There we were in the Spokane airport parking lot. We were more fried from sleep deprivation than I had ever known possible. And I was trying to wrestle a 7 year old onto her booster chair. She had never worn a seatbelt before and she certainly had no idea what that doohickey was sitting in her seat. She kept moving the booster out of the way and I kept moving it back. Her English wasn't very good yet so naturally I just kept saying louder and slower "sit here, ssiitt hheerree, SIT HERE, SSIITT HHEERREE." The poor girl wanted so badly to please me and no clue what I was talking about! Then I wrestled 4 sets of seat belts onto kids who didn't even know how to how to anticipate where that belt was going to go.
The jet lag wasn't helping. We weren't sleeping. We could barely get through the day. The children all wanted to go to school that Monday. We had been home for 36 hours... we had woken up at 2am... and we hadn't figured out who had pants and who had shoes that fit.
I spent two days just trying to figure out what clothes belonged to which kid. At first I stacked all the hand-me-down clothes in the middle of the room and had them start trying things on to figure out what fit and what didn't. That turned into a mass free for all. Kids were grabbing clothes, throwing clothes in no sort of order as to what fit and what didn't, taking clothes that another kid had already claimed, and trying to defend their stash. It all ended in "stop stop STOP STOP EVERYbody STOP! Mommy messed up. It's not your fault but stop, put it down, just walk away, everyone downstairs." I spent the next 2 days, one at a time, having kids try on every item of clothing. They didn't know what fit. They tried to claim things that were ridiculously short or 3 sizes too big. They tried to throw things that did fit into the "no" pile. They argued with me about what fit. I was exhausted to the core and we were debating over whether or not capris were appropriate for snowy weather.
In the end we got through all the clothes. Sarah and Ryan were so excited about their *new* shoes that they made Josh take a picture of them wearing each and every pair.
Our 3 bedroom townhouse had shrunk overnight. We had seen a house earlier that fall that we both liked that was much bigger. We knew that if we were going to move, that we needed to make the decision before enrolling the kids in school. So we made the decision and made an offer... on another house... because our lives had apparently gotten boring for a minute and a half so we had to tackle yet another hurdle.
We found out that in order to enroll in school, we would have to have the kids vaccinations in order. So on Monday I begged and pleaded and got us an appointment for all four kids together that Wednesday. We didn't warn them. Instead we ambushed them. We told them that we were going out to do what we needed to do in order to get them in school. The first step an eye test. The problem was that Sarah and Ryan couldn't do the letters. So they had pictures available for kids too young to do letters. But they didn't know the words for the pictures. Half the pictures were of objects they had never seen before in their lives. When Sarah couldn't complete the eye exam, I told the nurse that I wasn't sure it was really an eye issue but likely a language issue and that we would just keep an eye on it but that I wasn't too worried. Sarah didn't understand what we were saying. We had told her that we had to do this to get them in school. She was near tears. "No school Mommy? I no school?" When I realized that I had set her up for this misunderstanding, I felt horrible. I told her that she would go to school but I'm sure that she wasn't confident. I'm sure she questioned her understanding. She wanted so desperately to go to school for the first time.
We went into the exam room and waited for the doctor. Each minute that passed was more torturous than the next. Their fear was real and consuming. When the doctor came in, they whimpered in unison every time he reached for something or turned slightly. With every movement, they assumed that he was getting ready to jab them with a needle. Then the dreaded vaccination time. They needed 8 shots... each! 4 in each leg. One at a time, I held them down. I laid across their chest, positioned my head to avoid a head butt, used my hands to hold their arms down, and repeated over and over "shhhh, its ok, I love you, I love you, its okay." One nurse held their legs down while a second nurse did the poking. They screamed like they were watching someone being murdered right in front of them. And I am not exaggerating. I have no idea how they screamed that loud because I was smashing all the air out of them by laying across them. 8 shots, one by one, then on to the next kid, 4 times. People tell me all the time "oh yes my kids cried too." Yeah! Let me tell you... this is NOT the same.
Then we were told that we would need to re-do their HIV, HepA, HepB, etc, etc tests. As Josh and I discussed with the doctor in the lobby whether or not to do it that day and get it over with or stretch it out into another day, I started to cry. Either choice felt so horrible. Every part of me broke. We went home. The kids could barely move. They were in so much pain. I remember the kids all being around the table and Josh in the kitchen. And I just sat on the couch crying and crying. I couldn't stop. I must have sat there crying for 20 minutes or more.
After a couple hours at home, we headed out to deal with the blood draw. We went to a local PAML location. Again, we ambushed the kids. As soon as they realized what was up, they all started crying. The technician was the most merciless person I have ever seen. She snarled "they will have to sit still, I can't do this if you can't control them." The kids were scared. Coming back another day wasn't going to change anything. We had to do this. I understand that you have to be able to hit a vein in order to be able to do the draw. And I understand that you have to avoid endangering the technician from a stick. But she never tried to help. She did nothing to calm them down. I pleaded with the kids, explaining that moving around would make it hurt more. JoAni and Sylvia did well. While they cried, they did hold still and we got it over with. Josh was out trying to console the other 3 while I did the restraining so I was so thankful that the older 2 did so well as I could not have restrained JoAni if she had chosen to truly fight me. She is just too strong. Sarah and Ryan didn't do as well. I needed Josh's help. He came and used one hand to lock their shoulder in place and the other to hold their wrist out, all while trying to position his grasp so as to allow the blood flow. While he did this, I did the full body wrap with my legs and arms wrapped around their little bodies.
After 3 hours at the doctor's office and an hour doing blood draws, we went home for a post placement visit. That's right! Just an hour or two after it all, just 4 days after getting home, our social worker showed up to evaluate our new family. The kids could barely walk from all the shots. Their elbows were all wrapped up from the blood draws. Ryan would just stand up and then cry when he needed to go to the bathroom. They barely ate any dinner and I specifically remember it being something that they really liked. Ryan was the first to fall asleep, shortly after the social worker arrived. I picked him up and told her that I was putting him to bed. She needed to see their rooms so I told her to follow me. Clothes were scattered all around their rooms. It was a disaster area. And I didn't apologize. We were beaten down and weary. We were home. We were safe.
This is the edited version because I don't even remember it all anymore. I think I have blocked it from my memory. But writing this has brought back little waves of those raw-rock-bottom-exhaustion, on-your-knees-pleading-for-God pain, sinking-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean feelings of fear and inadequacy. When those waves of emotional memory hit, I can barely breathe. It was only by the grace of God and the support of others (which I will write about later) that we made it through those first days.