Last time I told you about some of the struggles we’ve had with adoption, and they’re all true. It would be dishonest to tell our story without including the hard times, but it would also be dishonest to make you believe it’s all hard. It’s easy to get caught up in the temper tantrums and the communication difficulties and the lack of respect the kids sometime show. But when we take a step back and think about what these kids have been through- and are still going through- everything is really pretty amazing. These kids are writing awesome life stories for themselves and we have such a deep respect for them. Here’s just a few of the cool things that are happening at our house:
Language and Communication- I mentioned that not being able to communicate was difficult. That will probably be an issue for many more months but HOLY COW. I can’t stress enough that these kids knew virtually zero English when they arrived just 2.5 months ago. They now know hundreds of words. Smiles is a rock star at conversational English. He’s always saying phrases that surprise me. Nothing elaborate, but things like “Where are my socks”, “I don’t like grapes”, or “That’s a good throw” are pretty advanced for being home less than three months. Diva is our little student, constantly practicing writing her letters. If I know we’re going to be sitting somewhere I always bring a notepad for her to doodle on. She’ll keep herself busy for a good hour or so just writing people’s names or copying words she sees on signs.
There are a zillion funny sayings in our house right now. Every time Diva smells something that doesn’t stink she says “mmmmmmm strawberry!” (We think she got this from TV). She likes the word rhinoceros and randomly walks around saying that. I think she feels accomplished for mastering such a difficult word. Everything is either “nice” or “no nice.” For example, if a kid falls off their bike then the bike is “no nice!” When they want to watch a movie rather than a TV show it’s “Big TV!” When someone is coming over that person is “come on!” For example, “Grandpa come on!” They are obsessed with the husband’s muscles, so all food and drinks are categorized into “big muscles” or “no big muscles”. For example, blueberries are “big muscles” and pop is “no big muscles”. The husband and I find ourselves talking to each other using these same phrases.
Smiles has made friends with the whole neighborhood and our front yard is the most popular place on the block. We love it.
Diva, little Diva who was so angry and grumpy in Ethiopia, is now sweet as can be. She’s so goofy and funny and loving. She cracks us, and herself up. She has the most expressive face and the best laugh I’ve ever heard. She’s my little buddy and I really enjoy her accompanying me on errands. Both kids are perfectly behaved in public.
We were so nervous about Diva starting summer school. She has to ride the bus to get there. That’s a big deal for any 5-year-old, but especially one that has a shy personality and isn’t totally sure what’s going on. But the girl rocked it! She doesn’t even like us waiting at the bus stop with her- she runs in front of us and says “Bye! Stay!” She was all smiles the first day and came home saying “School big good!” We are so proud of her. She turned 5 in April and we weren’t sure if she would be ready for kindergarten or if we should wait another year. After summer school we have no doubts that she’s ready.
Smiles is naturally athletic. He taught himself how to ride a bike the first week home. We’ve gone swimming two times- his first two times ever if you don’t count ice water wading in Ethiopia- and he can already almost swim. He has a good golf swing and is talking about how he wants to play soccer. He also loves to practice Power Ranger moves so perhaps martial arts is in his future. And baseball- oh how this child loves baseball! Watching him learn the rules has been an adventure at times, and the team he plays on is horrible, but that’s perfect for him to learn. Lately he’s been in a hitting rut but has found his stride with pitching. It’s not uncommon for his team to give up 20 runs due to walks. He was the starting pitcher for his last game and took them all the way to the 3rd inning (many games never make it past the 2nd inning) and only allowed 4 runs! Go Smiles!
Wiggles has handled this huge adjustment like a champ. True, he’s picked up some bad habits like hitting, and he’s a tad clingier than he used to be. He often says “baby down” while pointing to the place he wants me to lay the baby (which is usually something like the bouncer but is sometimes something like the sidewalk). But besides those few minor issues he just loves having the kids around. Smiles and Wiggles are the cutest. Smiles will pretend like he’s Wiggles’ horse, or hide behind the corner and pop out at Wiggles, or stack a pile of pillows for Wiggles to jump on, and Wiggles just eats it all up. He’s learning to share his toys and take turns and is doing a great job with it all. The big kids are both really good with Wiggles and The Baby, even when The Baby spits up on them.
Diva is becoming so independent. I previously blogged about her sleeping issues– she freaked out the first few nights until we figured out that she was scared to sleep alone. Since then she’s been fine as long as Smiles sleeps in her room. One morning last week when I woke the kids up Diva said “Smiles no sleep here.” She pointed across the hall to Smiles room and told me that he should sleep there, then pointed to herself and to her room and said that she should sleep there. I tried to confirm what she was saying but couldn’t really believe it- sleeping alone has been such an issue for her. But sure enough, that night she was adamant she wanted to sleep alone- and she did it! She’s slept alone every night since. There are usually a few whimpers at bedtime but it doesn’t take her long to snuggle her stuffed animals and fall asleep. Again, we are so proud of her.
Once Smiles got comfortable here he started throwing these huge massive really annoying fits. In the last few weeks these have really decreased. We have learned that he responds negatively to any sort of firmness at all. When he starts to act up we’ve changed our approach- we now find any minuscule positive thing we can and focus on it. That has made all the difference in the world. His tantrums have decreased and when he does have them, he gets over them much more quickly.
Smiles heard the song “Cha Cha Slide” somewhere. You know that line that goes “Every-body clap your hands!” Well, Smiles loves to sing that over and over again. Except he always says “Every-body wash your hands!”
The kids both love America. They often blow kisses to America. They point out things like America shoes or America flowers. It’s a challenge for us to make sure they love their birth country. We want them to know and respect Ethiopian culture and traditions, but we’re also grateful that the kids have fully embraced their new lives.
I went back to work after the kids had been home about 8 weeks. That may not have been the right decision for every family but it made a world of difference for me. Going back to work helped us really establish a routine. It gave me time away from the kids, and in that time away I found new perspective and appreciation for our situation. It really is a crazy situation!
I blogged several weeks ago about how someone asked me if I felt that things were starting to get back to a new normal. The answer at that time was a definite no. Now, after about 2.5 months home, I can say yes. We’re not there yet- I’ve heard from other adoptive families that a full adjustment takes around 18 months- but we are well on our way!