March 5, 2011

After One Year - Surprises

Although it was helpful for Paul and I to read up on international adoption of older children and talk to various people that had been through the experience, nothing could have prepared us for what it was going to be like once the kids came home.  There were many challenges, and still are, but here are some of the fun surprises that come to mind when I think about the last year.
  • I have triplets!  Although my kids are each a year apart, they all came home with no education, no ties to our culture or modern world, they were all starting from scratch.  Teaching them to use silverware, teaching them to use toilets, teaching them to use a shower, teaching them to brush their teeth, teaching them to ride a bike, teaching them how to swim, teaching them to goes on and on.  Normally the older children in a family help the younger ones learn but in my family all three were learning at the same time.  This added to the exhaustion and challenges in the last year and I have a new found empathy for parents that have multiples.
  • I never questioned that I would be able to love my kids as if they came from my belly.  What I didn't realize is that once they were in my life, I would forget that I didn't give birth to them.  When I see them, spend time with them or think about them, I forget they were ever from somewhere other than our home because all I see is my daughter or my son.  Now that we have been a family for awhile I see me in them and Paul in them and them in each other.  It is a remarkable experience.
  • I didn't realize how much LOVE would be in our home once the kids came home.  There is just so much love in our house.  Hugs, kisses, cuddling, games, jokes, laughter, forgiveness, growth...The love factor is exponential and is such a gift.
  • I love seeing them learn!  My kids can now read chapter books and when they came home they didn't know that letters made sounds.  My kids can now do math with triple digits and when they came home they didn't know that 10 was bigger than 2.  My kids want to travel the world now that they have seen maps and heard of different countries and continents and before they came home they didn't know there was anything beyond where they were living in Ghana.  I love seeing their vocabulary expand and see the world open up to them and them to the world.  I just love seeing them learn and had no clue I would enjoy it so much! 
  • I was surprised at how easily the kids embraced the whole family.  Paul and I prepared for a long road of the kids embracing us, let alone extended family but the kids just LOVE the whole family.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even friends.  They just love the idea of it all and get so excited when we talk about them, look at pictures or plan visits.  When we went to California for Thanksgiving to finally meet everyone, they came home trying to remember everyone and count the names they could remember.
  • The kids have a bond between each other that is beyond anything I will ever know.  It reminds me of twins I grew up with but is still different than that.  They stand up for each other, they take care of each other, they help each other, they get gifts for each other, they don't want the other to be left out, they don't like it when another is sad or hurt, they feel with the other and want their pain to end...there is a movement to it all that is so interesting to observe.  Sure they fight like siblings do but they are very fortunate to have each other.  To think that a judge in Ghana wanted these kids separated.  If that were to of happened I think a part of each of them would have died and they would have never been as whole as they are with each other.  Thank you Anita, AAI and Ghana staff for fighting to keep them together.

The kids are FINALLY swimming in the deep end.  When they came home they thought water meant death.  This is no exaggeration.  They would hold onto to Paul and I for dear life in the water and not let go and tell us it was because they would die.  It took A LOT of work and patience to get them to be able to be comfortable in the water.  Swimming lessons helped a little but weren't enough, we ended up doing family swim nights at a local pool since summer to keep improving on their skills.  They want to learn how to surf this summer so our goal is to get them to a point where they can do that.  We'll see.  We still have a ways to go. 

I came home from work one day and the kids were all reading chapter books on their own.  Just in August I had to come home from work and spend almost two hours everyday working with them to help them learn to read.  It was draining and at times I wondered if they would ever put it together.  This day I just walked into the room and there they were, reading books with more words than they ever thought possible to read.  It's pretty incrediable to see their world open up like that in a matter of months.  They are so determined and tough to work as hard as they have makes me proud.

One thing that continues to surprise us is how much energy the kids have.  This video is one we took when we were trying to get the kids to get their Valentine's day sugar out of their system.  They probably danced for over 30 minutes until they finally said they were getting SWEATY, not tired, just sweaty.

After One Year - My Kids

February was a special month for us.  We celebrated our one year family birthday.  Looking back on the last year and capturing it is extremely hard to do because it has been so packed with surprises and challenges.  This will probably be my longest post ever because there will never be a year like the last one we had.  What stands out first is how my children's personalities have slowly taken shape over the last year.  When I see pictures of them while they were at the orphanage in Ghana, I look at them and see strangers.  Yes they are still my babies but they are such different people than they were then.  I now know the intimate details of who they are and what they do. 
XAVIER has such a big heart.  He loves his family and other people deeply.  When he gets money as a gift he LOVES it but he knows, and tells his siblings, the card or person sending it is more important because it's family.  When we stand in line to pay for something he tells his parents to let the older person, typically an elderly person, behind you to go in front.  He just gets what family and loving others is about.  He was recently reading a picture book about adoption and got so excited to tell me that the book reminded him of him and I.  The book talked about how a mother wished for her child to come home because she had such a special place in her heart that needed to be filled.  X read this to me and smiled, then gave me a huge hug and said, "Mom that is you with me!  You wished for me to fill a space in your heart and I did!"  I love that I learn about love through my son.  Xavier is also my social child.  All my kids like to play with others but Xavier makes friends with almost anyone.  To add to that he is super goofy and loves joking around with people.  Even after weeks of being in the hospital recovering from heart surgery just waiting to come home, he pulled a prank on the doctors.  He pulled down part of his hospital gown so his shoulders looked bare, then he  pulled the blankets up to his chest so it looked like he didn't have clothes on.  When the cardiologist walked in to check on him the doctor asked how he was doing.  Xavier said, "I'm so cold in here.  It isn't very comfortable."  Just as the doctors started telling him to put clothes on and to take care of himself X pulled down the bed sheets and laughed saying, tricked ya!.  He got a reputation after that.

 X's first bubble bath.  I put WAY too much soap in the tub that day.  He certainly didn't mind.

SAGE is so jolly.  He is genuinely a happy kid who just loves being loved.  He reminds me of a toddler that can finally walk and sees mom and dad and just runs into their arms with a smile of pure bliss.  Sage will just come to me with his arms raised wanting to be close and then escape once he has had his fill.  Sage is also the bravest one of the three.  Although he is the youngest he is almost always willing to try something first.  He is also my intellectual child and I thoroughly enjoy how smart he is.  He has picked up reading and spelling so quickly and has started teaching himself multiplication and division.  When family visits he can give them directions around town so they don't get lost.  I've recently started playing board games with him that challenge this part of him more.  I've recently thought about teaching him chess (and I don't even like it).  I think he will quickly surpass any ability I have there...but his dad will be able to challenge him.  It's amazing how similar their smartness is.

Sage likes learning about new things.  He loves science and asks a lot of questions.  He's learned about animals and the world and wants to know more.  After a trip we took to Maui he learned about how the island was formed.  He came home and is determined to see an active volcano one day.

HAVEN has had the hardest time adjusting and attaching so I feel we have yet to see all of who she really is when she's at peace.  One of my favorite times with Haven is when I tuck her into bed because she is calm and more able to just sit still with Paul or I and be her raw self.  She is very different  than her brothers.  She is a little perfectionist and an introvert.  She reads constantly for fun.  She loves tracing, writing little books and writing letters to people.  She is also my little organizer and one way she learns is by mimicking other people.  It is really funny how often she copies people and shows you what you or others are doing.  Look out because you never know what she has been practicing you do in the mirror!  Haven can be very thoughtful.  When I'm busy cleaning house she will help vacuum, wash dishes, clean the bathroom...all on her own.  I also love that she is a tough girl.  She is rough with the boys and when she's determined, she can take them down in a race or problem.  My kind of girl!

This is a picture Paul took of Haven and I while on a hike in Hana.  Haven has moments where she finally gives into the fight within herself.  I treasure this moment Paul captured.  I was sitting by myself just taking in all that I loved about my surroundings and H walked up behind me, sat down, put her arms around me and was still with me for a long time.  My hope for her is that she would find that haven she needs that is shown in this picture.