Thursday, January 28, 2010


(Also Known As... no time for any nor time to figure out how to rotate these.. sorry

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Update- Taking off

So much to do- so little time!  I've been plugging away at this update for a few weeks now and yet... in Shannon style-I may end up being on the plane before you ever get around to reading this.. so sorry!

When I started these updates for you all, about what 7+ months ago now... I honestly thought, by now,  I'd have covered more ground.  And yet, here it is- a few days before I take off and ... so much left!  I hope you have found them helpful, interesting and educational.

Much of the stuff that follows is the words and experience of moms and dad's that have come before me- cut this trail he and I are on. Their experience is invaluable. Yet, none of us can predict exactly what will be necessary when we get home. I only know, I am as prepared as possible- regardless of what he/I need in order to build a strong attachment as a family unit.  I'm ill prepared for much of it- but he and I will figure it out as we go.

It is at this stage- many families- will send out a 'do's and don'ts list of rules'. That isn't really my style- although I am certainly respectful of why they feel it necessary. (actually right now it seems alot quicker and easier...)  I'm hopeful that sending these updates has helped to fill in the gaps as to why somethings may seem different.  I'm not a big believer in other peoples rules. So I'm going minimalistic and we'll adjust as needed when he and I are working through it day by day.

In this episode:
- Parenting and attachment 
- The early days
- Behaviors
- Good Modeling
- What you can do
- What'll be happening in Ethiopia

Some 'experts' have written that when a child is born, if left unassisted, that child would find his/her way to the mothers breast.

How is that possible?  The child knows its mother. It is instinctive to root for food. Even in the womb the child smells and hears. The scent of her/his mother and sound of her voice is imprinted. Their attachment has already begun. 
Secure attachment - for a child- looks / feels like this:
  • My mom comes back. She is reliable.
  • I am worth coming back to.
  • I can trust my momma and people she entrusts to educate and spend time with me.
  • My affective states(feelings) are mirrored back to me, so that I can get help knowing how I feel and how others feel.
  • I want to please my parent most of the time.
  • I am rewarded for becoming competent, for my curiosity, and for my positive states.
  • I can get help with psychologically overwhelming events and feelings.
  • Momma will teach me how to deal with problems and how to solve them.
  • Intimacy is enjoyable.
  • My needs are routinely met in a timely, sensitive manner.
  • Repairs to relationship disruptions are empathic and prompt.
Thank you Deborah Gray
My boy and I have to start from scratch. He's been in this world for almost 3 years and has never heard my voice. I've lived almost 40 years without him. He's lived almost 3-- with out me. We have NO BOND. Not yet.        One step at a time...

When I first started learning about some of the parenting techniques, that are almost universally advocated for in Ethiopian adoption, some of them were far from anything I saw as my parenting style. Although, I do not expect to follow anyone else's style or rules (cause- clearly that ain't my nature) I have learned how important it is to be prepared to employ these techniques.  Perhaps more importantly- is learning his cues', and mine, for when these are necessary. 

Some of the techniques we'll be starting with and definitely employing:

Co- sleeping (believe it or not.. yes)- whether in my room- his - together or within reach, it is vital to be there to sooth at all hours. He needs to learn that I'm momma and Momma is always there.

"Baby" Wearing- The breathing, the scent, the heartbeats, reading eachothers expressions.. it goes a looong way. Yes I'm nervous about managing with my back- but long term needs are most important- the pain will subside.

Funneling- This one sounds easy- but in practice- may be difficult at times.  The idea is that all of T's needs- food, comfort, nurturing, soothing etc come THROUGH me.  This certainly does not mean that I'm the only person that will hug him for the rest of his life... it is a process. I promise aunties, uncles, grandparents, it will feel a lot better when he gives you a hug because they know you and feel safe with you, rather than the indescriminate hug you get because he is "parent shopping" or manipulating.

Cacooning- We will be sticking close to home for a while. I need to keep his world small as he will naturally be hyper-vigilant taking in sooo many new things. As we adjust together and recouperate from travel woes, we will begin to venture into more and more areas. As we do get out- I will still be learning- both of our limitations and we may have to cut activities short without notice.

Regression-  Many of the things above help to replicate some of the attachment time missed during his early years. It may appear that I'm spoiling him, babying him, or being overprotective. That is intentional. He missed alot of the nurturing in his life. I missed doing it for him. For some time, he may have baby behaviors alongside independent mini adult behaviors. This can allow rebuilding to take place and so we can both learn what being a family of two means.

Toddlers Being Toddlers- I'm learning from others- that it is quite common, that adopting during those wonderful toddler development stages can ... well... be interesting.

I can expect to see typical toddler behaviors at multiple of 10. That means all of those wonderful behaviors.. tantruming, charming flirts, manipulation, demands for independance, exploring voice levels, expressiveness, snuggly-ness, embraces etc... at at a x10 of typical toddler levels. (which is why traveling families suggest bringing ear plugs) This is completely understandable given the conflicts and compliments  of the developmental stage and situation.

I'm unsure if I actually learned this next statement in a particular class, or a combination of environments and just basic observation.  Sorry if I'm quoting someone without giving credit...
Future Santa Model

I truly believe, one of, if not the primary, job of a good father, is to be obviously, unwaveringly and overtly supportive of his wife, as the mother of his children.  By performing this one job, the father is not only modeling being a goodparent, man and husband, but also showing honorable respect for the primary woman in his childs life. (by this I, of course, do not mean financially supportive)

Someone said something like "Shannon, you are going to have enough to deal with!  You are single, how will they learn to be a good father? A good husband??"

I mention this because... of course.. I am single. There is no husband, yet.  I will forever be working hard- to make sure my son has good role models. Men, to whom he can relate, aspire, honor, learn from.  He and I are lucky to have so many good people surrounding us. Each with strengths. He and I are lucky like that.

I don't know how all of this fits together, other than it will never leave me. It is always something that is fore front of my mind- that he isn't just a child- he is a future teen-ager, boyfriend, husband, partner, father, member of society and we all learn best from those we look up to.

Funneling- may look like "Oh you want to sit with me? You can sit on Momma's lap." and guide him to me. After some progress, we will move to the next phase of "Oh you want to be picked up? ... Shannon my I pick him up?" This time, I come over and pick him up and hand him to you. This sounds easy enough- until he does that toddler thing, asserting his decision making skills at the top of his lungs - and you instinctively want pick him up.  It is hard. I recognize that this does not sound 'fair' to you. But remember- this process is the only FAIR way for he and I to attach.

All of these transitional steps- are simply that... Transitional. Every child and family is different. Some steps are needed for a week or so and others may continue for years.  Families, often look for that milestone day when the length of time together, is longer than the time when they weren't together. Attachment is a process, always building, always working- but gradually and slowly- we will make a family.  That 3 year mark is closer that it feels right now.

 MARDEN's Shopper Extroidenaire. 14+ soccer balls before

Ryan and I will be arriving in Addis, after about 31 hours traveling, on Wednesday morning. We'll check into a hotel for the first night as we get comfortable, deliver some donations, shop, and adjust.  (Ethiopia is 8 hours ahead).
Soccer Balls After- although the don't lay flat after being deflated.. I can pack 3-4 in the same space as one. Along with 2 hand pumps, these will go to 3 different places - An 'after school' program, the care center and the Guest House. Thank you Mardens for the extra mark downs.

Ryan has had no less than 5 people in contact with him, that are in Addis. So no need to worry- we have lots of local contacts!
On Thursday evening we will arrive at the guest house and join the other 8 families.  The guest house staff will provide a lot of our meals (not all of them) and will help us throughout the week  with a number of things, especially after the kids come to the house.  The next couple days, we'll spend a few hours each day at the care center getting to know the kids, playing, watching their routine etc.  One day will be a day, that we will not visit the care center at all, and will tour about 3 hours out of the city into the countryside. The next couple days we will likely be able to bring the kids back to the guest house for a couple hours or so, but they will return to the care center.  On Wednesday the 20th- the morning will be a goodbye ceremony at the care center- then we'll rush off to the Embassy for the visa interviews and lovely paperwork. FUN!  (I've heard- we are all in a small holding room, it's hot, boring, dirty and very few things for the kids to do.. ).  From then on- the kids are with us at the Guest House.

Medical Supplies, clothing, soccer balls and shoes which are harder and more expensive to obtain by locals. These will go to a couple different places that need them, including a NY family that moved over 6 mo ago to build a library, build a home for another family and start the after school program. Most everything they have is brought over by visiting families. 

The guest house grounds are high walled and gated. (this is typical in Addis).  So although, it is not advised to go off with the kids in tow- Me and the little boy will be able to go outside and play with some of the other kids. (See soccer balls above )

I wish I had a witty sign off, but my brain is cooked and my fingers are quitting. I don't know if I'll have the ability to stay in touch- either by phone or email- while gone. But I'll take notes just in case and will report back when i can. If I can get in touch, Sistah may be able to log in and send updates through email or on fB for me.

Wish us luck and pray a plenty!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ch Ch Ch Changes

I wonder sometimes:
What have I let go of, in order to build this family??

I pondered tonight that I spend very little time doing anything 'social' this days. Friends and I text, fB or every once and a while pick up the phone... but I struggle remember the last time I went out just to grab a drink with friends - it was sometime in late August or early September for Trish's birthday, on a Sunday afternoon.  Rowdy.

Mostly I wonder... what will daily life look like after the Little Man and I are together as a family.

Actually I've been looking forward to the change in social scenes for quite some time. The concerts in the park without a 'borrowed' nephew.  Library time. Recitals and Practices. Soccer practices and dance classes. Going for a walk with someone to accompany me and a stroller to push. Play dates.  Heck, a date is a date... and I'll take it!  I suspect I'll be better at the play dates than the adult dates/interviews/awkward pauses...

To my boy:  I've been single my whole life, thus far--- but rarely (if ever) "Lonely"  until - You weren't here.

Lets EDIT this and get real for a moment in retrospect. Hind sight and all: I wrote "been single my whole life". Yes. And when suddenly there is a moving human being in your house, all your issues, will show your WHY YOU'VE BEEN SINGLE YOUR WHOLE LIFE. Oh, I thought those therapy sessions had taught me coping tools and I was so much more at peace than before. Pththth HA! My son is fabulous and I love being a family. But- if you are reading this and have the slightest hint of 'issues' in your past... they will be uncovered my friend. Oh yes they will. Our children through adoption are smart and intuitive and will shake you out. Get professional help now and keep them on staff. If you can move them in your house. do it. I laugh at my pie eyed ignorance.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My 365 Days in The Bigs...

For some reason, as I was shoveling snow this afternoon... I was remembering my first job out of college.   I was born and raised here in the same area. In high school I thought- I'm out of here, going to college far away. But no.  Went to college the next town over.  I had traveled around New England often, (mostly NH and Mass) but always surrounded by 20 big hulking men that were close friends and created an environment that I NEVER had to question my safety, comfort or role.

Although, I was a bit nervous about moving to Northern New Jersey- it was a dream job. EVERYONE was so excited for me and proud.  I was going to the NHL!  It didn't get any better than that.  Pats on the back, encouraging words... you name it- practical strangers shook my hand so they could say they new someone in 'the bigs'.  They convinced themselves and me- "You've got it made now!"  I thought I was prepared.. as did everyone else, I'm sure.

After my first day in the office- where I had met the people, with whom  I would be spending the majority of my days, I arrived back at the over the top hotel, where I was temporarily staying.   Half way across the extravagant, glittery lobby- I started to lose it. But I held it together enough to make it to the pay phone. I dialed a number back home- needing something familiar. No answer. Tried another- and another. I couldn't reach anyone. (pre cell days)  I don't remember another thing for some time.

Next thing I remember, I was in my room, on my knees talking to Jason's Mom.  (I must've called his number and got her).  I remember my face, shirt and pillow case were literally soaked with tears. I remember my voice- it sounded strange as I cried- gasped- screamed. It was ... guttural. She tried to comfort me, she listened... for what had to be a half hour minimum but, ... eventually I came to realize that nothing was going to help and I hung up. For the next hours I was inconsolable.

It's embarrassing to admit this today. I was 23 years old- curled up on the floor of a posh hotel room- hating every single thing about it. Everything smelled funny. Tasted strange. People talked funny and were more 'stiff' or stand offish than what I was used to.  The water tasted funny- I didn't dare to drink it. What was that smell?!!  God, it made me sick! It was hot and muggy. And everyplace was air conditioned. My senses were on overdrive. Messed up. I was physically ill. Call it culture shock- call it whatever-  Everything was breaking down- physically and emotionally.

Eventually I pulled myself together (sort-of). I needed to 'run it out'.  I was miserable and needed to 'get it out' of me- -My skin was crawling...  but where could I go?? In this strange hot topped place? Where was safe??...

I made it to the fitness room of the hotel. It was near the top floor and looked east over the New York Skyline. A view I'd seen in pictures a thousand times before- but.. it looked so different now.. it was no longer beautiful.  It felt further away than it had in pictures. I ran until I couldn't anymore. I stepped outside onto the outside patio of the fitness room- I stayed there drinking bottled water(!)- trying to calm myself- trying to get my feet under me again- and my brain focused on what needed to happen next. I was 23 years old.. People had expectations.... They were counting on me... I need to make this work!!

A man stepped out on the patio and started talking to me. In retrospect- nothing he said was suspicious or shady. In fact, he was concerned. Nice. Sympathetic, inviting and generous. Told me what he had to offer.  At the time- it was like he was talking a different language. What did he want? Why was he here? What did he expect of me? I was a bit scared of him- ALONE- so I put him off and got away as fast as I could. 

The next day- he found me again. Just checking up on me.  Again- I put him off as politely as I could and stayed a 'safe distance' away. 

I have no idea what his real intentions were- but- I wonder to this day- was it my 23 year old single woman instincts saying 'this guy is trouble' or was it my general state of fear, unfamiliarity and uncertainty?  The more I learn about the trauma of transition of adopted children- the more I think it's probable, he was genuine.  Had I not been successful in pushing him away- perhaps I wouldn't have felt so alone in the months to follow...

Anyway- That first night- before the guy showed up- I promised myself I'd stay Two years. Then later- no one year. No two. Never mind- I have no contract-- ONE.  I must stay one year. Give it a real chance. If it got better- I'd stay longer. My instincts said "Get in the car and go home NOW!!  You can be home by morning."

I stayed.  I smiled.  Did my job or what I thought was 'expected' of me. Tried to 'do better' and make people happy. I tried to make friends. Behind the scenes I hated every minute of it-  Actually- I just felt ALONE and directionless. I cried often. Talked on the phone to friends at home for HOURS upon HOURS! Phone bills were in the hundreds of dollars. I flew or drove back home no less than once every month.  I tried to reach out to those in NJ- but-- it still felt foreign. That smell never went away. I still couldn't quite feel comfortable around people--- I couldn't quite get a fix on 'em. I felt like a stranger in my own dream.  Day 365- I turned my car north- left life in 'the bigs' behind.

I think about this often.. but today huffing and puffing in the bitter wind and snow- it clicked...  Will this be what me child feels like?   But- actually - it gives me hope. Or at least a hint of how easy it is to push people away not trusting their intentions- not feeling safe- not knowing where you fit- or if you will ever.   No one was in New Jersey to hold me. No one was there to guide me through. No one was there to make me feel safe? Who could I trust? I wonder of that guy had stuck with it- if eventually I would have grown more comfortable than wary of him. How would he have helped me through it?  I wouldn't have been alone then.