Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Our neighborhood

Our neighborhood is really an amazing place... It struck me tonight just how amazingly lucky we are to be living here. Our street is full of kids and families and all of them have been so amazingly suppportive and accepting of our new kids. We are the only adoptive family on the street, and the only family with sooooo many kids - but it is no big deal to anyone - and boy oh boy does it help the newbies to feel welcome.

Today I took our 5 youngest to the park down the street - and along the way picked up 6 more kids so by the time we arrived there were 11 kids on bikes racing around the park - there must be something magic about that number of kids - does it go out on some secret kid radar?? with in about 10 minutes there were 10 more kids - the perfect number of kids for games of tag and bike races and an all around good time. An hour later when I gathered the 11 I needed to take home... the whole park emptied.. kinda funny. Then tonight after dinner the kids went out to play for a few minutes and suddenly everyone is out running up and down the street playing hide and seek in everyone's yard and having a great time - much like I remember playing as a kid. And not at all like any other neighborhood we have recently lived in. It just brought such joy to my heart to see how easily Alem and Estifanos fit in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Today something amazing happened....

Alem and Estifanos were home this afternoon due to various appts. They were playing in the front yard and garage with Becca. They both wanted to play with the same ball - and Estifanos got it first... Alem was being quite difficult with him about it. I was just watching to see what would happen - now as you might imagine often the kids give in to her just to get some peace - eventhough I encourage them not to... so after a few moments of "discussion" Estifanos looks at me and says "Mom, my turn". And it was - but the really cool part is that he trusted I would intervene on his behalf. The other cool part is that I was able to take Alem to the side and talk to her about her behavior and how she was being mean to Estifanos... she agreed and said she'd try to be nicer - which is huge - both her agreeing to be nicer and admiting that she was being mean, and there was no fit involved - not even a scream or tear.... progress.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Attachment is a process - a life long process. With bio kids it usually flows pretty naturally a tiny baby cries and mom and dad jump to meet the need expressed - the baby learns to trust that it is loved and cared for and attaches to mom and dad.

When you adopt older children the dance of attachment is very different. No bottles, no diapers, no rocking to sleep.... so the question becomes how do you know that they are attaching? that you are attaching? (cause both are important).

I don't know what it looks like for everyone - but for us we know that she is attaching because she leaves us notes about how much she loves us and thanks us for giving her a family (oh boy she is so older than 7), her hugs have lost the desperate quality and have become gentle snuggles (for the most part), she is beginning to care what is happening with her sisters and even steps aside when the littlest one needs something - trusting that her need will be met after the 3 year old, he melts more into hugs - it isn't like hugging a stick figure (though we do need to get some meat on his bones quick), he looks for ways to help mom - opening and holding the door, carrying in the groceries grinning the whole time, and finally feeling like he doesn't have to eat something he doesn't like - trusting that we will provide something else, that he won't have to go hungry.

Each day we dance closer to them - sometimes it is an easy waltz, sometimes a complicted tango - but each day a dance.

How do I know I am attaching to them? Simple things mostly - thinking of them brings a smile to my face, when I'm shopping for groceries I look for things I know they will like and be happy to have in the house, bed time isn't wiping me out any more (and seriously that is a biggie - at first I dreaded bed time it was so intense so exhausting so overwhelming that I wanted to go to bed myself rather than cope with it) when they wake early and come down during my alone time I am able to just grin and start the day rather than have my whole day ruined.

And so we dance - sometimes stepping on toes, sometimes closer, sometimes farther apart - but the dance looks better each and every day, and honestly if feels more natural each and every day.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I almost hesitate to put this into print .... but we have had some amazing breakthroughs lately.

Estifanos continues to settle in and do well - his ESL evaluation - his reading ability almost disqualified him from services. LOL what a riot. The boy can read like you would not believe, but the understanding isn't there yet - happily they realized that on thier own. He has tremendous phonics skills and can read anything in front of him but doesn't alway understand it. However - once his understanding kicks in I think he may need to jump up a grade. He can do all the math that the second grade is doing without any struggle whatso ever.... really kind of surprising.

Alemtsehay - has been really settled this last week+ She has been sleeping on the floor in our room - which I wish we had done from the beginning. We didn't because she seemed so happy to sleep in a room with her sister... but it wasn't helping her to be more secure. Once we told her she would have to sleep with us until she was ready to sleep all night in her own bed - well we thought she'd flip, but instead she was totally excited about it. Now tonight she announced she'd sleep in her own room again - we'll see. She is taking her meds without a fight - I told her she needed to take them to stay healthy and grow up to be a teacher (the current career of choice) and so now she does. Of course it helps that Estifanos and Daddy take meds every morning too. And really big deal I was able to go out shopping on Sat with out her having a total and complete meltdown at being left at home with Dad and the rest of the kids. As soon as I told her I was going out she wanted to come and when I told her no - it was apparent that her stress level was ramping up. And it doesn't go up slowly it goes from 1 to meltdown in 10 seconds flat - but we were able to stop it simply by getting down to her level and saying Mommy always comes back and Daddy will do a good job of taking care of you until I do. (and making her repeat it) Then on sunday we were able to go to Walmart - the kids needed new bikes - so yes she was getting something, but even when she has gotten something before the store has provoked meltdowns, but she did amazing this time. And at the Drs on Thursday she was able to pick from the prize box - and she choose a "magic wand" like in Cinderella - and the first thing she thought of was the Becca would want one too (not something she could get 2 of), so she instead gave Becca a pink one that she already had at home... amazing. And Daddy had to travel this week - and while she was not happy about it she didn't fall apart and isn't punishing me for it either. The best thing about all this progress is that it has been a gift in stress reduction for me. I am not so foolish to think that everything is solved - because it isn't... but we are moving foward. There will be times of moving backward too - but today I will take the gift I have been given, a glimpse of what healing looks like for this precious child - what hope and a future are. Praise God.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The truth about adoption is that it will probably totally rock your world. You think you know what you are getting into - but you don't.

We have been adoptive parents for 14 years - our first adoption was a 16 year old girl when we had 2 baby boys and were only 27 and 28 years old ourselves. If you read any adoption literature you know we were set up for failure - funny thing though - when you are set up for failure sometimes you still succeed. It isn't that we were amazing people or that we didn't make mistakes (oh boy did we) but we did the best we could to love her and help her to become all that God had in store for her. And it was an amazing adventure, it really couldn't have gone any easier (well except for the car accidents - ask me about it if you are considering a 16 year old).

Our next adoption was Miss B - a toddler/preschooler. Probably the adoption that most turned my world upside down for alot of reasons. But she is an amazing little girl who really couldn't be better attached or better settled in our family. Have the recent additions affected her - of course, anytime you add a child to the family everyone has to settle down to the new situation, but she has handled it pretty well.

Now the 2 newest ones - Estifanos is probably the easiest child in the world - so sweet and anxious to fit in. He is one smart cookie as well and a total joy to parent. Alemtsehay is the most challenging child we have adopted - not however the most challenging child we have parented... Just because a child is born to you doesn't mean they will be easy. We have a couple of boys that at various times have really put us through our paces.... Anyway - is little miss hard - yep she is. BUT and here is the big thing - she is learning to have hope for her future, she is learning to accomidate alot of family all at once, she is learning to trust and love - things that haven't worked out so well for her in the past. Is it going to take time and skill to help her to heal and attach yep it is - but she wants it, and she wants it pretty badly so I think the future for her is really bright. (In case anyone is wondering - she loves me pretty desperately, but aside from her sisters she could take or leave the rest of the family - the day is on the horizon when she will love us all until then we celebrate every step foward)

The truth is that adoption is hard work - it is challenging and most of the time it doesn't come naturally (at least to me). But I am always reminded what love the Father has for us that despite everyting wrong with us he chose to adopt us - to call us coheirs with Christ, I will always be humbled by that - would that I never get over being adopted by God and that I would never lose His eyes for my kids, adopted or not.

Monday, April 12, 2010

colds, puking, mumps? and breakthrough - oh my

What a weekend we had. Estifanos has had a cold since arriving home - but he woke up Sat. with what certianly looked like mumps... (happily it isn't - but boy oh boy did we give the Dr. at the urgent care a fright). He has a raging infection in his glands at the back of his mouth and it looks like mumps - and it hurts and he is running a fever, and occasionally puking... like this morn - ugh. However - the great thing is that he is turning to us for care - friday night when he started to feel bad he let me rub his back while he fell asleep and didn't even try to hide that he was crying... it must be so hard to be in a new family in a new house in a new country and then feel horrible, and not know what these new parents are going to do about it. The funny things is that at lunch on Thurs Scott and I were talking about how easy a kiddo he is - so sweet and funny and quick to listen, and how since he was so much older and self possessed that it might really take and event to get him to really begin to rely on us - an event like being sick. LOL. Then - bam - he is sick and sure enough it is turning out like we expected. (Not that we wanted him to be sick mind you).

I think we are also on the verge of some breakthrough with little miss too - almost hate to put that out there.... but through a variety of reading this weekend and some events on Sat... we will just have to see.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

ages and adoption

Funny thing - all of our ET kids have ages that are off by at least a year - maybe even two. When we got Becca's referral she was sooo tiny - reportedly 2 years old and 15 lbs (scary). But the reality is that she is at least a year if not 18 months older than that. So while her birth certificate has her turning 4 in just a little bit I am really sure she is turning 5 - and is still very tiny, even for a 4 year old. How do we know - well there are so many developmental tasks that she has totally mastered - that she shouldn't even have begun yet - for example she has taught herself to tie a bow. By itself really no big deal - but she is also beginning to read and is easily the smartest kid in her preschool class - this for a child who never heard english or saw a book until 18 months ago. Even when first home and we had her developmentally tested she scored right at her age, and advanced in some areas.... really amazing for a malnourished toddler. Does it matter? not to us of course we love her regardless - it is just something that we will have to remember when the teen age drama stuff flares up early! LOL!

Estifanos is a different story - he really seems to think he is 8 - Ethiopians really don't keep track of age the way we do in the west so that isn't surprising. But upon meeting with his uncle and recounting a timeline of events all the adults were in agreement that he is about 10 years old. Gulp, it isn't that we didn't know it was a possiblility - we sure did, but a number of folks who had met him over the years and spent time with him felt like 8 was really quite close to correct for him and maybe even a bit younger - i think because there is really something very gentle about him. Right now he is barely the size of an American 6/7 year old - once he hits a grown spurt I imagine he will shoot up - but since ETiopians tend to be smaller he will probably fit right in with his peers until they outdistance him. Again we will just have to keep it in mind when the teen years strike - but he really seems to think he is 8 so no real problem.

Alemtsehay is a way different story. Reportedly she is 7 - when we were considering her file another mom emailed me and said no way is she 6 (what she was at the time) maybe more like 8. Well I am pretty sure she is at least 9 if not 10 and I am very sure she has been told to lie about it.Now her everyday behavior is much closer to 5 years old... but eventually she will catch up and settle in and then big dilema for her will she be able to trust us with the truth... and how hard it is for a child to be told to lie. I have no way of knowing who told her to lie - the aunt, the social worker or the nuns.... I suppose when she is ready to tell us then we will find out.

But my frustration with a system that doesn't seek the truth and is content to believe the lie ... well it is hard to handle - hard to even know what to do about it. We didn't adopt looking for healthy babies - we wanted to provide a home a family for kids who really needed one, and we are blessed by all of our kids - it is just that in the long run it would be better for them if they knew the truth - if they could really own the details of thier lives instead of us having to guess about them.

Settling in - older child adoption

Estifanos has been home over a week now and we are seeing his personality emerge a bit more each day. He is still pretty quiet - but does have a sense of humor that fits right in with the other kids. He is such an easy going guy, and what a gift that is. Tomorrow he starts school which should be really great for him as he is going to need a bit of ESL support - his english is pretty good - but he does the smile and nod quite a bit. He loves and I mean loves riding his bike - and he is very very good at it. He also really loves hanging out with the big brothers - it is so sweet to see.

People always say there are reasons for various delays in adoptions - I wasn't sure we would ever understand why they came home seperately - but of course now we do. It is because girlfriend is waaay the heck harder than he is. If they had come home together I am not sure how well we could have coped. I hesitate to say that Alemtsehay is hard - when I know lots of folks have had it way harder. When you contemplate older child adoption it is very important to read and know all the challenges you could face and the fact that your child could have all the challenges. She doesn't have all of them - she has a few meltdowns each week - which are exhausting but understandable. The harder part about her is the needy-ness. Now if you haven't adopted a challenging child you have no idea what I am talking about - but there is a needy part of her that theatens to overwhelm us at times. She knows what love is and wants it but often becomes very frantic over it. Her biggest drama revolves around feeling like I love the other kids more than her. Tell her no to something and boom - there you are I love the other kids more. Before she had her dental work taken care of every time she was upset about not getting enough - she would cause her mouth to bleed so that we would have to drop everything and take care of her. Ummm yeah - it worked at first until we got wise to her and then we would just give her some papertowels to take care of it and walk away - but even that was a victory for her. Sigh. She also used to be anemic to her nose would bleed fairly easily when she was upset - but then we figured out she was deliberately making it bleed to get attention.... sigh. Yeah cleaning all that up wasn't fun. Once her dental work was done and the anemia cleared she didn't have the usual things to resort to - both of which probably really provoked reactions from the orphanage staff. So then she resorted to delibertly vomiting - LOL by this time I was totally wise to her tricks. One time she did it and then had to clean it up - which totally did her in. The other time she did it was over taking her meds - which have to be taken every 12 hours. Sooo she doesn't want to take the pills and is trying to find out what I will do about it - she takes them and then makes herself throw them up....sooooo then I make her take them again (same pills mind you). I know it seems tough - but this is not an area we can have any give in... needless to say we haven't had a single problem with meds since, or throwing up for that matter. She is getting better - and I have to remind myself that it has only been 2 months...hopefully the next 2 months see even more improvement.

Adoption is....

Adoption is permanent - it is the same as giving birth to the kids - just at a bigger size. My adopted kids are no different than my bio kids. I really wish certian folks we are related to could figure that out. UGH!!!!!!