropriately.

Monday, September 26, 2016

nothing to report!


Well, feeling better and better each day. Starting to do more things around the house, as I mentioned in my last post, and doing them with a lighter heart than before. Today, I went to the gym after making dinner (right after breakfast) for later when the tutor comes over, and I also finished everything but the final seam on a hat I'm knitting for a friend.

Back in my office to prep for the next week, although there's lot of time. Procrastinating. No, I'll get to it. Yesterday, I prepped for next Monday morning's first class. Today, I will prep for next Wednesday (no classes on Tuesdays), and tomorrow, I'll do Thursday and Friday's classes. After that, I can work on the homestay course prep and my plan for my graduation thesis students.

The kids are great and last night was lovely -- I was sitting in one chair knitting, and the rest of the fam was on the couch: hubby reading a book, my boy playing with a cat, and my girl watching videos on the ipod while wearing headphones. The other cat was in top of the cat tower, so the whole fam was together -- co-playing, I guess! It's becoming more fun and less stressful to be together at last.

So with that, I go prep...


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feeling normal

Today's blog is brought to you courtesy of a soy mattcha frappucino, solanax, and paxil -- which is finally started to have an effect, because I have felt more normal today than I have in months.  The anxiety, guilt, and stress built up over the semester to the point where I'd sit at my desk at work paralyzed by fear for no reason and crying (or in bed crying, or holding back tears on the treadmill at the gym). Thanks to the kind ministrations of Dr. K., we seem to have found the right balance. I am also grateful to many dear friends who have opened up to me about their struggles over the years and shared advice about meds and shown me not to be afraid of them. I also thank those friends willing to just listen to me tell my tale of woe.

It had to hit me sooner or later, although I was in denial for a long time and thought I could just will the daily assaults of negative thoughts, some very dark indeed, away through sheer thought power.  Several family members struggle with depression and now it was my turn for the chemicals in my brain to start misfiring, due to whatever trigger. Can't place it -- twin loss, too much new stuff  all at once (move, increase in work, increase in family), dealing with my own childhood issues while raising a troubled child -- whatever, I suppose it's enough to drive anyone to distraction.

Oh, but today, when I woke up, I felt NOTHING. Not zombie nothing, but no assault. No guilt. Should I get up although I don't have to? What hundred things do I have to do today? Nothing. Oh, my husband asked me to vacuum the house, which I happily did after emptying out the cat shitter as is my new daily task. It was amazing to just do things like I used to calmly and normally and with no feeling of being overwhelmed or any pressing need to feel worried that I was or wasn't doing something "correctly" and that the hammer would come down sooner or later.

People with depression, I get you now. I am one of you. I know how overwhelming the simplest tasks can be. I apologize to anyone who I ever got frustrated with for not being able to do the easiest thing or get organized or care about what you wore or anything when it takes a herculean effort to make it through the day when all you want to do is crawl back in bed and cry (while feeling guilty about it, naturally).

Thankfully, my husband is fine and getting lots of soccer therapy -- we go for walks along the beach once a week to chat about whatever (usually family) and that is a precious time for us. Lately, I've needed a lot of reassurances from him that everything's okay, and he assures me that it is. Now that I'm feeling better, I can start helping him around the house more (although he told me that even if I did, he'd find something to complain about anyway!) Yes, this is a side of him that only the family gets to see: grumpy pumpy.

The kids are doing great and we hear more laughing and singing than before. My girl has calmed down and shows her sweet side (mostly to me because my husband can't control his frustration over small things) and the cats have calmed us and brought us all together in the nicest way. My girl made it back onto the C team and now has basketball 6 days a week. It's a good outlet for her and she seems to be back with many friends she couldn't see when she was "demoted" earlier in the semester.

We got a tutor for the boy and he's very happy about that, so we can hope his grades will improve so that grade 6 won't be too much of a challenge next year. He is motivated by the thought of an iPod -- that will come after we see his next report card. The last one showed that although he does his homework, he was below the class average.

My boy has occasional burst of identity issue stuff and it comes out in requests for more cats, a younger brother (to be specific, for us to "exchange" my girl for a little boy), or more tech. We try to recognize it for it is. He is coming to adolescence and will start wondering more and more about where he comes from. Sometimes, I find him staring at me and I wonder if he's thinking. "Who is this strange foreign lady and why is she taking care of me?" etc.

This weekend is busy for all of us. Early tomorrow morning, the boys are going out of town for a soccer tournament, the girl has basketball all weekend and is staying at a friend's tomorrow night, and I'm off to Kanagawa tomorrow afternoon to present at a conference Sunday morning, then right back home. Monday is a holiday -- if my girl has no plan, will try to think of something fun we can do together.

How fabulous to just feel normal!