Tuesday, July 3, 2018

One Year In

Sam turned 6 in January and had his very first birthday party at the local firestation. 

What a year! I suppose I have been having too much fun to stop and write an update, and here we are almost one year into being a family of four. Last year on the 4th of July we were anticipating our imminent travel and dreaming of what this holiday in 2018 would be like- having another little boy to delight with our festivities while we revel in his joy and surprise. Truly, I can’t wait for tomorrow! Our neighborhood has a parade and it starts at our house, so we get to spend the morning watching everyone gather and get ready. Then we usually run to my parents’ house (which is on the route) to watch everyone go by and catch the candy each float throws out.

Of course, I have had a front row seat to the wonder of Sam’s first year home and I am blessed beyond measure. Watching him has been a highlight of my life. He is such a sweet and happy kid. Preschool was fun and easy for him and he just cannot wait to ride the bus and attend Kindergarten next year. He is pre-reading now and can recognize many words. He can spell Jeep (and anyone who knows him is not surprised his first spelling word was a car!). Every day we discuss cars- our cars, cars driving on the road, (what they are and how well they are driving), cars in the parking lot, cars we want to buy when we grow up.
Still loves accessorizing.

And “Mama, will you please go with me, I don’t know how to buy a car.”

The only things he loves more than cars are policeman and Jesus. He wants to be a police officer and drive a BMW 3 when he grows up. But at home his car will be a Honda Pilot. Or maybe a Buick like Mama’s.

Just like his big brother he has a wonderful imagination. (At this point he doesn’t get to use it as much when he plays with Isaac because Isaac dictates their story-line and all the details, but Sam loves that! Big brother knows everything and has the best ideas.) Be still my heart. Until they take a break from bliss and fight about a Lego “jewel” someone isn’t sharing. True brothers. 

Sam has jumped in to our family with his whole heart and we couldn’t be any more proud of and delighted in him. He loves books, friends, cars, camp, decaf, bowties, hats- basically he delights in everything his world offers. 

On Friday our little sunshine will have a major surgery. During testing this year they discovered that he has a bone spur through his spinal column and that his spine splits around it. The team needs to go in and untether his cord and remove bone pieces.

These years go by all too fast and I am trying to soak in the details. We still do a bedtime ritual which includes reading stories. I hope they never tire of it. They both love to cuddle and play hard and their parents still know all things. I pray to be the mother they believe that I am, and seeing myself through their eyes helps me to be more than I thought I could. Sanctifying, humbling, blessing. 

Heading out on vacation!

Hours of fun in a play car.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Little boys

The first time Mick ever put Sam on his shoulders he was terrified and cried to get down.
Now it's a preferred method of transportation.
This face makes me happy.

In a few days it will be five months. I get asked every day how the boys are doing, and how they are getting along. At the risk of sounding like a broken record- I'm amazed at them. For all of us, it feels as if there never was a "before Sam". Even Sam seems to believe he's been here his whole life. They are regular brothers- making sure things are even, play battles, tattling, reading books, partners-in-crime, racing. In less than 6 months they have moved through what could have been a long and challenging transition and are fast friends. Really, this is amazing. I am so very proud of them.
I wish these pictures had sound! "Faster, Baba! Faster!"

Sam speaks English exclusively now, to the point that he has started asking what the Chinese words mean sometimes when we say them. He gets his pronouns and verb tenses correct. He will tell you he has his opinion, "for reasons". We understand about 95% of what he says in his super-cute, squeaky, little boy voice. ("Probably" is one of my favorites.) As older siblings do, Isaac is right there to translate anything we can't get. He's always right, too. 

Bedtime reading is a favorite around here. Isaac now sometimes reads his own book, but sometimes offers to read to Didi (little brother). When I read to Sam he wants me to use his finger to point to every word and he repeats after me. After a page he will exclaim, "I'm a great reader!" He's in preschool this year and I expect he will be reading by Kindergarten. Definitely a lover of books.

If you get the chance to have a conversation with Sam you will hear all about the cars in his world. He is never bored with examining my headlights or tires, or talking car speeds and colors. He will beg to ride in your car and you will have a hard time saying no, so you will take him around the block and be rewarded with squeals of joy.

Last night our sweet neighbors gave the boys each a Hot Wheels car. Sam got a white Porsche and I looked it up for him on YouTube. The kid who can't sit for TV was engrossed in watching some guy walk around the car and talk about its features. It wasn't even driving! I couldn't take my eyes off of his delighted face. Just precious.

At this point we are through all of our initial doctor visits and even some follow-ups. Sam has high-muscle tension from his hip to his toes on his right side which pulls and twists his foot and leg. He has a leg brace he wears and we do stretches every day. The doctor says that it will help keep his leg from getting worse, but it won't really make it better. Surgery is a possibility but probably won't help much. He gets around well, though, and my priority is for him to feel good about all that he can do. An MRI showed he has a piece of bone in his spine that we will need to have removed, so that will probably happen this summer. 

Last weekend we took the boys to see Santa. Sam kept exclaiming, "It's my first time!" This is probably the only year we'll have where both boys will be "all in". Isaac asked for Pokemon and a Fitbit, Sam wants a race car and a police car. Simple pleasures. Is it strange that I can already feel my heart aching over the passing of time? I often ask Isaac if he will "please, always be my baby?". He used to emphatically agree. Now he just grins and shrugs as if to say, "No promises, Mama." 

These precious years are short for all of us. But for now we are enjoying our first Christmas as a family of four. Our hearts are full.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Childhood Magic

Today is the day that you see Frankenstein's monster coming out of your child's preschool as you walk him in and you are unfazed.

When Isaac had been home 10 months we had his first Halloween. A few days before in a practice session I showed him what he would be doing- walk up to the door, ring doorbell, say "trick-or-treat", get candy, say "thank you" and walk to the next house. Short silence… "Why?". He loved dressing up as a cowboy, though.
A Curious George collection of stories was his favorite book at this point, and a cowboy is what George was in the costume party story. So that is what Isaac chose as well. He was so proud of this costume.

Sam has loved every minute of dressing as a fireman over the last week and he brought his costume to school today for their parade and party later. He's excited to Trick-or-Treat tonight. Get candy? No questions asked.
I love seeing how much they enjoy dressing up. Sam wore his costume, including the helmet, ALL DAY on Sunday.
Isaac is a ninja this year. Some of his friends already think they are too old to dress up. I can't help but wonder how many more years I have to keep my guys little. These are the precious years where a foot race solves any disagreement. Saturday morning cartoons are the highlight of the weekend. Parents are still all-wise. Santa comes to our house. (Mick wasn't thrilled about that, but I insisted.) We all missed out on their first 5 years, so we're going to have as much innocent, magical childhood as we can now.

My friend Anitra took some family photos for us. (Mick thinks I am a little excessive on the family picture thing, but I don't want to miss documenting any seasons of life with them!) As soon as Sam loses his front two teeth we're doing it again. 
This one is on my desk. 

Can you guess which boy was goofing off, not wanting to follow instructions, and which boy was quite proud of following instructions? 

My boys. 
Last night my mom gave the boys each a ziploc bag of caramel popcorn. They were allowed to eat a little of it last night but I wanted them to save most of it. When we got home Isaac threw his in the pantry and I set Sam's on the counter. Sam went over to the windows and started pulling the curtains closed. I reminded him that kids aren't allowed to pull on the curtains and he unleashed a torrent of Chinglish on me. He was afraid someone would look in our house and see his popcorn. We decided to hide it just to be safe.

In parent- teacher conferences last week, both boys were described as a "delight" to their teachers. They work hard and share and help others. In addition, after only 3 months with us and one month in preschool, Sam is actually ahead of some of the other students in how many letters, numbers, colors, and shapes he can identify. He loves to be read to- books are a big deal. He likes to repeat after me as I read and he follows along with his finger. 

It is so much fun to see the world through their eyes. Everything is new and exciting. Add that to the richness of all they have taught me. I'm not dressing up tonight, nothing I can think of is better than being their mom. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Two forward, One back

Well, I should know better than to make a pronouncement like that. We are not "through a stage", we are taking steps forward and backward and overall. awkwardly, moving in the right direction. Live and learn, right?

Isaac had a field trip last week to the sculpture park. He was so excited for me to be joining his class. I loved watching him interact with his friends and be so proud to have me there. I told him that one day he won't want me to come- he denies it. I remember my parents saying the same thing and I thought they were wrong, too. He's growing up so fast, as kids do, and it almost physically hurts.

Samuel has had two doctor visits in the last couple of weeks and he struggles through them. I am learning a lot about how to help him feel comfortable and secure and  he is learning to trust and relax. Although it isn't easy I think he and I are better connected having gone through this together. The blessings of hard times.

First we saw the pediatric ophthalmologist. She did a great job making everything in the exam like a game, but there was nothing she could do about the eye drops. Many tears. He was still mad when we tried on glasses a little later. He didn't want to put any of them on, and when I insisted he try a pair he would duck his head so I couldn't see what they looked like. We were at least able to try on three and just pick one.
I know that when you see this picture you won't believe my story. He's good at taking great photos in the middle of it all.
He chose these when I said they looked like W's glasses.
Yesterday we had a couple of appointments. First he had to have an MRI. As we waited I fretted that we wouldn't be able to get it done because he would not want to. He was not happy about being there. The advocate came to him and showed him pictures and a video on her iPad of a little girl having an MRI. Together we got him to be a little excited about getting to go in a tunnel and watch a movie. He and I had a cheerleading session in the dressing room as he took off his clothes and put on his gown, then he bravely walked into the room. A few times he started to pull back, but he got on the table, let them put the "helmet" on, and slid into the tunnel. I stayed close where he could see me in the mirror and kept up the smile and excitement. The loud noises caused him concern many times, but the sweet boy kept his eyes on me. I don't think he was convinced this was a treat, but he was a champ and trusted us all through the whole test! They got everything they needed, so we don't have to do it again. Yay!
Sam was so happy to get up early and go with Mama and RiRi on an outing. It broke my heart to see him wilt when he realized where we were. 
Learning about the fun tunnel
RiRi had come with us and she had brought a kids smart watch to give him after he had his MRI. He was ecstatic to claim it when we came back out. It also helped us through the next appointment which was more truamatic.

The leg brace was ready and needed its final fitting. Sweet little Sam whimpered through all the adjustments until she declared it ready. He cried as she put a borrowed shoe on his foot over the brace. Then we had him stand on it. He howled and sobbed and refused to walk. For 10 minutes I cajoled and encouraged. It was all I could do to keep myself together as I took in his distraught face and tears. Although this is all for his good, it sure feels rotten to do this to him. Finally I scooped him up, rocked him and talked to him until he could calm down and then we tried again. As he pulled himself together I said "Didi is awesome!". (Didi is his preferred name. It means little brother in Chinese. He actually won't answer to Sam.) He yelled back, "Didi NO awesome!" I laughed and then he laughed- this was the kid I knew coming back out. Mister Contrary.

We walked together down the hall to the toys and played a bit. Since his shoes don't fit over the brace he got to take the brace off to leave the hospital and it was good for all of us to have a break. Next stop, though, was the shoe store. After fitting and buying shoes we kept the brace on for a while. He started to accept it, walk and even jump a little and be his happy self. For the first time in a few hours I thought this may work out ok. He will have to wear it every day, but we can ease into it by doing a little longer each day until we get to all day. 

Today is hat day at school. Sam wears a hat at least a couple times a week anyway, but they sure were cute this morning in their Disney hats. Isaac was especially proud that his hat says Hong Kong. Our Disney visit on the way home feels like a lifetime ago. For Sam it really is a lifetime ago. And maybe it is for all of us. Our lives are all richer for having Sam and I can't even imagine life before him anymore. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

School started!

If I had been allowed to write the story of how it would play out- Sam's attachment and starting school- I probably would have written a less "perfect" one than what we have experienced. This precious little boy has been through a major life change- I think the most major kind of life change there could be. He has to learn how to be in a family and is expected to love them and go along with all the new rules and routines and schedules. When I put myself in his place to try to feel what he may be feeling- for me it is just too much. How much more for a tiny boy?

Well, I dream too small. He has amazed us and surpassed all our expectations. A few weeks ago he was fully in the push/pull of learning and attachment. (I love you, I don't love you. You don't love me. I will prove you don't love me. I need you and all of your attention. I'm angry but don't help me. Help me. I don't love you. I love you.) It's tough for everyone, but it's a necessary stage and the way to move beyond the novelty of a new family or family member and into real life. We get the chance to prove we are in this with him forever and he is safe.

 Every adoption and every child is very different and I am learning now firsthand how true that is. Samuel has already mostly moved through that time. We still have our moments, but mostly he has thrown himself into loving us and accepting our love. He was so ready to be loved and to lavish his love on his very own family.

Last week he went to preschool part time to start getting used to it. He was so happy to go, happy to be there, and happy to let me leave him with a promise of returning later. No tears, just a big hug, an exchanged "I love you" and a happy wave. How far he has come! He cried hard the first few weeks when anyone left but has already moved to the security of knowing we come back. Picking him up that first day was fun. He jumped up, smiling, and ran to me yelling, "Mama!" -happy to go home. The teacher said he started asking for me late in the day, as most kids do. I am still watching him closely to make sure this is for real. He is amazing.
First day excitement!

So proud to be like big brother. 

His language is also moving very quickly. Every day he says new words and he already understands almost everything. I can give him verbal directions and he will follow them. My favorite new phrase is "Mama, I luuuf it!" He says that about everything he likes- dinner, school, toys, people. 

Yesterday I pulled up to the school a bit early to pick him up. Before I got out of the car I saw his class come out for the last recess of the day. There in front, excitedly leading the charge onto the playground, was little Sam. My heart swelled and broke in the same moment. Some times are like that, where out of nowhere the fullness of reality and the emotions will hit. In that moment the depth of the tragedy hit me again. That this sweet, fun. loving boy is here, on this playground, instead of on the other side of the world. Having never met his birth family he was put in a group home. Then strangers came and took him away from the only life he knew. He's learning a new language, a new culture. None of this has been his choice. Yes, he has been given a family that adores him and he has everything a little boy needs and even wants. That's the part we see. But first he lost everything. And just look at his joy, his exuberance and zest for life. Isaac's too. I learn a lot from them.
Today's accessories included a whistle. I let the school be the bad guy. ;-) 

Just brothers goofing at breakfast.

Isaac has dance class tonight. You should see him dance! Samuel watches through the windows with me and happily tries to learn all the moves. (His dancing skills are more like mine- we're good at other things.)

Sunday night my house almost came down around my ears and I didn't mind. The boys were battling each other, fully engaged in play, having a marvelous time- as friends and equals. I want to weep on the floor with gratitude. Day by day we are overcome with blessings as we navigate our new roles in our life together. I have a front row seat to the two most amazing little boys.

Just as each of them fills my arms in a different way, they fill my heart, too. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mind Over Feelings

We knew it was coming. Transition is hard for everyone and I think it's just in my DNA to mentally make things a little harder than they need to be. I do it with every single stage of life. Bless all of you easygoing people. I am jealous.

Adoption has many difficult and challenging times but to me this is one of the most challenging. This stage of mind over matter, before the deep feelings have taken hold. I tell myself in a loop of controlled thoughts that it's not about me, it's about the boys. And it will get easier- a little every day. That it's temporary and so very normal.

Last week I think the day at the doctor was Samuel's last straw to be over the "honeymoon" period and realize all this newness is forever and he is not in control.
Isaac is  feeling the permanence of having a little brother up in his space, sharing his toys, his parents, his room. Somebody broke the door off of his Ferrari car and that was his tipping point.

I am learning that two children means not only two separate people to care for but includes the job of referee. (Please feel free to laugh, all of you with multiple children. I know.)  Love feels like a competition to them right now.

So I am exhausted in every way- trying to keep everything together and moving forward- doctors, schools, activities, home, meals, etc. And emotionally trying to be the patient and kind rock they can rage against as they navigate their own emotions. Making sure I am firm and consistent so they feel secure. (I don't know why it is that I'd jump in front of a train for them if they needed it, but being patient and kind all day seems like too much.)

Really and truly though, we are doing well. This is all normal. The boys are happy and sweet kids and they know I would move mountains for them.

Bless their cuteness. It keeps all of us going some days.

Isaac was all about holding chickens and petting donkeys when the petting zoo came to New Town. We live in the best place! Samuel insisted on being held the whole time and just kept saying, "Nope. Nope. Nope." Even with the turtles. Lol.

One must never be without one's accessories. Even in pajamas.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Our Big Doctor Day

Yesterday Samuel had his Shriner's Hospital appointment. This was our first time to get his spina bifida checked out and see what's going on in his little body. The day was a lot longer and more involved than I expected- we were there or over at Children's Hospital across the street for  7 hours. Samuel was not happy to be at the doctor and after starting with the urologist he determined this was all a bad idea. Nothing they needed to do was painful, thankfully, but it was all we could do to keep him cooperative.
Momentarily pacified with videos.

Here he's getting casted for his special brace. Poor little guy. It didn't hurt, he'd just had enough. (Well, he had enough right when the day started.) I didn't take pictures when he was crying, but this super sad face was too cute to pass up.

(LATE lunch between tests.) This was a full-on bribe. Don't let his smile fool you, he is not happy with us.

When families first enter at Shriner's they are given a pager that vibrates, lights up, and gives typed out instructions on where you need to go next. Late in the day Sam picked it up out of my hand and ran his finger across the middle saying, "All done." He looked up at me, quite hopeful that I would believe it. Smart and funny guy.

Overall the news is great- his bones seem to be in good shape and the twisting in his hip, leg, and foot are all tight muscles. He is getting a cast and they will re-evaluate in a couple months to see how well he's progressing. Surgery is an option but it's possible the cast process will be enough. Other issues are all wait and see for now.

The doctors and physical therapists were impressed with his strength. He's been riding his bike almost every day and quickly getting stronger. I can almost see it happening in the moment. Three weeks ago he needed gentle pushes every few seconds as we walked alongside him. Now he needs maybe one or two helps as he rides along on our long walks! But don't help him one nanosecond longer than necessary, your hand will be roughly removed. He can do it!
Riding his bike to the bus in the morning, before he knew he was going to the doctor. 
Meanwhile, Isaac had his first dance class last night. He loved it! He's doing hip-hop, and watching his class was one of the highlights of my life. Seeing him in his element, so happy and doing what God made his body to do so well.

Every morning Sam and I walk Isaac to the bus stop and in the afternoon we walk back to pick him up. We all love this ritual, and I melt every time Samuel giddily waits for Isaac to get off the bus and then they have a big hug. Sam loves school busses and says 1000 times a day, "Ge ge bus. Di di no bus." He knows that when he starts preschool he won't ride the bus. But he is still quite anxious to go to school like Ge ge.

During the day there is so much I want to remember to treasure in my heart and to share, then the afternoon wears into the evening and by bedtime I have nothing left in my body or brain. Usually I curl up in bed right after the boys do, hoping to scrape together enough recharge to win tomorrow. That's just Mom Life I think. Exhausting. But these boys are so worth it. I often think- how did we get the two best little boys in, truly, the whole world?!