So...I have gathered some questions and have spent a few days pondering some answers and wanted to post them here. Some of these questions I have gotten in person when I am talking with someone and thought I would throw those in here too.
First off...the most common question.
Are they biological brothers?
Well, that isn't how it is always worded (please don't use the phrase "real brothers"), but I think "biological" is the best way to state it. And yes, our boys are biological brothers.
What books would you recommend reading?
I have enjoyed a few that I would recommend. When we were thinking about adoption I read these.
Adopted for Life
Strength of Mercy
I've heard others enjoying some of these books.
There's No Me Without You
The Hole in our Gospel
For books about attaching and bonding:
The Connected Child
Attaching in Adoption
Adopting the Hurt Child
Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family
How did your older children handle it? Were there concerns about having them give up too much?
Were your girls on board from day one, or was there reservation/jealousy/fear about how their life would be "shared" with two more siblings.
Well, we prepared the girls as best as we could. We have often talked about living a life that is full of sacrifice and they understood that was part of the package. They were on board from the get go, and I think it has been good for them to step into this new role. To be honest, most of Americans encourage our kids to think of themselves and don't challenge them to live more sacrificially. This isn't a whole lot different than when a mama gives birth to a new baby. The roles change. There is adjusting time and to be honest, we are all better for it.
Now that you have had your boys for 5 months (seems to have gone by so fast!!), what has the adjustment been like for your girls?
The transition has been normal. Some days are hard, most are pretty easy with maybe some difficult moments. At first, the girls did grieve the loss of having me to themselves, the loss of just the 4 of us, the loss of what was familiar. But we worked through it. We allowed them to share their feelings and we listened to them. Helped them process them and encouraged them to think of good things. It can become a danger of dwelling on the hard things. But we are dedicated to focus on the positive things.
What is it like to "start over" with a baby and toddler while having older, self-sufficient girls too.
Starting over...well...I'm older than I was 10 years ago, but not too rusty. I am back to little ones who are needy. They demand my attention ALL day long, and if you aren't willing to sacrifice your time and energy...than it could be a rude awakening. I have found, I do enjoy this role and I am grateful that God has given me another go around. The girls are a big help and it seems to be preparing them for caring for little ones. It is a beautiful thing to be part of.
How did/are you handling the language barrier with having an older child? Any tips on what works best to communicate with your children? I was wondering about how the process of learning English is going for your boys? How are you teaching them? Is it difficult to communicate?? Did they learn any English in Africa?
The language question is the second most common question I get. To be honest, I didn't give it much thought. If I could communicate about the basics (bathroom, mommy, hurt...) the rest would come. I knew how to say "shint" (potty) and "caca" (poopy) and "enat" (mama). We were able to communicate anything concrete ideas right away. Lots of acting things out, pointing and pictures. Abstract ideas were harder to communicate.
We have used a lot of signing and this has continued to help. In fact we are learning together how to sign many different things. We like this video series that we borrowed from the library (check to see what your library has, and if they don't...request it). We even watch them together. You can see some pics of Tate signing before he was able to say the words HERE.
Now that both boys have picked up the English language VERY well, we still sign. There are times that when they boys "shut down" emotionally (don't get their way or are being disciplined). When that happens, we use signing to talk things out. That has helped a great deal. It seems to be less intimidating for Tyce to sign to me rather than use words to express his feelings (signing is for more than just babies...it has been one of the best tools for us).
They didn't really know ANY English when they came home. Maybe 2 words or so. And I've heard that with in 3 months they lose their original language. Our boys have been exposed to 3 languages by now. Their native tongue, then the national language Amharic, and now English. They are truly sponges to learn this much. I do desire to have them learn some conversational Amharic so they can communicate with other Ethiopians (one project at a time).
Would you do it again?
I was recently asked this and my answer would be YES !!!!!!!!!!! I would do it again. Not only again to bring my two sweet peas home, but I would consider doing it again another time. I can see why people go back and adopt again and again.
Did you know for a long time that you would plan to adopt? Was it something you saw for your family for many years or a more sudden "call" to adopt?
I would say, I have always had a heart for adoption. For a very long time. In fact, when Chuck and I were first married (like 18 years ago) we went on a missions trip to Honduras and on that trip we had the chance to visit an orphanage. I will NEVER get that image out of my head, those children all crying and rows of babies needing food. I believe that God used that to move in my heart a passion for orphans.
We actually had considered adoption for many years before we had bio kids and never felt that the time was right. I think God had some work to do in us before He brought us to this place. And for the last 4 plus years we have been discussing adoption more seriously. Something that was significant for me was studying the book of Ephesians about 3 years ago. Understanding more and more about God's heart for adoption. I think we thought there would be a "right time" and we were waiting for things to be more settled. We had saved up our adoption "nest egg" and due to our moving we lost it all. Like I said, there is no perfect time. But last summer I couldn't shake the sense of urgency. We stepped out in complete faith, feeling that it was time we followed in obedience and respond to the call on our family to adopt. And God, in His great mercy, blessed every step of the way.
What has helped your family adjust to the new boys? How is the attaching and bonding going?
I think it was crucial for us to cocoon (stay home and limit interaction with others) for 3 months. It has really helped the boys identify what family is and helped them connect with us and us with them.
Co-sleeping has also been key. It has provided the foundation that the boys need to understand that we will always be here for them. They both have the abandonment issue and that is normal for their situation. We are working really hard at making them feel very secure in our family.
Routine is the next big thing that has helped our transition. We live a pretty simple life and having an expected routine for the boys helps them cope with the ups and downs they feel during each day. There just aren't a lot of surprises around her and that helps them feel safe and secure.
That's about it for this round of questions. Feel free to shoot me a question if you have more or if I missed yours. I have prayed from day ONE that our story would be a positive example of adoption. Still praying that God uses our family to grow yours.