Wednesday, February 29, 2012

one year home: how we celebrated

Z had a great day yesterday. Even though we didn't do anything too out of the ordinary, he could sense that it was a special day and he was in a good mood nearly all day long. Just for fun, here is a rundown of our day in photos:

7:30 AM - Sleeping soundly.

8:30 AM - Time to wake up, sleepy head!

9:00 AM - Quick photo op before taking N to school.

9:10 AM - Z loves Z bars - perfect breakfast on-the-go.

10:00 AM - Playdate with the coolest great-grandma in town.

12:00 PM - Lunch and play time.

1:00 PM - Read a book before naps.

2:00 PM - (Not pictured: Z banging on walls and singing loudly instead of sleeping, Mommy pulling out her hair and contemplating a mid-afternoon cocktail.)

2:30 PM - Apparently you're just not going to sleep today.

3:00 PM - Maybe you'll nap in the car! No dice, but it worked for D.

4:00 PM - Another photo shoot before the rain shower.

4:30 PM - Daddy's home! Football practice.

5:00 PM - Mama's making dinner. Smells good.

5:30 PM - Watching a slide show and videos from Ethiopia.

5:45 PM - Opening a present... it's a new "Z Book!"*

6:00 PM - Dinner time.

6:30 PM - Scrub a dub.

7:15 PM - Good night.

*Soon after Z got home I made a S.hutterfly photo book that told his life story in simple, age-appropriate terms. The new book is much the same, but includes updated photos of the important people in his life and continues his story up to the present.

**Coming soon: 1 year epic post-placement post!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

in one year...

You learned a thousand new words in a language you had never heard.

You learned to eat meals at the table, to use a fork and spoon, to drink from a cup, to try new textures and tastes in your food.

You learned how to be a little brother, how to share and negotiate and compromise.

You learned how to swim.

You learned to sing Jesus Loves Me, and you believe it.

You learned how to talk about your feelings.

You learned how to get dropped off at preschool and you learned that Mommy always comes back.

You learned how to use an iPhone.

You learned how to hold your own in a wrestling match with two big boys and a Daddy.

You learned the magic of books and memorized all the words to your favorites.

You learned about your Ethiopian heritage, and how to answer proudly when someone asks where you were born.

You learned that Daddy gives the best airplane rides around the living room and Mommy sings the best lullabies and Mimi plays the best pretend games and Grandpa tells the best stories and Papa has the best tickle fights and Nana reads the best bedtime stories.

You learned to love us and you learned to let us love you.

In the midst of all this learning, you also taught us how to eat injera with the right little flick of the wrist, and how to pray with abandon, and how to be brave even when you're very scared.

We are both proud and humbled to be your parents -- cheers to one year of being family together! Ewedehalo.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

a year ago this evening

I want to go back.

I want to step through the gate in the early evening and walk the rutted, sun-warmed streets, around the corner to the small shop for a bottled Mirinda, kez kaza. It is exactly the same as three other shops on the same corner but this one is ours because the owner likes us and laughs at our broken Amharic. She lets us leave with the bottles and knows we'll bring them back: there is no such thing as garbage here, no trash in the street because everything is valuable to someone.

I want to sit on a metal chair on the sidewalk eating angel hair pasta with meat sauce and a hint of berbere. There are three kinds of wat on the menu but they are all out of them tonight. I want a tall glass of thick, sweet mango juice, and then another when that one spills in my lap.

I want to shiver a little as the sun sets and order macchiatos that we really shouldn't drink at this hour. It's OK because we're too American to finish them anyway. Twenty minutes later we realize they'll never bring us the check if we don't ask; the fistful of birr we hand over for dinner wouldn't buy a tall latte back home.

I want to walk back to the guest house slowly, feeling the ache of a full belly in a hungry place. The guard comes down the street looking for us, more out of boredom than necessity. He gives shy smiles and nods to answer our small-talk questions but I'm fairly certain he doesn't understand more than a word or two.

Tonight the dogs will fight in the street while the mosques and churches blare their competing calls to prayer. The hopeful salesman will start hawking his wares outside the window at dawn and the goats will bleat sorrowfully. We'll be sleeping in our quiet house a world away. I still want to go back.

[the other side of the same coin.]

Monday, February 20, 2012

you want me on that wall

Like most two-year-olds, Z has a love-hate relationship with boundaries. It's no surprise that he loves to push them, but one thing I've learned the hard way is that he actually hates to break them.

Here's a scene that has happened more than once in our house:

Me: Z, go pick out a book to read before nap.

Z: No! No book.

Me (before learning aforementioned lesson about boundaries): No book? Are you sure?


Me: Okay, no book.

Z: Booooooooooook!

Me: No, Z it's too late. You said no book, and Mommy listens to your words, so no book today.

[commence screaming fit that hijacks entire pre-nap routine]

Z loves to act like he wants control, but most of the time he hates to actually have it. If adoption and child development literature is right, children need boundaries (i.e. areas over which they have no control) in order to feel safe, and children need to feel safe in order to form an attachment with their parent or caregiver. Therefore, healthy attachment depends on keeping good boundaries. I am positive I read this multiple times before and after Z came home, but now I can see it with my own eyes. The screaming fit from the scenario above is not about anger or frustration - it's about fear. We always read a book before bed. It's part of a routine that helps him feel safe. By giving him the power to change the routine, I have removed a source of safety for him without any warning: he is understandably terrified.

The climactic courtroom scene from A Few Good Men is one of my favorites. [If you haven't seen that movie, I am not going to summarize. Just go watch it. And please appreciate the awesome early 90's casual outfits Demi Moore sports in the case preparation scenes. Were our jeans really that high-waisted? Amazing.] Anyway, sometimes the lines from Jack Nicholson's character pop into my head in these situations with Z. "You want me on that wall," he says. "You need me on that wall." OK, so maybe I'm not a colonel at Gitmo and I'm definitely not ordering any code reds. But Z does want to know that somebody is standing on the wall, protecting him, not only from outside forces, but from himself. I need to remind myself of that, of the value in standing my ground and sticking to the plan, even when he presses me to do otherwise.

Here's a revised version of the previous scenario, which still plays out on a daily basis in our home:

Me: Wait a minute Z, don't eat yet - I have to get your bib.

Z: No! No bib, Mommy.

Me: Z, it is lunchtime. At lunchtime we always wear a bib.


Me: (putting on bib) Sorry dude, that's how it goes.

And guess what? He might pout for a minute, but most of the time he gets over it way faster than when I give in to his boundary-pushing demands. The comfort of consistency and routine trumps the frustration of not getting his way. Of course at some point it will become developmentally appropriate to change his routines and introduce flexibility and autonomy into more areas of his life. I'm sure that will hold new challenges with more steep learning curves. But for now I'm happy to play it safe, knowing that these days of stability and familiarity are laying a foundation for years of trust and love.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

the runaway bunny

I wouldn't say it's his favorite book, but he comes back to it every so often, sometimes just once, sometimes over and over for days on end. I'm always achingly grateful when he does. He has learned how to throw out a flare, but I still wish he didn't have to.

We turn the pages slowly, pausing at each illustration to find the wayward bunny hiding in the garden or disguised on a mountainside. What is he running away from? I wonder. His home under the tree looks warm and cozy and his mama is crazy about him. He is offered safety, security, and relationship but instead he seeks out danger, isolation, and independence. Awfully human, this little fella.

Who am I? Who loves me? How do I know?

In the story, it is the mother bunny who chases after her baby; Z tells it his own way. His finger finds the little bunny, then slowly traces a path across the page from child... to mother. The ache eases: he is home.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

family day follow up

We had a great time with the boys last weekend at Great Wolf Lodge! The kids all had a blast and you could see how special they felt to have a fun day set aside to celebrate us.

If you had seen me standing in the wave pool watching all my boys and their daddy play together you probably would have thought my bleary eyes and wet cheeks were the result of chlorinated water, but you'd have been wrong. I was overcome with gratitude for the blessing of each one of them. Who am I to have all this?

[pardon the low-quality photos, we didn't bring our camera so I took these on my phone]

P.S. Keeping it real: my tears of gratitude on Friday evening had turned into tears of exhaustion and frustration by Saturday night when, upon arriving back home, our kids were so insanely overtired that they took over two hours to go to sleep. It was worth it, but WOW... break-down city.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

family day, continued

A few weeks before Christmas, N (age 6) and I were talking about the upcoming holiday. He had recently watched a few movies with plot lines where the main character "saves" Christmas, so we were talking about whether that could ever happen. Movies and other holiday propaganda often send the message that the "true meaning" of Christmas is family, so we were talking through our belief that, although we love to be with family at Christmas, it is not actually about family: it is about Jesus. At this point in the conversation N turned to me and asked, "Mommy, is there a holiday that's just about family?" I thought about it for a minute and had to shake my head, I couldn't think of one. "Can we make our own?" he asked. "We could call it Family Day! Can it be tomorrow?" Man, I love that kid.

J and I had already decided to call the anniversary of Z's arrival "Family Day," but N's questions made me think about it in a new light. What if we broadened the celebration beyond Z's adoption and just took a day every year to simply celebrate our family? After all, if we're going to call it Family Day, then that's what it should be about. We'll still mark February 28 as a special day for Z - the day he met his brothers, the day he arrived at his new home, the day our family was all together for the first time.* But Family Day will be for all of us, a chance to celebrate the work of God in our lives, bringing us together, giving us each other, making us a family.

This celebration will almost certainly morph and change with our family over the years, but we're kicking it off with two traditions: an overnight getaway and a video 'yearbook.' Each year we'll videotape the kids answering a few simple questions about themselves, asking them the same questions each year to show how they change over time. For now we'll celebrate in February, since that's when our family became complete, but if/when God gives us more children maybe the time of year will change.

So... tomorrow is Family Day and we're going to Great Wolf Lodge! The big boys are over the moon already and Z is feeding off of their excitement even though he doesn't know what's coming. He absolutely loves the water, so I'm pretty confident that once he gets over the noise (it's pretty loud in there with all the waterfalls and splashing and whatnot), he's gonna have a ball. We'll swim, slide, play, rest, and give glory to God for blessing us with one another. Happy Family Day!

*FYI in case you're interested, tentative plans for February 28 include: doro wat, injera, popcorn, and some quality time with the boys watching videos, looking at pictures, and telling stories about our trips to Ethiopia. Oh, and thanking Jesus for a precious boy and a miraculous year together.

3 in a cart at Costco today