Monday, January 28, 2013

Brand New Year

Can't believe its almost the end of January!  Where does the time go?  Our holidays were awesome, spent lots of time with family and friends.  Right after the holidays we went to Vermont.  Sadly, Taishauna decided not to come and she was really missed, but the boys had a blast.  They both snowboard really well and decided to try skiing.  And of course they both did great!  Nick had such a good time skiing with them.  We also went tubing, built a sled (and won the race!) went ice-skating and swimming!  They even got me up on the slopes.  Once.  Well, twice, but I don't think the second time counted!  We are going back at the beginning of March to do it all again! I'll post pics soon.

I don't think we will be able to go next year as the boys will be in school.  I know, I can't believe they are going to school.  I am sure it is the right decision, but I still have pangs of sadness.  They have such a wonderful relationship now, I am afraid they are going to go off in different directions once they start school.  Part of me wants to work really hard on school work to make sure they are ready and part of me wants to squeeze in all the fun we can while we have the chance!

A very big part of our lives now has been spending time with Amanda, Andrew, Aiden and Austin.  Andrew is my nephew, for those of you who don't know, and Amanda is his wife.  Amanda is in desperate need of a kidney.  You can read more about her here.  We had a huge fundraiser for her last October, right before Sandy.  And then she got the news they found her a match!!!!  And then the donor pulled out. :(  It all happened so fast and was so unbelievably disappointing.  So now they are just getting through the days as best they can.  Sammy and Johnley have gotten close to Aiden and Austin, who adore them.  So we've been trying to see them and help them as much as we can.

My life is about to get very busy.  I am teaching Our Whole Lives at church, which I am very excited about.  I am also re-joining the Religious Education Committee, which I have felt lost without.  In addition, I am one of two who are responsible for the Elementary Programming for the African Caribbean Heritage Camp that we go to every year in CO.  And lastly, I am trying to figure out how to help with the hurricane relief work.  We had done some volunteer work with an organization here, but I kind of lost faith in it.  I am trying to figure out where my strengths can be best used.

Ah, its so nice to get back to this.  I've missed it. :)

And look at these gems I came across...

Aren't they fantastic?

Good Night.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

From best to worst.

We are under DYFS investigation.  They came here last Tuesday because they had to see the boys.  They actually checked to make sure we had food and they had clothes.  This is what we've come to.  We were foster parents, approved by DYFS, and the adoption agency used to have us come up and talk to parents that were in the process of adoption.  Our counselor used to call us adoption super-heroes!

And now they are afraid we aren't feeding the boys.  Because Avena didn't like us.  Avena didn't want to talk to us.  That is the only thing that happened.  Avena didn't like us.  DYFS initially came out to 'offer more help for Avena'.  Their idea of more help was to get us to agree to family counseling.  Which we did.  Which never happened.

Then Taishauna wrote Avena a letter and told her how angry she was and how she wished we never adopted her.

DYFS was horrified!  Really?  A teenager writing a hateful letter?  Yeah, I'm sure that hardly ever happens.  So they removed Avena from the home.  Now, mind you, we have been trying to get that done for 6 months.  But now theres a catch.  We have to pay child support till she graduates.  Which could be 3 more years.  Whatever, totally worth it.

The day she left they called and said, "Okay, counseling is available!"  WTF???

I said no, they said yes, so now we have to get family counseling.  They have to make sure the kids aren't traumatized by her leaving.

So to recap:

  • Avena comes here and is miserable.
  • We try EVERYTHING we know how to help her for 2 years.
  • She gets pissed cuz I take her phone and threatens suicide.
  • Karen (from the outpatient program) wants us to get family counseling to work it out.  
  • We agree on the condition that we see Avena make some effort.
  • She makes NONE.
  • Karen insists we call Perform Care for counseling.  We say no.
  • Karen convinces me to let her call DYFS so they can remove her from the home.
  • DYFS says they can't do that.
  • But now DYFS is involved.
  • DYFS asks us to call Perform Care.  We agree.
  • Karen knows we only said yes cuz we thought we had to.  She implores us to call DYFS and tell them the truth so they can remove Avena.
  • We do and DYFS threatens us with court.  We agree to call Perform Care. (Does Karen have ANY idea how to do her job?)
  • DYFS calls out of the blue and says they are going to remove Avena from the home.  The need a team meeting.
  • We go to meeting and discuss Avena's needs and goals.  (it's always about Avena's needs)
  • They agree to move her, will call tomorrow.
  • Four days later, they call and say they changed their minds.
  • They send out an 'adolescent worker', Steve, who asks us to agree to counseling.  We agree.
  • We get a letter from Perform Care that they won't take Avena cuz she is already in a program.  WTF?
  • Another month passes and another visit from Steve.
  • Taishauna writes a letter to Avena.
  • They remove Avena from the home.
  • We get a call that counseling is now available, we decline. (Don't need it now, right?)
  • DYFS insists on therapy.  We agree.
  • DYFS is concerned about the boys.  We are under DYFS investigation.

Now I will admit, I have glossed over the letter. It was really awful.  But it was still from a teenager.

The only other question that pops up is WHY wouldn't you want family counseling?  Wouldn't that have maybe fixed everything?  And at least appeased them?

Short answer, yes.  Had I been able to see the future, and known it would turn out like this, I most definitely would have agreed to family counseling.

The reasons that I didn't want it, (and no-one ever asked), include the fact that we as a family had already tried so hard with Avena.  I had asked Taishauna to start again and try over a million times, only to get hurt again.  Taishauna was really struggling.  I felt I just couldn't ask her to try again, to just forget about all the bullshit that Avena had pulled, unless I knew that Avena wanted it, that she would actually change her behavior and make some attempt of her own.  Otherwise, it would be for nothing and Taishauna would be that much more hurt.  That applies to myself, too.  I was so stressed, so angry at Avena.  This was all because she didn't want to talk to us.

And I tried to imagine therapy with the family.  Avena would say look pitiful, say she knew it was all her fault, say she would try to act differently, and nothing would change.  She did it again and again with the outpatient therapist.  We would set up exactly what Avena should do and she would agree to it and then do none of it.  And the therapist would make excuses for her.  It would be our fault that she didn't do it, she was scared, she didn't understand.  The list went on and on.  I wasn't putting Taishauna through that.  The first time I did.  After we had a meeting and decided what Avena should do differently, I had a talk with Taishauna.  And she agreed.  Try again.  She canceled all her plans for the weekend and made herself available.  And Avena never said a word to her.  She waited until Taishauna was out of the room before saying anything.  And Taishauna was in tears by 6pm.  I was done.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'm back.....

So...much time has passed.  Avena is no longer living with us, and the emotions that statement conjures up varies from anger to relief to confusion and back to anger.  Enough time hasn't passed to look at it all objectively, but I am going to try.  I really think I need to write about this.  And I really want to get back to blogging.  I stopped while Avena was here because I didn't have anything nice to say, but maybe that was a mistake.  I may have been able to process much better and truth be told, this blog has become a scrapbook about my kids, and now I'm two years behind.

Part of me wants to process, part of me wants to explain, and part of me wants to be exonerated.  The short story is 'Avena chose not to be a part of our family and DYFS has found her another place to live.'  But of course it is not as simple as that.

Obviously, when we brought Avena home, we intended for her to be a permanent part of our family.  We proceeded to try and integrate her into the family as best we could.  I should state here that we were woefully misinformed about her.  We were told that she had completed school up to eighth grade and was doing well, when in truth she couldn't read or write at even a first grade level in her native language.  We were told that she spoke and understood English and was learning French.  She spoke no English.  We were not told that she was severely depressed and was into self harm.  I'm not even sure today that she wanted to come here, but we were told she did.  This may have not been all the agency's fault.  Avena has a way of fooling people, and she certainly says what she thinks you want to hear, but I do think we were intentionally misled to a degree.  Which really makes me angry.  As if the goal is just to get a kid adopted, the agency can put a tick in the win column, and to hell with the long term consequences.

While we are on the subject of the agency, they followed up for six months, which is the law, and we have heard from then one time since then.  Nick let them know when she was hospitalized and asked if there was any other information that might help us.  They said sorry, no.  Then the case worker emailed and asked if there was anything she could do.  I was too angry at the time to respond, so I didn't.  And we haven't heard from them since.  It has been 7 months.  So I think its safe to say that once the child gets here, and their initial follow-up is done, it is 'out of sight, out of mind'.

(I think it is also safe to say that this post is going to be all over the map!)

Things were difficult  right from the start, as you would expect with a 'new' addition that is 15.  It was awkward, of course, and the language barrier didn't help.  It was kind of a bizarre homecoming, as we had a blizzard soon after she arrived.  Nick had taken the week off, so it was a vacation all around.  Soon after we tried to get into the groove of normal life things didn't go well.  Avena was fine as long as she could watch TV to her hearts content, but once we explained that she had to start working on other things, and that the TV couldn't be on all day while we were doing school work, she balked.

She was set up with an iPod and a computer in her room.  We bought a software program for her to learn English and enrolled her in an adult English-learning type program.  But often instead of working on that she would be watching videos.  Or sleeping.  She wanted to sleep all day.  About a week after she arrived Sammy got a stomach virus.  That night we woke up to Avena sitting in the hall, holding her stomach and wailing.  I mean wailing.  Nick thought she had a stomach ache, tried to find out what was wrong with hand signals, to no avail.  The wailing went on for TWO days.  We thought it was cramps, (she was always holding her stomach) and we tried everything we knew to figure it out.  Offered her medicine, a hot bath, etc.  All were rejected.  We finally got a friend that speaks Haitian to talk to her on the phone and she said she needed tylenol.  Really?  We showed her the medicine cabinet and the choices many times and she always shook her head no.

When she first arrived (for about the first two weeks) she followed Taishauna around like a puppy dog. It was really kind of sweet.  We made sure we included her in everything we did.  Showed her the ropes of how we do stuff.  Tried to explain all the time what we were doing and why.  Soon after that, though, the relationship with Taishauna disinegrated.  I'm not sure of the time frame of things, I wish I had kept a journal of exactly what was happening but...  I know she went to the prom in April or May and it was already getting bad. We went shopping for dresses with friends, and I remember the friend telling her that her behavior was bordering on rude:  she walked behind us, had her arms crossed in front of her, sat a little away from us and wouldn't talk.

Everyone tried.  My friends tried, my family tried.  Everyone at church tried.  She made it hard.  She didn't want to do anything.  For the first few months we would go get her to eat, to go outside and play, to watch TV with us.  It was like everyday was her first day here.  By this time we realized she understood the English language quite well, but when it was convenient she pretended she didn't.  That kind of stuff gets old really fast.  I can't tell you how many times she would be sleeping during the day and I would tell her she had to get up.  And tell her again.  and again.  She would either act like she couldn't hear me or just ignore me.  She started saying that she didn't feel good.  Not anything specific, just didn't feel good.  I finally told her she had to get up anyway.

I could see the signs of depression, but I didn't feel like I could take her to a therapist until she could speak English better.  But I tried to teach her all the coping skills to feel better: eating right, taking a walk, being productive.  Being productive.  I tried to encourage her to do something, anything.  Work on the computer, try to read, color, do crafts, go outside.  She would finally get out of her bed and go sit in the dark living room by herself.  and do nothing.  Very frustrating.

Nick started bringing her to a church in Asbury that has a strong Haitian community, thinking that she needed to talk to someone in her own language.  She refused to talk to any of them.  Nick started teaching Sunday School at our church so he could be in class with her.  She refused to talk to anyone.

She told us in May? that she wanted to attend high school, so we signed her up.  She really liked it.  But she would come home and go to sleep.  So of course she had trouble getting up in the morning.  Ah, the morning.  Nick would wake her up before he left for work.  It usually took 5 or 6 attempts.  All we heard in the morning, "come on Avena, you have to get up".  "Avena, you HAVE to get up now."  And on and on.  Finally the following October, after school had started up again and we had to go through this all over again, I told Nick to get her an alarm clock.  I figured she wanted to go to school so she would have to get up.  And it worked.  She got up as soon as the alarm went off.

I started to see a pattern.  As long as she could push the responsibility on someone else, she didn't shoulder it.  But if she had to, she could.  There weren't many things she cared about tho.  I knew she liked school so I tried to make her responsible for her homework.  If she needed help we would guide her but make her do the work.  She didn't like that so she would say never mind.  I figured she would suffer the consequences in school.  But it turns out, she never did.  Because she was classified, she didn't have to do anything and she would pass.

So back to Taishauna.  They quickly stopped talking to each other.  Taishauna would swear that whenever she came into a room, Avena would leave.  I thought she was exaggerating.  We would sit them down together and talk to them about being sisters and having to work it out.  It would be good for a few days and then fall apart.  So now I have two teenagers (alien creatures) living in the house.  I didn't know if Avena's behavior was because she was a teenager, because she was depressed, because she was angry, or what.

And Taishauna was acting out.  In hindsight, I can't imagine how hard it must have been for her.  She was so looking forward to having a sister.  She went WAY out of her comfort zone to try to make Avena feel welcome and connect with her.  But now she has this girl living in her house, with her family, that won't stay in the same room with her.  She and I started to fight.  I was angry all the time.  I was just so damn frustrated.  Of all the scenarios I imagined, I NEVER imagined someone coming here and having zero self-motivation.  Avena just didn't want to do anything.

Nick and I started to fight.  He had said right from the beginning that he felt called to do this and God would provide.  Same kind of bullshit my mother used to say.  So I would ask him, "Has your God said anything to you lately?  Any clue what we're supposed to do?!!" That always went over well :)

Meanwhile I have two young boys.  And Johnley is still Johnley.  The stress level just kept getting higher and higher.  This went on for about 18 months.  We tried everything we could to connect with Avena and help her, and she just refused.  She was fine in school, she seemed to like it and came home everyday with a smile.  And then she would shut down.  At one point we found a therapist but of course she wouldn't talk to him.  She said she was fine, she just doesn't want to talk.  After a few months, he told Nick there was nothing he could do.  She still can't read (and yet she is getting A's and B's in school).  We tried to teach her.  I know how, I taught the boys, but she would just sit there.  She would mumble, she would put her head in her hands, or she would just stare.  So of course we gave up.

We tried everything.  We tried asking her what she wanted: "I don't know.  I want to be a part of the family...."  We tried having her talk to other people.  Like I said, we went to the Haitian church, we took her to therapy, she joined the soccer team (and would talk to Taishauna when she called and said "Can you pick me up, please?" and then nothing).  Nothing.  She seemed fine as long as she wasn't around us.  With us she sat with her back to us or in her room.  I tried consequences.  If you don't want to be part of the family, you don't get the privileges.  She didn't care.

And it wasn't just that she didn't want to be part of the family.  She was hostile.  This house was like a time bomb.  I could go on and on.  We always took family bike rides.  When she got here she refused to try and learn, so we stopped going as a family.  We couldn't just go and leave her alone, that would be mean.  She went to church with us every week and sat next to Taishauna in the car not saying a word.  But we couldn't just leave her home, that would be mean.  And on and on.  She got an iTouch for Christmas, because its Christmas.  But now she has something else to ignore us with.  She already had a phone, Taishauna bought her one soon after she got here.  She would talk animatedly on the phone and the hang up and not say a word.

It was exhausting.  I know I am all over the place and not explaining myself well, but....

She would wait till Taishauna wasn't around and then play with the boys.  She would wait till I wasn't around and then ask Nick for something.  She would approach Johnley and try to get him to play with her and not Sammy.  She would sit at the table and we would all say what we were thankful for and she would say she couldn't think of anything.  Oh and the clothes.  She refused to follow our rules about wardrobe.  And we don't ask much.  We don't want to see your bra or underwear, or your crotch.  You cannot wear tights two sizes too small with a short shirt.  You cannot wear a shirt that is too small and shows everything.

We went shopping.  She didn't want clothes that fit, she wanted clothes that were inappropriate.  And would get very angry if we said no.  She made sure she went food shopping with Nick every week and would pick out the junk food she wanted.  And you don't know what to do.  Of course you are going to buy the snacks, for God's sake, she's gone without so much.  But her eating is so bad, shouldn't we be setting good examples, trying to teach her.  We wouldn't let the other kids eat like that, but how can we say no?  And she was VERY good at manipulating the situation to her advantage.

And on and on...

It got worse and worse and finally completely broken.  We gave up.  We told her she we tried everything and nothing worked.  That we were done.  We wouldn't try and get her out of her room anymore.  She was 17 at this point and could make her own decisions.  If she didn't want to talk to us, we wouldn't talk.  We were done.  And she seemed fine with that.  She came out of her room if she wanted to and stayed in if she wanted to.  She would come out of her room very pleased with herself and get something to eat.  Say hi if she felt like it, nothing if she didn't.

Of course we weren't fine.  We were all at our breaking point.  Even the boys reacted to the stress.  Our home, our lives were a mess.  She seemed perfectly content.  One day I was passing her room and she was happily chatting on the phone.  When she hung up I asked her for her phone.  When she gave it to me I put it in my pocket and said she didn't need a phone, that I would keep it.

Two days later she pulled out a business card from her former therapist and called him and told him she couldn't live like this anymore.  He took that as a suicide threat and called us and told us to take her to the ER.  Biggest mistake I ever made.  That's when Karen and DYFS entered my life.

And that's a tale for another day...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Been a long time...

Wow! It's been over a year! That sucks! I have definitely noticed a pattern with adoptions and blogs, though. People blog like crazy in the time leading up to the adoption and immediately after, and then...nothing. That's because it is really HARD having a stranger come live with you. And the older they are, the harder it is! No matter how prepared you are, and how you THINK you are anticipating it without rose-colored still imagine it to be easy, doable, fun. Its not.

Part of the problem is that we don't take into account the actual person we are adopting. We imagine this blank slate, this someone just waiting to be filled with our ideas, traditions, love. But what we forget is that these kids come already full. They have a whole life full of ideas, traditions, tastes, etc. And they don't necessarily mesh with yours. Having an almost grown woman come and live with you is especially difficult, cuz we all know how well women get along when they live together!

On any given day I can tell you that Avena is doing great. She is progressing in school, participating in the family more, smiling more, learning to read, etc. On that same day I can admit that she is learning NOTHING in school, they are just moving her along, that participating in the family more means she said hello today and when she was reading with Nick last night she had her head in her arm on the counter and only mumbled the words. It all in your perception.

The fact of the matter is: it takes a LONG time to adjust. We have had to adjust to a new person in the family; she has had to adjust to having a family, a new country, a new language, a new religion and much more.

i can tell you that we are making progress. Most days it is one step forward, two steps back, but progress none-the-less.

When Avena first got here (and during her first year) we tried a lot of different tactics. We took her to a Haitian church hoping that she would feel more comfortable, but it became obvious that it wasn't just the language that kept her from talking, she was so used to not talking at all anyway. We tried getting her counseling, but again, not interested in talking. So for now we are just letting her be and that seems to be working. We have worked out most of the kinks of living together (house rules, and now it is like she just got here and we are getting to know one another.

Avena has come to us after 15 years of hardship, so she has issues. One by one, and eventually, we will work those out, and our whole family will be better for it.

Coming up next....whats been going on with the rest of us in the meantime!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


M: Nick, maybe you should take the kids on a train ride today, while I am out shopping with the girls.

S: We are going on a train???!!! (runs to the kitchen) Johnley, we are going on a train!

S: (back with me) Can you go on the train with us?

M: If you want me to go, we will have to do it tomorrow, but thats okay, cuz we can do it to celebrate your birthday.

S: Wait, is this a real train?

M: No, it is a train at Allaire State Park.

S: Then I want to go today.

M: Why?

S: Because it is a park.

M: and you don't need me to go with you?

S: No, I thought it was a real train. I would be scared. I would think that Daddy was a bad guy and he was taking us to his secret lab to turn us into bad guys!


S:Do you remember when I thought you were a giant lizard and I wouldn't cuddle with you?

Gee, a little too much TV, perhaps?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

kudos to the govt.

This isn't something you hear very often, but the govt. needs to be commended. I'm sitting here watching Anderson Cooper in Haiti, and I realized that just 3 weeks after the earthquake, Avena was flown to America. This happened because of the governments of both countries. For all the red tape and govt. corruption you hear about (and know about!) it took a multitude of agencies from both governments to make this happen.
Our government decided to give humanitarian visas to all kids that were in process of adoption before the earthquake. They set up a registration protocol and my adoption agency, Holt International (Awesome agency!) submitted all the paperwork in the proper format. Pulled some all nighters. Once the paper work was approved by our government, it went to Haiti. (not sure of the details here). Monsour Masse, who runs the Holt Fontana Village, walked the paperwork to the Hiatian Embassy. It was submitted on Thursday, 1/28/10. It was completed on Monday, 2/1/10. How often does that happen? This includes the Haitian government visually seeing each and every kid before they get on the plane. Then travel arrangements were made with the military, and the kids were transported to Miami.

At that point, US Immigration had to process each child's paperwork at the airport. The kids are then relocated to a group home, where they are fed, washed, loved and played with - say what you want about social services - they stepped up. While the kids are sleeping the agency in charge of refugee status worked through the night to process their paperwork, the goal being all the kids done by 5pm, cuz then another plane load comes in. All this while dealing with children who don't speak english and are traumatized, and adoptive parents from all over the country who are traumatized!

So many people, in both countries, worked nonstop for the care and safety of these children. And to think it took days, rather than the normal years it takes. Amazing.

I also need to tell a story here...
There was an orphanage in Haiti, not sure if they suffered damage from the earthquake or not, that had 17 American parents fly down to help with the children. The orphanage director, 17 parents, and 39 children stayed at the Haitian Embassy for five days. (I may have some of the details messed up here, but the numbers are close if not accurate.) So finally they get their papers approved. The director, the 17 parents and 39 children get their travel papers. No wait. 1 eight year old boy's paperwork isn't complete. Everyone else has travel papers. And they have to go. This 1 boy has to stay. His two sibling are going. The orphanage director is going. Everyone else is going. And they do. They leave. He is left at the Embassy. The marines take him under their wing. They do not let him out of their site. They take him by the hand and take him where ever they go. Until his paperwork goes through and he comes to Miami with our kids. And he is king of the plane cuz he is with the marines - the only kid allowed to walk around! And he is immediately united with his adoptive parents and the paperwork is done at the door! He went home that very night!

Tear jerker, right?

I am crying as I am typing.

But that is a touching story about someone who is being taken care of right now. Someone who made it out and will be okay. Think of all the kids and parents who are living in the tent cities in Haiti. Just saw that 95% of all displaced persons do not have access to latrines.


We woke up Tuesday and started getting ready to go to Good Sports. Everyone was up and making noise, and Avena was still in bed. This was odd because she is usually one of the first ones up. I went in her room and called her, but her head was under her blanket. She was sleeping on top of her quilt, just under her blanket. Where I thought she was getting up and making her bed right away, she has been sleeping on top of her quilt!
I wondered if I should even bring her to good sports. She seemed so miserable by the end of ice skating on Monday, I felt so bad about doing that to her again. Taishauna and Avena had plans to go shopping with Teri after Good sports so we stopped at Teri's house on the way to see if she wanted to go early, but she couldn't. So on to Good Sports it was.
Avena did not want to eat breakfast. She has been eating less and less since she has been here. We get to Good Sports and she immediately jumped in and started running around. She participated in every sport and she was good! Everyone kept coming up to us and telling us how good she was.
We left Good Sports and hurried home to eat before Teri came, and Avena did not want to eat. I figured it was okay since Teri would probably take them out to eat and maybe she could find something she liked.
The boys and I ate quickly and then met Joe at the Howell hill for sledding. We ran into some homeschoolers there and the boys had a blast. They tried their new friend's snowboard and did really well!
When we got home we found out that Teri had to cut the shopping trip early, she didn't feel well. They were able to fit the shopping in, but not lunch. Taishauna said when they got home, she offered Avena everything she could think of, but Avena refused everything and reached for the chips.
So by 5pm all she had eaten was chips. We had dinner shortly thereafter, our version of Surf Tacos chicken tender tacos. But all she ate was a little bit of chicken.
She was very excited about what she got while out shopping tho, a shirt, a necklace, a bracelet and a ring. She was very happy!
So all in all, it was a good day. She went to the food store with Nick last night and he picked up some food she pointed to, so we will see how that goes.
It looks like we will a be snow bound today and maybe even tomorrow, so we won't have to be running around, it should be nice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

first few days

Sugar and TV. That is what Roxanne advised me to give Johnley when he first came.

And it turns out it works especially well for teenagers!

Avena has spent alot of time the past few days watching TV. She loves the Disney channel. She laughs out loud at all the physical comedy, so loud that the rest of the house cracks up!

She is a very picky eater, but loves sugar. She doesn't like steak, rice, apples, oranges, potatoes, ravioli, spahgetti...except when she does! But she likes cookies, cupcakes, candy and chips of all shapes and sizes.

So she fits right in here at this house, because we can't sit down to a meal without most of the kids saying, eeeewwww, what is that????. Nick said Avena saw a picture of mashed potatoes and indicated that she liked it, so we made it for dinner. She took one little taste and made a face and shook her head. I told Nick that she is probably just saying yes cuz she doesn't understand him!

She is very, very quiet. She has a little of that teenage pouty thing going on, but mostly she is happy and smiling.

We took her to skating with us today. Again, Nick thought she said she wanted to try so he got her skates. Guess what? She took one look at those skates and said no way! She met about 10000 people today, including Joe and Dina and the kids. She was just a little overwhelmed, but she was a good sport about it. We exchanged valentines with the homeschoolers today and she was a REALLY good sport about that! Talk about culture shock! Everyone was so wonderful and welcoming. It was really great.

So far it is going well. She seems very comfortable around the house, anxious to help with dishes or laundry. She knows where everything is that she needs. She really seems to like hanging with Taishauna, so they have been playing games and doing crafts. Avena is very shy, and self-concious, but I guess anyone in her situation would be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Okay, so we paint the bedrooms. We move Taishauna into hers. We haven't moved the boys into theirs yet. I wake up Monday morning and decide to try and hang wallpaper border instead of putting my house back together...cuz that makes sense, right? That afternoon the boys and I go over to Jeaneans to finalize our lesson plans for our first day of co-op. I get a call at 3:45 from the adoption agency. Wants to know if I got the email saying I had to fly to Miami the next day to pick up Avena. WHAT??

Seriously, I didn't hear another word she said! I pack up the kids, go to Surf Taco to pick up Taishauna, go home. Yeah, sure, I can be ready by tomorrow morning!

Call Joe and tell him I am dropping the kids off at 6:15. And he and Dina say, "of course, no problem, don't worry about a thing." It's like a dream to have someone in your life like that....Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Spend the night (until 2:30) putting the house back together, packing for me and the kids, getting the stuff for the co-op together so Jeanean can pick it up and running to the store to buy things for Avena.

Really we thought we had a few more days. The papers were dropped off at the Haitian embassy on Thursday. In what universe would they be ready for travel on Monday!

Anyway, we hop on a plane to Miami Tuesday morning. We are told that the children are coming in Monday evening and we will have to work with the refugee representative at the airport. We go to the hotel first to check in (and in full disclosure I had to color my hair!) We get emails and phone calls...we don't know when the flight is coming in, we don't know where the flight is coming in!, the airport people won't talk to anyone until the plane is in-route, etc.

At 3:00 we decide to go to the mall to pick up more stuff for Avena and get something to eat. We take a taxi, shop a little, order pizza and sit down to eat. I get a phone call. The plane has left, it will land at 6:20, the kids will be taken to a group home, get over there now so we can be ready to take them home!!!


Call a taxi, hook up with another family from the hotel and ride the 15 miles to the group home.

By now my emotions and stress levels are so crazy that my body does not even know how to deal.

Oh, wait. The kids won't get here till after midnight. You won't see them tonight, we will try to process them tomorrow, but we can't make any promises.

We go back to the hotel. Nick goes to rent a car. The next morning we take our time because they won't let us see the kids till 10. We meet a lot of other families and head over to the home. As we walk in they are calling our name! Avena's paperwork is processed! Come with us to meet her. Well, actually, come with us so we can show you where to wait!

Finally, the kids start coming in. Talk about crazy and emotional. We are all in a hallway. The kids don't speak english, the families don't really speak creole, and everyone is stressed out to the max! Lots and lots of tears. Avena walked in and her face lit up when she saw us. We hugged and kissed and took pictures and smiled alot!

We had to hang around another hour or two to get the completed paperwork. Avena is the strongest bravest girl I know. She helped take care of all the kids on the plane and at the home. She was the oldest by far, and all the families were counting on her to help calm their kids down and translate for them! She just smiled and smiled.

We agree to stay over another night so all the kids can see each other at the hotel and get some kind of closure. We go back to the hotel with Avena and turn on the disney channel. She watches it all afternoon and laughs and laughs! Her laugh is infectious. We get with the other families, talk, take pictures, and go get something to eat.

Lisa, who is from the Holt and traveled with the kids from Haiti, comes to our room to visit. We get a phone number for a girl that was adopted from the village two years ago and we call her. Avena talks to her for a long time in creole. Her name is Katiana and she is so excited! She gets me on the phone and is just bubbling over with excitement. Wants me to set up an email account for Avena as soon as we get home.

We settle down, get some sleep and head home on Thursday. The flight and the trips to and from the airport are long. I am sure Avena is scared, nervous and exhausted, but she puts on a brave face. She accepts the freitos from the food tray on the plane, but hands Nick the turkey sandwich. He hands her his bag of freitos!

We get home and everyone is very excited. We all hug and introduce Avena. The boys act shy at first. We show Avena her room and let her get settled. I got an email from Katianas mom. She tells me to call if I need anything. She explains how the first weeks are fantastic and awkward all at the same time! Avena follows Taishauna around at first. We spend the afternoon trying to get their room straightened out and put stuff away.

Yesterday we spent the day running around. Taishauna worked and we went shopping for all the stuff Avena needs. Last night I took Taishauna and Avena to a youth group meeting at the UUCMC. It seemed to go well. Avena laughed alot, but she is so tired.

Today we woke up to snow. A lot of snow. The boys started to bundle up to go out and so did Avena! I got her all bundled and she went out and had a snow ball fight with Sammy. Then came in and passed out on the couch!

I am going to try and post alot now so I have a record of her first days. I don't think I did it enough with Johnley.