Livi is 7!

My first born turned 7 on last week. How did that happen?

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I know it’s cliche but seriously… Don’t Blink. Ever.

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There is so much beauty in her little soul. Her heart is gentle and kind. She finds joy in the little things. She has a fierce love for her sisters and is a wonderful teacher and protector for them. She is responsible, thoughtful and helpful beyond compare. Most of the time she is eager to help me with almost anything. She has such a servants heart. Sometimes I have to remind her who the Momma is, but other times she recognizes that I might be struggling with any of the numerous things us mothers struggle with, and redirects “the sisters”, as she calls them, or offers to clean something for me. She is intuitive and thoughtful. Her mind is open to new ideas but she knows what she believes and what she wants to believe, doubt is creeping in about the Easter Bunny though.

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She is quieter and more private in nature than I am so I am  learning to be more careful with what I share on FaceBook and on my blog about her. She is very much like her Daddy in that way. Their minds are really quite similar too. They both internally process and have a very logical, matter of fact way of thinking. She has my emotional tendencies though and articulates them well. I think if she can develop these two parts of her and figure out how to make them jive she is going to be able to do amazing things in her life.

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She loves horses, collecting rocks, unicorns and mermaids. She will wear a dress everyday if they are clean. Her favourite shows on Netflix right now are Richie Rich and a teen mermaid show… I can’t remember the name. She loves riding her bike and playing with her friends. She can make macaroni for dinner and bake her Oma’s platz all by herself. She likes secret quiet places, dogs and getting dirty. Swimming is another love of hers. She got really good at it this year too. Reading is a novelty that she likes, as long as it isn’t too challenging. Perfectionism is a bit of an issue for her so if something is too hard she’d rather not do it. We are working with her to help her overcome this.

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She has discovered a love for essential oils, meditation and yoga. I need to help her develop these in her a little more. My little girl is turning in to such a hippie and I love it. Wild orange is her favourite oil. She does guided meditation frequently at the end of the day and her favourite yoga moves are anything that helps her stretch her body out.

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At 54lbs and 4’1 I think she is stunningly beautiful. I pray that she always thinks that about herself. I’m already seeing glimpses in to our life with her as a teenager. It’s incredible and scary to see 😉

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My compassionate little hippie made me a Momma 7 years ago and it one of the things that I am most thankful for in my life. Being a Mommy is wonderful. Being her Mommy is a gift.

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Happy Birthday Livi! You are still and will alway be my Goober 😉

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4 Years Home and the Anniversary Reaction

4 years ago we brought Sofie home.

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August 1st we met her in the orphanage and spent every morning and afternoon with her until August 4th when we took her out of the orphanage doors and she was ours forever! We had to spend 9 days waiting for paper work to come from the embassy and got home on August 14th after the most hellish 24hrs of travel we’ve ever experienced. Sofie only slept 2 hours of those 24 and not all in one chunk. She was hyper aware of everything and her little body could barely handle it.

Even though these 2 weeks ended in the best possible outcome for Sofie, a family, they were traumatic. She had never been outside the orphanage walls except once to go get her passport photo taken. Usually she wasn’t even out of her crib. Everything was new. Nothing was familiar. Everything was terrifying and too much to comprehend. She was in fight or flight mode and when she was overstimulated she would retreat into herself. It was heartbreaking to watch. She handled it all as best as she could but she had absolutely no tools to be able to process her new experiences and she was further traumatized, which added to the abuse and neglect she suffered from the orphanage.

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Meeting Sofie August 1, 2011

Every year since August 20111, a switch seems to go off in Sofie on August 1 and her behaviours are magnified between August 1-14. It’s a fascinating and frustrating phenomenon. Her bad behaviour happens more often and worse. She hits and yells more. She seeks sensory input way more by touching everything she walks by. She can’t sit still. She throws things more. More impulsive. More tired. Less ability to make good choices. She is in fight or flight mode again. And the kicker… poop. She ALWAYS has a poop smearing incident, or nine, in these two weeks.

I have always just known it to be how trauma works. My sister would get sick every Christmas because Christmas growing up had more stress and fighting than peace and love. My husband would get grumpy, tired and irritable every year in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of his father’s death. I had never really looked in to the research behind it until a friend asked me for more of an explanation.

There is an actual name for it! It’s called the Anniversary Reaction or Anniversary Effect. HERE is an article Huffington Post circulated that does a decent job of explaining it.

“Anniversary reactions are considered the re-experience of a prior traumatic event — a death, a disaster or an individual tragedy. They are triggered by a specific date or event that strikes a chord deep inside our minds, which can be a traumatic portal to the past. A birthday, a notable date or a holiday can link to an earlier moment in our lives that was full of trouble, hurt or conflict. When they do occur, a person who may be highly functioning can be overcome and feel powerlessness, even immobilized.” – Mastering the Anniversary Reaction

I would push this Anniversary Reaction theory a little further and include the theory that our cells can actually hold memory… though I couldn’t find a good article to reference in my quick 5 minute search.

The Anniversary Reaction can improve. Over time we heal. Jon no longer is depressed for 2 weeks leading up to his father’s death anniversary. My sister no longer throws up at Christmas. Sofie’s “trauma week” (as I call these two week in August) are much more mild than they used to be.

These 14 days were once filled with countless poop smearing episodes, hitting, screaming, throwing, destroying, pulling hair, anxiety, silence from Sofie and crying from me. It’s not like that anymore.

This year, year 4, is better, but still bad. Sofie being unable to sit still or handle too much stimulation for the first 4 days. She was extra tired at the end of each day and would touch and hit everything for sensory input, not to hurt people. She did trash my mom’s house the first day but didn’t actually destroy too much. After day 4 she calmed down. We only noticed extra rocking (the ‘orphan stim’ rock she occasionally does) and teeth grinding. I thought I was in the clear this year! I thought we had healed enough to bypass any poop incident!

Unfortunately I thought wrong…. We are on the last day of “trauma week” and woke up to the pungent smell of poop. It was epic. I should have known that a final climax might be in the works. Our last 24hrs 4 years ago was trauma for us all, but especially Sofie. It was the climax back then and it is again this year.

Sofie is healing. I hate what being an orphan did to her. I hate what she had to go through. If I sit and think about it too much I get so angry and sad. Thankfully, each year gets a little bit better. We have a mantra each day that I go through with her in ‘trauma week’. I tell her that she is safe and then we go through all the people who love her, and she is SO LOVED! I think it helps.

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4 years ago we started the most amazing journey. I can’t imagine our lives without her. I would be quite bored I think. Her Anniversary Reaction is completely worth it for all the smiles, dancing, hugs, hair playing, joy, and love we receive the rest of the year.

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Cuddling on the couch a few days ago Livi gave Sofie a big hug and said “I would definitely not be this happy without Sofie.” Queue my heart melting…. until she followed it up with “who would I watch movies with?”