You all want to know where I got these dresses. They were made especially for my girls by a sweet friend. She is currently not selling her creations, but if that changes...I will certainly let you know. It was such a sweet gift!
Ok...ready for part 2! I'm going to try to answer all the questions about the girls and adoption in this post.
Here's the first one:
I've been wondering...clearly your boys are crazy about their little sisters, but are there ever any jealousy issues? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of having kids so far apart in age?
I can honestly say there have been no jealously issues between the boys and girls. With Wesleigh, they all fell madly in love with her from the first minute. They have always loved to sit with her and play with her, and she loves them just as much. Gracie has shaken things up a bit. She has brought the "crazy" in my house to an all time high. She loves to play with the boys...but I don't think she really loves them yet. They love her, but it's not the same yet. It'll get there.
I love the advantages and disadvantages part of this question because I think there are definitely both. I'll list the ones I can think of:
*The boys are old enough to really grasp the concept of adoption and what we have done.
*The boys are old enough to really help with the work. They can babysit, feed kids, take out the trash, etc.
*The boys are old enough to understand why the girls get so much attention.
*When the boys are out of high school, the girls will only be in jr. high! I choose to believe this will keep us young...not make us feel old :)
*Having older kids and toddlers makes it hard to participate in the older kids' activities. I am not near as involved in their school, sports, etc. as I was before Wesleigh.
*I find it hard to concentrate on the boys' homework or what they need for school because there are always "littles" running circles around me.
*I find that I'm more dependant on other parents to give my kids rides places than I'd like to be. I really enjoyed being the parent that was always there.
*The boys tend to retreat upstairs these days because Dora is always on the tv downstairs and things are so loud and crazy. I'm missing my boys right now :(
Overall, for our family, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I do try to purposefully counteract some of the negatives. We try to take advantage of every minute with the boys. We make a point of taking them places one on one as much as possible so we can try to connect with them and make sure we know what's going on with them. Honestly, I am terrified they will feel like I'm too busy for them.
Is she getting used to American food yet?
We're getting there. She is getting much better. I will say...I've had my fill of Chinese food! I still use grapes as bribes for food that she struggles with. I have noticed that she turns her nose up at food, even if she likes it. She likes chicken, but tonight I had to really push her to eat it. She even refuses to eat some kinds of Chinese noodles. I have gotten more creative also. For lunch the other day, they ate ramen noodles and edemame. I figure that's probably better than the chicken nuggets and fries I fed my boys all the time! I have also found the manderin orange cups are a huge hits as well as sunflower seeds. I've just had to think out of the box. The biggest help has been that I discovered they both like fruity cheerios :) I give them those for breakfast with a banana most school mornings.
How is the bonding/attachment going with an older child who has a virtual twin - any tips?
Hmmm....I think the bonding is going well with the two girls. Wesleigh has seemed to accept the fact that Gracie is here to stay and they are always together. There are lots of sharing issues...more than if they had been raised together, but I think they'll get better about that. Tips? I don't know that I have any. I have just tried to get through each day and use the best discernment I can. I try to make sure that I am fair in my discipline to both girls. I have prayed for creative ideas of how to get the desired behaviors from them. I'll let you know when those come raining down :)
Does Gracie speak to Wesleigh in Mandarin and does Wesleigh remember any Mandarin? Is there any way for Gracie to maintain her Mandarin?
Gracie does talk in Chinese (her Changsha dialect). Wesleigh doesn't seem to recognize any of it, but she has picked some up. So...I have Wesleigh speaking her form of English (her speach isn't great) and also speaking a small amount of Chinese and then I have Gracie speaking Chinese and also copying Wesleigh's form of English and my English. Who the heck knows what anyone is saying anymore?????!!! I could put Gracie in Chinese classes, but she really doesn't speak Mandarin, so it wouldn't be like she was with Sam.
Since Gracie is older, does she tell you a lot about her life in China - does she have any friends from before that she is able to keep in touch with?
Gracie can barely say some basic English words, so there have not been any conversations like that. There is a friend who was adopted before her that we will try to connect with.
Gracie looks so happy and integrated - did she go through a lot of grieving - do you have tips on how to integrate an older child so well?
I don't know that I would say I've done anything "well". I have tried to do the best I can, and have mainly used instinct and other moms' experiences to help. Gracie did not grieve with me. It is possible she grieved her foster mom when she was brought back to the orphanage. Because of that, I find it's harder to read her than it was to read Wesleigh. Wesleigh went through such a transformation. Gracie has been pretty mch the same from day 1. Honestly, this makes me a little nervous. I have had lots of you tell me your girls were the same way and they are attached just fine, so I am believing it will be the same for Gracie. Honestly, she is the one who has made it easy. She just jumped right in there...amazing!
We are traveling this fall to bring home our 3 year old. If you could give us one piece of advice about ANYTHING...what would it be???
Oh, Lordy...I think it would just be to relax. I was so stressed and anxious with Wesleigh (just like a first time mom). With Gracie, I was able to relax more and put fewer expectations on both of us. Every child is so different. There is no way to really prepare or plan. Also remember that 3 is still young. It's funny to me to hear Gracie referred to as an "older child". Gracie happens to be very mature and advanced for a 3 year old. In fact, more than Wesleigh in many ways. Know that when you adopt a 3 yr. old, you can still really be getting a baby, especially if they're in an orphanage.
Do each of the girls have a "favorite" brother...one they tend to go to if all 3 of them are in the room? If so, what is it about that brother that makes him the chosen one?
Well, Cade would definitely refer to himself as the "chosen one" if given the chance! They actually will take any brother they can get. They won't fight over the same one unless he is doing something special. They will go to another one. All 3 boys are good about playing with them at different times, so there isn't really one that gives and gets the most attention.
*Do you and Richard plan on revisiting the girls birth places when they are older?
I am planning to go back when the girls are older with a few other adoptive moms. I don't think Richard is invited on that trip :) It is actually something I'm really looking forward to!
*After following a few adoption blogs I have noticed that some AP's get bombarded with really prying and rude questions by absolute strangers while in public places? Have you had any of these occurrences? If so, how have you handled it?
I really haven't had anyone say anything ugly or rude. Before Gracie came home, the questions revolved around the fact that Wesleigh is Chinese and I am white. The questions were "Is her daddy Chinese?" or "Is she adopted?". Honestly, it was mostly the Chinese daddy one :) Since Gracie has been home, the one question I get is "Are they twins?". I don't know if people assume they're not adopted because there are 2 of them or if the twin question just trumps. I haven't perfected this answer yet. Once I answered, "No, they're 2 months apart" and then got the response "Oh...so they're not even sisters". That is an unacceptable response to me so now I am not offering the "2 months apart". I just respond "No, just sisters". People are surprised, but most of the time I'm able to keep walking or just nod and move on. If anyone has any tips on that...I would love them!
*If you could change one thing about international adoption, what would it be?
It would be to make the timeframe consistant. There is no reason each step should have such a wide timeframe to be complete. It should take X weeks to get your LOA/TA/etc...for everyone!! And it should go in line. If you start before me, you should finish before me.
I know that you mentioned that you first saw Gracie on a certain blog. How hard was it to access her file? More specifically, do certain agencies only get certain files or can they access a child's if you request it?
This could be a very long answer, but I'm going to give the short version. Doing what we did with Gracie is very difficult. Because she was not released yet, I had to wait until her file hit the shared list. It was a miracle that the timing worked out as it did. Some files are assigned to a specific agency. To see these files, you have to go through that agency. However, if you are requesting the file of a child on the shared list, any agency can get that.
Does one act more like the older sister? Are you glad they share a room?
Gracie has such a strong personality that I was afraid she was going to completely overshadow Wesleigh. But...because Wesleigh is the one who knows the language and knows the routines, Gracie has had to depend on her to lead the way. Wesleigh has kind of taken her under her wing. I think it's a very good thing. Wesleigh is 2 months older, and I think she will keep her "older sister" status. Yes, I am glad they share a room. Sometimes they wake each other up and that's not great, but for the most part, it's been good. I think Wesleigh being in there has really helped Gracie, and I think Gracie being in there has helped Wesleigh also. I am no longer having to lay down with anyone!!! Whoo Hoo!!
I'm keep wondering about Gracie's foster parents. Did you get to meet them? Do you have pictures of them for her?
No, we did not meet her foster parents. That would have made for a very rough transition. I have lots of pictures of Gracie with her foster mother.
Are you growing out Gracie's bangs?
Yes, but she does not like hair in her face, so we will see how it goes. It's really only a few, so it shouldn't be too bad. French braids help with that too.
I have a little girl who just turned 3 and it is a struggle to get her to let me do anything with her hair. Could you please tell me how you get your girls to let you do their hair? Any advice would be very much appreciated!!! :-)
The best thing I ever did was to put a barstool in my bathroom. My bathroom is a good size, so I can move it far enough from the counter that they can't reach anything. There's nothing they can do but sit there. It's still not easy all the time, but I'm pretty stubborn about it. We won't go until their hair is done :) If I can see that it's a lost cause or we're running late, though, it's just a quick pony.
You seem to have great skin. What is your skincare regimen?
Lucky Mama...you are very sweet. I was blessed with good skin genes :) I use two products: a cheap Oil of Olay cleanser and an Oil of Olay moisturizer...Not much to write about. I use Bare Minerals foundation too.
There...everything answered except the question about Gracie's language. I'll do that one next.