The little things we take for grantedΒ 

There are some things in life we accept as normal, old hat, and commonplace and don’t give another thought. Things like sidewalks, working in the yard, spontaneous trips to the store for something you forgot. A drawer of extra batteries and piles of odds and ends, something as simple as inviting a friend to sleepover. Sprinklers on lawns, the mailbox and mailman (and the entire concept of the postal service), and the ability to have ketchup on literally anything you want.

These are just a handful silly things we look at every day and begin not to even see as intriguing or special or a privilege. They are all things our little 7-year old son has never seen before. He figured out the walking on sidewalks and looking both ways for cars really fast (safety is his middle name, hallelujah), today he planted his first pwa (bean) seeds courtesy of Burgerville (apparently they think it balances out the grease and fat in the kids meal to give the kids a cute packet of lima bean seeds?? He’s probably the only kid in a 400 mile radius who would plant those seeds and actually eat them), and he now asks to go to the “market” daily for anything we happen to mention that we need. He gets thrilled when the kids friends come to spend the night, and equally sad when they leave to sleep at someone else’s house. He was completely startled and then immediately screaming and laughing when he started to walk to the car the other day and the front yard sprinklers came on and sprayed him! He still can’t understand what the draw of the mail is, or what it’s purpose is, but he loves to put the key in the slot. Ketchup is pretty much his best friend at the table – he’s even graduated to ketchup at breakfast sometimes as well! πŸ˜‰

Today we had our first big outing and big memory-maker – a trip to the Oregon Zoo! We arrived just after opening, trying to beat the heat because it was going to be ridiculous hot. It was a packed house as everyone is now out of school, but we powered through it anyway! He was in absolute awe, and it was sweet for our big kids who have been to the zoo more times than they have sneezed, to see these animals through new eyes. He had never seen any of those animals before outside of books or cartoon illustrations, and didn’t really even know what a zoo was until we explained it the other day. He was most excited to see the “big cats” and the makaks (monkeys), but the elephants ended up stealing the show! The Oregon Zoo has a new elephant compound, complete with a swimming area for them, multiple feeding spots and viewpoints – with some great places for them to move around and be…umm elephants, I guess. πŸ™‚ We had to visit the lion exhibit three times before we could leave because they weren’t out, and he was dead set on seeing those things! It was a great day, and we were prepared to only be there 30-45 minutes if he pooped out early, but we had to call it a day at the 3-hour mark! At bedtime tonight when I asked him what his favorite part was, he said the elephants swimming and eating and pooping in the pool (yes. that was accurate!) LOL.

Those would be the just-scratching-the-surface, lighthearted things though – there are so many small nuances and things most kids grow up with as a normal part of life that we are quickly realizing he has never experienced. These habits, perks of family, traditions and “normal” routines are a world of unknowns, a massive, deep pool of “do I like this?” or “should I like this?” and many times “this is just weird”.

He doesn’t have and probably has never had a baby or blankie or other stuffed plaything to snuggle with at night. At 7-years-old it seems a little late to start a habit like that, and he hasn’t been too interested in anything we’ve tried to introduce. Saying bedtime prayers was something the first night he gave us a quizzical look – I think at the O they just said prayers at mealtimes…but after a few nights of a standard simple prayer with him, thanking God for the different things we did that day or the special people we saw, he started interjecting his own things if we forgot something! Bedtime stories – that is one of his most favorite routines, and sometimes we might get talked into upwards of 5 books before bed each complete with their own jokes and antics specific to the story. His favorites are “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “If you Give a Moose a Muffin”, and the “No, David” and “David Gets in Trouble” books – the David books are especially awesome for him because the words are simple and he can read them, and they each end with a Mommy hugging her son even though he made some mistakes like playing baseball in the house (which totally sounds like foreshadowing for our own household…) πŸ˜‰

Cuddles. Snuggles. Kisses. Any kind of parental-bond physical touch was non-existent for him for the last 4 years at the O. I can’t even guess what it was like for him prior to his arrival there – I would love to believe that his birth mom loved him dearly and made every effort to give wholesome roots to this boy –  there had to have been some of that because his demeanor and personality are so pure and innocent – someone loved him, very much – and I will be forever grateful to that unknown caretaker. For the first week or so, he didn’t really know what to do with our showers of affection. We constantly had a hand on his head, rubbed his back, held his hand – virtually any moment that could support a fraction of a second for physical touch we were there. Because those seconds, and fractions of seconds, even if they are shrugged off or ignored for days, build up into minutes and then an entire length of an aisle holding your hand. If you are an adoptive parent, or ANY kind of parent – please don’t miss this opportunity with your kids! It starts early – from the first second you meet them.

One very special thing for little Wes that Kris and I saw last night and again tonight, is that (big surprise) our bio kids have had music in their lives since they were in the womb. It has been a part of their daily routine, and melodies and harmonies are practically woven into the very fiber of their bodies. From the time they were babies, I would sing around the house constantly, music would play, and every night at bedtime I would sing bedtime songs, lullabies, and I’d make up new ones for each of them as they grew older. Abby gets a kick out of a song I recorded on the first EP album called “A Breath Away” that she calls the bathtub song, because I made it up and sang it to her when she was a little baby in the tub. The kids would each ask for a few special songs from the repertoire of lullabies each night that mommy had made up, and sometimes we’d make up new ones based on an activity of the day, or a special request.

Wesley hasn’t had anyone sing bedtime songs to him, he’s gone to sleep with 10+ kids rocking or chanting themselves to sleep in their beds and cribs, mattresses scraping and squeaking, babies wailing in the next room, big kids yelling in the halls, mosquitos and flies crawling in the dark. Last night, after I turned out the light and he was safely snuggled under his new weighted blanket (Look it up – www.sensacalm.com – it is fantastic and made a HUGE difference in his falling asleep antics!), he began to close his eyes and I quietly asked if he would like mommy to sing a song. He thought for a good minute, and I thought he might have fallen asleep…and then said very quietly, “yes…” so I started to softly sing. I started singing through every lullaby and Sunday School song I could think of and if they were simple enough I would sing them in English and then again in Creole. A normal 30-minute toss-and-turn-himself-to-sleep was cut in half and I had literally sung my child into a dead sleep in 15 minutes. Tonight, I asked him again if he would like mommy to sing, and he replied quickly, “yes” – so again, I sang, and 10 minutes later he was out cold. Kris reminded me that he’s never had anyone do that for him, so even at 7-years-old, he’s still trying to figure out if these odd things mommy and daddy do for bedtime are something he should enjoy, or if they are for little kids, or just not for him. We realize that there are many ways in which he will still want to experience being “a little kid” because he never was able to be that. He will want to be cuddled and snuggled and kissed like a 3 to 4-year old, because he’s missed out on years of that bonding. He will soak up the little kid songs and silly bedtime stories and board books, because he’s never gotten to lay down and snuggle into an Avengers weighted blanket and read with a Mommy and Daddy (or a Logan or Abby, who have been his bedtime snuggle buddies for a few nights). He will snatch up his airplane and baby monster jammies because he’s never gotten to wear them before. He loves his little plastic cups and bowls and plates because they are his. He may be too big for his little plastic swing car, but he will ride that thing for an hour in the driveway because he’s never had one! He loves to play with the neighbor’s 4 and 6-year old, because he’s never had neighbors before.

So I close out the night still blessed that I was able to sing my little boy to sleep, and make up a new lullaby about the zoo today (that hopefully I’ll remember tomorrow).

Blessings,

Laura

Helping mommy water the plants

First steps into the zoo!

(Out of order, but end of a long morning!)

Fascinated by otters doing flips!

Favorite part – the elephants!


Staring at monkeys with some rainbow-colored fluffy buns! πŸ˜‰

Sometimes you just have to laugh about it.

Wow. At this point in the evening I’m going to have myself a good laugh and just sleep it off.

A great sunny day, fun activities outside, a short swim left a small one exhausted. I came home from my treatment and found that the kids tried to go to the pool with Daddy at 1:30 but the pool had been closed until 3:30 (which caused much sadness for a few minutes until Daddy remedied that with a “let’s go get ice cream and we’ll come back at 3:30”) which meant that I took them at 3:30 to the pool πŸ˜‰ Daddy thankfully joined us and swam with the big kids while I supervised Wes in the kiddie pool.

After swimming, though, was when the night started to get fun. Braeden and Kris had their last baseball game of the season (conveniently starting at 7pm – {insert sarcastic eye roll} – Wes’s bibbity-bobbity-bedtime) so Wes, Abby and I took Logan to basketball practice, and the boys headed off to baseball. Somehow Wes got it in his head that he was going to go watch baseball, so when we later picked up Logan and I told him we weren’t going to watch the game, and that only Logan was going to watch…things started to unravel. Mind you, I’m already a few screws loose at this point in the day after my treatment.

Just prior to picking up Logan, Abby had all of a sudden come down with a “I’m so exhausted I just want to sleep now” which for her is a sure sign of migraine coming on (she has suffered from migraines since she was about 4, no consistent triggers). So I decided that instead of appeasing Wes and staying at the game to watch for the first 15-20 min and then leave, we’d just need to drop Logan off and I’d take the younger two home for much needed early bedtime.

Ha.

Ha.

Ha.

{insert completely exhausted half-hearted attempt at a chuckle at my own naive pea-brained thought process}

As soon as Logan got out of the car, I heard “I want watch baseball. I want watch baseball” coming from Wesley’s booster, at the same time, I heard “mom, we’re going home right?” from Abby, with an uneasy swallow attached. I started driving away and immediately a Niagra Falls of tears spilled over in the backseat. Complete, instant, utter wailing with “baseball” and “watch” drowning themselves in the waters.

I pulled over to an empty curb in the parking lot and got out to try to console the poor guy in the backseat (who wanted nothing to do with me if I wasn’t going to unbuckle him), but I had promised last time that if he was sad I would give him hugs to help him feel better, so at least I needed to verbally and physically attempt to keep my word!

Well, at the same time I’m trying to control the flooded situation in 7-year-old lungs, all of a sudden I hear “{gulp} mom?!” “I’m going to.” (translation: I’m about to puke all over your car and myself if you don’t help me get out.) Many times, the only release to her migraines is to just literally let it all out…yuck.

All our car doors open in the parking lot, screaming tearful child in the backseat strapped into his booster, (luckily I don’t think he could see straight enough through his tears to manage unbuckling, otherwise he’d have been halfway across to the baseball field by then), and I’m rushing over to the opposite passenger side to get Abby out before she — you know. I get her out and over to the barkdust, and after she’s done, I have to leave her there alone while I go console Little Man, because in all the hullaballoo I think he freaked out more because he saw us getting out and then he was still stuck in there – did he maybe think we were going to watch baseball without him? LOL

WHEW. OK. Puke done. Crying, screaming child still in the backseat but at least I can drive and we are only 8 minutes from home. So, continue driving home, trying to calmly talk Wes out of his grief about the lost baseball game, which was made worse by the fact that we have to drive by the ENTIRE BASEBALL PARK AND FIELDS to get home, so with each game we passed, a fresh volume of tears ensued as he craned his neck to illustrate further the fury he had that he was leaving those precious games behind.

We finally got home, and I sent Abby in because she just gets a sad, scared heart when he’s so sad and angry, and I tried to peel him out of the car, but I think he associated the car with maybe getting to watch baseball still, so he was clinging to the arms of the car seat. Literally peeling screaming child off the seat, I gathered him up and brought him in, then had to take him straight up to his room so we could at least try to attempt bedtime.

I am still functioning on about 15% of my normal physical and awake-alert ability here. LOL. See? It really is just absolutely humorous now that it’s all done!

At any rate, I had to carry him kicking and screaming all the way upstairs – I think he wanted to just be as close to the garage/car as possible, but that definitely isn’t where he sleeps. When we finally reached his room and bathroom, I tried a new tactic tonight. Other than having to pick him up and carry him (even if he was fighting me) to where I needed him to be (like the bathroom to pee before bed), I just let him cry it out. He cried and wailed for probably 35 minutes straight.

I’ll interject here – At this point, I’m sharing details for parents of children who may come home and display some of the same behavior, to help illustrate what we’ve tried, and what has worked. So, if it’s helpful, please read it – if it’s not – feel free to skip over it and read the nice wrap-up at the end πŸ˜‰

This time, I let him mostly cry it out on his own. I was always nearby, within 4-5 feet of him, and every few minutes I’d close the gap, talk softly, get on his level and attempt to make some kind of gentle physical contact, either rubbing his back, his head, or just a hand on his arm. He shrugged a lot of it away, but about half the time he was so stuck in his own head that he allowed it even if he didn’t let it “reach” him or comfort him. The allowing is good – and I think I’ll continue to go this route as it teaches him that comfort when we are sad is there when he needs it. I didn’t over-do the lovey-dovey physical touch, in those moments he doesn’t want hugs, he doesn’t want cuddled or loved on, but he still needs to know that I’m there, and I’m not going to go away when he’s mad or sad.

After 35 minutes or so of his crying, and yelling, he slowed down a bit, and finally was in such an exhausted point that I have started to be able to recognize. In that moment there opens a point of entry for physical comfort. The point in time where I can ask “Are you ready for a hug?” and he may completely ignore me, but his body is too exhausted to fight against it. So I moved from that question to letting him know that I was going to help him go potty, and pick him up and give him a hug. He fought it a little, but eventually let me hold him, and slowly over the next minute or so relaxed into still crying and whimpering but arms around me and allowing himself to be held. That moment is a glorious feeling of relief, let me tell you. Whether you have adopted children from tough places, or just children that have tough days – that moment where you know their heart is finally (for even just a moment) soft and moldable is a sweet, sweet breath of pure oxygen.

I sat on the bed and held him, talking softly, and gently and he was able to tell me that he didn’t want to sleep upstairs tonight, he wanted to sleep on Mommy’s floor – which was awesome because he was using words and communicating with me. So we went back down to my room, and he laid down, and quietly snuggled in and continued settling down as we read stories. From there, he was happy and content, calmed and crisis behind us.

Abby had settled into my bed, and he had settled on the floor, so I now have two sleeping littles in my room…where I would really like to go sleep about now. πŸ™‚

Anyway – Today, of all days – of course it would happen. Today, of all days – of course he would fall apart, and of course, I’d be alone to deal with it – and of course, I’d be running on empty. But sometimes, when it’s over, you just have to laugh about it – because you’re still alive, and your kids are happy and sleeping, (and hopefully will sleep past 5am because they are SO SO tired…).

We hear this clichΓ© phrase often, “God will never give you more than you can handle” – well, let’s just call a spade a spade, folks – that’s a bunch of BS. (blue sharks). God gives me stuff I can’t handle EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And my guess is that He’s given many of you stuff you can’t handle either. Sometimes those things amount to a mountain that makes you doubt His goodness, or even His existence. The thing is, when He allows us to go through these trials, struggles, temper tantrums and trauma aftermath, sicknesses, cancers, death and just plain old rotten stuff – He always, always, always gives us something else alongside it. He gives Himself. He offers His hand every step of the way, He offers His peace, His refuge, His comfort, His truth, His goodness, His mercy, His grace and His unconditional love. Never once will God ask us or require us to do it alone – that’s part of the beauty of knowing Him, of being engaged in relationship with Him – we are never alone again.

For many of you this hits home as something you know is truth for you – for others you may wrestle with these words and that’s okay – wrestle it, fight it out, kick and scream and refuse to look Him in the eyes. Shrug off His attempts to hold you, turn your face to the wall when He tries to wipe your tears, stick in your neon yellow earplugs when someone like me tries to tell you that He. Is. Chasing. After. You. Because in the same way that I planted myself right near my son tonight to make sure he knew that I was there and that I loved him – regardless of his acceptance of my words and my touch – the same is true infinity-fold for the Lord. He longs for you to look in His eyes, He longs for you to let Him carry you and all your junk, He is sitting there next to you while you’re going through your hard stuff, quietly trying to let you know that you don’t have to do this alone.

Just as I love my son, who came to me out of brokenness and grief, loss and destruction, so does our Heavenly Father love you – no matter how broken or messed up or wayward, how mistaken or just forgetful of Him you’ve become – You don’t have to do this alone.

And at the moment when you realize that – and take advantage of that partnership – after your tears are dried and your heart is held…

Then, sometimes you just have to laugh about it.

Blessings,

Laura

Win!

Yet another win last night – Wesley slept in his own bed! πŸ˜‰ Granted, I was so paranoid about him getting out that I could barely sleep and kept waking up to check the video monitor… grrr. Lol! 

Like clockwork this morning, 5:04am I heard a rustling and a thumping patter of feet above me as he jumped out of bed to go potty…then I watched the monitor to see if he would get back in bed like he was supposed to – 3 minutes later, no Little Man on the creepy cam… πŸ˜‰ I hauled myself out of sleeplessness and trudged upstairs to see where he got distracted. Found him sitting at the top of the stairs, just chilling. I shook my head and said sorry, bud it’s time for sleeping! And steered him back into bed. Then I laid with him while he rolled around for 45 minutes trying to fight falling back asleep. πŸ˜‰ eventually he did fall back asleep and woke again an hour later, hurtling himself out of bed and down to my room to wake up daddy (I.e. Snuggle time)!

Thanking the Lord this morning for my Awesome husband who got up with him and let me crash for another hour in bed!

Yesterday was another great day for Wes, he was thrilled the outdoor pool was open at the community club, so I took him swimming for an hour in the sunshine! He talked Daddy into taking him again this afternoon so he’s going to be a bit water logged!

Our older kids are doing amazingly well with this transition. We are finally allowing them to take some time to themselves and get some breaks from entertaining a 7-year old, which was much needed. He is a sweet kid but has lots of energy and wants to constantly be doing something (and doesn’t want to do it alone!). I cannot imagine going through adopting an older child and not having built in playmates at home! I know I have some friends that have been through the process that do not have Bio kids already at home and my heart is in awe of your stamina and perseverance. I cannot even fathom how exhausted you must be! I need you all to know that I’m praying for divine strength and encouragement, relief and SLEEP for you all!! πŸ˜‰

Kris and I are doing well, but I definitely carry exhaustion differently than he does. He is a rally-er, when exhaustion hits he finds a way to harness a second, third and fourth wind. He can handle multiple days of shortened sleep patterns and catch up in one night of good sleep. He is patient, kind and understanding through it all. 

Me – well -let’s just say there’s a reason God matched us together… he is strong when I am weak, grumpy, exhausted, near tears, and treading the fine line between normal society and the looney bin! Thank you, Jesus for my husband!

Today he’s got an extra big job as he’s got to pull double-duty on the Parenting end. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease about 5 years ago. My insides had been messed up for about 13 years, always being misdiagnosed by doctors and GI’s. When it was finally correctly diagnosed things were so turned around that I had to get on the high-dose meds right away. For the last 5 years I’ve had infusions every 8 weeks to maintain and monitor the inflammation inside that the disease causes. That’s the short of it. The meds are something long-term – that I’ll have to deal with pretty much forever until a new option comes around that works. They operate much like a chemo drip – I get hooked up to a bag of fluids and meds for a few hours in a small room every other month. 

The most difficult part is that the medication leaves me completely exhausted for the rest of the day and many times in a fog for a couple days after. So today, I’m thankful for my husband who is taking a break from work and doing the swimming pool runs and watching scooter tricks in the driveway, while I sit here and drip drip drip while I blog. πŸ˜‰

Another blessing – I still have freezer and fridge meals that friends have been providing which will come in extremely handy today and tomorrow!! Thank you, friends!!!!

The meds are starting to make me a bit sleepy now so I should sign off before my typing gets muddled and incoherent! 

Blessings,

Laura 

Enjoying the kiddie pool with Abby!

Swimming!

He also got to check out an empty dentist chair while Braeden got his braces off…he was thrilled they were showing Lego Batman above his head! (Any other parents that can’t stand that movie?? I’m tempted to “lose” it!)


Wes got to help the nurse at Abbys doc appt yesterday! πŸ˜‰ he was all smiles which was great because he has to go in Thursday morning for vaccines….don’t you dare mention it to him!!!! Our tactic is tell him right before we have to leave. Lol!

Happy Dadi Day!

Rustling blankies, flopping body parts and 30-second long sighs woke me this morning, from my drooling, blessed sleep. When I glanced at the clock, I realized it wasn’t even morning. It was still night. Obviously my child doesn’t hold the same standards of what constitutes as “night” and “morning”. UGH. 5am is definitely still night. After attempting to buy myself a little time with Ben10 episodes, I realized that cartoon network does NOT have sleeping parents’ best interests at heart. Each episode is only 13 minutes long. So pretty much as soon as I float off into alien serenaded slumber, the “oh. its all done, Mommy!” startles me out. After 2 of those, I gave up. He snuggled in and “tried” to sleep some more, but that just meant lots more long sighs and flopping around in the sheets. πŸ˜‰

Finally, I decided it was Father’s Day after all…so I led Wes out of the bedroom in my zombie-like state and made some coffee while he snacked on Crispix. For the next 30 minutes, while he munched and crunched, I googled “how to teach my child to sleep longer” and read a million different suggestions on how to lengthen a child’s natural sleep cycle. It’s amazing that anyone’s children sleep with so many opinions on who is right. It’s no wonder mine isn’t. I still have no idea what to do! LOL

Now it’s 9:15pm and the words are all floating around in my eyes like black floaties when it’s sunny (or is that just me?), I’m so tired! I’m praying he sleeps longer tomorrow…

Today, despite the O-dark-thirty awakening, was an amazing day for Wes! It began rainy, even though the forecast said sunny and hot, which perplexed the poor kid greatly because he had been COUNTING the days until it was going to be hot and sunny so that he could go swimming! We spent our early morning hours watching the birds and squirrels eat outside (he has an obsession with watching out the picture window in the dining nook and watching all the birds (and the squirrels eat the bird food). We realized that in Haiti, the only birds he ever saw were the chickens in the yard and the doves that roost in the stairwells. I don’t know if he’d ever seen another kind of bird in his life – so the bright colors of the ones that fly in and out of the woods at our house are fascinating to him! He’d also never seen a squirrel before so that was a cause for a minor freak out the first morning home!

We sat at the table, I made him spaghetti left over from Papa’s house the other night, his favorite meal, chopped him some fruit, and let him play with his super heroes until the girls woke up. When Abby came to join him, she got out the cardstock and markers and glue and went to work crafting Daddy a card – Wes decided to join in and made his own for Daddy, complete with Creole and English captions for all his illustrations! (I’m including photos at the end!) It was very sweet, and we woke daddy after 2 hours of sleeping in, with a latte made by Wes himself πŸ˜‰ He carried it in to Daddy all by himself as well to wake up his favorite grown up!

At breakfast, we chatted about what to do and Wes decided he wanted to go to the “market” so we made a plan to try a Costco run! He took it all in stride like everything else so far – he made all the appropriate “oh this is a BIG market!” comments and was in awe of the meat section πŸ˜‰ Thankfully, we hit at sample-time which was fun for the kids to take him to all the little tables and try things – he is very good at trying pretty much anything and everything – there’s not much that he’s tried that he just thinks is disgusting. Most of the time he’ll decide it’s edible after about 2 bites.

After Costco, we headed home to get some downtime (and mommy and abby a 20 minute nap) before heading out to Kris’ sister’s house to make introductions to his aunt, uncle and two cousins. They have a farm and raise goats, chickens, ducks, and other animals at different times in the year, so it was cute to see him experience the goats! In Haiti, goats are kind of pets but more so out of trash cleanup control rather than utilizing them for milk or meat. He’s still a bit discombobulated about animals as “pets” – it really doesn’t compute easily in his head. Why feed something that doesn’t NEED to be fed? In Haiti the goats feed themselves πŸ˜‰

Wes gets along fantastically with other kids, and does wonderfully with meeting new family. He seems to just eat it up – the fact that there is this massive group of people who just belong to him – He finally has “his people” – which is something he hasn’t had in a long time. It will be interesting when he’s older to ask him what he thought and felt when he was this age – hopefully there are ways to help him remember. I’m tossing around the idea of recording him talking about Haiti and answering questions in Creole – just to get it on record somewhere.

Another adoptive family emailed me today and suggested I talk about the language barrier or lack thereof – talking about how communication has been. I thought that was a great idea and her email came just as I was about to sit down to write, so perfect timing!

When we picked him up at the O 2 1/2 weeks ago, his English was limited, he knew a few basic answers yes/no, and he knew some easy phrases that he’s picked up from “blan” visitors at the orphanage over the years. He also knew a lovely 4-letter word he must have picked up from some older boys in the orphanage…UGH. LOL that was a wonderful surprise for the kids the first few days haha! (FYI – for anyone who may deal with that issue – we realized that he probably had no clue what it meant, just that the big kids said it, so we chose to deal with it in a way that didn’t shame him for saying a bad word, because it wasn’t intentional. Instead, each time he’d say it, “SH%&”!, we’d say “oh man!” or “oh darn” (except that one backfired because with his accented french r’s it sounded like O-something else.), or “oh bummer” because we knew he was picking up English so fast, he’d just assume that the English translation of that word was “oh man” and he’d start saying that instead. Our logic worked really quickly and I haven’t heard that word in about a week. Quickly forgotten and replaced.)

Anyway – he knew a few basics in English, numbers, most letters, a few random words, but not strings of sentences. He is a sponge though, at 7-years old – think about any 7-year old you know, they are always repeating people, parents, friends, basically parroting everything they hear (sometimes not always a good thing), Wes is no different. Kris and I had been studying some Creole using the Pimsleur app (the most fantastic Haitian Creole language program – it is quick, easy, and conversational – all audio lessons for the first 20 or so lessons – highly recommend!). We aren’t fluent by any comparison, but we do know basics and know enough about the structure of sentences that we could recognize a word he was saying and piece it together. Google Translate for words we didn’t know is very helpful also – and the fact that he’s 7 and usually can help us spell the words we are trying to look up – or get pretty close. It becomes sort of a game – he says “what is _______ (insert creole word) in English?” and I guess, and then we look it up to see if I’m right – or vice versa, he says “what is Fork in Creole?” and I have to guess fouchet.

We have dealt with language as a learning experience on both sides. He teaches us Creole, and we teach English. He corrects our Creole when we say things out of order, or pronunciation is incorrect, and he laughs when we use the wrong words πŸ™‚ When he first came home, he was using 90% Creole and 10% English that he knew, or he’d struggle through the Creole and we’d translate it, or just speak full Creole with him. As the last 2 weeks have gone by, he finds it easier and easier to communicate in English – he’s probably closer to 50/50 or 75/25 split using English far more often than Creole. In fact, we’ve been talking about how we probably should be reinforcing the Creole because we don’t want him to lose it! He understands way more in English than he is comfortable saying, but he also isn’t afraid to just speak broken English if he needs to – he doesn’t get embarrassed, and if its helpful, we correct him but many times we just let it go and he works it out himself. Many times we find him correcting his own grammar or English words along the way!

Because of all these variables, communication with him has been the LEAST of our concerns. It was a big unknown going into the homecoming, but it’s kind of like any immersion program, when you’re forced to communicate, you bumble your way through until you figure it out. These kids are completely reliant on you when they come home. They are alone, there are no other Creole speaking kids to commiserate with or to withdraw into (unless they have siblings that come with them) – so for the most part they are stuck attempting to communicate until it works out. As an adoptive parent who doesn’t know a lot – I do know this – I’m confident that our attempts to learn some basic Creole helped his transition IMMENSELY. Even just the ability to have simple conversation or ask questions like “are you okay” or “are you sad” or “are you hungry” or “what do you want to do/play/eat/etc.” are so essential! Google translate, again, is a friend, although it isn’t always grammatically correct when you do long strings of words. So basic knowledge of how sentence structure works is helpful.

I feel that mostly covers the communication end of things – he is really truly doing SO well. The occasional battle is just that – occasional – and then he’ll have a perfectly awesome day like today!

We even were able to hit the community pool for an hour before Grandpa came to visit for dinner (which was WONDERFUL, BTW!). My dad has waited weeks to meet this little punkin’ so it was such a sweet evening for them to spend time together! They played basketball on the trampoline, Wes showed Grandpa his room, and toys, and we ate a yummy dinner together πŸ™‚

So blessed to have a day like today – especially for Father’s Day! I’m going to edit this post with some photos, a few including Wes’ card for Daddy!

Thank you all for your continued prayer and encouragement! Here’s another prayer lifted for another great day tomorrow!

Blessings,
Laura


Sa se for you (a mix of creole & English, “this is for you”)

Wesley’s card for Daddy, with big muscles

Spaghetti on the table with Ollie and Bella 

Sa se Kay ou, (this is your house), sa se machin ou (this is your car)

Daddy’s collection of cards!

Wes showing Grandpa his books!

This amazing helper loves to help with Dishes! He helped logan load the dishes and fought off Ollie as he tried to “rinse” them with his tongue!


This is his super smile, and Daddy’s special wake up latte πŸ™‚

110th time’s the charm.

I’m about to ban movies and TV from my house altogether. πŸ˜‰ Seems our only battles with Wes have to do with hearing a “no” regarding TV or movie. (pretty normal for any kid, but especially for those that have never seen a complete show in HD. The only TVs I saw at his orphanage were extremely snowy signal…)

Today started out wonderfully, Wes was very excited to go watch Braeden play baseball, yet he couldn’t quite grasp the fact that he wasn’t going to actually get to play…I don’t think he was counting on 6 hours of “watching”. πŸ˜‰ Luckily, our team has lots of families with lots of kids to play with, so he got to play soccer and whiffle ball all morning during the 1st game, occasionally coming to check-in on who was playing, or sit with his friends on the bleachers! He is a magnet for females of all ages – it is a bit like watching a grip of monkeys preen each other. He gets petted and coddled…constantly. There are times I have to steer him away or encourage him to remove himself because what we don’t want, is for him to be so comfortable among the attentions of all these strangers that he doesn’t bond with mommy and daddy. Strangers are easy for him – they don’t ask for anything in return, they just love on him and give him back to his family.

With Mommy and Daddy, our love may be unconditional, but our relationship is a two-way street. We love him dearly and shower him with affection, but we also require things in return: “Listen to Mommy”, “Please don’t tell Mommy and Daddy no”, “Eat two bites please”, “Clean up your toys”, “Make sure all your pee goes in the potty [and not on the seat/floor]” etc. etc. The easier person to love is by far the one who asks nothing in return – i.e. strangers or new friends.

So, if you are a new friend, (or stranger), or even a close family member, please understand why we ask that you not shower him with hugs and cuddles for a while even though every stitch of his being is screaming “I’M SO ADORABLE< LOVE ME!!!” πŸ˜‰ High-fives and fun conversation are fantastic, physical play like soccer and games are awesome. even small quick side hugs and greetings are just fine. But the bonding that happens and builds when he sticks like glue into another loving person is something that we need to happen with us first.

He is an interesting study. When I observe him when we are out and he’s busy making friends, he doesn’t seem to need me much – (unless he’s hungry or needs to pee) – isn’t cuddly or attached, and shrugs off physical touch or attempts at loving on him. I wonder if it’s a learned behavior from big kids at the O…? But in the morning, at 5:30am when he can’t stand to flop in his bed any longer, he crawls up into my bed and sprawls onto my chest, snuggling into my neck, and flinging his arms across me. At night, his eyes light up and he throws his arms up and says “carry me!” when he’s done with teeth and jammies and clings to my frame as he lays his fuzzy head in the crook of my neck just under my tiny ear (Yes. I have tiny ears. Like elfin size small. Like they never grew past age 8, I know, it’s weird. But it leaves a lot of room for a fuzzy brown head to fit under!). He snuggles up close and giggles through bedtime stories, and wraps his arms around my neck for goodnight hugs. I want him to be firmly attached even when others are around – but for now, he plays the aloof cool kid, I think. It will be interesting to see if that changes over time.

Back to today – he made it through an entire 1.5 baseball games before he started glazing over…I packed up Wes and Abby and headed home. When we arrived home, after a snack, they wanted to watch a movie, which was fine – but Abby was picking and for whatever reason, last minute he decided he didn’t want to watch that movie and wanted her to change it. I politely told him no, that if he wanted to watch a movie this was it. To which he sulked through about 5 minutes and then wandered off into the next room to withdraw in his frustration/sadness.

After a few minutes I followed him and tried talking to him, which was met with the (expected) stonewalling. No communication, no eye contact. I scooped him up and took him into my room where we had a battle of the wills for the next hour. It was a sweaty, horrible heartbreaking hour. I had two simple requests – please look at my eyes, and use your words to talk to mommy. I told him he could not do anything else until he did those two things. I told him we would sit there all day and all night until he followed the direction. I was exhausted, he was even more exhausted, and we had a few labored tears and audible hoarse screams at the frustration of it all. Finally, after an hour, he was so tired of fighting that he sat in my arms, limp and quiet. For the last hour I had continued to use calm words (minus the admitted few times where I raised my voice to tell him “stop” or “sit here” when needed and when pushed to exasperation), I had continued to ask him to talk to me, to look in my eyes, and for an hour he proceeded to refuse to even acknowledge my presence other than trying to get as far away from me as possible. He wouldn’t raise his eyes or use any non-verbal cues either.

After the hour long standoff, as he sat in my arms lost in his own grief, and for the 110th time, I said, “honey, Mommy just needs you to look at my eyes and talk to me. If you are sad, I need you to say “mommy, I’m sad!”. And blessed be the Lord Almighty, that little one lifted his eyes and looked right at me and said, “Mommy I sad.” Cue waterworks for Mommy. In full mid-sobbing I hugged him tight and said, “Sweetheart I’m so sorry you’re sad. Thank you for looking at mommy and using your words to tell me you are sad. When you are sad, tell mommy and I will give you big hugs and help you feel better, okay?” and he nodded and said, “okay”.

Oh man. We dried our tears and I said thank you for talking to Mommy with your words and for looking at my eyes. Would you like to go out and play now? And he said Yes…so out we went, and the rest of the night was great – he played outside with Abby and the neighbor’s 4-year old daughter, riding scooters, and singing at the top of his lungs to AJR’s “Weak” LOL that boy loves music. Sometimes he makes up his own words in Creole when he doesn’t understand what the English is saying, which is adorable.

Did I mention that this entire afternoon standoff and evening was done ALONE by mommy because the boys baseball tournament went long and they had to add a 6pm game? GRRRR. LOL I loved baseball until I had a 7-year old Haitian under my roof. πŸ˜‰ Just kidding.

So – we end yet another night – exhausted, ready for bed, praying tomorrow is easier than today. But – we had a win. I got through it on my own – learned a few things, don’t really want to do that again, so I may try to deal with it a different way next time. Always researching, learning, growing – parenting a child from trauma is a new beast entirely.

Funny side note about tonight’s ordeal – at one point I was so exasperated I began praying out loud over my son, simple prayers that God would heal his heart and calm him and help him settle down – it definitely threw Wes off a bit – he recognizes a prayer when he hears one, and I think he didn’t know if he was supposed to stop his fit and pray with me, or listen or what? LOL – at least I can laugh about that now…in the moment it was not a laughing matter!

Lastly – I feel okay sharing these moments of first transitions home – they are raw and they are beautiful in their own way because over time I think we will all be able to see the progress in his little life and heart. But there will be times where I will not share, because it will be too personal, and because it won’t be my story to share, or because I don’t ever want to overshare his personal life’s struggles. For now, I choose to be real, even when it’s not always pretty.

Blessings,

Laura

When you just want to crawl back in bed…

I’m fully comprehending that there will be some days where I just want to fast forward to bedtime so this little one can crawl back into bed and try again the next day. Today was one of those days! LOL

He’s been home over a week, and today was the first day that was really a tough one on the strenuous parenting side of the scales. We set ourselves up for slight-disaster last night, and we knew it – so at least we weren’t completely unprepared. Yesterday was our oldest son’s 8th grade promotion event and it began at 6:30 and didn’t end until about 8:30, which means Wes was way past turning into a pumpkin. No fairy godmother was going to bibbity-bobbity-boo me out of this day. While he slept well, and slept in an extra 30 minutes, he didn’t get to sleep until 2 hours past his normal heading-to-bed time, which meant today he was extra testy and extremely moody. The morning started off grumpy because all his big siblings still had to go to school (which is his least favorite part about getting the day moving, because all his fun playmates are gone. Apparently I don’t play Spiderman Chutes and Ladders the same way???). When he was done watching a quick episode of Ben10 while I showered, he then decided his next go-to activity to ask about was going to be to watch a movie, to which I immediately responded “no, no movie right now”. This set him into a grumpy funk, and an hour later he was still unable to shake it off. The silent treatment began to take hold and he proceeded to park himself on the couch and I could almost see him slowly folding into his own head (metaphorically. I’m not insinuating that he’s got any kind of contortionist properties…although the kinds of things I’ve seen him be able to do on the trampoline make me wonder…). His gaze became detached and his attitude aloof, and all of my attempts at conversation and questions were met with ignoring silence, as though he couldn’t even hear me. He calmly turned away from the sound of my words, and shrugged off any physical touch.

I knew he was either frustrated, mad or sad about (most likely) the inability to do what he wanted. Again, as was the case the other day, he doesn’t know how to communicate emotions to another person. He’s never been required to, or taught how that process works. Eventually, I scooped him up in my arms to try to have his attention and calmly talk to him. This sparked immediate physical repelling out of my arms, and his body immediately tensed fully as he wanted to just climb out and be by himself. Some trainings we’ve been through teach you to physically hold your children close in these situations, even though they are physically fighting against it, until they cease fighting – calmly reminding them that they are safe, that you love them, and that you need them to communicate with you verbally.

I did this, and honestly after now it’s all over and done with, I’m not completely sold on the practice. It’s very hard to physically contain a child that’s all arms and legs trying to crawl off your lap, and he gets to the point where he gets so frustrated with the inability to do what he wants that he begins to cry, which is so hard to watch. Finally, after letting me struggle through most of it, Kris took a turn and Wes collapsed onto his shoulder in tears and exhaustion. Having been through near 30 minutes of physical exhaustion trying to calm him down, I had tears rolling down my face as well. After some gentle conversation and more soothing words, he turned around in Daddy’s lap and quietly reached out to me for a long hug, buried in my neck. At that point I lost it and the few tears that were falling for me turned into a relieved flood. I knew at that moment that the battle had been won, and that his heart was softening, even if it didn’t always look the way we wanted it to.

It’s rough. It’s exhausting. It’s 9:19 and I can’t seem to type fast enough to get myself into bed to sleep as much as possible before we try again tomorrow. He is a beautifully sweet soul, and my guess is that most people, even close family, will never see the side of him that shuts down or falls apart – because he loves people too much. He has too sweet of a spirit to let his grief crush him – and that’s the fight that we see daily. His pristine white smile lights up the room, his smoky laughter crinkles through the ticking hours of the day. His anticipation of his brother and sisters arriving, or family/friends coming to visit is more contagious than a yawn. He finds joy in things like Vancouver Lake and the train tracks that we pass daily on the way to school. He swears up and down that he doesn’t like the rain, yet suits up in his bright red rain coat and green polka-dot Parapli (umbrella) everytime he feels a drop. He delights in little dogs and reading stories, finding it hilarious that if you give a moose a muffin it will eventually lead to the moose wearing a sweater to go outside when it’s chilly…or if you give a mouse a cookie he will eventually need a haircut!

I’m thankful for his spirit of joy, because ultimately, I think that will be what God uses to heal his heart – to soothe the abandonment issues that have compounded over the past few years, to create a path toward comfort and love in times of sadness.

Today he was also able to FaceTime with my dad, whom he hasn’t met yet – which was both wonderful and heartbreaking for me. Our scheduled time happened to fall right after the morning’s battle and he was definitely not himself. He wasn’t chatty or personable like he normally is, and I was sad for both Wes and my dad that their first interaction wasn’t an overtly positive one. One thing I love about my dad, though is his ability to find the positive in a pool of wallowing muck. πŸ˜‰ He was overjoyed to talk to his new grandson, even if he wasn’t in the best mood – and he was able also to instill a sense of excitement about his arrival for a visit this weekend πŸ˜‰ while Wes didn’t show it through their conversation, as soon as we hung up he began to ask which day grandpa was coming to visit and what time, and then told me multiple times through the day that grandpa was coming soon! πŸ˜‰ 

After his moodiness wore off a bit Wes was able to FaceTime two of his friends from the orphanage (a set of twins) who went home with their new family a few weeks before him. It was such a kick in the pants to see these kids light up at seeing each others’ faces, to share a common language, babbling back and forth in Creole, mixing in English, and then translating for us mamas watching! They were excitedly showing each other their rooms, their dogs and new toys – and laughing about crazy who-knows-what things. The smiles on each of their faces told us that they are happy, even though they have rough days, they are so happy to be loved and to be safe, and to be etched into a family forever.

Yesterday, Wes saw an airplane and asked me in Creole if we were going back to Haiti, or back to Foyer (his creche). I told him no, that he was going to stay with Mommy, Daddy, Braeden, Logan, Abby, Ollie and Bella for all the todays and all the tomorrows. He was very content with that answer, and I was so glad to see his settled demeanor after that quick conversation. Kris and I wonder what goes through his head – if he wonders if he will need to go back, if he misses it, or misses people. He hasn’t mentioned anything other than every once in awhile he will make comparisons such as “I watched that at Foyer,” or, “We have avocados in Haiti”.

Last night we had a fantastic laugh at the dinner table because Abby decided that dinner time was the best time for me to show Wes my tongue-to-nose trick, so everyone was trying to touch their tongue to their nose. He laughed when I was the only one to do it, but then calmly told us in Creole that Evens (a friend at the creche) had a super long tongue and could actually pick his nose with his tongue, and proceeded to stick his finger up his nose to show us how far up Evens tongue would go! LOL! We all started busting up laughing, which then sent Wes into a field of giggles…We’ll remember that visual for a long time!

We have laughs every day, as he says funny things while picking up English, like the other day when he got very worried because he left his “water goggles” at home! We finally figured out he was trying to say he left his water bottle at home… πŸ™‚

And then yesterday counting he got a little mixed up and said “one, two, three, fork!” So of course, now that’s the big joke anytime he’s counting.

I’m running out of steam, my eyelids are droopy, and I’m praying that he wakes up refreshed and ready to begin a new day tomorrow!

I’m reminding myself that God’s mercies are new every morning – and I know He has more in store for us demen (tomorrow).

Blessings,

Laura

Sweet everythings

Whispering “sweet nothings” is one thing, but tonight we got an entire bedtime full of sweet everythings!

Last night was rough. Bedtime came with a battle from a little one who has learned that when you cry it is embarrassing, when you’re mad, you go deal with it by yourself, and there is no concept of comfort when your heart is hurting in any way. 

A simple frustration over hearing “no” launched a bedtime saga to rival a wrestling match. When children from traumatic places enter a loving parent-child relationship, many times they have no idea how to act, what to expect, or what is expected of them in return. For little Wesley, when he got frustrated, he shut down and just wanted to go be alone and cry his crocodile tears into his own elbow and stare at the wall. Our sweet little munchkin turned into a writhing expressionless child, with tear-stained cheeks, just trying to escape the comforting arms of mommy and daddy. 

We often forget that many of these children have spent the better part of their lives learning to cope with everything on their own. In their own heads, in their own bodies, in their own spaces, in their own way. They are not comforted when they cry, they are ignored or shoved off to deal with it – because no one has the ability to sit and rock every crying child – in his orphanage there were over 120 children at times. It was a wonderful place and a relatively safe place but in an institution like that, there are pieces of relationship that just aren’t possible with so many children. When there is an argument or a fight, the kids duke it out on their own, unless a nanny or a visiting “Blan” (that would be us) steps in. When they cry, they wander the halls crying to themselves until the heartache wears off or a new one replaces it, or they simply lay down on the tile floor in exhaustion. They have not learned to seek comfort in these moments because there is none to receive. We had a long talk with the older two kids tonight about this shift for Wesley and what that might be like. They all know last night was tough – but explaining it this way made a bit more sense. It wasn’t that he was trying to be defiant or didn’t want or like or love us. It was simply that he didn’t know how to receive comfort and didn’t know how to communicate and process through his grief and frustration. 

This morning my little pumpkin woke up at 5:45am with a smile and a big hug, and hopped into our bed to snuggle before we woke up the kids for school. He enjoyed breakfast and we visited the school – after his first trip to Starbucks with mommy to get mommy some coffee. I love that when offered a snack in Starbucks he went straight for the banana, passing up the muffins and cookies and breads! πŸ˜‰ he loves his fruits and veggies! 

When we visited the school we got to say hello to Abby’s classroom – which involved 20 5th graders saying “oh my gosh he’s so cute!!” About 100 times πŸ˜‰ then we walked over and toured the 1st grade classroom area and met one of the teachers. The kids in the class were so sweet that they all looked up when we walked in and a few said “oh is this a new student today? Hi!” All in chorus they said “hi Wesley!” With lots of 1st grade smiles and hand waves. He responded with a big grin and waved his hand and said Hello! 

Next up was Logan’s class upstairs – and her teacher has been waiting for him to visit all week, so she was super excited to meet him! All day long everyone who met him said “Wesley, it’s nice to meet you, Buddy!” So therefore, all day long he was saying “Nice to meet you, Buddy!” To anything and everyone who would listen, even to the dog when we got home! Lol! 

Braeden’s class also got hugs and big hellos. He loves The kids’ friends and goes home and points at their pictures saying all their names! He has a fantastic memory!

After school was over, we came home to play and wait for Grandma to come πŸ˜‰ one of our friends brought him a Marvel Chutes & Ladders game, and since he opened it last night I think we’ve played it 37 times. πŸ˜‰ so we played chutes and ladders 3 more times before finally convincing him we could play again with Grandma but let’s color Minions first! The past few days I’ve been working hard to focus on one thing at a time with him. The first few days he was with us he would spend 5 minutes or less on an activity and then be done and want to move on to the next thing, most likely a response to the overstimulation. He’s never had so many options of things to do – now the opportunities are endless. 

Anyway, for the past few days I’ve been encouraging longer play time and interest in each thing. So, if he wants to play games for 3 hours, we play games for 3 hours. πŸ˜‰ if he wants to trace the minion pictures for an hour, we do that. So far, it is working and his interest level in each activity is growing longer each day. 

When Grandma arrived he was so excited! He finished his tracing and immediately brought out the chutes and ladders game. What a great ice breaker – he is so sweet with taking turns and we practice counting and recognizing numbers on the board by pausing to recite the English and Creole of the numbered space he landed on. He is extremely smart – knows all his numbers in Creole beyond 100, and in English he doesn’t fall apart til around 50-something. πŸ˜‰

Grandma also brought candy land which was also a smashing success! Games with few instructions are fantastic, easy to understand, and quick studies for him. 

The rest of the day pretty much included him checking my phone every 5 minutes to see if it was time to get the kids from school (he loves his big siblings!) and the rest of the afternoon and dinner went perfectly!

As the afternoon wanes and bedtime looms I begin to get anxiety over the sleep process. I was praying all evening that God would just bless us with an easy night after what we went through last night. 

Let me tell you this little one was the sweetest boy tonight! He let me brush his teeth (which is a big deal because he always is self-reliant and wants to brush all by himself), and we giggled and chatted all through lotion and Jammie’s. When we went down to lie down for bed he snuggled in with our books and we read books with daddy in bed. When we were finished Daddy asked for a goodnight hug because he was going to help Abby go to bed and Wes rolled over and gave him a long hug, saying goodnight. He settled back down to sleep and then as I’m laying down said, “Oh Mommy, its your turn!” and proceeded to wrap his tiny arms tightly around my neck and snuggle into my chest for a long snugly hug. I rubbed his back and told him that he made mommy very happy and I loved him very very very much. To which he smiled a huge grin and laid back down in his covers. 

I teared up as I laid there listening to his rustling covers, thanking God for this night of sweet everythings – because I can make it another day – this is sweet and beautiful but also very hard. There are days I’m so tired I just want to cry on the Fred Meyer checkout lady’s shoulder. Some times I honestly find myself saying I’ll be inside in just a second, I’m just going to clean out the car! (??) or taking the dog for a walk alone just to clear my plate of the extra responsibility for about 20 min. It’s tough. But these moments like tonight give us hope – give us warm fuzzies to sleep with, and remind us how much our God lovingly designed this journey for us. 

Until next time, 

Blessings,

Laura 

Helping daddy now the lawn – never seen a mower before much less been on a lawn. 


A little team powwow with uncle Michael pre-game!

First baseball session with daddy at Baseball Dudes

Pretty sure he’ll be the ringer…he can already throw, catch and hit! 

The perfect game for newly home 7-year olds!

Intense focus on an advanced dot-to-dot book. 

Driving his “car” in the driveway!

On the “moto”

Making his first PB&J – quickly becoming his favorite food!

Swings at the park!

This boy played with his action figures and Legos for almost 90 min straight, all the while babbling in Creole πŸ˜‰ Adorable. 

Trying out his skills on this whatever the heck it is thing. 
πŸ™‚ more pics to come. Kris is hogging them all on his phone and won’t airdrop them! πŸ˜‰