Monday, March 18, 2013

2 (ish) weeks in...

Call it the honeymoon phase, or what you want, but these last 3 weeks have been better than I ever could have dreamed...
I promise I've really been trying to find the time to update you all (and myself years from now) on these first couple weeks with our boy... but it appears that 4 children is a lot more work than I thought.
B was just saying last night, 'I feel like going from 3 to 4 kids is really like going from 3 to 6 kids.'  It is just so much work!  It feels like the cleanup, the dishes, the mess, the cooking, the laundry... lord have mercy, the laundry alone, has seriously multiplied.  We realized its because we went from 3 to a whole 4.  Not 3 to a baby infant nursing sleeping thing, but a real live body, running around like crazy person yelling at the top of his lungs 'on your bed' to the dog (more on that milestone later).  Not to mention, the whole getting to know you aspect.  Like getting to know if you really will run into the street (yes), if you will yell and pull books off the shelves at the library (yes), if you will fall off the ladder of the bunk beds (yes), if you will have more diarrhea blowouts than all my other kids combined (yes).  Its a steep learning curve over here...   and not without many bumps and bruises (literally).

But before you go calling CPS on us, please know all of this work is far outweighed by this boy's smile.  I mean, for the love.... his smile just lights up our whole house.  And its not like he's rationing those things, its one big smile and laugh coming out of his tiny 22lb body.  

So where to start... well those first couple days home we were all on edge.. and our best behavior.  We tiptoed around each other, waited cautiously to see how he would react to anything and everything.  He was absolutely terrified of the dog.  Like super scared.  We kept her outside or yelled at her a ton to get on her bed.  Slowly, but surely he got more comfortable   Thankfully emma lou is so good with kids and used to being abused (lovingly) by Tali.  Once Elliot realized lou could care less about him, he took it upon himself to yell at the top of his lungs, 'get on your bed,' EVERY time she got off of it.  It didn't stop there, just this last saturday at the beach he spent the better part of it yelling furiously at every dog that went by, 'get on your bed!'  We have some pretty rad video of him yelling a string of amharic words at him. If only we had a translator...
Anyway, aside from yelling at the dog in those first days, he was sleeping a lot. He would wake up from his naps in bad mood which consisted of  'i will cry if you don't hold me for hours.'  I realized a lot of that was the jet lag and by day 5 he was pretty well regulated in the sleep department.  I wasn't totally sure how to do the sleep thing.  As parents of 3 kids, sleep is the ONE thing I feel totally confident bragging about.  Our 3 kids are great sleepers and have been since they were wee ones.  We did the whole 'cry it out' thing as infants with them (some earlier than others), and so every night we have all 3 kids in bed asleep without any laying or whining or any disruptions until 7 the next morning.  Its been a huge part of how and why B and I have been able to stay happily married-- that time we have together alone from 8-10 every night is so huge (even if we do spend it watching breaking bad).  
I knew that Elliot's sleep situation at the orphanage was in some ways very similar to what takes place at our place, but for attachment purposes I wanted to spend some time with him alone, quiet, dark, letting him know how much he is loved.  And I can honestly say that even though in some ways it feels like I am un-training is his stellar sleep habits, the time I get holding and rocking him every night has been some of our richest moments.  As most of you know, he learned 'I love you mama' on our second day together... don't think I haven't totally exploited that-- I'm practically begging him to say it to me every minute:)  So every night I take him upstairs after he gets a kiss from Daddo, brother and sisters and its our time to cuddle.  As soon as we get in our room, he melts into my body and lays his head on my shoulder.  We walk and rock and I start by saying, 'I love you Tegegne,' and he whispers back, 'I love you,'  then I say, 'daddo loves you,' and he replies 'daddo loves you' I say, 'Sissy loves you, 'to which he says, 'sissy loves you,'  then I say 'Ozzy loves you,' he says, 'Ozzy loves you,' and then I say, 'Tali loves you,' and he whispers again, 'Tali loves you.'  Lastly I say, 'Jesus loves you more than anything and anyone Tegegne... I will always love you Tegegne, I will never leave you. It's bedtime now, but when you wake up, I'll be right by your side.  I will always be with you Tegegne.  Forever.'  Of course he doesn't understand a word of it, but something in me has to believe he's getting it... after all-- deep cries out to deep.
So the sleep thing is going pretty good.  Once he falls asleep, he sleeps through the night.  The night however is not without its foes.  He wakes up more than I would like, his disruptions range from a whimper, to some string of Amharic words, to a full blown cry.  He's comforted by my voice and touch and quickly falls back to sleep, but it does break my heart to see how vulnerable he is in his slumber. We've also been working trying to get B in the bedtime mix.  We've been making some progress on that front, but we are nowhere near me being totally out of the picture.  

So that's sleep.  Food has been rather interesting.   As many of you know, my 3 bio kids are probably the worst eaters in the world.  No joke.  It could be pages of pages of a blog entry.  Lil, Oz and T straight up blow at eating.  I've tried almost everything, but no matter what I do, I'm a short order cook.  Its mac and cheese, chicken dinosaurs, pizza, or quesadillas every night around here.  Not only are they picky, but they are also very light eaters.  We're talking like its a struggle to get them to eat two chicken dinosaurs, and 1 box of mac and cheese easily feeds all 3.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with all the crackers they eat throughout the day, but I learned early on-- choose your battles-- and this one was one I clearly kept losing.  I'd heard a lot of things about ET kids appetites and I was excited to finally get an 'eater.'  And I will say, I definitely have an eater, but the eating that is going on is exactly what my crazy picky kids eat!  All he ever wants is bread, crackers, milk... forget any meat, fruits or veggies, he acts like they are an abomination in his mouth!  I had brought a couple sippy cups when I went to ET and he majorly attached to a yellow one.  By attach  I mean he held it all day long no matter what he was doing.  He's gotten a bit better at home, he doesn't need to always have one, but every so often he'll remember they exist and get them out of the drawer.  He'll try almost everything, but is very clear if he doesn't like it.  We are working hard to get as much protein in him as possible per Dr. B's instructions.

Now that we've covered the food... we can move on to the radical diarrhea we are battling.  I suppose battling is a inaccurate term since we loosing pretty bad.  Not much to say on that front, except it smells so incredibly wrong-- and the smell just lingers and lingers.  Febreeze, candles, scentsy- they are no match for the big D.  We are awaiting the lab results- but likely its giardia or some other type of intestinal parasite.
Homie loves water --especially dog bowl water
Mastering the slide in our backyard
Baby Ce-Lo

Probably the most frequent question we get is, 'how are the other kids doing?'  And to that I say, 'I couldn't be more proud of them.'  They really haven't missed a beat.  I know its still very early on, but they've been so great about it all- by all, I mean way less attention:)  Its definitely the most hard for Tali.  It's never easy getting bumped from baby status.  However she continues to amaze me.  In so many ways, she's the perfect kid to have this happen to.  She's my most social, cuddly, loving, accepting child of the 3.  She definitely has her moments-- telling me I always hold Elliot and not her.  It makes my heart sad for sure, but then the next minute she's begging me to wake him up cuz she wants to play with him.  It will be much easier when he can communicate, for now they just spend a lot of time tormenting the dog, or hoarding paper, bread, or canned goods and hiding them in various cupboards.  Most of the time they are outside sitting in the barbie jeep together, or making 'soup' out of mud, dog bowl water, and rocks.  It's really neat to see their love for each other grow.  I see it in little things every day.  Elliot bringing Tali her purse in the morning, or Tali giving him bites of her dinner.  Oz is still waiting patiently for Elliot to be ready to play guys, but in the meantime will settle with some hide and seek.  Lily and Elliot has been really special as well.  He seems to be the most enamored with her out of all the kids.  She loves to pick out his outfit and shoes, give him snacks and plays with him outside.  He in turn tries to get in her bed every night and pretend sleep, or sit next to her on the couch.  Just this last Saturday night, Lil was at a friends for a sleepover and as we were getting ready for bed, we were having the kids all take turns giving him a kiss like we do every night.  This is one of his (and their) favorite activities.  It's really cute to see him respond to their affection.  After tali and oz's kiss, he started looking around and asking for Lily.  It was super cute.
Besties (or at least working towards it)
Brother love
LOVES the beach

About a month before we brought Elliot home I was having all kinds of dreams about him. Crazy things, like he was able to totally speak English  or he just loved me so much, or he could be around other people no problem.  All of the dreams were REALLY good.  I'm not a crazy dream person, but every time I would have one I would wake up feeling so hopeful.  Even though life isn't exactly like what happened in those dreams, the feelings are the same.  I've had my ups and downs and struggles and fears of inadequacy these last few weeks, but all in all, I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude and awe at God's grace on all of us in this time.  When I tell people how well its going, a common response I get is, 'he must be so thankful.'  Those statements used to sit uneasily with me, but after further thought and time, I'm realizing that there are elements of gratitude.  I think mostly due to the freedom alone he now experiences- but really it just comes down to feeling so much love.  Elliot is SO loved by us and everyone he meets.  And so as I spend my days getting to know my new son, memorizing every inch of his body- a luxury from birth I didn't have with him... I marvel at his hands, his feet, his tummy... I see his little moles, and I see his scars.  It's hard not knowing why or where they came from, but I love knowing that every little pain he feels from now and forevermore I will know about and I WILL be there to kiss it and make it better.  As I watch him begin to grow into a healthy, confident little boy and beam at his infectious smile bringing so much joy into my heart and my home, my heart breaks knowing his birth mom (wherever she may be), will never know this boy born of her body. Yet in that same sadness, I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness knowing that God knew that the moment Elliot was born, that I would be his forever mom.  And I'm here to say as I do to him every night before bed, 'I will never leave you Tegegne, I will always be here for you.  Everyday, when you wake up, I will be here for you, because I am your mom and I love you.
One of many  semi- failed attempts at all 4


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