Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday, Day 2

Friday turned out to be a very low-key day. I had a fabulous time getting to know several of the volunteers that were at Liberty this week. They all  are really selfless, dedicated people from different countries and walks of life who have come to Liberty to try and make a difference in these kids' lives. More on my new friends in the next post.

Our kids woke up and they were still beaming with delight to have me there. Zarrina continued to appear more happy and affectionate with me than last January, and she has maintained a pretty steady camaraderie with me. This has been  a wonderful encouragement to me .

Tyler especially seems to really love my presence, which from our phone calls I am not surprised about, but he is very affectionate, holding my hand and insisting that I go with him everywhere about the compound. Miss Delfena took him to get new shoes today and she said she could not remember him ever being so happy and that he was singing out loud the whole way to and from Belize City.  Both of us take this to be a very good sign! (But don't even get me started on the "music" they love to sing to such as; "She ain't got the junk in her trunk"...)

While Shadrock continues to be busy, busy, busy he loves to come up behind me and surprise me with quite the exuberant hugs!  Whenever they have to stop and sit...meal times and movie times, both Tyler and Shaddie fight to sit on my lap. So I now have to say lunch time is Tyler's turn and dinner is Shadrock's. Tonight, Rupert really wanted me to sit with the bigger kids and Shaddie was quite upset about having his turn on my lap missed! The compromise was he got to sit on my lap during the entire movie that night.    
Shaddie's pillows, top sheets or blankets
At bedtime the younger two both asked if I would put them to bed and tuck them both in. I won't go into the lack of proper bedding is still an orphanage and they sleep in one room with 4 other boys and someone(s) are still wetting the bed  so it smells STRONGLY of urine in there. But they were just eating up having me there and  making sure they brushed their teeth ( It looks like Shaddie and Tyler  haven't brushed their teeth in a very long time as they now have obvious stains and pits right on the front of their teeth) and used the bathroom and then tucking them into their beds and kissing them goodnight. So that was all very good for connecting. And because they are both SO immature for their ages, Shaddie actually asked me to carry him to bed in my arms, baby style! They are starving for a Mom and they love that I am affectionate, yet firm with them. And this is while I am still on their turf and they know they don't have to really obey me yet, but they do. And poor Shaddie is so SKINNY!  I can put my thumb and first finger around his wrist and still have room to twist my fingers around. I can't do that even with Tyler, who is 2 years younger. The boy is ten years old and still wearing size 5/6.  Ben is wearing size 5's. And he is covered in scars. He took his shirt off today and it almost am me cry he has so many scars on his torso. Plus I also think he has parasites or something because he has that African ├╝ber-skinny chest and arms and legs, but a distended, hard belly. I can't wait to get him home and to see our Doc.
Tyler's bed

Rupert's bed is to the right
And Rupert has been very sweet and loving as well. He is the kindest, most generous child here  at Liberty, hands down. He never complains, is always sharing and looking out for the younger kids, and is just plain a good kid. But the nicest part for me is that he now likes to seek me out and give me kisses on my cheek. He also asked me to "say good night" to him in his room and of course this just meant him showing me where he sleeps and all his school stuff. He also showed me the newspaper article  from his sailing race where he took first place. He gave it to me to bring home so I could put it his room for him. He loved the watch we bought him for Christmas and the "5000 Amazing Facts" book and he is going around telling everyone..."Did you know that .....? " quoting the book. He is really so helpful and generous. For part of their Christmas presents, we gave the boys each a jar of peanut butter and graham cracker and Rupert's was gone by tonight because he shared his with everyone. The girls got Nutella and crackers and they ran off and hid them in their room, although Brittney did thank me profusely and several times over for her gifts, so that was a very nice response from my Sugar-Sugar.

Now unlike the younger boys who are still very immature, Brittney seems to have grown exponentially more mature and settled this past year. Miss. Delfena confirmed to me that Britney is doing much better in all areas. Her grades at school are the best of the bunch.  She told me that she had Brittney alone one day and asked about her true feelings...did she just want to be adopted to get out of Belize or did she really want a Mom and  Dad and a new family? She said Brittney answered clearly and unequivocally that she wanted a family. Honestly, I think this is true for all of them. All day Brittney has held my hand or sat on my lap or asked me to do Mom stuff...everything from  helping to tie the bow in the back of her shirt, to undoing her hair that was all in braids and twists with rubber bands that were twisted more than 20 times.
Brittney after I took all her braids out
That was REALLY time consuming and difficult and I am sure I pulled her hair uncomfortably more than a few times trying to get those stupid rubber bands out of her hair. But she not only never complained, she started to fall asleep! Then she asked me to wash her hair and conditioning it with the stuff I brought and gave to the girls. She also wanted me to try to "plait" it, but since they were all getting their baths and hair washed because  this weekend is a big concert/fundraiser,  and everyone was to look their best, I thought it would be wiser to let the more experienced caregivers do that! But, I watched them do both Britney and Zarrina's hair and all I can say is...WOW!
Now in anticipation of their homecoming, I have been doing a lot of reading and watching videos on how to care for the girls' hair, but OMGosh I cannot even begin to imagine doing that kind of intricate weaving and braiding myself! And spending hours and hours doing their hair it was INTIMIDATING to say the least!
 Miss D. suggested ... no she TOLD ME that it was time for Zarrina to get her hair relaxed as it would be good for her self-esteem now that she is at "that age" and we don't want other kids mocking her if her hair isn't "done right" and obviously, *I do not have the ability to do it right. She said that if it is relaxed then Z can just " brush her hair and go..." Oh, and btw..I need to take her to a salon every 4 weeks so she can have it professionally done. While I readily admit I am a novice at this hair care stuff, I am first and foremost not too keen on putting all these chemicals on my daughter's hair every 4 weeks! Nor do we have the resources to be traveling to the salon every 4 weeks for an expensive straightening treatment. And while it may be a possibility in Belize that mocking may occur, certainly in our culture, mocking Z because her hair isn't up to Belizean weaving standards is NOT gonna happen. So we will just have to see about this whole "necessary" hair straightening thing.
Brittney after her hair was done
Zarrina and L after their hair was finished
And with the newness factor gone from our January visit, I have been able to deal with all of them in a much more real way and they all seem to be very accepting of my role as Mom, and authority figure. Of course this has not ended the refusal to answer if they don't feel like it and Good God Almighty, do these kids have ATROCIOUS table manners...well not so much the older two, but Miss B and the boys...yikes!  But most importantly they all seem quite happy that I was there for them and they are all looking forward a great deal to the day when we can return to take the home for good.
What more could you ask for?
Tomorrow, the First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow is hosting her annual Christmas Concert at the main theater in Belize City for all the orphaned and handicapped children of Belize and all the kids are greatly looking forward to it. More on that in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Surprise...Day One in Belize

Thursday ~ arrival day
After a fairly uneventful morning of traveling…well, the handle of my carry-on did break taking it out of the car, forcing me to carry it instead of pulling it, which was a bit more strenuous than I was hoping for, especially in the huge Atlanta airport! (However did we manage all those years before wheels on luggage were invented?) And once I got to Belize, trying to finagle the two huge checked bags filled with clothes and treats for all the kids at Liberty, the broken carry-on, my lap-top case and my backpack…well let’s just say I’m sure I did the Three Stooges proud what with one of the other suitcase always tipping over while I was trying to pick up the last one that fell. Finally I made it through customs and spotted my ride and without any more mishaps we were off to Liberty.

Unlike the other trips down here where we stayed at a local bungalow, I would be staying right at the children’s home so I could maximize my time with the kids. We had told the kids that since they could not be home for Christmas, we were sending them a Christmas surprise that they should receive on Thursday. As soon as we pulled in, Zarrina came up to the car to see if she could be helpful, and when she saw me in the back seat, she got this strange, almost blank look on her face, like she knew she knew the face, but couldn't believe it. So I said…SURPRISE! And she broke into her famous ear-to-ear grin and said, MOM! Is that really you? And she gave me  lots of hugs and kisses and took me by the hand and led me to where I would be staying.
 Now last January when we were there to meet the kids, Zarrina was understandably much more shy and reserved with me. She is by nature shy and very introspective. However since we have been talking together of the course of this year, we have gotten to know each other much better and in her genuine excitement and happiness that I was there  she let her guard down to give AND receive much sweet  affection. It was really wonderful! None of the siblings were there at that time as they were either out on a shopping trip or finishing up exams at school, so we were able to sit and talk together for about an hour before we were interrupted. Z was animated and glowing during this whole one-on-one time together and I was blessed to see a part of her she normally keeps hidden.

Just then Tyler came in and walked right by me. I came up behind him and hugged and kissed him on the back of his neck and said…Guess who this is? In his adorable raspy voice and lilting Kriol accent he said, “I dunno; who eezzit?” and he turned to look at me. Again, like Zarrina he had the look like…I recognize you, but it can’t be.
He said, “You look like mah Mom… you-ah my Mom?”
“Yes, my son, it is me …SURPRISE!!”
And the boy just buried his head into me and held onto me so tightly…like if he let go or looked up he feared I would disappear, and that made my heart just sink for him, because I knew what would be coming next.
Excitedly he asked. “Mom, Mom, Mom, (he was so excited he only said it three times instead of his usual five times…)You comb fo me to take-ah me home?”
Sigh…. No my son, not yet. I am just here for a few days to surprise you for Christmas. Pretty soon though you will go home.
“Aftah Chreestmas we go home?”
Yes…just a few weeks after Christmas, Daddy and I will come back to get you and your brothers and sisters to go home for good.
“Ok  den. You bring me Chreestmas presents?”
Yes, I brought you all a small gift.
“When can I have eet? Can I have eet right now-ah?”
This boy makes me laugh out loud! I told him he had to wait a while longer and he was happy to wait. I asked him where the others were and he told me Shaddie was just around the corner, playing marbles. I snuck up behind Shaddie and repeated the same thing I had done with Tyler, only Shaddie was quick to recognize my voice. He still looked at me with disbelief, but also quickly held on for tight hugs and happily beamed as I planted several kisses on his beautiful face. We discussed how long I was to be here and then he went back to his game of marbles.

Now an interesting thing happened while I was with the boys…I noticed Zarrina had gone back to her usual reserved, almost aloof behavior and even though I went back to sit down and talk with her, she no longer wanted to be engaged. I decided to keep talking and acting like nothing had changed on her part and while she never came back to the joyful camaraderie that had marked our first hour together, I could tell she was enjoying me being affectionate with her. Back in January when she retreated like this and refused to even answer me, I thought she didn't like me and was “dissing” me. Boy, I had totally misread her back then. This girl just wants to be pursued and sought after. She wants to know that you care enough to work hard to earn her affection and once that light bulb went off in my head (DUH!)  it totally changed the dynamic of our relationship. Now that I finally “got it” I don’t mind at all carrying on one-way conversations with her as I know she is listening and enjoying my attempts. And when she refuses to even acknowledge that I am rubbing her shoulders or back, stroking her arms are kissing her head that’s way ok too, because I know now for sure that she secretly really loves the attention and the motherly touches that I am giving her. This was a huge break-through for both of us. And as the days progressed she took my hand a few times while we were walking, acting of course like it was no big deal. And often she would come and stand right near me, waiting for me to hug and kiss her and then rub her back. Our sweet girl couldn’t help herself and she will now let a small smile escape her lips.

Ok, so back to day one and Rupert’s arrival…
I was looking out the window and saw Rupert arriving back at Liberty after school. He stopped to talk with one of the caregivers and then all of a sudden he starts running towards the dining hall with a huge grin on his face, so I knew she must have said something. He came in the room and ran straight towards me and gave me a big hug and planted a big kiss right on my lips. Now this was very surprising…almost more shocking than Zarinna’s affection to me as Rupert did not volunteer any physical affection towards me last January. He was very sweet and polite and thoughtful, and he didn't seem to mind if I loved up on him a bit, but it definitely was not reciprocal. It wasn't until the very last moment just before we were leaving that he ever gave me a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek the whole week we were there! But here he was now, so happy to see me that he was both hugging and kissing me in front of his friends! This trip was turning out to be pretty cool so far…all that was left was the capricious Miss. B.

She was out shopping for the upcoming big fundraiser with the Director, Miss Delfena and the minute the van pulled into the lot and slowed to a stop, out she jumped and ran like a track star to the dining hall. Miss Smarty-pants had put 2-and-2 together after overhearing one of Miss Delfena's conversations in the van and our telling her there was a surprise coming on Thursday that the surprise was me. I’m warning you all now…not much will ever escape our would-be-dictator and she has the brains, determination and vivaciousness to make things happen her way. This child has a huge personality and lives right out loud, every single day. She can be quite overwhelming to the meek of heart…good thing she is coming into a family that already has experience with guiding and training determined, vivacious would-be-dictators and actually likes how stubborn they are…right Sarah?
Anyway all 100+ pounds of her jumped into my arms and almost knocked us both to the floor, except that I had calculated her non-slowing pace and braced myself before she hit like a tsunami. She smothered my face with kisses and then promptly told me before I could say how long I was there for that as long as I was here I will have to just stay until after the court date to save on airfare. That be mah Sugar-Sugar, Miss B. and she warms my heart with her zest for life.

The rest of the day was spent catching up looking at a year's worth of photos on the Ipad and having all five sit as close to me as possible, if not on my lap.  By 8pm I was so beat I excused myself to go back to  the Volunteers Dorm with a smile on my face and a grateful heart that it had all gone as well as it had.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guardianship Court Date and another trip to Belize

 Well so much for it only taking a few days to get another Court took over 3 weeks, but we finally heard a few days ago that we have our official date. The children will be assigned to our legal guardianship on January 18, 2013. We do not need to be present for this court hearing as our lawyer will handle this for us. Then we wait for the paperwork to be filed at the Registrars office. (This could take 2 days...could take 2 weeks or more.)
 After the papers are filed, our lawyer can then obtain the legal copies we need to request a Consulate appointment. As it stands now, the Consulate is saying they need a two-week advance notice before they can issue an appointment, but we will request one ASAP anyway. So it means we could be traveling to bring the kids home (best case scenario) by the end of January to about mid-late February. This of course means the kids will not be here for Christmas, and while everyone was happy that we at least have a court date, they were all still pretty disappointed in the timing and rightly so. Based on the information we had been given, we have been telling them for almost a year now that they should be home...soon.

As the year dragged on, their initial excitement has faded and you can hear the weariness and frustration in their voices during our weekly phone calls. Often, one or more would refuse to talk on the phone to us at all they were so discouraged. This last bit of bad news was enough to sadden even the most optimistic of the bunch. So David and I thought the best way to ease their hurting hearts would be for one of us to travel down and surprise them for a few days. Since he went down in June, and I really wanted to go, we decided it was my turn. We then held a family meeting and explained to the kids that their brothers and sisters in Belize were sad and hurting and they could really use a visit from Mom for a Christmas gift to brighten their spirits and help re-establish the fragile bonds we forged last January.
This meant that Christmas back here would be extra meager...even though we do not believe in doing much of a materialistic Christmas this year’s would mean only a few stocking-stuffers for everyone. The one big annual family gift would be the airfare to Belize. Well it warms my heart and fills me with a joy like no other that EVERYONE...all the way down to 6 y/o Ben and Isabelle instantly agreed that would be the very best way to do Christmas this year. I am so proud that our kids are willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

 So I leave on Thursday the 13th and will return on Monday night, December 17th. Pray that this short time I have with the Belizeans will encourage them and leave them feeling loved, chosen and precious to our family. And please pray that for ONCE during this incredibly long process, that the final process will go quickly and that our oldest , Z, would actually be home for her 14th birthday on February 3rd! The internet is VERY sporadic in Belize so I will update as I can and hopefully will do a more thorough job once I return home.