Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Home 3 Weeks!

Today marks exactly 3 weeks since we brought our girls home! I so want to keep track of all the little and big things going on around here! Over the next few days I will try to journal out some updates…

Let me start with an update on Jasara. This little lady is intent on observing and then imitating anyone, anything, and whatever is said! As I watch her, I see SO MANY of her movements as being the product of her observing the women in Ghana day in and day out. I see it in how she wrings out the wash cloth in the bath tub, and then how she places the wash cloth flat over her hand, dabs on soap and scrubs the water Barbie. I see it in how she will randomly break out into pretend play - holding an imaginary jar of lotion in one hand, taking her index finger and dipping it into the imaginary lotion, dabbing the imaginary lotion on Jake’s face in different spots, and then taking both her hands and rubbing the imaginary lotion in! I see it in how she takes a plastic knife and cuts her food up ever so intricately as she surely observed Ghanaian women do as they prepared food. I see it in the way she dances with her hands and fingers held flat and cutting through the air in different movements, right along with the beat. She and Jennifer will randomly break out into Ghanaian songs and Jasara will clap a very structured beat while they both sing out the words – Jasara repeating each lyric after Jennifer. I see it in how when she gets mad at Jennifer or Jayla she will stand there literally hollering at them, shaking her finger with raised eyebrows and pursed lips, just like you would picture an old African lady rebuking a child. Then she will chase after them to pretend like she is going to hit them so they run away. It is HILARIOUS and the girls eventually burst out into giggles because of her antics! (They really do this in Ghana. Adults usually have a stick which they wave in the air to chase misbehaving children away). It is amazing to me how much culture is already engrained in a little 2 year old! I caught a small peek of this 'culture' on video as she was preparing some food in her play kitchen the other day. I do not do any of the things you see her doing in this video – like tapping the bottom of the spice jar, and taste-testing with the spoon. She learned all of this by watching the women in Ghana….

I SO hope to get more of these culture moments on video....even this video only shows such a small peek of what we see in Jasara every day.  These glimpses of culture coming through her personality literally happen ‘in the moment’ and it’s hard to get to my camera before the moment is over. I like to just sit and watch it all unfold. :)

Another piece of culture - both the girls prefer to carry items on their heads. I caught the tail end of Jasara doing this the other morning as she was playing in the bathroom…

Jasara is also EXTREMELY interactive! She constantly needs human interaction! I was telling a few people this last week that there is no possible way that you could not form a healthy attachment to this child! She forces the attachment! If she’s trying to get your attention she will literally come over to you and tilt her face in front of yours so that you give her eye contact! If I counted, I would reach over 75 ‘Ma’s!’ a day easily. She is constantly hollering for me, “Ma!!!!” until I answer – ‘yes?’ and then she’ll gabber something and giggle. She herself initiates games of peek-a-boo, and playing with our faces, and tipping upside down in our arms, and her ever favorite game of repeating sounds and words. She even starts tickling games by saying “tickle-tickle-tickle” and clawing her fingers in the air and waiting for us to come tickle her! She loves to sit on our laps and make imaginary food and pretend to feed us or bathe us. Last night at dance class she gave me at least a 10 minute 'bath' with an ice pack as the other moms watched and giggled.  She didn't miss one spot - not even my arm pits!  When we are riding in the car and I am in the passenger seat she will say “Ma!” about every 10 seconds. She just wants me to turn around and look at her and then she’ll maybe do a dance move in her car seat, start playing peek-a-boo, or show me pages of a book. Sometimes she just wants me to reach back and hold her hand. :)  Here’s a clip of some of our fun in the car:

Over the last week we have seen Jasara smile and laugh and giggle more than ever! In the first few weeks she was always angry about something, sad, or serious with a few bursts of play mixed in between. Now she is just a constant bubble of excitement and interaction! In the first 2 weeks for nap and bed time I would have to lay with Jasara until she fell asleep. Just heading into her room for nap and bed time would make her start crying. When I laid her down she would roll around and around trying to get comfortable, pull at her eyelashes, scratch the covers, rub her eyes, and even cover her mouth to try and muffle her cry –I’ve wondered if maybe she was taught to do this in the orphanage setting. She and Jennifer also constantly wipe their tears off the second they roll onto their cheeks. As I’ve written about before, Jasara likes to have her index finger rubbed as it calms and soothes her for whatever reason. If I even tried to leave the room while she was still awake she would get so agitated and would start scream-crying. Just this week I noticed her kind of ‘dinking around’ when I would lay her down. She had become happy and peaceful before going to sleep – not upset. So, I decided it was time to leave the room while she was still awake to see if she would fall asleep on her own……and she did and has been doing so for 1 week now! In addition, I’m also able to read her a book before bed and she LOVES it! She lays perfectly still and listens and focuses on the pictures. Just 3 weeks ago she had no idea what to do when I put a book in front of her – now she really enjoys it!

I’ve also seen Jasara start sucking her thumb!!!!! This usually is not allowed in Ghana because of hygiene reasons. In fact, there is a very strict rule in Ghana that you eat with your right hand and – to be blunt – you wipe with your left. Your left hand is not allowed to touch your food (but can hold silverware that touches it) or really go anywhere close to your mouth since you use it in the bathroom process. This helps to prevent the spread of disease and sickness (hand soap is not prevalent in Ghana). Well, Jasara has been sucking her left thumb. The first time I saw her do this it was when we were in the car on our way to a tournament. She was getting ready to fall asleep and I saw her start sucking on her fingers – then she went soley to her thumb. As I was looking back at her, I could tell that she was testing what my response would be. Her eyes asked me, “Is this ok?” I once observed a little girl at an orphanage get rebuked and her hand slapped when she tried to pick up some food with her left hand. Ghanaians take this very seriously, so I am positive that Jasara has not been allowed to do this before – and I am sure she has tried. I also know this is why she was so particular when she first came home about having a knife and a spoon/fork when she ate. She would put one utensil in each hand and use the knife to scoop food onto the fork/spoon so that her hands never touched the food. This is a 2 year old!!!!! At first I would give her a plastic knife (cause she would freak out if she didn’t have a knife) but over the past few weeks I’ve replaced the knife with a fork.

As far as food goes, the girls are doing pretty well with the adjustment. Jasara will try just about anything, Jennifer is much pickier. Both the girls LOVE yogurt and yogurt drinks, which I find so interesting because Justice was not keen on anything dairy when he first came! They are also quickly leaving the days of rice behind. I served it on their plate for dinner one night and neither of them TOUCHED it. They still love and ask for chicken prepared in any way or form: chicken nuggets, rotisserie, grilled, fried, breaded – you name it they’ll eat it. They also still love tilapia which I just get in the freezer section and bake. Hot dogs are a huge hit as they have something similar in Ghana which they call ‘sausage’. Jennifer also loves mac n’ cheese. For dinner they’ve eaten roast, scalloped potatoes and ham, and cavatini. Jennifer didn’t like chili which was surprising to me since many Ghanaian soups are tomato based. Jasara ate it. This week they’ll get to try beef and noodles, tacos and spaghetti. Jennifer also doesn’t like pizza yet at all. Jasara eats it. :) 

The main lingering thing that we are still seeing from the girls’ past is this underlying fear that they are not going to get food. At lunchtime I usually head into the kitchen to start preparing food about 25 minutes before we need to eat. Like clock-work, each time Jasara follows me into the kitchen and starts crying for food the minute I start preparing it. As she watches me open the fridge, cook on the stove, and pull things out of the pantry she knows that food is coming and the fear starts creeping in – that she won’t get any, that I won’t know that she’s hungry, etc. If Jake is home he’ll usually hold her on his lap to distract her during food preparation. But oftentimes I just have to let her cry and roll around on the kitchen floor as I keep telling her, “Mommy knows you’re hungry. You will get to eat.” Every once in awhile I cave in and give her a piece of bread or a yogurt drink to pacify her until the meal is ready. But I only do that randomly because I don’t want to comfort her fear with food. But I do want her to learn that she can consistently trust us to identify and meet her physical needs.

Jennifer also shows this fear. One night we had JJ’s basketball game in Waukee (a good 50 minutes from our house) at 5pm. I brought the girls a cracker snack to eat at the game, since 5:30pm is our normal dinner time and I knew we wouldn’t be getting back home for dinner until at least 6:45pm. They ate the snack and did fine at the game. Then, on the way home Jennifer said, “Mommy, my stomach….” At first I thought maybe she was going to be sick. Justice’s stomach often got upset when he first came home just because of adjusting to the new foods and different types of protein. But when I asked her if she was going to throw up (and yes, I did the gesture) she shook her head no. Then the tears started. They were these sort of whining/begging tears……not necessarily tears of pain, but more so I could tell that she wanted me to know that she was hungry. I realized that since the girls had come into our family, for the most part I have fed them meals ahead of their hunger. What she was feeling was a hungry tummy that she likely hadn’t felt since she’d been in Ghana. And she wanted us all to know it. She wailed and wailed in the car, the entire 45 minutes home, in a way that I can only describe as an irritable, stubborn whine. As a mom, I’ve learned to recognize the different cries of my children – and this was not one of being sad but of being mad! The boys were asking what was wrong and why girls cry so much! Jasara also does a sympathy cry for Jennifer when she cries, so Jasara was making her best effort to also match Jennifer’s cry which was slightly humorous and yet sad at the same time. You could tell this exact scene had played out many times before. I told Jennifer that we would eat dinner once we got home, but this made her cry all the louder. So, I decided to shut up. But somewhere in that mix I got mad! I got mad because we were all hungry, but the rest of us weren’t pouting about it. And, when we got home I blew it. I was not sympathetic nor compassionate towards Jennifer. I was frustrated at what on the surface showed itself as self-centerdness. I was annoyed that we all had to listen to her cry for 45 minutes in the car after repeatedly telling her that she was going to get food once we got home (she understands enough English by now to know what ‘get home and eat’ meant). My heart chose to vent at her rather than shepherd her.

After dinner we did our family Bible study over Numbers 13-14. The theme of the study was seeing how the Israelites grew discouraged and chose to complain instead of trust God. When I picked out the Bible study I was not at all thinking about what had played out before dinner. That was over and done with in my mind. But as we dug into the Word of God, I realized that in my response to Jennifer I had given her ‘dry crumbs’ rather than the ‘bread of life’. In her cycle of worry-to-fear-to-mistrust-to-complaining I had only addressed her complaining...“Stop crying. You will eat.”…“Please stop crying, we are all hungry. The rest of us do not want to hear you pout.” It hit me during Bible study that God had given us the entire hunger scenario so that I would lead Jennifer to Him. To teach her to trust in Him. That He would provide. It was so simple. I have prayed numerous times that Jennifer and Jasara would come to know the Lord. And here God was giving me a chance to teach Jennifer about His character and I didn’t see it because I was so consumed with being annoyed. I could have stopped and prayed with Jennifer right there in the car. We could have pulled over, and I could have prayed and told God that we had faith in Him to provide food for us. That He saw Jennifer’s need and we trusted He would meet it. Oh how that would have instructed her heart!!!! How that would have showed her that her mommy cared! Oh how that would have helped my own heart attitude – instead of trying (and failing) on my own to reach her, I could have spoken truth to my child and then trusted God to do the work in her heart that needed to be done. I could have relied on Him instead of myself.  But I missed my opportunity. Instead, I did what felt better – tried to force an end to the outward evidence of a worrying heart - the crying.  And it didn't work anyways - only made things uglier.  Ugh. I really blew it.

Well, after our Bible study, needless to say my heart was totally convicted. I asked Jennifer to forgive me for my response to her earlier, and I told her that the next time she is hungry, we will simply trust God that He will give her food (and I resolve to lead her in how to trust). The great thing about God, is that when you don’t learn something the first time around, He will give you a second crack at it….so I know we will get another situation like this again….maybe a few more. Now I just need to choose to respond by the Spirit's leading (harder, more time consuming) than by what my flesh wants to do (easier, feels better, more immediate relief). Oh the tug of war!

More updating to come later this week………..


Sara said...

Thank you for being so transparent in sharing the moment that you blew it and how you responded to it because that showed me that I have been responding to my children through the flesh instead of leading them to trust God (granted my children have never had to go without food and the fear of that and I want you to know that I am not minimizing that). Could you share with me the Bible study that you do as a family. Do you have a specific one or do you just read from the Bible? Just looking for some good ideas. Thanks.

Janel said...

Hi Sara!!!!! Thanks for the encouragement! :) Ok, for our family Bible studies right now we sort of do a collaboration of things. Some nights we do the Homefront weekly handout that our church's kid's ministry sends out each week (and this is what I eluded to in my post). You can go to our church's kid's ministry website at and then on the right side bar you will see a box that says recent news. That is where you will see 'this week's Homefront handout' and you can download it/print it. I have these printed and saved from about 6 months back so I usually just randomly pick one out from my folder. These are SO HANDY and I usually can break the study up and cover the entirety over a few nights. Other times my husband and I will just pick out scripture that relates to something that our family is going through and we talk about it and think of questions or break down the verses step by step. Hope this helps!