Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Surviving to Thriving

Ok, that might be a bit of an overstatement. ALRIGHT. It is probably a gross exaggeration, but we're getting there. We have been home from China (almost exactly as I type this) for a month. In those 30 days, a lot has changed. Some things are still the same, though.

What has changed? Ethan is starting to bond. Yesterday I got out for the entire day and spent a wonderful afternoon with my niece Jenny. (Thanks Baba!) When I left, Ethan was devastated. Snot bubbles, drooling, sobbing devastated. To be fair, I don't know if it just because he wanted to leave or he wanted me to stay, but we'll chalk it up to the beginnings of bonding. We are still having issues...but that goes under the what's the same category. It's also interesting to see how much Ethan's coordination has improved. When we came home he could already walk down the stairs facing forward, but it was awkward. Now he does so relatively gracefully. Relatively because he is not yet two. He used to have an, shall we say, "interesting" running form. He is now starting to run a bit more naturally. He is also starting to pick up a few words. He says morning, nigh-night, bye bye, Maaaaaah-aaaam (a long, drawn out Mom he got from Aiden), 'mahn 'mahn (which I believe is come on, c'mon), shoe, and will try to mimic a few others, but he relies heavily on signing. He knows poop, potty, please, more, among others. I'm ok with this for the time being, but I have some concerns about his language and speech in general. Aiden and Ethan can now play together somewhat peacefully for extended periods of time. Ethan now knows how to give great hugs, can give a reasonable facsimile of a kiss and knows how to be carried. These are a few of the changes we've seen since we've gotten home.

Now, what hasn't changed. Aiden is still not Ethan's #1 fan. He doesn't like it when we upset Ethan, but he's more than happy to throw him to the ground or take away his toys. Aiden is still really struggling, poor kid. If we hold Ethan, we have to hold Aiden. Ethan gets a kiss? Aiden has to have two. You get the idea. On the whole it doesn't appear to be getting a whole lot better, but as I said, they do play outside pretty well together. We've said it before: he was just getting his world figured out, and we went and turned it upside down again. I also said, we're starting to see some evidence of, at least, attachment. Ethan will happily run into our neighbor's house, but when he sees I'm not going in with him and am turning to leave, he will panic a bit and run out after me. I need to temper this, though. There are still some, females usually, who he would gladly go to the car, get in, and drive away with, probably never to look back. And, although he was sad and cried when I left yesterday, when Dad went in to get him out of bed this a.m., I wasn't around, and he never said Mama or looked for me. He was happy when he saw me at 9:00, but it was almost like he'd forgotten about me already. Sigh. It's a work in progress. Another thing that hasn't changed, and it makes this Mama happier than you can know, is that Ethan sleeps like a champ. We rock for a song or two, put him in his crib, and if he doesn't fall asleep right away, he will happily "sing" to himself until he does doze off. He sleeps on average of about 11 hours a night, and even if he gets up before I am ready for him to, he will lie in bed contentedly or go back to sleep until it IS time to get up. Oh yeah. Did I mention that he takes about 2 1/2 hour naps in the afternoon? It's outstanding!

I can't believe we have been back in the States for a month and have had Ethan for about 6 weeks. Time flies. Clich├ęd but true. Aiden is getting to be such a big boy and Ethan is changing so fast. Happily, though, he is still a laid-back, happy little guy. I pray this never changes! I also pray time slows down. I don't want this all to go by too quickly!

Matching coats -- yep, I'm THAT mom!

Snack time outside. It has been a gorgeous fall!

Hanging out

Aiden LOVES cameras, and his new favorite pasttime? Taking pictures of himself. This pretty much says everything you need to know about him!

Friday, September 21, 2012

One Month Anniversary

Yesterday we "celebrated" 30 days as a family of four. Our celebration consisted of... well... nothing. Troy worked, Aiden was at daycare, and Ethan and I slogged through our day. Aiden no longer gets naps at daycare, so by the time I pick him up, he's already a little "zoned out." He and Ethan did play well together out back for about 45 minutes, though, which is nice. We ate sloppy joes / barbeques / taverns (whatever you call them dependent upon which region your from) and green beans. Shortly thereafter it was bath time for the boys. They did get to watch part of Wall*E, Aiden's choice, and eat some popcorn before bedtime. Ethan was ready to sleep earlier but was out by 8:00, and Aiden was asleep before 8:30. How's THAT for a huge celebratory day and night. That is, though, pretty much our new normal.

In our new normal, Ethan is starting to attach a bit. Bonding would be too strong a word, but we are making progress. Poor kid. What option does he have? He sees my ugly mug pretty much all the time. We figured that in the past month, other than nap time and bed time (can't count showers because he is often a witness to those - *SIGH*), Ethan and I have been separated for a grand total of about 10 hours. So we're starting to experience some signs that maybe he'll bond eventually. He no longer always actively seeks out other people to hold him when we're out in public. That sounds minor, but in the beginning, he really parent-shopped to an alarming extent. That's not to say he wouldn't now still leave with a stranger, but he's starting to seem content to be with us more frequently. In some instances, Ethan will actually "fuss" or whine when he doesn't know where I am and even cry if I leave the house -- to walk into the garage to get something out of the freezer. Conversely, if he's the one leaving me, he's usually fine with it, so I don't want to read too much into the tears-when-I-leave scenario. He asks me to hold him a lot now, too, and likes me to give him his bottle and sing a few songs to him at nap and bedtime. Fortunately, he still goes to sleep very easily. Rock, bottle and a couple songs, put him in his crib still awake, and he'll gladly fall instantly to sleep and stay that way for about 11 hours -- with a 3 hour nap in the afternoon! He does cry out a couple times each sleep period, though. AND, in my usual cynical / pessimistic way, my concern about his sleeping is, "Is he realizing that this is it? He doesn't get to go back? He's stuck with us, and his coping mechanism is...sleep and not have to deal?" Troy, Mr. The-Glass-is-Half-Full, wants to believe that he's finally comfortable and content enough to get the sleep he needs. Who knows? Also, you'll note that in most of these attachment circumstances I've indicated, I have used the first person pronoun "I". Troy is obviously having to teach and coach and is gone all day and into some nights. This is making attachment and bonding more difficult for the two of them. This has been so much more challenging than with Aiden who attached almost instantly to me, and attached to Troy by the time we got home. Our bonding will be hard-fought and hard-won, but it will be won! And once forged, it will be unbreakable.

This little guy has an impossibly happy nature and sweet disposition. He is pretty laid-back. Of course, this may be part of the issue. Maybe it's not all trouble with attachment; it may partly simply be his nature. He's friendly and outgoing. It's possible that some of what I've interpreted as disinterest, dislike, lack-of-bonding is merely his nature. Some of. There is NO doubt that we are still working on building our relationship. Working on getting him to trust us and not see us as just another set of caregivers. Interestingly, we have also noticed that a lot of his manipulative ways have stopped. We don't see the hands-behind-the-back-head-tilt anymore. We no longer witness the hands-together-quick-double-bow accompanied by his huge grin and wide eyes. This is also a good sign; he is quitting some of his orphanage-learned behaviors.

Do we still have issues? Absolutely. Are we seeing positive developments? Absolutely! There are still many more challenges to face. Aiden is still hurting and has such a soft heart that he's struggling to handle all the changes. He is also continuing to lose his hearing. We have a CT scan and another hearing test in October. My heart breaks for my baby. And it makes this whole situation for him even more difficult. He can't communicate his thoughts and feelings to us and we are having a hard time explaining things to him. It is gut-wrenching. We ask for prayers that Aiden finds peace with his new brother (whom he DOES love but is also jealous and sad about) and that his hearing does not progress to total deafness. We are praying for a miracle but also that if it is God's will that He give us the strength, peace, and understanding we need to get through this. Most importantly, we pray we get through this with two boys who are well-adjusted, happy, and know they are loved!!

Aiden loves to push Ethan in his swing. For a while anyway. ;)

Happy after bath time! He smiles. A LOT!

Playing cars together. For a while anyway. ;)

Having fun at Chucky Cheese with Emmy and Beck.

Did I mention he's a thumb sucker, to the point that he has a callus on his knuckle? And that's a dirty dish towel he likes to cuddle with in the morning. What a kid!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Baby Steps

We're starting to settle into our new normal, and we're starting to see very small improvements in Ethan's attachment. Baby steps -- no pun intended. We are keeping his world VERY small and holding to our 30-day rule. The 30-day rule is nobody else other than Mom and Dad hold him, feed him, pick him up, comfort him, etc. He has to realize that we will provide everything for him. We are his world. It's hard. I am a, well, fairly social creature, and this self-imposed solitude is hard but oh-so-necessary. I think that's why we're starting to see small signs of bonding. For example, he is still on a bottle (often times kids from China, especially institutionalized children I believe, are on bottles much longer than American kids), and the other night he was very tired and allowed me to give him his bottle. It seems insignificant, but it's a pretty important step in the right direction. Right after we adopted him, he would physically push us away when he was going to sleep; now we can rub his back, head, face. **THIS JUST IN!! He was JUST crying in his crib, held his arms up to me, pointed to the rocking chair and hummed. He was asking me to rock him and sing to him!! I did and he snuggled in!! Kind of a big deal!** Even when he would cry out in the night, he wouldn't allow us to comfort him. Last night he was overtired, and when he woke up (several times), he held his arms up to me. He will mostly let me feed him without fighting me. He has even figured out how to be held and how to give and receive a hug and kiss. Those are things we take for granted, but he appeared clueless in these respects when we first got him.

Now, to temper the good with the bad. He is still more than willing to go to anybody, will still call any woman Mama, and seems more than willing to go anywhere with anybody, and I don't think he'd look back. :( Hence the 2+ more weeks of the small world and no care from anybody else even if it is tempting. It is mostly tempting because Aiden is struggling so much. Poor kid. What complicates matters is that Aiden can't verbalize any of how he is feeling. It's a love / hate relationship with Ethan. If we discipline Ethan (i.e. tell him no and take something away) and he cries, Aiden comes unglued. He will point at us and holler NO among other things we can't understand! On the other hand, it sure doesn't seem to bother him when HE pushes Ethan down and makes him cry or takes away a toy and Ethan screams. We're seeing some regression in him. He wants to be held / carried a lot more now. Sometimes he wants us to feed him. He cries a lot more frequently and easily as well as acts out of control more often. He refuses to dress or undress himself -- among other things. A lot of people have been saying, "Oh, this is common among all kids. This happens to everybody when a new sibling is introduced." Sigh. I know. What I would like to tell everybody who says this, though, is, "Yeah. I get that. However, how many of these kids you speak of lived with their biological parents for 5 months, were then moved to an orphanage for 2 years, and then were adopted and moved 1/2 way around the world only to have their world turned upside down 1 1 /2 years later when a new "baby" was added to the mix? Oh yeah. And that baby? Not a baby. He doesn't sleep 20 hours a day. Rather, this "baby" is almost 2, can walk, take big brother's toys and sleeps the same time you do so you have to share your parents virtually all the time." We, of course, have received the advice -- frequently -- to do special one-on-one time with Aiden. We have and will continue to do so. That doesn't, however, solve Aiden's "problem." Please do NOT misunderstand me. We were prepared for this. We expected this. It does not, though, make it easy. It also does not mean we made a mistake. It's just something we have to work our way through, and we will! We will be fine in large part because we have the love and support of so many people. We appreciate everything everybody has done for us and continues to do for us! Words cannot express the gratitude we feel. Like I said before, we are blessed beyond measure. We just hope everybody will respect our decisions regarding the boys even if it's difficult to understand. We know people mean well when they offer advice is; the only problem is, even though the situations seem so very similar, they are frequently worlds apart -- pun intended! ;)

Again, we will eventually get there -- wherever there may be! We are figuring this out and learning SO much. It is incredible being a family of four. We love it! We just wish somebody had told us that going from one to two doesn't double the work -- it QUADRUPLES IT!!!!!! Good grief! Hahaha!! I can't lie, though, it's worth every extra load of clothes, each diaper change (PS we haven't had to change a poopy diaper. Ethan does that on the toilet every time. WOOT WOOT!), every added dish washed, and more!!! It's pretty amazing.

Anyway, our new normal:

So, together doesn't work so well. Guess we'll have to do separate pics!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ethan's Adoption Video

Finally got Ethan's adoption video done. Quality? Eh. But it's done ;)

You will probably have to cut and paste the address into your URL line, but hopefully it will work! Sorry, it's 14 minutes long. I have trouble editing!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jetlag -- My Nemesis

I've been up since 4:00 A.M. Believe it or not, despite this, last night was my best night's sleep since we've been home. I won't go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say, the 13 time zones we went through are kicking my butt. I got about 6 hours with only 1 interruption, though! It's progress. I prefer that to going to bed around 11 and waking up for the day at 1:30 or so and having to nap during the day. The boys seem to be on the right track, too. Aiden crashed at 7:00 last night after a no-nap day and is still sleeping (and he only woke up once last night -- he was my 1 interruption). Ethan went to bed at 8:00, is still sleeping, and didn't wake up once during the night. Yay! Troy was up until about midnight last night. Poor guy. He has to go back to work today. We'll see how he fares. The general rule of thumb is, to fully recover, it takes one day for every time zone you pass through. That's almost two weeks. We've only been home for four days. This week could be killer for him. Not only does he have to teach all day, but he also has football practice after school. Now. That also means I will be home alone with my two whiny, clingy, fighting, active guys until around 6:00. Heaven help me.

Here are some photos of said boys:

"So. You're what they call a cat, huh?" Actually, he still calls her a go-go, or dog. ;)

Enjoying Labor Day

All boy. Playing with his dump truck and sand.

No. It is NOT ok to eat sand.

Happy to be home

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blessed Beyond Measure!

We are surrounded by amazing, loving, thoughtful, supportive family and friends. We are blessed beyond measure. Here's why...the long version.

We woke up August 30 in Hong Kong around 6:45 a.m. (5:45 p.m. central time) and got ready to start the long journey. After a very fast traditional breakfast of congee, dim sum, etc. we made the mad dash to our gate. We arrived as the plane was boarding. No sooner did we get settled than the flight started taxing. Nice. Then the pilot came on saying that in order to avoid some rough air, we were going to take a little longer route home. Oh yay. More flight time with a four and two-year-old. What could be better? ;) Actually, though, the entire flight was uneventful. Ethan slept for 11 1/2 - 12 hours of the flight (with only one Benadryl dosing -- so no we didn't drug him throughout the flight!) and Aiden, while sleeping for only about 4 hours, did really well. God Bless the iPad! (Thanks, my dear cousin Jen for loaning it to us. It saved Aiden's life and our sanity more than once on the trip.)

Ethan discovering the iPod, headphones, and Mickey Mouse

Silly Daddy

Sleep time on the 15 hour flight

We landed in Chicago (those of you who fly, just did a little "ooooo" in your head, didn't you?) and Ethan became a U.S. citizen.

New American citizen!! (the boy on the right that is) Please note the exhaustion on poor little Aiden's face and the fact that Dad had to hold Ethan in place so he wouldn't run off

Aiden was a little whiny (hahaha! little!) and Ethan a little restless (hahaha! little!) which made passport control, customs, luggage retrieval, immigrant / new citizen processing, and security a lot of fun. *Insert sacrasm for previous statement.* We got through it, though, and had two hours to kill before boarding the final flight of our incredible journey. We ate a Chilis where we could sit for a while and pass the time. I am still impressed at how well the boys did there. French fries will soothe the savage "beast" apparently.

Our flight from ORD to FSD was largely uneventful, and we touched down just a few minutes later than planned -- about 25 hours after we had woken up in Hong Kong. The boys, wearing the American flag t-shirts, got their American flags to wave, and we headed toward the arrivals area. We were met with a small group and a lot of love: Grandma & Grandpa, Grandma Jan, Jenny & Andrew, and Jeffy G. Aiden was thrilled beyond words and Ethan took it all in stride.

We had decided beforehand to have a small welcome home celebration as our world is about to become very small. Everybody ventured to our place. This is what awaited us. Supper was on the table -- thanks Mom & Dad. Our home had been recently cleaned -- thank you Jenny Rae, Andrew, and Jenny F. Our pantry and fridge had been stocked -- thank you Jenny F. We had fresh veggies from the garden -- thank you Jenny & Andrew. There were gifts for the boys -- thank you Jenny F and Grandma Jan. We had flowers on the table and beer in the fridge -- thank you Cousin Jen and Jenny F. Our cat had also been loved and well-taken care of -- thank you our Jennys. :) We certainly don't deserve that kind of generosity, but God has seen fit to bless us with thoughtful, kind, wonderful family and friends. Throughout this journey we have been met with just such acts of kindness. We can't begin to say thank you enough to everybody who has been so wonderful, but hopefully you all know how much you mean to us and how much we appreciate you!

Aiden -- soooo happy to be home!

As Aiden would say, happy day day!!!

So, now the real work begins. We are settling in and trying to find our new normal. Ethan is starting to show small signs of attaching. He cried a couple times yesterday when I said bye-bye and left his line of sight. He still will, however, try to crawl into anybody's lap and is a little manipulative with his smile: things most people find adorable and indications of good adjustment. In our situation, though, it can be a bad sign, especially coupled with the fact that in the Chicago airport, he would walk away and hold his hands up to perfect strangers while not caring if we were around. We will continue to work on this by keeping our world VERY small for the forseeable future. He has to learn that we aren't going anywhere and we, and ONLY we, are going to meet his needs. Only "mama" and "baba" can feed him, hold him, comfort him, carress him..... WE need to BE his WORLD. I am so grateful Troy and I decided that I would take the entire 12 weeks allowed under FMLA even though it will be a little rough next summer. It is going to be critical to the bonding process!

On a positive note, the boys have been sleeping between 10 and 12 hours a night ("baba" included!). :) I wish I could say the same, but I've been getting 5 - 6 and I took an hour nap yesterday. Also, Aiden woke up yesterday, sat bolt upright, crawled out of bed and ran to the living room and looked around in a panic. He finally came back to me and desperately asked where Ethan was. I showed him that Ethan was still in his crib. Phew! Now, that aside, they already fight like brothers and Aiden is crazy jealous, but we're working on that and trying to make sure he still feels loved and cherished. (If he only knew how much...!!!) They play together and are generally happy. It's interesting; they both wake up at the same time during the night and get up in the morning at almost exactly the same time, too. Maybe they have already formed some kind of connection / bond? Both of them are eating well and are adjusting to life back at home pretty well. They're pretty amazing kids. Now, if they could both kick these colds, we'd be good.

Well, coffee is brewed and muffins are out of the oven. If I could just get the "men" of the house up to eat them, we'd be on to something. Nine in the morning and they're all still sawing logs!! But what am I saying?! Who am I to eschew morning quiet time. I guess I'll head to the deck with my coffee, a book, and a muffin and enjoy the gorgeous day before chaos once again reigns. Thank you, yet again, for all of you who have supported us in so many ways to make this beautiful chaos possible!