Today marks one month since we've had the twins. And what a huge month it's been for our little family. It really has been a lot like having another newborn (or two) around in a lot of ways. It's been a transition. A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of tears. But also a lot of tender moments. A lot of growth. A lot of giggles. A lot of love.
It's been interesting to me to look back at the adjustment from week to week.
Week 1 - It consisted of a lot of inconsolable sobbing and Rick and I looking at each other like what in the heck are we supposed to do? The first few days it was eery because it was silent sobbing. Tears rolling down their cheeks but no sound other than gasping for air. Then it transitioned into typical toddler sobbing. Then, especially for Lily, it transitioned into what I'll refer to as trauma tantrums. Crying to the point of desperation where she began pulling her hair, slapping her face, pulling out her eyelashes, and flailing and rolling around. It was awful to see them in that much pain. Two scared and confused girls who definitely had their guards UP.
They had no schedule and were terrified of their beds, so in order to get them to sleep we either drove around in the van or I sat on the couch with them while they sobbed in my arms. They were extremely fearful of Rick as well as our dogs. They bonded with me but were so scared that I was going to leave them. Even just seeing me put on my shoes would trigger hysterical crying. It was an exhausting week but the hardest part was feeling helpless. They were grieving and there was nothing we could do to make it better. We also had limited information as to their background and living situation that they were coming from, so it was hard trying to guess what might cause them fear or trigger tears. I took them to the doctor for their required well-visit exam and it was traumatizing for them. More strange faces all up in their personal space...and holding them down for blood work and shots definitely didn't help with the trust issues either.
The kids interacted very well. I'm thankful the twins had our two to play with and distract them from their loss. They were still very timid and just went with the flow of whatever Harrison and Harper wanted to do. And H&H were thrilled to have them here and were so kind to them. There were no arguments at all.
Week 2 - There were far fewer tears and they began coming out of their shells. They began testing boundaries some. I don't think that's really the right term, though. I'm pretty sure they were just not used to having boundaries and the concept of rules was foreign to them. It was hard to correct their behavior without causing them to become really upset because they were still very sensitive. And when I say "behavior" I should point out that we haven't had any major behavior issues. I'm talking minor stuff like staying at the table when we're eating, not playing too rough with the pets, sharing toys, not climbing on the furniture, etc.
They became less fearful of Rick but Lily was definitely still very leery. They were no longer afraid of the dogs. I began trying to get a nap schedule going. I started by having them rest on the couch since they hated their room, but it wasn't working and we were all 3 frustrated and cranky. So I moved them to their cribs (cue the tears) and gave them books and toys and stayed in their room with them at first to talk and sing with them. Then I told them that I would leave the light on and they could play in their beds and that they didn't have to go to sleep unless they wanted to. Most days they would fall asleep within 20 minutes. Bedtime was still rough. By this time, we had a good night routine. Dinner, bath, teeth brushing, books, songs, prayers, bed. But they still screamed and sobbed for a long time once we put them in their cribs. It made me feel so awful. I knew they needed rest and needed structure and routine, but at the same time it was hard to know when I needed to overlook all of that for the sake of the emotional trauma that they are coping with.
They began exerting more of their wills with the kids, which led to TONS of fights over toys. Our 2 were very territorial over their belongings and the twins had not been taught the concept of sharing or communicating well about what they wanted. Instead of playing together, it was more like H&H against L&V. I'm talking lots of screaming and snatching and fighting. It was discouraging, I'm not going to lie. But each night when I tucked my sweet babies in and talked to them about the transition, they both told me that they were happy the girls were here and that they wanted them to stay. I'm thankful that God gave me that encouragement.
Week 3 - A pivotal week. The kids figured out the new dynamic and began playing really well together. I am so proud of all 4 of them. H&H really took them under their wings and it's been so neat to see the twins' personalities emerge and all the kids truly liking and enjoying each other. It also helped that my two finally began telling them apart and calling them the right names. Ha!
Bedtime finally started becoming easier. In fact, there were a few nights with NO tears when we tucked them in. HUGE!!! Most days they would playfully interact with Rick but Lily still had moments of fear when he was around. And I have to say, just like you fall more in love with your spouse when you see them with your newborn, it is no different in our situation. He is so great with these girls. He loves and adores them and is so patient and understanding when they reject him. He never takes it personally and he persistently continues to try to earn their trust.
Week 4 - We are in our groove, man! There are still some tears mixed in there, but it's hard to tell which tears are just typical 2-year old tears and which tears are trauma tears. Lily still has a tougher time with bedtime and still has moments of fearfulness. But overall we have a good routine down and are very well-adjusted. They are still very sensitive to change so we are conscious of that. Just rearranging car seats sent Violet into hysterical crying for 30 minutes. She frequently asks me You're not going to leave me? and We're all going together? and We're going to see "Older Sister" soon? and You'll leave the light on? But as long as I reassure her, she's generally fine.
Other random thoughts on the last 30 days:
It brings me to tears to think about how far they've come since they first got here. They thrive on structure and routine. They are always the first to remind everybody that we need to pray before meals. They LOVE the Frozen soundtrack and beg for me to play it when we're in the car and then they sing their little hearts out. The view from my rear-view mirror is a very happy one when we are having our "concerts." Huge progress considering there were no smiles the first week.
It's been neat to see how opposite their personalities are. Violet is definitely more laid back. She's kind and giving. She talks a fair amount for her age and I would say she's on track verbally. She's very protective of her sister. She's more aware of their situation and always asks about their older siblings (they have two older siblings in different foster homes). Lily is feisty and strong-willed. That girl knows what she wants. She has a mischievous streak in her and flashes the cutest smile at you when you catch her in action. She is a great helper. She is also a cautious observer. She talks a little but communication is definitely more of a struggle for her. She gets frustrated when she can't get her point across. Both of them are incredibly sweet and precious and both of them are gifts from God.
Lily started calling me mommy about a week in. She started calling Rick daddy about 3 weeks in. Sometimes Violet will matter-of-factly tell me I'm not her mommy and instead calls me Ms. Kelsey, and other times she calls me mommy. Same with Rick. We have never told them to call us mom & dad but we don't correct them either. In training we learned that this is very normal and to not put too much attention on it.
It has been amazing to watch Harrison and Harper step in and help take care of the girls. They are always offering comfort and sharing special stuffed animals and toys when they are upset. They are trying to teach them colors and letters and songs. I have overheard Harrison on several occasions introducing the girls to other kids as his "three sisters." Harper loves to help pick out their clothes and put their shoes on. They have both become so considerate of them and loving towards them and are learning valuable life lessons that can only be taught through experience.
In the first month I have: taken them to the doctor, taken them to the dentist, had their TB testing done, had their DNA testing done, taken them to a WIC appointment, taken them to 3 separate sibling visits, had a home visit with CPS, had a home visit with our Arrow AFS, and had 2 separate home visits with their CASA worker (that's 12 appointments if I'm counting...and I am). I have made many phone calls to get insurance established and issues worked out and evaluations set up. I have done what seems like endless paperwork, and then copied/scanned/saved/emailed all of it. I don't say all of this to complain. Quite the contrary. I say all of this because instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all I feel empowered. I look back at how much we've accomplished over the last 30 days and it makes me feel like my sweet family has been given more purpose in this life. None of it feels like a burden. We were called to serve and as hesitant as we were initially, now we are seeing firsthand how rewarding it is to act in obedience. God is using us to minister to these girls and advocate for children in need, but we are the ones feeling blessed in the process. We have wiped away many, many tears and given even more hugs. We have felt helpless and frustrated at times. But we have also witnessed huge character growth in all 6 of us. We have grown closer to each other through this journey. We have learned how to love better and more intentionally. Our home is crazy and loud and a WRECK all the time but it is also a happy home full of smiles and laughs and 4 incredibly awesome kiddos.