SO the next day, when we all piled into the van to head down to Belize City, once again the van would not start. This time David used our rental car to jump the van, and while we had misgivings about whether this might happen again, we thought that the long drive into the city would charge the battery well enough to keep it going for the return journey. Z promised us she knew the way there so off we went in search of this park that boasts the largest restaurant options under one roof in all of Belize City and a three-story playground that could hold up to 70 kids at one time. The kids were initially excited and boisterous, but being that this van has a DVD player on board and the new, Alvin and The Chipmunks disc with it, they quietly watched the movie till we arrived, It seems the ONLY time that these kids are quiet are when they are watching a movie…or eating, but even then LOUD complaining can ensue if one child picks too much food off another one’s plate and they all do that to each other, with the bigger girls being the worst offenders to their little brothers.
We were able to find the place without much trouble, but there was really no more to than a what we would find back home in a McDonald’s with a play area, except they served pizza as well the Mickey D’s fare and of course, the kids FAVORITE food, fried chicken. The boys all ordered a 3-piece chicken meal and the girls both ordered a small pizza each and they were thrilled to be allowed to have a soda. While waiting for the food to arrive, they each played one arcade game and I can’t figure how, but the youngest, seven y/o Mr. T was able to beat his “opponent” in a street-fighter game! He was pretty pleased with himself! Then they all went out and played on the playground until their food arrived.
Now we have a great deal of experience in watching orphaned kids eat…and mostly it ain’t pretty. The younger boys, S and T have little- to-no table manners at all and the older three are only slightly better. They all can consume HUGE amounts of food….I mean HUGE!! It reminded me of when I first got Sophie in Vietnam and she ate like a voracious animal. It was heartbreaking and disconcerting to watch our little Vietnamese girl stuff herself, hovering over her bowl and almost growling if it looked as if someone might take it away before every last drop of consumable food was gone. We often wondered where our tiny, 37 pound, 7-1/2 year old girl could put all that food. Evidently, she really needed all that nutrition as after being home for 3 years she has nearly doubled her weight and has grown almost 10” and she is still thin!
Well all the boys are SUPER SKINNY, due to a lack of good nutrition and the fact that the youngest two are Tasmanian Twins, rarely stopping their motion unless the TV is on! Missy Sassy-pants B is also very active, but she has a normal, healthy body weight and is often willing to take as well as share her food with her siblings…unless it is ketchup. They all LOVE ketchup and when it is available, they put it on everything, with Miss B even licking her plate afterwards and saving the ketchup cups to take home. Now we wondered how it was that our oldest, Z does not reflect body weights of malnutrition like her siblings do and we eventually figured out it was because she helped in the kitchen and therefore was privy to more food.
After the kids were done eating, they went back to the play area, but whether it was a new found comfortability with us or all the sugar from the soda, or maybe both but the youngest three started to get out of control, with Miss Sassy-pants blatantly ignoring us. At one point, she grabbed a handful of ice out of her soda cup and was going to throw it at her brother…who was in front of slide where a bunch a little children who were there for a birthday party were standing next to him. I called to her to stop it immediately…she turned looked at me…turned around and promptly threw the ice at her brother and the other children there. We called her back to the table and told her because she disobeyed she was not going to get any ice cream after we left there. She acted like she didn’t care and ran off, but you could see she was MAD! Because of that and all the boys becoming way too rambunctious, we decided it was time to leave. After some loud resistance from the younger boys, we all headed back to the van…only to discover it was dead…sigh.
We thankfully had purchased a chip for the cell and were able to call for help, but it took almost an hour for them to come and give us a jump. This was not a fun time for anyone, what with Miss B angry and pouting and the younger boys, who are now bored started to disobey as well. Z was happy as she sat in the van and finished off everyone’s leftovers and R, who is really so sweet and helpful was content to keep talking with Dad; except Dad couldn’t talk much with having to corral the Tasmanian Twins back from a motorcycle and a mad as-a-wet-hen Miss B, who said she had to use the bathroom three times while we were waiting, just so she could go back inside and fuss with the arcade games.
Finally our help arrived and we went off to find the ice cream store. Z said she knew right where it was, but she didn’t and we drove around in circles several times, with she and B yelling loudly back and forth at each other over the directions. This is where David is so much more gracious than I am. I wanted to just give up and head back home while the van was still running, but he was determined to find it and give the kids an extra treat. We finally did find it and gave Miss B a chance to redeem herself by admitting what she had done was wrong and apologizing, which she promptly did and her smile returned…hmmmm. Enjoy it for now, ‘cause that ain’t the way it’s gonna work back home, sugarsugar…
So everyone got their cone and they were all happily and loudly lip-smacking away the entire journey back to Liberty. We had told them our plan to Skype with the kids back home in the library there, so everyone could “meet” each other and they were excited about that. I grabbed my laptop and we headed over to the locked, on-site library that also has a couple of computers and WiFi in it. A caretaker was there with a couple of other kids and they promptly left as we entered so we had the place to ourselves. David and Z went to the back and were looking at maps while I set up my laptop for Skype and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Evidently, (and honestly, we should have had some clue ahead of time as the question that had already been answered several times a day was “how many computers do we have? Still only three; Dad’s laptop, Mom’s laptop and one that everyone else shares for schoolwork) the sight of those available computers was like crack to them and the younger four went wild. They each were fighting and jostling and yelling at each other trying to get the biggest monitor and get there favorite game loaded…which they were able to do in veritable milliseconds. No amount of confronting them verbally or physically did any good…they were mesmerized like zombies, intent on doing exactly what they wanted to do….consequences be damned.
The chaos brought David and Z quickly upfront and David, who they respect more than they do me, could not get these kids to obey and get off the computers. Even R, the most obedient of the younger bunch seemingly could not stop playing his game and get off the computer. It was astonishing to us. Finally we were able to just turn off the machines to get their attention enough to tell them they had to be reported to the Director for their behavior and only Z would be allowed to skype back home. They were told to leave the library right away and immediately, R became quite remorseful to the point of tears. He apologized sincerely and left quickly, followed by his younger brothers who looked stunned, but also apologized.
Then there was our Miss Sassy-pants B who again became quite angry and gave us a very insincere, “Sorry!” and trounced out of the room with fire coming from her eyes.
We Skyped back home with Z, where eight of our kids were anxiously awaiting this call. We realized after a few minutes of THEIR disappointment at home in not having the others there, that we would have to shift gears. One-by-one David brought them back up with the knowledge that it was for the other kids’ sake we were doing this, and if we had to speak to any of them for ANYTHING they would have to leave again. All the boys came back and were really very good (I did have to pinch Mr. T’s hand once when I saw him reaching for the mouse and he gave me a stunned look and said, “Ooooww, that hurt” but I didn’t need to do that again!) and everyone had a blast getting to know each other.
Gotta say, we have THE BESTEST kids ever at home, as they all went out of their way to engage the kids here and make them literally laugh out loud. When it was Miss Sassy-pants B’s turn to come in, she refused, telling us through her brother (who was quite worried about this) that she no longer wished to be adopted by us anymore. We said to him, not to worry anymore…that I guess she will stay here then when we leave with you guys as that really is her choice.
Well of course after about ten minutes of laughter coming out the window (and Z has a very loud, infectious laugh) Miss B started looking through the windows...then eased into the room… then came close enough to see the computer, but refused to talk. Once she was visible on the screen and all the kids back home started cheering for her arrival, well that was all she needed to get over her attitude and join in the fun. We talked for about 45 minutes and everyone really enjoyed themselves and felt a bit more connected to the siblings they had only heard about and seen pictures of. Mr. Hurricane told Carissa he though she was pretty and that he loved her…(so cute) and then he asked if he could change his name to the same as “the strong boy, Josiah.” We told him we thought maybe one Josiah in the family would prolly be plenty, but if he wanted to change his name we have several options he could pick from. However, he seemed kinds stuck on Josiah!
After the call was over, Miss B, who is loathe to ever admit she is wrong, did apologize for her behavior and attitude and clung to us hugging and kissing us both profusely, smack dab on our mouths.
Now this may sound odd, even though we were pretty worn out after this long day of them testing us and pushing us to see what we would do, we were really glad they had started to act like themselves in front of us.
While we were only there for a week we came in as parents…there to meet the children we hoped to one day bring home. The hunger and the longing in ALL the kids’ eyes for more than a hug and a piece of candy was heartbreakingly apparent. So initially especially the Fantastic Five were on their very best behavior with us, even Miss Sassy-pants! This was truly evident when their social worker was visiting with us all on Thursday morning. They KNEW she was there to observe our interaction and they were all as loving and obedient as if it were a scripted Hollywood movie. So the fact that only a couple of days later our kids were ready to get past the honeymoon stage and were openly showing us their true colors made us overjoyed as the fake honeymoon stage that a lot of kids use to ensure they will be liked and taken home ALWAYS ends with this kind of pushing anyway, so let’s get to it and the sooner the better! We really wanted to get a taste of what we are up against with these five as quickly as possible, and we got our wish!
And you have to admit it really is a weird scenario in that out of the blue, on day one we meet these kids and tell them we are their new parents….but we have no real authority while we’re down there. During these few days, David and I tried to earn enough trust and respect to gain a modicum of willing compliance but we know this is a process that will take years and years. We also take it as a very good sign that there were all comfortable enough with us to drop the act and to start the pushing So the fact that we saw any obedience or remorse for lack thereof is a good start.
The bottom line is we are not scared or intimidated at all by any of these kids or their actions. Actually as many of you know, thanks to our own strong-willed bio brood, we actually prefer to raise the strong-willed, determined personalities and we won the jackpot here! It’s truly exhausting, but the end result that we have experienced is beyond gratifying as a parent. Please feel free to remind of my stated preference when I'm pulling my hair out with five strong-willed hooligans I'm trying to corral!
Tomorrow is our last full day in Belize and we have to meet with our SW in the morning. We might take in some sites in Belize…or we might catch a nap before the kids come home from school and we have our last meeting with them…we’ll see if we get any rest tonight between the screaming birds and the geckos and the wild, all-night long dog fights!