Thursday, August 12, 2010

Update: Past 6 months & Final Edition

To blog readers: This is an update written for family and friends. Some of what you read and see here will be new and some of it repetitive. This is the last of the series of updates I intend to write for them. Regular writing will resume shortly.

The last time I wrote and update to you all, was May. It had been 4 months since Teg and I were united as family.  I've tried writing this a hundred times and have as many notes and drafts... but... I'm not sure, exactly which direction to take this update; this last installment.

So much has happened, changed since the last update, in the last year, in the last 6 months.  Do we look back where we've been. Do we look ahead? Do I list my struggles as a parent? Or his flourishing successes as a child in a constant state of awareness and comfort seeking?  Do I explain what happened on this day one year ago? ... So forgive if it is disjointed and possibly bullet pointed. There are things I want you to know. Things I want to document. Pictures You just GOTTA SEE!!

In Addis Ababa, January
Same outfit in July. KNEES!
Teg is Amazing! No doubt! He is funny. Kind. Loving. Sensitive. Joyful. Giving. Compassionate. He is full of giggles, zurberts and dance moves! His quiet Ethiopian demeanor & voice has not found the 'balance' yet- and is currently on the other side of the scale being a  boisterous conversationalist. He loves to say "Bless you" when you sneeze- "scUUUUSe You!" when you burp- "Thank you!"... at often inappropriate moments?!  He loves to get me to stop the car to give him kisses and squeezes. He enjoys going to church- but thus far refuses to stay at the children's program as our church has a live band and.. well.. I told you about his dance moves. 

His squeals of delight, I often mistake for screaming. As I attempt to explain 'screaming can be scary'- he sets me straight.... "Mommy! I so etCITED!!"

He is Persistent. I will not say stubborn- as he doesn't often display frustration with difficult or tasks he's set his mind to. He just sticks with it and demands the time to figure it out.

He's becoming a rather accomplished "swimmer". He actually still sinks better than swims, but he does them both with such style and enthusiasm!  My son is a hoot in the water! Tub. Ocean. Lake. Pond. Pool. Size, stream, temperature, cubic feet per second, pollution level- none of these variables deter this fish from jumping into water to get his gills wet! Nothing.

He is a VERY quick learner and understands more than he can convey with language. When I'm being a decent mom, and explaining things to him- he gets it and understands expectations.

He's using 3 word 'sentences' to get his point across (I'd like it to be more) but his vocabulary is growing daily as is his annunciation. He is still self motivated regarding speech and cracks himself up daily saying things I can't understand!

I no longer worry every moment of every day about his transition. I still fret over my own. I have much to learn- and much to learn about how to parent this child.

Teg is beginning to understand that each family has different rules and expectations. As tempting as doing what the other kids are doing - he is learning the value in our family dynamic (albeit, slowly).

I laughed at myself a 100 times this week as I enrolled Teg in Vacation Bible School. How do you teach a kid group dynamics without telling him "just do what everyone else is doing"? I almost kicked myself when I heard myself say- "Just stay with your group and you'll be safe."  Neither of these statements are true and certainly NOT what I want to teach my son, in the grand scheme of things.. but .. I said them and thought... what the??!?  See what I mean. I've got more to learn than he does.

My son is funny, joyful, kind, loving, and is learning to be at peace!

His mom is often tired, cranky, unenthusiastic and learning to be a peace, often with her foot in her mouth.

Before: Sleeping on top of Momma

Remember all those months of sleep anxiety. Well June and July saw it return-- He fell asleep in my arms more often than not. Today... well, today we are past that six month point. Today folks,..... he is sleeping in his own bed. (silent roar of applause) Granted that bed is directly next to mine, but... that's beside the point.

After: Sleeping in Toddler Bed!!

Remember the update I wrote to you last June(09)?... when I wrote to you about friends that were switching agencies and I had been in turmoil over weather or not to join them. I wrote to you, explaining, as Peace had come to me, to simply be at "Rest" with the process, and stay where I was at. I wrote that on the 29th of June---- I NOW know- it was within hours of Teg being brought into care, in Hosanna.

It should be August 12, 2010 when you read this.  One year ago- at around 3:30 in the afternoon- I received a phone call- quickly followed by an email. This is my futile attempt at taking a picture of the first time I saw his small, delicate, scared face.

Note the hesitation, the "HUH?", the fear. Yes it was all there. I was sure they had made a mistake. I wasn't sure this was my child. I was jumping ahead 'in line' by almost a year! I was sure they would take it all back.

One of Two photos I saw August 12, 2009.

A year later.

There are so many things to celebrate in adoption. And at the very same time- so much to grieve. That is one of the primary things I've learned--- through the paper chase, through 'the wait' and through parenting. For every moment we radiate joy from a place so deep that it is intangible- the very same fact or action, moves us to uncompromising grief. Celebration & Despair. Compassion & Passion. Confusion & Clarity. All wrapped up in one moment, one cause, one person, one family, one country.

When I look at this picture: I laugh in joy, remembering these special early moments in Ethiopia and I also cry- knowing that he was in physical and emotional distress- that had yet to show itself. Celebration & Despair. Joy & Pain.

So although, August 12, 2009 was a turning point... a defining moment in my life- it is another one of those days which, I'm not sure how I feel about yet. It had no significance in his life. And yet- certainly one worthy of celebration. Although, lately, he is experiencing a lot of anxiety when we discuss Ethiopia- so this 'special day' will be reserved for me... for now.

We are approaching the time (about 2 weeks)- in which- he'll have been with me, longer than he was in the care center in Addis Ababa. It's continues to amaze me how these 'anniversaries' of innocuous details stir things up as much as the 'anniversaries' of traumatic events.


July 18th- was six months that we've been living together as a family. Six Months.  Yup.    This lady was right all along. I read it- but, after that six month mark- things look ... Different. Capital D Different.

    Folks, 6 months was like a switch. Literally. Suddenly- I can go to the bathroom by myself. (SIX MONTHS FOLKS!) I can take a full complete shower and not have to keep the shower curtain open so he can see me. It isn't just his progress.

    Suddenly, I feel like I'm stepping out of the weeds for the first time. Like I can take a step back and gain a little perspective. I thought I was seeing the big picture all along.. but now... NOW, I can see I was mired in the thick of it for so long- perspective was not what it was about. Survival. Survival was what those first 6 months were about. Now I can see/ plan/ hope a bit of the future that lays ahead of us and things look good.

    We aren't done. Not by a long shot.

    Being blessed with this extra time with him, has allowed me to see things that I'm quite sure I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. We have some attachment work to continue with, of course. I've also seen some subtle, but clear, indications of "holes" in his developmental stages. Not "Stops". Just a few holes. Some of those we've been working on- some will take more time than others. Some will need professional help, which I'm looking forward to. All of them effect our daily life. But - I can tell you this- it is a good life!

    We've continued to travel a lot through July. DC to visit with Ryan & Jon (and Max & Zelda of course!).

    Ryan was actually saving his life, in this picture, as he was attempting to jump in the river (basin?).

    Ventured to Rindge, New Hampshire for Ethiopian "Culture Camp". Which was great and wonderful! Amazing. He loved the music and dancing!  We met another little girl that the two of them had been in Addis together. She had left about 2 months earlier than Teg... but there must be something in that toddler gibberish I still hear every once and while. Cause after about 90 seconds they were off and running hand in hand, squealing to their hearts content!!

    Running hand in hand is something Teg can NOT do with Mosey- with who we visited again. This time in Southern Maine. His buddy Mosey is .. FAST! Lightening McQueen fast! He's got a natural stride and cadence for which, professional runners would kill. Teg, on the other hand.... is ... not..... fast. ... Yet. YET.

    I have no idea what was going on. I can only imagine Mosey had something to eat or drink and was feeding it to Teg?

    Earlier in the day, before visiting with Mosey and Anna (mom), we gathered with our Maine Ethiopia group for a fun day at Two Lights State Park. Both of these Ethiopian gatherings were a special treat. Not only do we see families that look like us- but Ethiopian families! Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, Teen-agers all take a special shine. I can only call it Ethiopia-ness. It is engulfing, entrancing and inspiring. (of course I forgot my camera in the car... so no pictures of this one..)

    He's grown so much- I need to adjust his car seat and give him pain meds regularly for the growing pains!! Check out the difference in heights.

    Day # 2 or 3 in US January 2010
    July 2010

    Here's the growth info for the past year. He was 26 mo in July 09.
       July 2009    30 in   17.5 lbs  
       Jan  2010    32 in   30 lbs       First US measurements
       July 2010    37 in   35 lbs       In US 6 months

    You are reading correctly. He's grown 5 inches in the past 6 months. He held steady at 32 pounds up until last month.  His height is still in the 25th percentile, his weight has jumped to 90th percentile and although I have no measurements to prove it- I believe his head circumference is off the charts. (It may also be where all the weight has come from the last 2 months?

    Use the top shelf as a judge for height changes

    I've edited this since originally posted and deleted a few photos. Some sketchy searches were turning up based on the captions

    Whats next for us-
    • Preschool. Some how some way- he's going to school. 
    • Work. Some how some way- momma's going to work.
    • Reading. I always learn & we grow when challenged by one of our parenting books. Currently walking through some steps of "Parenting the Spirited Child". Fun stuff.. and I'm not joking. We are totally having fun with it. It is challenging to me and him- but teaching me sooo much and so much is 'getting through' to him.
    • Adoption Talk. Addressing what it means for he and I and eventually the differences in all families.
    • Books. Right now we're working on focus- so that soon, perhaps we'll read more often (ants in pants and darting eyes make it challenging right now...)
    • Ethiopia. Plans for a return trip in a few years. (Get ready Uncle Ryan!) The "Ethiopian- ness" of the gathering in NH brought it all back. The smiles and welcoming comfort of the older kids and adults, the music,  ... I can not put it into words. Which is why, I have never attempted to write about the trip. The next trip will surely be different. But- we must go back. We must continue to return. It is his homeland and one day he'll want more than what I can offer. When that day comes, I want him to be comfortable and confident in returning there, or where ever, he needs.  If it were just me- I may have gone back already- but he is not ready. Not yet. For now- I settle with closing my eyes and smelling our Berbere spices I brought back. If only for a moment I'm back there again.... (for a far less romanticized reason..)  while we were there, one bag of the spice burst open and my entire room and suitcase smelled like it for the rest of the trip. At the time I was upset. Now- it is heavenly.
    • Giving Back. Supporting Ethiopians is one way he & I can give back & he can learn the concepts of managing money at an early age. A specific way is to sponsor a specific child. I've already started putting a little away at a time- but soon I'll be introducing the topic to him. There are many different organizations that do these things. For my own preference, I prefer to support the smaller hands on groups (especially in Ethiopia for a billion reasons I can not go into here). I like Six Baer Essentials -Children's HopeChest for Kolfe boys and Drawn from Water. But I'm researching organizations that may work specifically with the under served, marginalized population of Wolayta. The Wolayta ethnic region is far south of Addis Ababa and is where Teg hails. 
    • I am looking forward to being able to complete a conversation.    ... With an adult.
    • I'm looking forward to the day that every single word that comes out of my mouth is not about how he and I are doing- his newest trick- or what he's driving me crazy about... Yes. I've, sadly, become one of "THOSE" mothers.
    • Word Tense- Adoption is a verb (to adopt) or a noun (as in going through the adoption process). Teg is not my adopted son. He is my son. It's sort of akin to saying "my husband that I married." Redundant. And certainly it would catch your husbands ear - and immediately wonder "Which husband, DIDN'T she/he marry?"  Teg WAS adopted. He is now, family. If Mom introduced Christy as her Step- Daughter-- Somewhere- eek... it would twinge as if she'd just been moved over- a step further away- in a labeled place. Some adults do not mind the moniker. Being a 'step daughter' myself- it is not the way I want my son to feel. As if he belongs in a box that's labeled "adopted".

    So that is it. Six months give or take. I hope these 'updates' have been educational, helpful and interesting. As I look back and attempt to take a look with some perspective- Teg is doing great! He is adjusting far faster and quicker than I. He is a wonderful child that God has blessed me to be entrusted to him and him to me. We praise Him every evening for our family and for our special friends and family that have been so supportive in bringing us together.

    Adoption is wonderful and hard. I urge each of you - to be supportive of adoptive families. As they go through the process- and after their children are home. Family is family- but there are special challenges all adoptive families face. If you know someone who is adopting- offer to help. Anyway. Somehow. If you are unsure where to start.. .ask me. I may have some ideas.  Of course- I can not yet guarantee that we'll be able to finish the conversation in one shot... not yet. But I AM looking forward to that day!

    Moving on and other notes:
    PBS's Point of View (POV) is airing a series that I'm looking forward to. As many of you are family and friends I hope you'll TiVo it or settle it to watch a few of these as well. Heavy emphasis on the experience of Asian adoptees, and one domestic adoption, but I’m sure the themes translate to other adoptions as well..

    The first will be First Person Plural, which will first be aired on August 10.  It is the story of a woman adopted in the 1960’s from Korea and what happened as she began to remember her birth family.  The PBS website describes it as “a poignant essay on family, loss and the reconciling of two identities.”

    The second will be Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy, which is first scheduled to air on August 31.  It is the story of an 8 year-old girl adopted from China by an American family.  The story is told through the eyes of the little girl as she struggles with her new identity after leaving her foster family and culture behind.

    Off and Running is the third offering in the POV series.  It is scheduled to first air on September 7.   This story is about a young African-American woman adopted transracially and her struggles with her identity and her estrangement from black culture.

    The final offering is In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee which is scheduled to first air on September 14.  This documentary is another story about a Korean woman who was adopted in the 1960’s and her search to find the truth about her past.

    Check your local listings for the time and station.  Depending upon your local programming, it appears that these documentaries may air more than once.






    Kimmie said...

    I'm proud of you. Good job Mama. Your son is beautiful. Enjoy him. Just wondering (as an adoption addict-aheM) when you go back someday...will you add another one to your family?)


    Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

    Hi- I wandered in here from somewhere... anyway, your son is adorable- so SO cute! I enjoyed your summary and the pics, and I am in awe that he grew 5 inches in 6 months. Amazing!