Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Updates- Three Months Together

Three months today.

Three months ago today, as a woman named Bethlehem, placed him into my arms, he left her arms for the last time.  I sometimes feel like God reached down from heaven and put him there personally--- but it was Bethlehem....

After more than 30 hours of travel we arrived Jan 24 about 10pm.

Normally, it takes me at least a few days to write these updates. But today's will be a bit rushed.  Even though I can get on the computer while he sleeps these days, the past few weeks I've been sick and tired (literally) that I've slept as much as he has. So today's date (18th) kind of snuck up on me (as did tax extension day... oops!) and this may seem a bit rushed, so I apologize ahead of time.

He turns 3 soon. I'm not sure how to feel about that. Not sure what to think about it. It's difficult to explain to those who aren't adoptive families. I'm not sure it's his actual birthday.  I'm not sure what to celebrate. It is definitely 'his' day (IF it is his day)-- I wasn't there.  I don't know.

I realize I haven't written about the trip much, if at all. It is hard to find words that would do it all justice. Lately I'm craving returning to Ethiopia.

He's learning so much- and at the same time-- losing as much.  This age, they learn and lose memory daily. There is so much he's losing that I'll never know. He can't verbalize any of his Ethiopia memory- he even calls his friends the name I use for them- not what he used to call them. That hurts that I'll never be able to remind him of all that he's losing.

I've committed myself, for us, to return every 3- 5 years- but right now that seems so insignificant. In the mean time- we head to Ethiopian Culture Camp this summer. That is a long name for a bunch of Ethiopian families getting together with their kids, and doing lots of fun and learning for the weekend! :-)

Last month i gave you a list of things upon which we were working. Here's where we are at:
  • Sleep separation anxiety- going through a good long phase of being pretty good
  • Using loving hands all the time - He's a toddler... ongoing battle lessons
  • Liking dogs - Check. Generally now loves them all, a bit too much...
  • Getting his skin cleared up - I'll hesitantly say it's better, but I'm not ready to call this a win yet.
  • Motor skills - Big fat progress! He's jumping, on the tramp and off.  Closer to flight phase when running (although he mostly loves to swing his hips...). Next up is peddling and hopping. Things are easier for him when his belly isn't so big, so we lay off the milk in the mornings (usually). A big hard belly means lower range of motion which effects his frustration and confidence level.
  • Getting into preschool- Pressures off for a little while- Since I last wrote, I lost my job. Many of you have been shocked how "good" I took this (I'm not sure that is the best word... but you get my point).  This was not, by any means, easy. One year ago, like most businesses- the leadership staff, including myself, tried a number of different ways to cut expenses and find ways to limit the number of layoffs that would be necessary with in the tight financial situation we were experiencing. We did the best we could- but lay offs would happen. Ultimately the decision of who and what would go, was my boss's.  I knew that my position was at risk. I knew change needed to happen. The hardest part was watching one person put all that on his shoulders. Looming life changing events tend to bring your prayer life to the forefront, as adopting my son did mine- but add in people losing their jobs and I hit my knees more than normal. I made peace with the possibility of losing my job a year ago- and prayed to God to comfort those who must make these decisions, for hearing such things once in a life time is bad enough- but delivering such life altering news over and over again must be agony. The fact that, in this case, the person making these decisions and delivering the news also happens to be a dear friend, just literally hurt my heart. It was agony to watch. That was a year ago. A few weeks ago, we sat and had the conversation that could have happened a year ago. Had it-  the US Gov't would have, possibly, halted me from adopting my son.  I'm grateful. I'm grateful for His timing. I'm grateful of the opportunities that were offered to me in the past 10 years. I was very invested in my job and met people that have made large impacts in my life. I'm still an Alum of that school.  My interests and investment didn't start when I was hired there, and it doesn't end with my employment.  I've asked this before, but I'll say it again- those of you that know my boss- please offer him the same grace and respect you always have- this is a good move that needed to be made, and I don't believe was easy for him to carry out. As difficult as it is for me personally, it's a good strategy for the organization.  But- I'm out of work- so now pressure with rushing preschool right now! 
  • Jaw strength and chewing/swallowing ability- Check. He can (and sometimes will)chew and swallow soft meats. And the chunk he took out of my arm is still healing- I can personally attest to the fact that he is able to bite quite hard. 
  • Not taking everything he can reach - Big improvement. He still attempts 5 finger discounts at stores if given half a chance but can be avoided by keeping all ten fingers occupied with something else. He knows that he doesn't leave every home or venue with another toy. Being consistent on this has dramatically improved the number of tantrums... as you can imagine.

  • Self regulation- Check. VAST improvements. In fact if provided the opportunity he will self regulate very well. Thank you, for your assistance in this ongoing battle- by not offering him food / treats. Your continued restraint is making a quick and positive impact. We have moved on to the next step of providing a positive structure for a healthy relationship with food. This one is new for me and requires a lot of discipline on my part.  This involves a pretty simple concept (at least the first part) of me deciding the Where, When and What we eat and leaving the If and How Much up to him. This is slightly harder than it sounds as he needs to be provided clear boundaries on what is actually on the table to eat and limit the visibility of other foods that up until now he has had full access to at all times.  This also requires me to make sure that I am making sure that the When is a good decision, as hunger is a HUGE trigger for desperate behavior, on his part, and if I continue to fail on that part, it could throw us back to him being fearful of food not being available. 
  • Being physically attached to me 24/7- Vast improvement. Only once, in recent memory, have my pants fallen down as he attempted to climb up me.  This is easier on both me and my wardrobe. Sadly- he's taken to pulling my shirt down, in full view of everyone, and hiding things in my...well... cleavage. This- is not good for ANYONE.
Add one to the list for this month:
  • No biting/ hitting Mommy- That should be obvious from the comment in the 'jaw strength' section above. Another Mom emailed me the other day to say that she was at a loss with what to do, as her son (home just 2 weeks longer than The Boy) pinches, bites and hits her and ONLY her. She probably took it personally a little, as did I in the beginning. I chuckled a little and told her that I have (had) a missing bit of arm and accompanying bruise so big, His pediatrician noticed it across a room. It seems so long ago now cause everyday things get better- and then they change completely. It's odd the things that help... but he is getting better- communication and frustration outlets help.

Things change so fast. It seems like it was soooo long ago that  I was really really struggling, yet when I look back - it was only that 6-8 week home point. It seems so long ago that he bit me so hard, and yet the scar is still visible. It seems like so long ago we were fighting bacterial infections, ringworm and nap battles and yet..well.. some of those we are still fighting.

Those of you that remember knew him in Ethiopia, probably remember this mild tempered, soft voiced, giggling babyish, runny nosed kid, who attached to an orange plastic bowl for comfort.

Some things have changed. He is still, for the most part a very happy kid. That's just his temperment. He still longs for someone to tickle him and snuggle with him. His nose has never stopped running, but the bowl rarely makes an appearance and when it does it is far less heralded. Yes- he was very mild mannered- and can still be. But--- I can see that his orphanage personality was ... hopeless and a little depressed... with no expectation of any one to love. Not just to love him, for him to give love. As his strength, confidence and opportunities expand, so does his initiative and drive.  He is still the same kid.. but larger, louder, bolder!

He is growing into a strong, opinionated, expressive, loud, "persistent", typical toddler. He insists he can do EVERYTHING HIMSELF... EVERYTHING. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Even stuff that he shouldn't even want to perform (like operate a camera worth more than my car) He naturally assumes everything I can do, HE can do better. I'm not discouraging this too much because if I can fine tune some of his techniques, I'm a happy camper (with a lot less work around the house)!

He is also a child who still needs extra nurturing.  He came home as a 2 and a half year old that was very very much on the baby-er side. Now, we vacillate between an Independent Teenager and a newborn infant.  I don't always do a great job of keeping up with which one he's playing.... 

But I will say (knocking on wood) we're in a good place.. today.. this week.  Even though there are still nights he cries in his sleep (most nights). Nights he painfully says words I don't understand. Even though we went back to a bottle (warm milk & cinnamon) for a little while. Even though he bit me hard enough to draw blood (LOTS).  Even though I'm still adjusting to being a mother trying to balance caring for a child, myself, the dog and the household ("adjusting" is the 'best' word for it...struggling is more accurate) Even though physical ailments (both serious and mild) keep rising to the surface for both of us.  Even though I don't always respond to his needs or understand his needs. Even though he withdraws to his own place, seemingly looking back, remembering...

What's Working: We've laughed alot lately. LOTS! We hug a lot lately. LOTS! Being outside helps us. Setting boundaries and staying respectful of them helps. Learning the best way to eat, helps. Laughing helps. Not teaching too many lessons in a day helps. Learning new words each day helps. Regular sleeping patterns help. Saying things I want him to know helps. Praying helps. Holding hands helps. Not freaking out when he poops in the tub (or insert any number of messy catastrophe's) helps. Getting breaks, helps. Getting help, helps. Doing things together helps. Learning to play on his own helps. Having hope, helps.

EDITED TO ADD:  That last part. About- what works. It's still true. And I need reminders today and every day that is one of the harder ones.


Anonymous said...

Which Ethiopian camp are you going to? We are headed at the end of July to the one in the Scotts Valley, CA. It would be awesome if it was the same one. We brought home our son at 39 months. He will be 5 in July. It has been the most amazing experience and I can relate to a lot in your post. Lyn-Dee http://web.me.com/sparkie09/PeakSite/Sparkies_Blog/Sparkies_Blog.html

kristine said...

I so love this post. Words and photos.
What a beautiful family you make.

Need more photos of you with him though.

Justine said...

I am so bummed to have missed you both this am. I wanted to try and drag the kiddos but we just returned form FL and needed a day of rest. Our little ones sound so similar. I really can't wait for them to meet. Please let me know when you will make another appearance in the Portland aread.

He is doing so well. The photos are remarkable. And, you put it perfectly, sometimes a newborn and other times a teenager. We too are struggling with issues of independence and control. I haven't figured out what is normal "2" behavior and what is adoption related though.