Red Thread

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break." ~ Ancient Chinese Beli
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Healing can not be rushed....

"Mamma....why didn't Foster Mama want to keep me?  Why didn't China Mama want to keep me?" I could answer the first question easily.  I am able to explain how the foster system is set up and from the beginning it is known that it will not be forever.  Foster families are in place temporarily while children wait for a forever family.  But the second question that immediately followed,  this is the questions that I have been dreading.  I knew it would come one day ,and I know it will come again, but I still was not prepared.

Breathe.

On October 11 we will celebrate 4 amazing years as a family of four.  In some ways it seems like forever and in other ways it seems like it has whizzed by.  The 4 years have not been easy.  We have been on an emotional roller coaster but as we look back we recognize that we are in such a good place.  Regardless of where we sit on the attachment wheel,  we are connected as a family and the love between us all is intense.  The truth is that there will likely always be work to do but isn't that always the case in life?

We can now go for weeks at a time with out a set back or an issue that we need to slowly work through.  And when set backs occur we can handle it because we have been there so many times before.  Nothing is fast with Lu.  She is very slow and steady....that is how she likes it.  When she gets into a funk it is a long and dreadful wait as she works through it.  We have grown to accept that everything is in her own time.  As it should be.  Her life changed in a blink of an eye so if she needs time to heal a wound or work through an upset I get that.  Time was taken from her with out her ever asking for it and she ticks differently as a result.

If you are wondering about my response to the question it was this...."We do not have an answer to your question about China Mama but I feel quite certain that you were loved because you were given life.  For some reason unknown to us, your birth parents could not care for you. Lulu, we do not have answers for all of the questions that come up about your birth parents but you should still ask them.  We can sit and we can wonder together. If you want to get angry or upset, it is okay.  We are here for you."  You see, we strongly believe that we can not and should not say more than that.  The honest truth is that we do not know.  It is not up to us to make assumptions and lead her thinking in a certain way.  We do not have the right to do that and if we do it could come back to haunt us one day.

A year after Lu joined our family I got working on her Life Book. This is a book written by me for her about her story.  We are honest with the fact that we know little but there is still quite a bit of information in the book about the history of China, culture, traditions etc.  Writing the book was very therapeutic for me.  I thought that by doing so I would face all the skeletons in the closet so to speak.  Deal with the "issues" before they came into our daily conversation.  I was wrong.  It helped at the time but I can not say that it actually prepared me for the emotional set back I would have when Lu asked me the question.  I lied there in bed with her crying silent tears.  I hurt for her.  I hurt for her birth parents.  I hurt for foster mama.  I hurt for us as we so desperately want to help her to get a place of acceptance and understanding.  Especially Elle, she overheard the question and came into Lu's room.  She sat lovingly next to her sister and did her best to explain in her words that we do not have the answers but we will always lovingly help her through the tough times.  Lu was not accepting of this.  She told us she did not want to talk about it anymore.  Elle felt sad and helpless....as she has so many times over the past 4 years.  My heart broke for both my girls.

We are all ok.  We will move forward.  It is progress because Lu is talking.  And that is not always the easiest thing for her to do.  When she shuts down, she shuts down completely and does not udder a sound.  This is different.  She is aware of our Family Day Anniversary coming up.  She is aware of what it means to all of us.  We know that she loves us even if she still has difficulty telling us or  showing us.  She does in her own way.  We still do not get a lot of physical touch from Lu...she keeps us at a distance unless she is in the right place.  We do however get more smiles and more giggles....all of this helps with attachment. This is what we focus on.  The hard times are.....hard.  The nights continue to be a struggle.  Change continues to be difficult but we know what we need to do.  We need to keep loving Lu with all of our hearts.  We need to keep things simple and predictable as often as we can.  We need to be open and honest.  We need to be patient. We need to accept that things will happen and progress in her time...not ours.  And we need to embrace the surprise and glory when Lu defies all odds and does the unexpected....as she did this summer at her cousin's wedding.  The bride was certainly shining that day but so were the flower girls...both of them....and this we did not expect.



Our focus going forward will be living day by day.  Smiling more, loving more and letting go of the anxious feelings or emotions that creep in.  It does not mean that we do not acknowledge the upsets but we do not dwell on them.  We need to keep moving.  Lu has a tendency to be negative.  We are doing our best to think positive thoughts as a family....to "feed the positive dog" and to move forward together.

Healing can not be rushed but it can be guided with love.

xo p.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Emotional Visit to Hong Kong

Every year for the past 3 years, Elle has the same wish for her birthday.  She wants to go back to HK to visit her best friend.  Being an expat kid comes with lots of highs but one of the lows is leaving and saying good bye to good friends.  In saying that, we do what we need to do to keep friendships alive.  Thankfully it is a relatively short plane ride between HK and Singapore....and we have lots of frequent flyer miles that are always looking to be spent.

This year Lulu joined the bandwagon and she said that she also wanted to go.  She only lived in HK with us for 6 months so she does not have much of a memory and has been curious about what all the fuss is about.  Remember, her big sister (and idol) raves about how great HK is and how much she misses it.

So without a lot of thought we made the decision to go.  I would fly with the girls and P would meet us there as he would be working in PH the previous week.  Elle was over the moon with the anticipation of not only seeing her very best gf but another good friend who had moved away from HK a number of years ago but had recently moved back.  We also decided that we would take the girls out of school one day so we could hit Disney during the week rather than combat the crowds on the weekend.  This was going to be a surprise but did not turn out to be so exciting.

The flight was smooth.  This was a joy because Lulu is typically a bit anxious on airplanes.  I actually got to watch an entire movie (highly recommend Philomenia....beautiful!). Thankfully travel is getting a bit easier for Lulu and she now understands the concept of a holiday.  She accepts that an airplane ride is just a means of transportation rather than a journey to a new beginning, as it was the first time she stepped foot on a plane.

The moment we walked off the plane Lulu began to voice concerns about whether we would be able to find "Papi".  There was nothing that Elle or I could say that could calm her.  She was worried beyond belief and this worry quickly turned into resentment towards her father.  Even once we found P it did not help because she had already switched mode.  We took a taxi out to Disney and although Elle jumped with a bit of joy, Lulu could care less that Minnie and Mickey were at every turn.  "Why are we here and when can we go home?".

It is suffice to say that the weekend went from bad to worse as Lulu continued to become more anxious and eventually became undone.  She really struggled with the vast number of Chinese people that surrounded her at every turn.  There were many many Mainland Chinese tour groups at the park and this did not go well for Lulu.  We had lots of stares, people pointing at us and moving into our personal space.  I had a hard time with it so I can only imagine how it made Lulu feel.  We definitely blend in more in Singapore.  Lu became so uncomfortable that her anxiety turned to aggression and she wanted nothing to do with us.  She tried to run from us (which freaked Elle out bc she was so worried that her sister would get lost in the crowd) and cried, moaned and groaned.  Every so often a smile would appear but then it would quickly vanish.

It is suffice to say that the weekend did not go as planned.  We cancelled all the plans we had made with friends and even ended up leaving Disney early as it just was not fair to Lulu....nor to Elle.  Clearly we had underestimated what it would be like for Lulu to go back to Hong Kong.  The 6 months we lived there together as a family were difficult.  These 6 months were filled with grief as she mourned the loss of foster mama and what she left behind.  She was scarred and non-verbal at that time so she did not even have word to describe what she was feeling.  

We believe that being in Hong Kong triggered something for Lulu. There was something that she saw, heard or smelled that brought back a flood of memories....if even just the emotions that surrounded the memories.  She reverted back to a frightened, timid, angry and insecure child.  She questioned what we had done and why we did it in terms of her adoption.  She talked about foster mama and expressed anger about why she would let her go.

All we could do was follow Lulu's lead.  She did not want to be cuddled or soothed.  Everything went back to needing to be on her terms.  She wanted control and we had to give it to her.  As hard as the weekend was for us all, we do believe that it was a part of Lulu's healing that needed to happen.  There are things that she has started to process and other thoughts/emotions that she has not even tapped into yet.  It is all a part of her journey.  I am just thankful that we are her forever family and that we have the opportunity to be with her as she deals it all.

Coming back to Singapore brought Lulu much relief and some joy but she is still working out of her rut.  The spark in her eye is spotted occasionally but she is lost in thought a lot and wanting to be left alone.  We respect her need to process it on her own but also remind her that we are here for a cuddle and to chat when she needs it.  Thankfully her Life Book is complete and something that she can turn to when she chooses.  It does not answer any of the questions that she might have but it does paint a picture of what we know and shows that she did have a life before we became a family and that we recognize this important fact.  

I am thrilled to find some photos from the weekend with a bit of a smile on Lulu's face....at times she really wanted to enjoy it all but then became quickly overwhelmed.

Remembering the good times.....


Breakfast with Mickey
It took a while but Tinker Bell finally got Lulu to join her.


No words needed :)
Have not seen each other in 4 years!
A visit from Yaya at our hotel.  It was an emotional morning but in the end Lulu came to understand that it is only because we moved to Singapore that we do not see Yaya daily anymore.  Elle coerced Lu to join the photo by letting her hug her American Girl Doll...it worked!

So...we are still doing the dance....many steps forward and a few steps back.  We have been here before and I have not doubt in my mind that we will come out of this stronger as individuals and as a family.

xx p.

Christmas in Singapore

For the first time in a very long time we made the decision to celebrate Christmas at home.  We missed being with the extended family but it was extra special being just the four of us.  We had long lazy days in and around the condo (including a holiday party for the kids at the pool), enjoyed some of our favorite places on the island and had friends around to celebrate News Years with too.

Childrens Christmas Party Poolside

Arts and Crafts
Cookie decorating
Good friends - and boy will we miss you!
Games


And a visit from St. Nick! 
Christmas Eve
Mrs. Claus' Helper

Christmas morning


Gardens by the Bay on Christmas Day













New Years Celebration with good friends!





Hoping 2014 is being good to all!!

Fun Memories made in Boracay

Living on this side of the world gives us easy access to some pretty amazing holiday destinations.  In October we had a get away to the island of Boracay in the Philippines.  I started this post months ago but.....fun to look back on now!

Boracay is a tropical island that has some beautiful white pristine beaches.  We were there in the rainy season so the seas were rough a few days but it finally settled so we got to see and swim in the gorgeous calm blue waters.

This was our second visit to Boracay.  We were last there five years ago while we were living in Hong Kong.  Sadly we noticed a big change from our last visit.  What I - and many others - once thought to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world is not so true anymore.  It is still beautiful but there is so much unregulated development taking place that it is hard to imagine that this is a good thing, as many consider it to be.  Who is benefitting?  Sure people are getting jobs but are they being paid fairly?  There is sand erosian (the fine powdery sand being what made Boracay so special in its day), coastal pollution and the beautiful beaches and vegetation are vanishing ever so quickly.  Boracay really is not what it used to be.

Having said all of that, we still managed to enjoy our stay.  Best of all we did so with our very dear friends....former neighbors and besties in Hong Kong.  We could have been anywhere and still had a great time.  We also had the luxury of staying at the Shangri La.  One of our perks of Patrick's frequent travels are the points we get to use from his stays.  This is a big upgrade to the typical accommodation we stay in.  And with the Shangri La taking their corporate responsibility very seriously we knew we were staying in a resort that is very eco friendly and engages in a "caring for the community" campaign with a local school.

We love the Philippines and with P's regular travel there for work we will most certainly be back again but will look forward to exploring some other areas beyond Boracay.

Changi Intl Airport ready for departure
Boracay is known for its beautiful sunsets 

The fours stooges after hair braiding on the beach
The hotel maintains a beautiful beach
Papi and 2 of his favorite girls


Besties forever
Family friends forever!