Monday, May 23, 2011

One Year Later: Reflections

One year.  To sum it up in one sentence: One life changing awesome year. 

I could just end it there, yet I do feel the need to write more, recall more and explain more about year one.  Maybe it's for me so I don't forget, maybe it's for the people that actually read this blog, maybe it's for my boys down the road and maybe it's a combination of that and other things I cannot quite put my finger on. 

Following other people on their personal journeys via blogs helped me in a tremendous way when I needed to see something tangible, that the light at the end of the tunnel did in fact exist. It is why I ultimately made the decision to log our experiences in such a public forum.

More than one person has told me that our transition with the boys seemed easy and seamless.  Rainbows and sunshine.  In many ways it has been and in others, well-I just chose not to share them. That's the advantage of being the author.  There is a line, there are things that I don't write about, things that I don't discuss and things that will remain private.   That being said, there are moments that were glossed over and I hope this recollection will resonate with some and perhaps shed some candor to my usual rosy thoughts.


The first few weeks were hard.  I remember being exhausted.  Not only did we travel for 24 + hours, we really never adjusted to being 13 hours ahead in Ethiopia. So on top of trying to to parent two children who we had known for less than a week, we were going on at least seven days of no sleep.   Lack of sleep and any other additional undertaking is never a good combination.

The day after we arrived home was a disaster.  Despite all my meticulous planning and meal freezing there were still some things that had to be done.  The clothes we had bought Boy O were way to big, so big that it was absolutely necessary to go to the store and find him pants that didn't fall off his small frame.  There was no getting around this, we needed clothes, we needed fresh fruit and veggies, we had doctor appointments, neighbors stopping by...completely overwhelming.  So there was no routine, no schedule, even I didn't know what was going to happen next.  I remember we had been up half the night with Baby O (who would still need about three weeks to adjust to the time difference), I was completely distraught that Boy O had very strong opinions on shoes and wardrobe matters and the fact that he refused to hold my hand in a busy store. My thoughts were jumbled, but I remember just being very distraught.  The what ifs took over my head...What if I have to carry him out of here kicking and screaming...what if he hates me...what if these people think I'm nuts...what if my husband thinks I'm nuts and leaves me...what if Baby O wakes up and starts screaming...what if I'm not cut out for Motherhood? It spiralled on from there.

Here's the other end of the spectrum that few take the time to consider: Imagine yourself at any age, being placed with a family and in a country that is so totally foreign to anything you can think of. Then imagine yourself listening to sounds and seeing sights that are unrecognizable. Even the background is different-the lighting is strange, the colors are overwhelming. So many things to process. Then try to communicate by speaking any word of the language you have known your entire life only to be greeted with a helpless look and some charades. You try to search for another word, and another, but it doesn't work. The only people you have to cling to are people you have just met.  At what age can one possibly process the gravity of what has happened in the course of only a few days? And if you do, even just grasp a tiny fraction of how your life has forever changed, how would you go about expressing it? Words aren't going to work. I don't even know if I could articulate it now at my age, much less as a 4 year old or a 7 month old. How much time would you need? When I ask myself this question, I am in awe of my children and their ability to be loved and return love.

We did make it through the day, but that is what I would call it.  All of us just trying to make it through the day.  After the kids were in bed, I shut the bathroom door and cried.  I called my Mom to talk, but I didn't have much to say, except that I was tired.  I didn't really feel like I could talk to anyone-after spending several years trying to make this moment happen, hearing the worries and skepticism from so many, I felt that there was no one that would understand or want to listen to my fear and frustration-I asked for this, I signed up for this, I prepared for this...but deep down I just felt very scared and alone. 

That was a low point and fortunately, things got better as time went on.  It helped that I could talk to my spouse about my thoughts.  It helped that I wrote out a routine and I made it as close to their previous schedules as possible.  Having an expectation of what was going to happen next made everything easier.  Having Daddy O take off two more weeks of work was a godsend.  By the time he went back to work, I felt fairly confident that I could hold down the fort.  I should also mention that he single handedly kept my what ifs at bay with his ever logical perspective: We have been home for less than seven days, remember what I said before we traveled? Give it a year. Then and only then, can you tell me how it's going. This was repeated to me over and over when I said at one month, three months, six months....I think we are doing ______________, what do you think? And he was right. It takes time. 


I have said this before and I will say it again: no amount of preparation could have prepared me for this. Those parenting classes we took? Silly. Toting around a rubber baby for eight hours in a sling and changing its diaper is no substitution for a real infant. If you don't know how to feed, clothe or take care of a baby-you will will learn and you will learn quick. Most parents will laugh at this, but the thing that shocked my system the most was that every second of my day and night was busy and full, sometimes it felt like there was not one moment in which to take a breath and when there was, it was spent sleeping.

I had and have read loads on adoption, bonding, and attachment.  I spent a lot of time worrying about it and both Daddy O and I did whatever we could do within our power to spend time bonding with our boys and creating sound attachments.  I discovered that both my boys are different-they are different ages, they had different experiences, different personalities and thus responded differently in our relationship with one another.  They were not a chapter in one of my parenting books, nor did I expect them to be.  But I will say that while I may not have been surprised at their responses, I was at times surprised at my own.  It is easy to say you don't have expectations, it is easy to say you will understand given past life circumstance, it is easy to say it is not personal.  Whether you approach it spiritually and/or scientifically, experiencing rejection at the hands of your child will cut you off at the knees.  No matter how logical and understandable the behavior may be-it is hard to watch your child take someone else's hand or reach for someone other than you.  I did not expect myself to react jealously or shed the tears that I did.  I did not expect myself to ask my husband what I was doing wrong.  But at the end of the day, it isn't personal, it is a reminder that there is still work to be done but it has taken a year to be able to look back on it with this perspective.  Again, it takes time.


We have come a long, long way from the family we were twelve months ago.  Issues surrounding adoption dominated our conversations and how we dealt with most things involving our sons. It is significant to me that we have reached a point where adoption does not rule our lives anymore.  I am not in any way suggesting or denying that our family wasn't created or made richer by adoption, but the past and the fact that my sons are adopted and how it affects present behavior does not override my thoughts anymore.  We have emerged from our cocoon one year later not just as an adoptive family, but a family.  And it's a great place to be.

Monday, May 16, 2011

One Down, Nineteen Or So More To Go...

Boy O lost his first tooth yesterday!  It's been hanging on by a thread for the last month or so and we were getting worried that it was just going to rot away eventually. 

This picture was taken at least two months ago when the adult tooth started to grow in behind it.  I rushed him to the pediatric dentist the very next day only to have her take one look in his mouth, say that this was completely normal and give me a look which I interpreted as, Lady, you need to take a chill pill or something.

This was yesterday morning, a bit gruesome with all the blood, but I honestly think this was the most excited I have ever seen him.  Even more than the water park.  And yes, we are still into capes.

This was the pillow my grandmother made for me a couple of decades ago and it is still going strong.  I also liked the blue treasure chest the dentist gave us.  It made it much easier for the tooth fairy to make a clean exchange before she crawled into bed.

How exciting!  It took him quite a while to get to sleep last night. He was very concerned about how exactly the tooth fairy would be entering his bedroom.  I convinced him that we didn't need to leave the window open-she is after all, magic.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

One Year Later: Celebration

For the past several years when there was business up north, we would pass a huge multi-colored contraption resembling a large funnel jutting out alongside the highway.  We would look at each other and say, We have GOT to go there!  Upon further inquiry, we learned that it was a water park  This wasn't just any water park-this was a fabulous water park, where in order to gain entry, all parties involved must stay overnight in the fabulous themed lodge complete with a fabulous arcade, fabulous kid's spa, build-a-bear workshop, story times and activities...

A fun, fabulous place for kids and their parents?

We promptly booked an all-inclusive trip to the island of Antigua (it was fabulous).

That was two years ago and now that we actually have kids to run around after, we had a fabulous excuse to visit.  So in celebration of one year home as a family, we packed up our swimming trunks and overnight bags to see what this place was all about.

Of course it seemed as if anyone who was anyone had already been there and we made sure to ask for tips and advice.  Don't stay on a weekend, check in at least three hours before the room is ready, bring snacks and drinks, don't worry about towels/life jackets etc...I followed it all to a tee.  We left the house with our swimsuits on, arrived around one o'clock in the afternoon and were able to check into our room right away.  Within ten minutes we were down the elevator and entered into the water park.   Even my eyes were big.  Water slides galore for every age and size, toddler activity pool, wave pool, random water squirting everywhere.....

The next few hours were filled with water and fun as we made our way down all of the slides over and over again, pulled every rope, pushed every button, ran through every fountain and jumped over all the waves.  Believe it or not, I didn't take a lot of pictures-the heat from all the water caused the pictures to be foggy and the quality was so poor that I ended up putting the camera down for most of the trip (much to every one's relief).  Here are a few to give you the general idea, but for most of the time we just ran around like crazy folk, splashing and screaming with the kids.

After three hours of wet chaos, we managed to drag the boys away from the water to explore the hotel and look for sustenance only to discover that every child in the hotel  seemed to be waving around their hands with what appeared to be a magic wand.  Boy O was intrigued to say the least as we just finished reading the first installment of Harry Potter two weeks ago.  Daddy O and I looked at each other with knowing looks and (not out loud) said, No way are we gonna be one of those parents that falls for that trap!

Three hours later as Daddy O and Boy O walked back to the room from another visit to the water park (Baby O and I had enjoyed some free time looking around), I hung my head low and whispered to my husband as Boy O skipped into the room,  Please don't hate me, but.....

All I can say is that I am weak.  So weak.  I just couldn't take it-the kids looked like they were having so much fun and as I wandered the hotel with Baby O, we just happened upon the magic wand know the rest...

Just point it and things light up and talk.

The bear hanging on the wall actually lifted it's head and talked.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  If you go, get the wand!

We spent an hour running all over the hotel, pointing the wand at everything.  I tried to tell Boy O that there was no magic past the fourth floor, but we visited every floor anyway-just in case.  Eight o'clock was story hour and we were mighty impressed when the trees and animals came alive and started singing:

Boy O and I walked back to room where Baby O was fast asleep and we all retired for the evening.  I remember Daddy O saying, Hey-even though we are in a hotel, maybe we'll actually get some sleep tonight since they are so exhausted.  Famous last words.

I remember waking up briefly around 3:15 am, looking at the clock and thinking Wow, we've almost made it...  Then 4:38 am rolled around.  We tried to fight it for about 20 minutes, doing everything we could to avoid the inevitable-putting Baby O in between us, cooing and singing softly... It was just not meant to be.  But making it until almost five in the morning is a new record for us, so I should have been ecstatic.

Waking up at five in the morning does present its problems though.  Magic wands apparently don't work anywhere except the front lobby before seven and there were no restaurants open.  Not even coffee.  The water park didn't open until nine.  With time to kill, we hopped in the car and took a short drive around the country side, stopped at McDonald's for breakfast and made it back by seven.  Only two hours left until the water park opened....

Two hours of bed jumping, cartoon watching and running all over the hotel and we made it back into the water park.  In hindsight, we pushed our water park limits with Baby O and within two hours, he was practically limp and fell asleep before we had even changed.  Good news was that both boys slept all the way home and then some. 

Our celebration could not have been more wonderful but it certainly gives me pause when thinking about a longer trip to someplace like Disney World.  I admire the stamina and endurance of some parents who take their kids for week long trips.  I'm still in recovery from the water park-I think 24 hours was plenty.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One Year Later: Pictures

May 10th will mark our first year home with Boy and Baby O.  It's about time that I changed the pictures on the sidebar, but I didn't want to forget what everyone looked like one year ago.  I want to recall that our faces still looked somewhat youthful with less than a week of parenthood behind us and of course the boys have changed ten fold.

Daddy O, handsome as ever in Ethiopia and one year later:

Me-tired, greasy, but happy on the final leg of our journey and one year later:

Boy O, who I never thought would eat less than 50 bananas a week and one year later:

Baby O, who could not even crawl and one year later-still our baby but  walking, running, jumping, talking, demanding...etc:

More to come on our family celebrations and reflections on one year home....stay tuned.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Day to Remember

I did not plan on posting anything this Mother's Day-mostly because there is nothing that could top our homecoming last year on you guessed it-Mother's Day.  I wish that I could have somehow captured Boy O traipsing into our bedroom this morning at 5:47 am, completely dressed, coat and boots on, scissors in hand, nudging Daddy O awake.  I had no idea until I was nudged awake myself a half hour later that Boy O had been intent on cutting me a few of my favorite tulips from the garden and making me my favorite breakfast, poached eggs on English muffins with Canadian bacon and Bearnaise sauce.  How lovely! 

He was so excited to wake up Baby O so I could open the card they had decorated and the beautiful butterfly brooch they both picked out just for me.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mommy's out there!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One Fine Day

It only takes one day of glorious sunshine and a temperature of barely 70 degrees to illicit this type of response from Family O:

It leaves me wondering whether we will keep this up when we move considering that 70 degree weather might be considered cold by the local residents.  Are we going to be that weird family that walks around shirtless and shoeless in the middle of winter?


Sunday, May 1, 2011

End of an Era

There is some news that has been keeping us busy these last few weeks....and I have sat down several times now trying to write this post.  I envisioned writing something touching and poignant to express my feelings, but can't seem to find the right words. So here it is in all it's glory, no fanfare, just the facts: Daddy O accepted a position down south and we will be moving at the end of the summer to a new zip code in warmer weather and closer to both sides of our family.  Of course just about any state other than Alaska and Hawaii would bring us closer to family, but this is great.  We will be within 1 day of driving or less from grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles etc...  This is much better than the current minimum of a 5-7 day trek clear across the country.

We have discussed moving to this region for a few years now, waiting for the right time and the right opportunity to come along.  Our discussions always included what kind of property we would want, what type house we would buy now (as opposed to us BC-Before Children) and left us yearning for warmer, sunnier weather. The pull of family and the sun has become stronger over the last couple of years and I am excited to make the move. My parents probably are chuckling to themselves, as I clearly remember stating to anyone who would listen as I was off to New York for college, I'll never come back down here, never! 

Beyond the excitement, making a move is different now as opposed to when I was growing up.  The main difference?  My parents aren't doing all the legwork now.  Now I'm the parent.  Now I have to be a part of the hard decisions being made, the stress of not only coordinating a move, but selling our house (oh gads, what if we don't? The market is terrible....), selecting a new place to live among other things such as schools, racial diversity, activities...We are trying to concentrate on one thing at a time but it has been hard to keep our minds from racing about all the details when sit down to take a break.

I think we have done pretty well, in two weeks we have:  interviewed several real estate agents and will put our house on the market as soon as all the paperwork comes in for our move.  Both Daddy O and I are ardent fans of HGTV and have been intent on taking the advice we have listened to over the years.  We rented a storage unit for all the junk and furniture we don't need, cleared out closets (to make it look like we have some storage), decluttered, cleaned the carpets, repainted where necessary, re stained the deck, put fresh mulch in the garden beds, power washed the house, porch and driveway, washed all the windows, put higher wattage bulbs in all the fixtures to make the house appear brighter and have cleaned like you wouldn't believe.  We are tired.

And I sold my car.  My very first car.  Sigh.  I actually shed a tear over a 1998 Dodge Neon.  Silver.  The sport model....ahhh the memories...  When my father bought her for me almost 13 years ago, I don't think anyone ever imagined I would still be driving her to this day.  She still ran, albeit the automatic door locks might not work from one day to the next, the CD player doesn't work when it's cold, the air conditioning is shot, the breaks squeal and she looks pretty banged up from when I ran the hood up under someones truck bed a few years ago.  People in the neighborhood used to laugh at me hanging on to her, but they will be glad to know that the spirit of the Neon will live on in the neighborhood long after our departure.  We sold her to one of neighbors, whose daughter just turned sixteen.  She looked happy as she backed out of the driveway with her newly purchased worn wheels and I hope the Neon is as good to her as it was to me (at least until we are 10 states away).  It truly is the end of an era.

The boys seem to be dealing pretty well with the news.  Baby O of course is oblivious to pretty much everything except what is right in front of him.  Boy O took it pretty well and each passing day brings a new and interesting question.  The first question was out of concern for his toys and then the whether or not we could bring the bathroom with us.  The next day he asked about his friends....they get more thoughtful as time goes by but we have not observed any major anxiousness or worries.  I did try to check out a book about moving at the library-I was in the parenting section, perusing titles such as What's wrong with Timmy?, and Why don't Mommy and Daddy Talk Anymore?  and I picked out a book that looked like a moving book to me-it was entitled Never Say Goodbye which as I discovered upon reading it the next day to Boy O, it is about dying, not moving.  Not really the subject I was looking to talk about, but I guess it doesn't hurt. Another lesson learned for Mommy O:  never judge a book by its cover.

At times it does not seem real and almost as if we are moving in a haze as we try to fit it all in between soccer games and life in the present.  But there is still that excitement, the unknown, a fresh start, the conversations of won't it be nice when.....and it will, I know it will.