Three Years Home!

Today’s a very special day in our family- it’s the third anniversary of the day our family was completed!

We celebrated by eating giant lemon poppyseed muffins for breakfast and going out to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner.  The kids brought treats to school, and their teachers read books we sent about adoption (I Wished For You and Just Really Joseph– great gifts for adoptive families, btw).  We gave the kids small gifts. Smiles got a customized water bottle with pictures of his Ethiopian and American families.  Last year Diva wrote a story about her life for a PTA contest.  It won first prize at her school, and then first prize at the state level!  It has been sent on to the national contest.  We put that into a Shutterfly book with pictures.  She loved it and was so proud to read it to her class!

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As I reflected on today I went back and read many old blog entries, including the first day home, the one year anniversary, and the two year anniversary.  This year’s anniversary has hit me hard, as Wiggles is now nearly the exact age that Diva was when she came home.  Not only that, but Sassypants is just a little older than Diva was when she went to live in the orphanage.

I can’t quite express how that makes me feel. When we brought Smiles and Diva home, we had not quite two years of parenting experience.  A nearly five year old felt ancient, so independent and capable.  Today when I look at Wiggles, my little man, and imagine him doing the things I expected Diva to do, I can’t even.  Wiggles is my baby.  If Wiggles was sent to a far away country, adopted into a family he couldn’t communicate with, and expected to do so many things for himself…he would struggle.  And if Sassypants had spent the last several months- those months where her brain is in a crazy development stage- toiling her days away at an orphanage with minimal stimulation- she would not be the person she is today.  As my biological kids hit the ages my adopted children were when they come home, the gravity of what my adopted children have been through hits me hard.  It gives me a new kind of respect for the bravery they had no choice but to demonstrate.

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Our day to day lives are not that exciting, not any different than any family with kids this age.  We haven’t been overly busy- as a working parent, I really value down time at home over many activities, but as the kids get older we’ll see if that changes.  Our house is always chaotic.  It’s very loud, there’s usually either a kid screaming, Nerf bullets flying around, furniture being rearranged for a fort, neighborhood kids in and out, crayons all over the floor, or some combination of these things.  It’s next to impossible to have an adult conversation and by the end of the day I am spent.  But I’m guessing there’s many non-adoptive moms out there who hear me, yes?

An update on adoption-specific things….School.  Both kids have been working extra hard at school and it’s paying off!  Diva’s writing is mostly legible and she loves writing stories.  She progressed something like a zillion reading levels and is now reading on grade level- a huge milestone!  But, she does struggle with reading and doesn’t really enjoy it.  She does really love math and science.  She’s a good student and charms teachers.  Smiles has worked super hard.  As I read through those old blogs I was reminded of how overwhelming his schooling needs were, but this is not something I worry about anymore.  He’s still behind, but things are really starting to click and he’s closing that gap fast.  He’s really rocking math and is getting confident in his school work. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it- I have zero doubts about having him repeat a grade.

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We started sending pictures back to their birth family.  Actually, we thought we had already been doing that, but found out last year it wasn’t really happening.  Ethiopia requires an annual adoption report.  These are supposed to be kept on file at the orphanage and be accessible to the birth families.  Long story short, we connected with the director of their old orphanage mid last year and learned he never received any of the reports we sent.  So, we contacted the searcher we had used before.  We sent her a package full of pictures, drawings, a letter, and even a necklace with the kids’ pictures on it.  The searcher delivered it and sent us back pictures of the family.  What a priceless gift!  The kids really treasured having current pictures of their birth family!  We just sent another package and are expecting more pictures any day now.

We talk about adoption a LOT.  Diva is all too happy to talk about it; last summer we found her in a hotel hot tub telling a stranger lady how she had spent two years in the orphanage.  Smiles, not so much.  He hates to talk about it, and even yells at Diva when she does.  Over the course of the last year that wall has started to come down.  He still has a ways to go, but he no longer completely shuts down when he hears the word “Ethiopia”.  He also started sharing some memories.  I won’t put them on here as they are his stories to tell, but he remembers quite a bit about his years in Ethiopia.  Some memories are good, others not so much. We have been talking about making a trip back in a few years and he has no desire to go.  He shared the other day that he is worried his birth family will want him to stay.  He’s a typical guy, getting him to talk about his feelings or anything beyond surface level is a major feat, but we’ll continue to work on this issue over the coming years.

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We’re lucky in that our kids came from a loving background.  For our situation, I’m very much a believer in sharing as much information as possible and having an open and ongoing dialogue about adoption.  I was so encouraged when Smiles was willing to let his teacher read the adoption book and even have a discussion around adoption today.  This would not have happened in the past.

The latest issue we’ve been dealing with is sibling jealousy.  It’s not uncommon for adopted children to be jealous of biological children for all the reasons you’d think- biological children look like their parents, they don’t have the struggles adopted children have, etc.  Complicating our case is the fact that our biological children are younger than our adopted children, so I sometimes overlook things with my bios that I don’t with my adopteds. Complicating it further is the fact that Wiggles is super book smart but socially immature, so Diva sees him as an intellectual equal and doesn’t understand why he throws fits when his dinner isn’t served on the orange plate…and why I try to be patient with him when he throws said fits.

I go to an adoption conference every winter and walk away from it so filled (if you are any type of adoptive or foster parent, I highly recommend it).  I am reminded of what a special path adopted kids take, and how my job as their mommy stretches far beyond my biomommy responsibilities.  I’m far from perfect- like, really far- but I walk away remembering that each child is created in God’s image and what an awesome honor it is to parent them.

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