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 read...it 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.
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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. 

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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.

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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.

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