I’m putting this out there as a reminder to myself that there is no shame in admitting that you need more help. We’ve been seeing a family therapist for a year now. We saw one therapist for a few months but didn’t feel she was a good fit. We absolutely love the therapist we are seeing now. She’s helping us with parenting issues, adoption issues, and a few other things.

However, my childhood trauma is triggered by my eldest’s extreme behavior. We don’t have time in family therapy to delve into my childhood so it’s not really getting addressed. My husband and I decided it was time for me to ask about a personal therapist as well. Our family therapist agreed it would be a great idea for me to see someone to help with the childhood issues, the anxiety, the depression, and whatever else I’m going through. I reached out to that therapist today. Hopefully she has room in her schedule to see me.

When I was a child, my parents briefly took my brother and I to family therapy. I resented the therapist prodding into our personal lives. I didn’t have a connection with the therapist and saw no reason to spill my feelings to him. As an adult, I didn’t really expect to be at this point in my life, needing both a family therapist and a personal therapist, in addition to medical support from my doctor. But that’s the season of life I’m in. I’m parenting two children with trauma histories and it’s triggering my own trauma. We need help. There’s no shame in seeking help.

Anxiety and depression

This week, I’ve been feeling like I alternate between anxiety and depression. I spend the days anxious about what type of mood my eldest will be in when she gets home from school. I spend my alone time in the evening (about 40 minutes) feeling depressed about how difficult our life is. Our family is not normal and I’ve lost hope that we will ever reach a state of normalcy.

An example of how much we struggle – Today my husband made me a pumpkin mocha. It’s one of my favorite drinks and I really enjoyed it. This evening, my eldest found the mocha cup in the dishwasher and freaked out. She likes making me mochas on Friday evenings and assumed that I wouldn’t want another. A normal, more neurotypical reaction would be to ask if I was going to want another. Our norm is for her to immediately jump to anger mode and scream at me. Or we could have the opposite reaction and she crawls in bed and starts bawling.

So I spend my days wondering what minor thing will tip my child into a rage or a meltdown. I haven’t yet learned how to go with the flow and relax in those times when everything truly is ok. Why? Because it can change in an instant. We could be laughing and talking when all of a sudden she turns on me. And a lot of the time, I have no idea why.

At this point I can’t hope for a normal family life. Instead, I look forward to the day when both of my daughters move out of the house. Then maybe I’ll be able to relax longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Just keeping it real.

Return to posting?

It’s been so long that I don’t even know where to begin. And yet I want to try. I had hoped to blog through our older child adoption in hopes of helping others who are interested in adopting an older child. But our experience has been so difficult that I have not had the energy or time to write. Plus, I struggle with knowing how much to share. I’m very open with my side of our family life but I want to protect my daughter’s privacy.

I have really struggled with parenting. My daughter has a very difficult background and has plenty of scarring to prove it. She does not know how to face life in a healthy way. It’s my job to teach her.

Secondary PTSD? Yup, we’re familiar with it. I now have some of my very own trauma as well. I have been stretched, tested, tried, burned with fire… and am slowly recovering. I will start trying to share some of my story.

MIA but for good reason

It’s been almost two months since I’ve done any regular posting. I just don’t know what to say anymore. Life is HARD here. Teen adoption is definitely not for the faint of heart. Most days I feel like I should be classified as faint of heart… I do want to blog about our experiences but I linked my Facebook account to this blog and feel as if I am violating my daughter’s privacy. Too many people know us in person and I’ve had to request that they be careful not to discuss anything I’ve posted about the challenges of older child adoption. That’s not fair to anyone. I’m not sure what the solution is… stop posting my links on FB? Stop blogging altogether? I haven’t found a solution I’m comfortable with.

Maybe once we’re past this crisis point, I’ll be able to blog about how things went and what we learned. Maybe at that point I won’t feel like I’m betraying my daughter by posting on the internet about her behavior. Maybe for awhile I should just blog about the happy aspects of our lives, though that’s definitely not a true perspective of what’s going on in our house.

Not that I have much time for blogging anyways… life is rough!

Nine weeks home

I know I said I wasn’t going to do any more regular weekly posts but it’s Thursday and I have something to write about. So…

This week we’ve been concentrating on teaching DoubleShot appropriate ways to handle her anger. We showed her that slamming doors is not ok. We gave her a pillow and told her that when she’s mad, she can hit the bed as hard as she wants to. Last night she had a success in this area! She got really mad about being told no more video games for the evening and started kicking a plastic bottle around the living room and down the stairs (all wooden floors here!). I took the bottle away from her and reminded her that if she’s mad, she can use her Mad Pillow. She disappeared downstairs for a couple minutes and then came upstairs carrying the pillow. She beat our couch into submission and then started kicking the pillow around the living room. I was ok with that. Success!!

Of course, this still doesn’t address the reason she is angry or the aftermath once she’s sulking. But at least she’s not slamming doors or pounding on walls or throwing breakables across her room. I am grateful.

DoubleShot likes playing video games with baba in the evening. They usually play for about an hour. He tells her before starting how long they will be playing and what time they will stop. Lately, she’s wanted to play three player Mario so that all of us can play at the same time. It’s fun, but she really stresses about being told she’s only allowed to play for an hour. We had to pause the game briefly for a bathroom break and had this conversation when sitting back down:

DoubleShot: Hey!!!!
Me: Sorry, I had to use the potty.
DS: 10!!
Me: Yes, we are going to bed at 10.
DS: No, play until 10! (It was just after 8 and we were almost done with our hour of play)
Me: We will add five minutes because we took a potty break.
DS: WHY?????

Commence much whining and pouting because we had to pause the game. I was amused because she wasted more time whining about losing time than we took going to the bathroom. When the hour was up, she was angry that we had to stop playing. The video games themselves don’t seem to be the root issue. Some evenings she can stop playing at the time limit with no issues. Other nights she just falls apart. If she and baba play on the weekend during the day, she has no issues stopping at the end of an hour. It seems like it’s triggering something about nighttime – “oh, no, we’re done with this. That means bedtime is approaching.” Cue terror, which is displayed in anger and whining and then shutdown.

I can see hints of progress in her attitude toward bedtime but we still have a long way to go before she stops being terrified.

A highlight of my day yesterday – I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen, scrubbing the floor. DoubleShot comes up behind me and lays across my back.

Me: What are you doing?
DS: Hug!!

This is the first time she’s used the word “hug,” though she’s been giving and receiving hugs for a couple weeks now. But she actually admitted that she wanted a hug! Woohoo!!

A bit sick

Right now I have an upset stomach. Baba just took DoubleShot to the store to get some Sprite, in hopes that a little bubbly will help my stomach calm down. The one thing I hate most in the world is vomiting. In the words of my daughter, “yucky!!”

I think she’s a bit sick as well, though I cannot get her to admit it. I posted on an older child adoption group, asking about children and sickness and whether or not they will ever voluntarily say “I don’t feel good.” Several people responded and said that children in an institution are generally taught not to complain about illness unless it is serious. There are just not enough staff to be able to take care of a child with a minor illness.

I find that incredibly sad. I know my daughter is not feeling 100%. She’s lethargic, just wants to watch tv or read a book, lost most of her appetite, and is running warm. Yet if I ask her if she’s feeling badly, she shakes her head. I told her that if she’s sick, I will take care of her. Still she wouldn’t admit to feeling badly.

It breaks my heart to think of what life is like for children with no family. To not even be able to say, “I don’t feel good.” How do you train that instinct out of a child in the first place? And how do you convince them it’s ok to be vulnerable with the people who love you?

Eight weeks home!

This will be my last weekly post. I’ve really enjoyed writing them but I feel as if I procrastinate on blog posts because I think “this should be something I write about on Thursday!” And then I don’t post all week because I want to save thoughts for Thursdays. So I’m just going to post as inspiration strikes, rather than on a specific day.

This week had some really high moments and some really low ones. I learned something about myself. We had a day of back to back to back meltdowns. DoubleShot was struggling with being told no, as we don’t tell her no very often. She wants things her way all the time and sometimes we have to tell her no. When the meltdowns are frequent, I really struggle to want to be connected with her. We are following Heather Forbes’ and TBRI principles, which teach that it’s important to look at the why behind a child’s behavior and to focus on connection before correction.

When DoubleShot stomps around the house and slams doors, I am taken back to my little girl self. I am afraid of violence. DoubleShot is not violent against us or our cat, but she slams doors to make a point. My husband and I have already decided that if the door slamming continues, we will have to remove all of the bedroom doors. It’s not safe for her to keep slamming them. And quite honestly, it scares me. My fears are not about her at all but they take me back to my childhood when I remember cowering in fear. That is something I need to address. I have a book called Parenting From the Inside Out, which is supposed to help parents deal with their own triggers so that they can move forward and help their children. Now that I’m finished with my last library book, I’m going to concentrate on this parenting book and see if it will help me so that I can follow DoubleShot when she’s stomping around the house, rather than shutting down myself.

So that was my key parenting insight for the week, realizing I have some very specific personal work to do so that I can better help DoubleShot.

We’ve also had a number of really amazing moments this week. My daughter is now giving me hugs. Frequently! She craves that full body contact of leaning against me with my arms around her and her arms around me. It’s hard to cook dinner when she keeps coming back for more attention, but it’s so important to try to fill her love tank!

This afternoon I told her that I was going for a walk. She threw her arms around me and yelled, “No!!!!” That was sweet! Normally she waves and says “bye bye!!” To actually be wanted is heart warming.

Her English is still coming along quite rapidly. I am really impressed with how many new words and phrases she’s using. It seems like everyday she’s coming up with something new. I don’t always recognize what she says, as my ear is listening for Chinese. Sometimes it doesn’t register that she’s trying to say something in English. This was our conversation when we went out to pick up the mail after my walk:

DoubleShot: “Running!”
Me: “I went for a walk.”
DS: “Running!”
Me: “No, a walk.”
DS: “It’s raining!”
Me: “OH! You said it’s raining! Yes, yes it is!”

Laughter all around.

DoubleShot and Baba playing on his phone at the bank:


DoubleShot filming me while I take pictures of her:


Playing with Bruno!


She climbed in the box and wanted me to pull her around the room. She screamed in laughter. It was hilarious seeing how much enjoyment she got out such a simple activity.


Side note – this is my shirt she’s wearing! She keeps telling me that I am stinky and yet she steals my clothes when I’m not looking. She wanders around the house wearing my sweatshirt or my jacket. Last night she raided my closet and asked if she could have this shirt. She’s a good 60 pounds lighter than I am so I never expected she’d be wearing my clothes! And yes, it is too big for her but she doesn’t care!

Overall I think we’re doing really well. Yes, we still have challenges every single day. I’m not sure we’ve had an easy day yet. We’re still adjusting to life as a family of three. DoubleShot is still learning her place in the family. We are still working on a daily routine. But she is making magnificent progress and I can’t wait to see how she keeps blossoming. I am thrilled that she’s my daughter!


Changes – they are a’coming. We’re about to make some really big changes and I’m a bit apprehensive. It’s quite likely things will get harder for awhile but I’m hoping that life will settle down into a routine.

First change – schedule.

My husband and I have not had a schedule for years. He works from home and in the IT field. His hours are extremely unpredictable. Just this weekend, he worked all night Saturday night, took a nap on Sunday morning, and then worked all day Sunday. He and I are used to it but DoubleShot is really struggling.

Another mom emailed me and offered some advice. She suggested that I may have to be the backbone of our family in that our schedule will revolve around me. I will set waking up times and bedtimes and meal times. If my husband can join DoubleShot and I, great! If not, she and I will continue as planned. That way DoubleShot has a routine that she can count on.

Right now, DoubleShot and my husband and I are all floundering. DoubleShot has a semi-consistent wake up time, though it’s creeped back to 10AM. We’ve been letting her sleep in because bedtime is so rough. Unfortunately, I think this is enabling bedtime to be rough because going to bed at 10PM after waking at 10AM is a really short day. So we’re going start getting her up much earlier. Hopefully she’ll be worn out by the end of the day and actually go to bed at 10 instead of causing delay after delay so that we’re finally getting lights out at midnight. My husband and I get up between 7 and 8 each morning and while he can survive on seven hours of sleep per night, I cannot. My body requires 9-10 hours of sleep and I haven’t gotten that much in quite some time.

I also have to work on a daytime schedule, picking set mealtimes. I’ve really struggled with this because not everyone has the same appetite. If I’m not hungry at lunch, should I force myself to eat, skip the meal entirely, or push it back an hour? What about DoubleShot? If she’s not hungry when it comes time to eat, then what? I don’t want to force her to eat, but I’m also not a short order cook. I don’t want to make lunch for my husband and I, only to cook again an hour or two later. We don’t have a microwave, so it’s not like I can just pop something in to reheat when she’s ready.

I’m also going to make a list of activities that DoubleShot can do. We’re doing fairly well with limiting electronics now, though we need to make some changes there as well. That’s another story for another post, but things are going better now than they used to be. She’s ok with being told she can play computer games for half an hour. So I need a list of what other things she can choose from – reading, crafts, etc.

Worked into the schedule, Mama needs some time to clean the house on a regular basis. We do not have assigned chores yet, though DoubleShot will voluntarily jump in and clean with us sometimes. On Friday, she scrubbed our shower so well that it’s cleaner than it’s been since the day we moved in. I was really impressed! She likes to help me in the kitchen and is getting really good at making fried eggs. I need to pull her into the kitchen work more so that we can spend some productive time side by side.

The whole idea of a schedule is new to me as I haven’t had one in years. I’m sure we’ll go through several different schedules before finding one that works for all three of us. But I want to try. DoubleShot needs some consistency. I need my sanity.

Seven weeks home

Last night was a really hard one. Overall we had a really good day. We had lots of fun preparing for Baba’s birthday, as DoubleShot and I are making him something. DoubleShot and Baba were able to connect while playing DoubleShot’s current favorite video game – Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. But when it was time for bed, DoubleShot started telling me that she’s not tired and that she’s bored. I know both are untrue, but she believes it’s the truth.

DoubleShot has recently started telling me (in Chinese), “I am bored. What can I do?” To try to head off the complaints of boredom, I took her into her room and started offering her suggestions. “You can lie down with us. You can stay in your room. Here is a brand new drawing pad and some charcoal pencils. Here is a dress up doll. Here is a sticker book. Here are some library books to read. It is your choice what you do.”

She stayed in her room playing quietly for about an hour. I was so happy and so tired. Just when I was about to fall into a really deep sleep, DoubleShot came into the room and shook me awake. She was ready to crawl into bed with me but had brought her nightlight and the sketch pad with her. I told her that she couldn’t bring the nightlight. She asked why and I explained it was too bright. I have sensitive eyes and if there is light in our room at night, I will wake up in the morning with swollen and extremely light sensitive eyes. She took the nightlight back to her room and tucked the sketch pad under my pillow.

Several minutes later, she was poking me and asking me if I am hungry. This is her code for “I am hungry but not able to tell you!” We rolled out of bed and gave her an apple. This satisfied her so we went back to bed.

While we were upstairs, we had an interesting conversation that may have shed a little light on our nighttime issues. DoubleShot informed us that it is 1AM and thus time to get up. We told her that no, it’s 1AM and thus time to be asleep. She insisted that at 5AM in Taiwan, it was time to get up. Yes, but dear, you sleep until 10AM most days here. She didn’t believe me!! I have a feeling my darling daughter has no sense of time on a clock or time of day. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to her.

Once we went back downstairs, she laid in bed but was so anxious. There was nothing I could do to calm her. I rubbed her back, held her, and whispered back when she was asking me questions. Once she finally decided that it was time to allow herself to sleep, she passed out in only seconds. Now it’s almost 9AM and she’s sleeping deeply.

There are so many minor issues during our day that we could address – her eating habits, lack of schedule, sleeping (or lack thereof!), and a host of other small things that I can’t think of at the moment. I’m exhausted! I don’t want to change her personality or character. I just know that there are things that we could do that would make her life and ours easier and more pleasant. There are just so many things to choose from that it’s hard to decide where to start.

The sleeping issue is definitely one of the most important things that we want to address. She needs more sleep and we need more sleep. She can sleep in but I have a hard time sleeping past eight and Baba works at eight. So she’s sleeping and we’re dragging ourselves through the morning. Some nights she goes to bed just fine and other nights she is so wound up that we are up for hours trying to comfort her.

What caused yesterday’s lack of sleep? It could have been the small amount of caffeine she drunk shortly before bed (we didn’t realize she was trying to finish off her boba tea from earlier). It could have been that we were working on preparations for Baba’s birthday (a very emotional thing for her, I’m sure). It could be that she’s having nightmares at night. It could be that something happened to her at night in Taiwan that’s scarred her and made nighttime terrifying. It could be that she just does not understand when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake.

This is something Jeff and I will have to keep discussing and keep searching for a solution. I don’t want nighttime to be terrifying for DoubleShot. I want her to sleep deeply and awake the next morning feeling refreshed. I’m just not sure how to help her feel safe every night. As I said above, there are nights where she crawls into bed with me, curls up holding my hand, and passes out. And then there are nights where no one sleeps.

Emotional growth

On Sunday night, the back of DoubleShot’s head met with my nose. For a minute, I thought my nose was broken because it hurt so badly. I allowed myself to cry about it in front of my daughter to show that it’s ok to cry. She told me she was sorry and we went to bed.

Yesterday, my head felt really weird. My nose was swollen and my sinuses felt really off. I also realized that I DID end up with a bloody nose the night before but it hadn’t bled enough for me to actually realize it. Lovely! My first bloody nose. I probably shouldn’t be tickled about it, but for some reason I find it funny.

By last night, I was exhausted. Parenting takes most of my energy and to physically not feel good on top of it meant that I was just wiped out. I discovered that my daughter was very concerned about my welfare!

“Are you ok?”
“Are you sure?”
“It hurts a little.”

She would caress my face and tell me, “it’s ok, Bruno.” (When she’s trying to connect, she calls me by our cat’s name, since “mama” is still too personal.)

I think we had this dialog three or four times last night. I’ll admit to milking the situation slightly because it’s such a relief to have her trying to take care of me instead of testing to see if I still love her.

Over the past week or so, she’s turned “I hate you” into a game. It’s yet another way she can dialog with me without risking emotional pain.

DS – “Are you having fun?”
Me – “Yes!”
DS – “Why?”
Me – “Because I love you!”
DS – “But I hate you!”
Me – “But I love you!”
DS – “Yucky! Really, really yucky!”
Me – “But I really, really, really love you!”
DS – “But I really, really, really hate you!”

This conversation takes place amongst many giggles. I changed the script slightly to see what would happen.

DS – “Are you having fun?”
Me – “Yes!”
DS – “Why?”
Me – “Because I love you!”
DS – “But I hate you!”
Me – “Are you sure?”
DS – “…”

She understands the question “are you sure?” and cannot tell me that she’s sure that she hates me. We’ve also asked her why she says she hates us and her response is “I don’t know.” I don’t press the situation, just go back to our bantering dialog. I really do think she’s hungry for me to tell her that I love her and asks for this affirmation as best she can.

We’re also working toward hugs! Sunday she stood next to me with her arm around my back and my arm around her shoulder. We patted each other’s back for a minute before she went her merry way. Yesterday was something similar, though no back patting, just her leaning into me. I expect at some point she’ll actually let me put both arms around her without pulling away and yelling “yucky!!”.

I’m amazed at the emotional growth she’s showing, even though we had a really bad night in the middle of all of this. DoubleShot wants to be loved. She craves it. She just doesn’t know how to express it or ask for it without letting her defenses down. I see a loving, caring child desperate for attachment buried deep inside of her and she is very slowly opening her heart.