Friday, February 1, 2013

3 months home!

I swear it feels like we've been home 6 months or more. I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean it in a "holy cow - we've come so far in such a short amount of time" way. I mean, seriously, how could it have only been 3 months ago that we arrived at the Nashville airport exhausted and ready to collapse. Here's a look back:
Mihretu had cried for an hour of the 2 hour flight from Houston to Nashville and finally crashed. He was asleep through the entire process of getting off the plane, getting luggage, greeting all our friends and heading out to the parking garage. Merrill and I were in tears - like the ugly cry - "holy cow did we really just survive like 40 hours with a toddler?" kind of cry. There were moments when we didn't think we would make it. We both thought our bodies would collapse - literally. Mihretu was pretty good for most of the time considering how long we traveled and how crappy our travel schedule was but that flight from Frankfurt to Houston was brutal. There was tantrums which involved biting, spitting on and scratching mommy. It was all we could do to just get through it. The last flight was only 2 hours but like I said - it was a lot of crying - the poor boy was exhausted. And of course, dirty looks from others around me. I didn't even care. They had no idea what this child had been through or how long we'd been traveling and how exhausted we all were. Merrill & I were in tears before our plane even landed. FINALLY.... home... finally. I had all these plans to change my clothes and Mihretu's, freshen up a bit for the welcome home party. Yeah right. Mihretu was in the ergo carrier crashed out and I was not about to wake him. I was too tired to change clothes or even care what I looked like. Out of the airport we came and we were welcomed by our amazing friends who greeted us lovingly and quietly. Mihretu didn't even wake up as everyone side hugged me and came over to greet us and meet little man. I have no idea how long we stood there. I'm still trying to remember everyone who was there. It was like a blurry dream. I don't think I've ever been that tired.
Our first night home! Nov 1, 2012

So we got home to the house and Mihretu woke up and it was time to go in - this involved him meeting the dog for the first time. It went even worse than I expected. The blood curdling scream that came out of that little man was heart wrenching. He was literally freaking out. My friend who had stayed with Auty let Auty outside and I put up the baby gate and the month long process of trying to keep boy and dog separated began. All the friends left and it was just me with my new very overwhelmed son and our dog who was confused and stressed out and no longer able to be in the same room with us. I remember thinking "why did I not ask someone in the family to come help me?". I slept on the floor next to Mihretu's crib mattress that I put on the floor and the first few weeks honestly is kind of a blur. I remember him screaming everytime the dog got near and me having to hold him while I let her out or fed her cause of course I still have to do those things. Mihretu wanted to be held non-stop. I couldn't even set him down for a second or even think about turning to walk a few steps away from him without him freaking out. As the days went on, he did better and better with not needing to be held every second. My back appreciated that. Those first weeks, he certainly didn't know how to play with toys or maybe just didn't want to yet. He was curious about things but wanted me really close. He would climb on me in the night - I think he was afraid I would leave. And everything was so unfamiliar that he just wanted to cling to mommy. I had been praying about attachment and had hoped he would attach well but I don't think I was fully prepared for having him attached to me at all times, even while sleeping. Some days, I felt like the lack of personal space was just too much. I just kept pushing through, reminding myself that this was just a short season and celebrating every day that there was progress. I think the hardest thing about the first few weeks as a single mom was knowing I needed to do this alone for the attachment purposes but really feeling like I didn't know how I could do it alone when I felt so poured out that I was running on empty. We were sleeping 12 hours a night, going to bed ridiculously early, at first waking up at crazy hours because of jet lag. There was one morning when we first got home that we were so tired, we went to bed at like 4pm but then Mihretu was up for the day at 2:30 am. I think we took a nap that day at like 9 am and then tried our best to stay up till like 7pm. Bedtime then became 7pm every night and I never could find the energy to get back up after he was asleep to stay up and have some me time. Plus it was pretty hard to sneak out when Mihretu was sleeping right on me. And even when he wasn't - he would wake up like 10-20 times a night and reach out and touch me to make sure I was still there. So I usually just went to bed too. I was just too tired. When he slept, I slept. Jet leg and the 24/7 responsibility of this precious child who needed me so much more than I ever realized - I can't believe now how exhausting that was. I'm so glad those first few weeks are over. That was really hard to do alone. It was worth it but I say all that to encourage other single parents that it will pass and it is hard but it does get better. Thank God for us - it got better really fast in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't always seem fast at the time when you're just trying to get through the day. But when you look back a few months later - it seems amazingly fast.

Life 3 months later looks SO much different. It was about a month after he came home, that he started loving the dog and getting less and less afraid of her. Now he adores her and wants to be the one to let her out, feed her, give her treats and he wants to know what she's doing at all times. Auty isn't always sure what to think of him as he makes her anxious with his fast movements and loud noises but she's coming around too. And with the help of a dog trainer, it's getting better everyday. I am so thankful he's not terrified of her like he once was. Now he is fascinated with all dogs - he's scared of them at first but if they're friendly, he warms up fast and loves them.

He really loves cats too. We went to Build A Bear with a giftcard from friends and he chose to build a kitty cat. He takes that thing everywhere. And sleeps with it too. It's so cute. He also takes a little African baby doll I got him everywhere. It's so cute - minus the pink clothes, I think it looks like a mini version of him. Seriously, it really does. Don't ya think?

He puts the kitty and baby doll in the shopping cart I got him for Christmas and pushes them around like it's a stroller. He takes them in the car everywhere and always has to sleep with them, plus his other stuffed animals. His bed is 2/3 taken up by stuffed animals:)

Our routine now is waking up around 5:30 or 6am, getting ready for school on the weekdays which involves usually a bath, breakfast, letting the dog out and feeding her, M playing in my room while I get ready, brushing teeth, me packing his lunch and then us heading out the door for school - with the kitty and baby doll in tow. He knows they can't go to school with him but he still wants them in the car:) I drop him off before 8am and then head to work way earlier than I need to simply cause it doesn't make sense to go back home. I get off work around 5 and go pick him up by 5:30 from after care and we head home to let Auty out, give her dinner, eat dinner, take another bath, watch a movie (9 times out of 10 he choses Elf - he loves that movie) and then we start the bedtime routine of: brushing teeth, reading 4 or 5 short books, turning the lights off, turning on this angel thing that has pretty colors lighting up and turning on the moon which is a pillow pet that projects moon and stars on the ceiling, having a drink of water, going through all the sound options on the sound machine only to get it back to the one it's always on, readjusting the moon to several spots on the wall or ceiling until he gets it where he wants it, sometimes having to go potty and then finally trying to settle down into the rocking chair with mommy. Most of the time - there's a lot of bursts of energy and he gets out of the chair and into the bed and then back and forth like 10 times and sometime tries to jump on the bed or play with toys even in the dark and mommy has to tell him it's not time for playing, it's time for sleeping. I finally had to realize that he just isn't ready for bed at 7 or 8 anymore. His new bedtime is 9pm. Probably cause he's getting a really good nap at school. Trying to get him to sleep any early than 9 just sets us up for frustration and failure. So as of the last 3 nights, I embraced reality and we started the routine at 8 and he was asleep by 9. That seems to be working much better... for now. Although I always remind myself that things are always changing and there's never really a set routine - it's more of a guideline really:)

Weekends are similar except there's no work or school so after the morning routine that still starts early even though I would LOVE to sleep in (yeah right!) - we usually have a chill morning and watch a show or sometimes we have plans and we go to the zoo or a friends house or have someone over or go grocery shopping or whatever. I'm thinking about trying him at Sat morning gymnastics for toddlers. He loves to do somersaults and stuff so I bet he'd love it. They let you try it once for free so we'll see. Might even check it out this weekend. Sundays we go to church at 11. Mihretu goes downstairs for Children's Worship while I'm upstairs in worship and church. After Children's Worship, he goes to the 3 year old classroom and they do a bible story and have a snack and stuff. He cried the first few times but now he just goes right in like a big boy and does great. The teachers have been so great with him and always tell me how well behaved he is and how he loves to help clean up.

He really does love to help. Even at school. He likes to do adult type clean up activities more than playing with toys or other kids. At home, when I unload the dishwasher - he gets super excited when I hand him tupperware to put away. You'd think I just offered him candy. He really loves that type of stuff! If the trash is full - he will insist we take it out. He is very independent and always saying "Mihretu do it!" and wants to put on his own pants, squirt the soap to wash his hands himself, take care of the dog, get stuff out of the refridgerator, etc. He now does also like to play with toys too though. And more and more he's actually interacting with other kids when we have play dates. It's so neat to watch him play when he doesn't realize I'm watching. His imagination is really expanding. And his English is exploding. I sometimes forget he hasn't always spoke English because that's like all he speaks now and he's saying so much. Not everyone can understand him but I can. And it seems like almost every day he's saying a new word or two.

When we sit down to eat or rock at bedtime, we say a song prayer : God our father, God our father, once again, once again, we bow our head to thank you, we bow our head to thank you, amen, amen. He says the God our father, once again and amen part. God our father sounds more like "god affa" but it sure is cute to hear him try to say it and sing it. And if I ever forget to say it - he reminds me. At night when we say it - we then follow it by saying "Thank you for" and I pause and wait to see what Mihretu says. Almost always he says "Auty (our dog), Auntie Deb, Auntie Heather, Auntie Merrill, Eden (his friend at school), Sitota (his friend from the orphanage who got adopted at the same time and we still get to skype regularly with), mommy and then it can be anything from all the other people he can think of that he knows to food, water, Elf, Auty kaka (this one always cracks me up), potty, kitty, baby, elephant, giraffe, pizza and so on. The boys makes me smile!

It's so cute - when we get home after school and he's playing with his animals - I hear him in the other room saying "hi kitty! hi baby! hi giraffe! I miss you" and then he often kisses them and puts them in the stroller. My friend and co-worker Rachel took him to the zoo a few weekends ago while I went to a wedding and she said that he said hi to every single animal they came to.

Although I don't want to give the impression he's a perfect angel cause he's certainly strong willed and throws his fair share of tantrums and now loves to tell mommy no. And there's plenty of frustration around our house in navigating life with a stubborn toddler. But for the most part - he's pretty awesome and happy and silly and usually well behaved. I would say he's an extravert cause he gets energized when he's around people and loves to be the center of attention. He does great when other people babysit and totally seems to understand that mommy is coming back. He's a good eater and is trying more and more things and is doing great at sitting at the table now until his meal is finished. He's super helpful and even thoughtful - this week, I wasn't feeling good and had a nasty cold. I was coughing really severely one morning and Mihretu left the room and came back a few minutes later with my bottle of water. Super sweet of him to think of that on his own and want to help mommy. He loves to help little kids too. His favorite kid from small group is Maleah who is 1. Her shoe fell off once and he was very concerned and without anyone asking, he took it upon himself to put it back on for her. A few times I was trying to help feed her and he insisted that he do it instead. And he took the job very seriously and did a great job feeding her. So sweet. It makes me wonder what he'll be when he grows up. A nurse maybe? You just never know. But I just love getting to know who he is. He's a pretty amazing, resilient, fun little man. I'm blessed to be his momma!

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...