Monday, January 24, 2011

It's been 11 months

Just wanted to post a quick update. It seems like my time on the computer is almost down to nothing. I am one busy mama. With schooling the kids, running the home, doing chores, ALWAYS having my kids with me, organizing an adoption support group, teaching a list goes on...I just don't have a lot of time to update my blog.

And to be honest, blogging has become a way to journal our family as we continue to adjust. And hopefully it can provide some hope and encouragement to other adoptive families. I spent much more time combing over blogs and reading before we brought our boys home. It was a great way to prepare and maybe it is that for you.

So...back to the update.

Can I just say...11 months. WOW. I can hardly believe we are nearing upon our one year anniversary of our gotcha day. So much has changed. Not only for us...but for the boys too. We have come so far from those first few days and weeks and months home. I almost wish I could go back and revisit a day at the beginning to remember how much has changed.

  • Language - the boys' English language is fantastic. New words every day. Longer sentences. Less made up words for Tate and more understanding of what he is saying. Tyce still has a strong accent (which we all love).
  • Sleeping - We currently have Tate in a crib (now all the way across the room from me). He is held until he falls asleep at nap time and is able to fall asleep on his own at bed time. I still stay in the room until he falls asleep. I am still co-sleeping (in the same room). Tyce is in his own room. He is able to play quietly for nap time and our bed time routine is much smoother now. He still shows fears of night time and being afraid of the dark. Chuck is doing most of his tuck in time at night (while I work with Tate). He isn't acting out as much at night time and seems to be able to calm himself down a little more. There is often a mat on the floor of the room I share with Tate and Tyce can use it anytime he wants.
  • Coping skills vs. family skills - Both boys are using less of their coping skills and have gains some much needed family skills (if you have read Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child you are familiar with those terms). Tyce doesn't seem to be a "performer" anymore and instead tends to "spaz out and then shut down". And to be honest, he has fewer and fewer "shut down" moments. He is able to use some skills to settle down and calm his body when he is feeling "wild" or "spazzy". Tate is having fewer tantrums and is able to express his disappointment in more appropriate ways. Instead of throwing a fit, he might say he is "sad" or "Tay Tay walk away".
  • Activities - Tyce is still in his Mom's morning out program. He goes 2 mornings a week and seems to like it. I'm trying to evaluate if it is the best thing for "our" relationship. It seems he feels disconnected when he comes home. He tends to act out more on those days or the day after. He is also part of Sunday School and although he likes it, hasn't connected great with the other kids. He doesn't act out at all, but seems to keep to himself and doesn't try to break into a group of kids. We may try him in an older class. Tate is doing much better with groups of people. He still pulls away and doesn't like having others around, but he is able to eat in front of them a little and can play when others are around. He will often retreat to the farthest spot when someone drops by the house (play in the basement or upstairs). Tate went to his SS class for 15 mins without me last week.
  • Rest of the family - People often ask how the girls are adjusting. And to be totally honest...they are doing VERY well. They both have adjusted to being big sisters. Having little ones around has brought out great skills and traits in both of them. Tissy plays very well with Tyce (he loves his big sisters). Tally has become a little mother to Tate (and the whole clan). I often reminder her that she is the sister, not the mama. It does take time to adjust to any new kids in the home, but we do a lot of debriefing and talking and validating their feelings. Our family dynamics are feeling more and more normal.
  • Eating - Both boys have accepted our American diet. Tyce does miss injera and likes to remember the foods he ate in Ethiopia. We try to offer familiar foods and make things like lentils. Neither of the boys eat much sugar (they have a hard time settling down after sweets). We don't offer desserts after meals nor do we have sugary snacks. Tate eats most of his food with his hands (although he can use a fork and spoon). He will even eat oatmeal, soup, salad with his hands. Neither of the boys seem to show big signs of food issues (hording, panicking when food is over, finding comfort in food and not mom). We do keep emergency food in the car, bedroom and school backpack for Tyce. If he gets too hungry if he missed snack time, it causes him to cry (something that is hard to see). Both boys would choose apple or banana over chips and crackers.
  • Family age - both boys are now 11 months old (according to their family age). Both have shown normal signs of stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. Tyce has asked me to stay with him in his SS class, which of course I did. We talk about how mom comes back and he hinted that "mommies don't always come back". Breaks your heart. Tate is still always with Chuck or me and Tyce is only away from us for his MDO or his SS class. We have worked really hard to only expect behavior out of them that is "family age" appropriate.
  • Nature vs. Nurture - I am seeing more and more behavior and mannerisms that are "nurture" oriented rather than "nature" oriented. I hear "my phrases" coming out of them. It is amazing to see how you truly become like those you spend time with. I also still see both boys doing things in "African" style (carrying things on their heads). Tyce still gravitate toward his little friend who was also adopted (watches out for her, plays more with her...). I think they share a deep common connection that others don't share.
  • Cocooning - We are homebodies by nature, and because it can be hard for the boys when we do TOO many activities, we do limit how much we do and what we do. Like we skip things like McDonald's play land and loud, wild, out of control places like that. We are involved in a small group and in small bits, we can spend time with those kinds of kids. Chuck and I are still the only ones to do most of the "nurturing" things (washing hands, dressing, getting their food, carrying them...). And neither of the boys hug, sit with, hold hands with other people. Sometimes Tally or Tissy with help with some nurturing things, but we are still persistent to be the only ones to do most of that kind of thing. Connection takes a LONG time and it is a slow process and we are working hard at being purposeful in how we do things here in our family.

I think that is about it for an update. It continues to go smoothly around here. It won't be unusual if we have a little set back around our one year anniversary. Anniversary dates are usually hard times for adopted kids. We keep plugging away and seeing great results in how we have done things.

Better run and get some things done around here...more later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

learning to play - and a little update

I bet you never thought you would have to teach a child to play. Kind of an odd idea and one that may not be normal in some families, but in a family with a newly adopted child you may find yourself "teaching kids to play". There are a variety of reasons that kids need some coaching in this area. It could be that developmentally they missed some stages in their previous settings, possibly that toys were not available, or what about the idea that kids had "adult" responsibilities put on them and they didn't have the freedom just to BE KIDS.

We have worked hard to provide lots of age appropriate toys and opportunities for the boys to learn to play. Our younger one has learned this a bit more quickly than our older one. Could be his age is just more teachable or maybe it is part of his personality. Tate is learning and exploring on a pretty normal level. He has really gone from
exploring on an infant level to a toddler level. It is fun to watch him learn and explore and make up for some lost time.

Tate can entertain himself pretty well and he is learning to play with others. He has some GROWING to do in this area. But he still doesn't participate in the class at church yet and once he goes more often, he should learn some social skills pretty quickly. It seems to be more important to us to keep him with us and bond some more before he goes to class without us.

Tate still seems content observing kids play from a distance and he is slowly exploring and more willing to play with the kids rather than stay by mom's side. Tate has also learned to use pretend play and likes to make noises and uses drama in his play. He (as you can tell from the pictures) is more serious in his personality. He is still cautious with his smile and isn't eager to share it for the camera.

Adu (that's what we call him...short for Fikadu)...he is a different story. Learning to play is a challenge for him. To ask him to go find a toy to play with is almost like punishment. This has been an unexpected challenge. He likes to play with YOU and not on his own. He like to "bug" his siblings or make noise to irritate those around him, but to play with a toy...almost unheard of. He hasn't learned to play pretend or dramatic play. He doesn't like most toys. He has really taken to games (like connect 4) and it helps to have his mind challenged. He doesn't do well if there is unstructured time (like free play time). He thrives off of routine and action and sports and people. He did GREAT at soccer and that was a perfect fit for him. He loved the challenge, the action, the game...the whole thing. We are missing that right now during the winter season.

We have seen improvement over the last months. He is slowly learning to find a puzzle, or play on his scooter or skateboard or go adventuring in the back yard. He does well if we give him a challenge like a scavenger hunt or an idea for an adventure. He is creative and has the mind of an engineer. He loves to create and draw and figure things out. He enjoys writing letters and numbers and creating pictures of our family. But give him some ninja fighting action thanks.

This was a day he took a boogie board and surfed down the creek that is behind our home. It was so fun to watch him balance and hop on and SLOWLY float down the stream. He had a BLAST. He was playing. And it was an absolute JOY to watch him.

He is LEARNING to PLAY. It takes time. He may not always gravitate toward toys and traditional play time. We have learned to trust God in how he designed our boys. They are created in His image. They are exactly how He wants them to be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


If you already didn't have it on your is a link to the movie tonight.

And here is a discussion guide to use if you wish.