Thursday, March 28, 2013

Birthday Pictures

And because I hate posting about the struggles of parenthood without immediately following up with the joys of it... here are a few of the first pictures I'm seeing from last weekend when we celebrated Mihretu's 4th birthday. The amazingly talented Amber Beckham came and took photos. I can't wait to see the rest - I absolutely love these first few.







It's not really about turning off the DVD player

Adoption is hard. From the outside, it looks all cozy and perfect and happy. Within our home, it's frustration and tantrums and the need to control... every... single... thing. A 15 minute meltdown that included throwing himself on the floor the other night was all a result of me turning off the DVD player when apparently he wanted to do it. The hardest part about that is that it's not consistent. Sometimes he wants me to do it, sometimes he doesn't care who does it but if it's a moment when he has decided he wants to do it and mommy didn't read his mind and figure that out - it's like the world just ended. Sometimes we literally turn it back on and let him shut it off. Sometimes when he wants to shut the door instead of me - we open it back up and re-shut it just to avoid a "situation". What I struggled with is - should I always turn it back on and let him turn it back off or does he somehow need to learn to let it go. In that moment with the DVD player the other night, I decided to try to teach him about letting go while trying my best to be calm and explain it. Here's me trying to reason with a kid freaking out saying "Mommy didn't upset you on purpose. Mommy didn't know you wanted to turn it off. It's already been done buddy - please just let it go and move on. It's ok. I promise, it's going to be ok." Honestly, he didn't hear one word I said because he was screaming and throwing himself around and mad at me. With him specifically - the meltdowns do no get resolved by me trying to talk him through it. I have a hard time with it because I seriously have a physical stress reaction anytime he cries or whines or throws a fit. This urge to fix it immediately overcomes me. So what I'm learning is that I too need to let it go and realize it's not the end of the world and it really will be ok. Letting him cry for a second is not going to traumatize him for life. I need to remember that. So what I have to make myself do when he's just not going to let it go - is do the dishes or go to the bathroom or just focus on something for a minute. He sees that I haven't left and I'm still here but he also sees that he's not getting my full attention when he acts like that. Even in that and even as I write this - I wonder what the adoption experts would say about it. It's a thought that pops in my head like a million times a day and is quite frankly a stressful amount of pressure to try and figure out what they would say and whether what I'm doing is a good idea or not. But when I do this technique after I've tried talking to him calmly and he still won't calm down - it works. He really does self regulate within a few minutes and then he acts like nothing ever happened and I go along with it and immediately refocus on him and some other activity. And we go on about our day or evening or whatever and he's fine, totally fine.
Everyday is a learning curve. A lot of days, I feel like I fail miserably. I get so frustrated that I yell and then have to apologize to him. What the heck - I'm not a yeller! At least I haven't been for ages. Oh I did not realize how a child could push buttons that haven't been pushed since I shared a bedroom with my 2 brothers all through high school and they used to tease me and get in my face and not give me any personal space at all and I just felt like I was helpless and totally trapped. A lot of those same feelings have been stirred up in parenting. I had no idea they were even still there. It's frustrating to me that responses I haven't had in like almost 20 years are what surface as my first response in parenting. That totally sucks. I spend just as much time trying to get my own emotions under control as I do trying to figure out what to do with his. I write this to say - if you're not a parent yet and you're considering becoming one by adoption or otherwise, don't be surprised if your past junk gets stirred up. I had heard that to some extent but I didn't think that would be me because like I said - I hadn't had those feelings and frustrations in like 20 years so I had all but forgotten about them. Now I'm doing all I can think to do to reprogram myself and be intentional in every single moment so that I respond the way I should and not the way that apparently comes natural to me.
The best thing I know to do is to stay positive - focus on the victories and the sweet moments and how even though it's hard, it could be so much harder. Even though there are a whole slew of attachment adoption related issues - they could be more extreme. He's doing so great when you consider where he's come from. He's doing better than I thought he would be. The hard part for me has been that I'm doing worse than I thought I would. Releasing the guilt of that and just giving myself grace is the journey I'm on. I thought I would be working 100% on doing things to help him attach to me. I didn't even think I'd have to think about me attaching to him. That hadn't occurred to me. But it's a reality and the enemy would love to steal, kill and destroy me with guilt of that fact. But the more I talk about it and be honest with others, the more I realize it's a common struggle and reality for many in adoption. I AM attaching to him but it wasn't instant or 100% of the time like I expected. Just like I'm quite sure it's not for him attaching to me. I just didn't know. And I have to say to myself every day "It's a new day - His mercies are new everyday!" If I get hung up on what I thought I'd feel like vs what is reality or on the fact that I yelled at him or reacted badly - then I get stuck there and end up sad and condemned and depressed. I honestly got stuck there for a little while at first. But what I feel like God has been saying to me (and maybe He is saying it to you too) is this: "Let me help you. You are not in this alone. You're not perfect and that's ok. I'm teaching you and refining you. I know what Mihretu needs. I will be His father. I will help you parent him. Stop trying to do this in your own strength or putting expectations on yourself. I am with you. I will not forsake you. And I do not condemn you. I want you to experience joy and life to the full. Hold on to me." I don't know if that will encourage anyone else who reads this but it encourages me. And that encouragement is what I hold onto especially on days when the DVD player getting turned off causes a major meltdown.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Patience

I think little man was a little overtired tonight. He was in a great mood and we've had a great week and I decided we'd go out for mexican food. We're running low on groceries and we had gotten to go for a walk with the dog after work/school and enjoy the gorgeous weather - why not have a mommy and Mihretu dinner date tonight too. Sounded super fun. We'd never been to a mexican restaurant together before and Mihretu just goes with the flow. He walked in like we'd been there 20 times and was up for the new adventure, being super cute and silly at the table. He loved the chips and cheese dip and ate most of the rice. Not crazy about the quesadilla or beans though. About 1/2 way through the meal, the meltdowns started. I think he played hard outside at school today cause he was suddenly acting over-tired and melting down at any little thing. Things like his napkin getting dirty after wiping his hands with it or him throwing his spoon on the floor on purpose and being upset that he didn't have a new one in 30 seconds, getting a tiny drip of cheese on his finger, and all sorts of other things like that. He was so frustrated and tired and whiny and mad and he looked at me with this "I'll show you" look and stuck his entire hand in his pile of rice and started kneeding it and smooshing it and getting his hands all dirty and making a big old mess which also got him upset after the fact cause he was then upset about his hands being messy. I told him we don't do that and moved his plate away. Then he started crying about that. It was all I could do to get the bill and get out of there. It started out really fun. In the future, I think I'll steer clear of trying to eat out on a weeknight, especially after a nice day when he got to play a lot outside at school.

Once we got home, it was 7:30 so we let the dog out, gave her a treat and then started the bedtime routine. He used to go to bed at 7 pm when I first brought him home. Not anymore. Now it's a miracle if he's asleep by 9, even when we start the whole routine at 7:30 or 8. Tonight, it was 9:30 before he was asleep. He's getting too big to be able to get comfy on my lap on the rocking chair so it's a long process of him falling asleep - he keeps readjusting to get comfy, getting off the chair and into the bed and back again - tonight was at least 15 times. He decided he had to go potty 30 minutes into it. He wanted a drink of water. He wanted to sing songs. He wanted to try anything he could think of to stall. He was so tired, you could tell. He was rubbing his eyes and yawning and whining at every little thing and yet he could not get to sleep. Oh my gosh - it's all I can do is just try to get through that hour and 10 minutes without pulling my hair out. I'm tired and after sitting there that long in the dark, I'm about asleep. Sometimes I am asleep by that point - while sitting in the chair and head bobbing:)

I know this is all normal parent stuff. I've babysat enough to know that. I just find myself having to really work on patience in these moments that last an hour. I had no idea how frustrating it could be. I don't even know why it's so frustrating. Maybe it's because I'm tired and I worked all day and I am just ready for some alone time. Maybe it's because I'm still new at this. Maybe it's just simply because I'm not that patient and I need to work on that:) When I babysat - it wasn't that frustrating cause it was only once in awhile and not every single night and I didn't really think much of it. Real life, every single night with no spouse to take a turn - bedtime routine isn't quite the magical adventure I had pictured. Adoption or not, single parenting or not, bedtime or some other scenario - I'm sure all parents know the feeling. I just know I want to be less frustrated and more patient and not feel like I'm going to pull my hair out when bedtime takes that long. In hindsight, I know it's small stuff so I'm trying to just not have expectations. And yet I do. Like this one:
We're bringing home the twin bed next week and I'm hoping and praying it cuts some time off of the long road to falling asleep. On weekends when we nap - I just have him lay down in my bed with me. He falls asleep so fast - like sometimes within 5 minutes. Maybe I'm foolishly hopeful but I'm so praying that with the twin bed - I can just lay down with him and the whole process will be a whole lot faster and therefore less frustrating. And if I happen to fall asleep, oh well - at least I'm laying down and not bobbing my head in the rocking chair. And if he can get comfy faster and not be getting up and down every 5 minutes - that would be awesome! Praying it works. Counting down the days until next week. ha ha

In all seriousness though - I feel pretty blessed to think that our little bedtime scenario is the biggest frustration I have to write about at this point. We've come along way since those first days home and the scratching, biting, spitting on and hitting mommy phase. Big or small, whatever the frustration  - I just want to be more patient. Working on that. Daily. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Celebrating 4's and Reflecting

We just celebrated our 4 month Gotcha Day anniversary last week and we're about to celebrate Mihretu's 4th birthday later this month.
 For our Gotcha Day anniversary, we went out for Ethiopian food. He loved it. A little spicy and both our tongues were in need of some relief but it was super fun and yummy. I went to show him how to scoop up the food with the injera and he gave me this funny look and said "no mommy" and then he grabbed the injera and went to it like a pro. He knows how to do it! ha ha Everytime I say Africa or Ethiopia - he says "mommy -  my africa?" So cute!!!!

For his birthday, I'm making him the book I've been wanting to make since I brought him home. It's the "story of you" book. I get to work about an hour early each day after dropping him off at school so I've been using this hour each day to work on it. I got a Living Social deal for a book on Shutterfly so I'm using that. Pretty sure my total cost is going to exceed the amount of pages included in the deal though:) Man, these books take forever to make. Probably because I want it to be perfect. So far, it's 24 pages and we've only just gotten to gotcha day. I love that I can literally type out a story mixed with all the pictures. It'll be so neat to be able to read it every night before bed with him. I'm so thankful for the info I have about his birth family too. That is seriously a huge blessing that many families are not able to get. I won't share his story with the world because it's his story and I want to protect it - but I am so thankful to be able to have the info that I do. Now, if I could just somehow track down some baby pictures of him:)

As I look back and put together this book, I'm reflecting on this journey and how far we've come. Some days I just look at him and think to myself "I can't believe this is the same little boy I fell in love with in an orphanage in Ethiopia and now he's really here and I get to be his momma!" It's so surreal sometimes. Pre-identified adoptions are hard and you go in knowing that it might not work out and you might not really be able to adopt that specific child. So I had to go in knowing that and yet having hope that it was possible and stepping out in faith knowing that he was worth taking that chance. I'm so glad I did.

Mihretu is literally the coolest kid ever!!! He's got such a great personality. He's super animated and funny and although he can surely throw a big ole tantrum, overall he is a really, really happy kid who loves life and brings so much joy to everyone around him. He gets all the little girls and teachers at school laughing at the faces he makes. He melts all his aunties with his big ole hugs. And he turns mommy to a big ball of mush when he says, out of the blue, "mommy, I love boo(you)". Be still my heart. He's super thoughtful and helpful. One of his favorite things is to help. If he feels like he's helping, he gets this confident smile on his face like he's so proud of himself. He has such a servant heart. And that's really neat to see at this young age.
 
I watch him looking after younger kids and helping them put food in their mouth or putting their shoes back on them if they fall off. He just naturally does these things. He loves to eat and has gotten to where he'll try almost everything. If he doesn't like it, he'll make a face and spit it out but he likes quite a bit of variety. And what's cool is he likes almost all the foods I do and doesn't like most of the ones that I don't like either. Weird how that works. Also kind of weird but super cool is that we kind of look alike. I always think so and think maybe I'm just biased but other people keeping saying that too. I think that's neat.

 

He's very well adjusted and has settled in to life here as if he's been here all along. He's doing WAY better than I ever imagined or expected in such a short amount of time. Whenever I drop him off at school or Sunday school or even a friends house - as long as I've explained to him what is happening, he's totally cool with it. He just goes on in, gives me a hug and kiss and waves goodbye knowing he'll see me later. He totally gets the concept of mommy leaves but mommy always comes back. That is really cool. Now if I tried to spring something on him without advance notice, then he would cry and melt down but that hardly ever happens cause I know not to do that. He sleeps in his own bed. I hold him in the rocking chair till he falls asleep and then put him in his bed. He gets up in the middle of the night usually between 12 and 2 and doesn't even cry. He just gets up and comes across the hall to my room. I tried putting him back to bed for awhile but I learned pretty quickly that once he's woken up, he will wake up like every hour before morning and if he's in his own bed, he will get out everytime and come get me. That makes for a long, tiring night. What works better is that when he wakes up between 12 and 2 - I bring him in bed with me. He still wakes up a few times but he sees that I'm next to him and falls right back to sleep. Everyone gets more sleep this way. Trust me - that's much better! I don't want to start him out in the bed with me cause I want him to get used to sleeping in his room and once he's asleep, I get some me time which is so needed but this system works well for us. And pretty soon, I'm getting him a twin bed so I will just lay down with him in his room until he falls asleep. I think he'll fall asleep faster that way. He just gets these crazy bursts of energy at bedtime and it can literally take an hour or more to get him to fall asleep once the lights are off and he's in the chair with me. He keeps wanting to get in the bed and then back into the chair again and squirming around a million times and then back in the bed, then back in the chair - until he finally falls asleep. I'm hoping if I can just lay down with him in his twin bed - he'll fall asleep faster. We'll see.
 
My friends are getting a new bunk bed for their kiddo so I'm buying their twin bed from them. He's gonna really seem like a big boy in a real bed. And he'll be 4 this month. That's so crazy. He's small for his age but his motor skills have seriously like gone from 1 to 10 over these past 4 months. Amazing how much growth can happen when given the right opportunity and experiences. Looking back at the videos from the gotcha day - he just seems so much younger. He hasn't gained much weight but he's thinning out in the face and looking more like a little boy and less like a baby. Now he's going potty all by himself and is so independent and so smart. He pays attention to everything. If I move something while he's at school, he will notice it when he gets home. He amazes me everyday. I love him so much. I cannot believe that he wasn't part of my everyday life only a few months ago. It's hard to picture it now. Some days it's hard. A lot of days I have to give myself extra grace for not always responding the best way. But everyday, he's a blessing and a joy and a little miracle that I get to be "mommy" to. I wouldn't trade it for anything.


Perseverance

By definition Perseverance is: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, o...