Thursday, May 31, 2012


 Photo is of Benjamin--adopted March 2010

We adopted Leo and Sam only six weeks ago, and there are already obvious signs of healing. I should backtrack and say that every adoption begins with loss. Adopted children lose their birth parents. It’s a sad truth that remains with every adoptee forever. A new family cannot simply negate the feelings of abandonment, but a loving family can help the child’s heart heal.  Our family provides the children with a sense of safety too.
It’s amazing how we take safety for granted.  Our biological children learned since birth that I will keep them safe.  I will catch them, fight for them, and meet their every need, all of the time.  Older adopted children do not believe this to be true. Somewhere in the back of their heads, they always feel the need to ensure their own survival. We see it in subtle ways every day, and all we can do is constantly show them that they will always be safe in our home. For instance, we’ve had to take a hard stance against bullying and teasing. The teens can “joke” with each other sometimes, but the “just kidding” usually slides into bullying if we don’t intervene.
Our adopted sons, particularly Leo, were under the constant stress of survival before they joined our family. As I mentioned in a previous post, Leo often acted like a wild animal the first few weeks.  He was in flight or fight mode every minute. Thankfully, he is healing faster than we hoped. He is learning to trust us to keep him safe and meet his needs. David and I are starting to anticipate the activities that are Leo’s stress triggers, and we are able calm his fears before they overwhelm and claim his poor exhausted soul.
For example, when Leo spills a cup of water, he immediately begins to scratch his head and arms. He will scratch himself absolutely raw when he is scared. Or he will bite his own arm until he breaks the skin, if we do not intervene.   I’m guessing that small spills were a serious offense in the orphanage, and Leo was probably punished when he spilled. We won’t hurt him, so he hurts himself. Now, I simply serve Leo all his drinks in a cup with a lid. No spills lessen the daily stress. Reduced stress means no furious scratching. As the stress of daily life is reduced, Leo is rapidly changing his own behaviors. He rarely hurts himself anymore, and he never hits or pinches me now. For this reason, we seldom implement “time out” or any other punishment when Leo is misbehaving. We’ve found that standard measures of discipline only add to Leo’s stress and exacerbate the behaviors.
What we’ve learned from adopting Leo is that parenting an older hurt child requires a different way of parenting. Our son was so traumatized by orphanage life that our first priority is to help him heal and bond. Only after he heals we can guide him to appropriate behaviors. This is not to say that we don’t get angry and frustrated sometimes, and act accordingly. We are NOT saints. We lose our cool and yell at our kids, just like every other parent. We just try harder to remain calm now. Older child adoption is challenging, yes, but every challenge we meet brings us growth.  How much can we grow as a family? We shall see. We have to remember, the difference between try and triumph is a little umph.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Today, after swimming lessons, the boys and I stopped by David's office so that they could see where Daddy went all day. One of David's law partners remarked that our lives certainly have changed! I had to pause for a second, and then honestly say that our lives really haven't changed all that much. Leo and Sam's lives have definitely changed, but we are still doing most of the same things we did before. I still stop at the store 4-5 times a week. I just buy an extra gallon or two of milk now. I still do laundry everyday. I still jog and work out on the rowing machine everyday, although now I run with a stroller and get hit with nerf bullets as I row. I garden, with the boys "help." I drive children back and forth to various lessons. I mow the lawn while the boys play on the swings. My life actually hasn't changed as much as I anticipated. The little guys play in the playroom, and I still take taekwondo classes three times a week. David still picks up children from various activities, and he still reads bed-time stories every night. We still eat dinner together every evening, and there are still left-overs, even with two more plates on the table.
Leo and Sam's lives, however, are vastly different!! What a difference a day makes in their young lives. Wow. Leo has changed drastically in the last month. He went from acting like a needy two year old, to an independent little guy who is surpassing our wildest expectations. Every morning, since Leo is the first child awake, he sets out the cereal bowls, the spoons, and the napkins. He then looks to see if David is watching, and waits for a word of praise. Leo then pours everyone a bowl of cereal, making sure he is loud enough to wake up the rest of the household! We never told or asked him how to do this little job, but it certainly makes him feel important!! Yes, Leo and Sam are two more little blessings in our daily lives, and we are grateful to be their parents. Hooray for adoption!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Two weeks home!! One month since the adoptions!

We've been home a little over two weeks, and it's been exactly one month since family day with Sam. Leo's family day was April 12, which is exactly a month before my birthday, and is at the end of this week. I can't even begin to describe how much the children have grown already! First of all, our little guys are simply AMAZING! Both boys can count up to 10 in English already, and they recognize their written names!!! Nothing like a pocketful of pennies to get a kiddo motivated to count. They both know and speak at least a couple of HUNDRED words in English, and they understand much more than we would have thought possible. I can tell them, "We are going to the store, " and they will promptly go get their shoes. If I say things like "If you won't go play downstairs nicely, then it's time for a nap," and they both race for the downstairs playroom.
 Leo has made ENORMOUS progress this past week. Their first swimming lesson was yesterday, and I was geared up for a battle. In China, Leo wouldn't go near the pool. In fact, when I put Leo's bathing suit on in the morning, I had to fight him every inch of the way. I was pretty sure he was going to throw a raging temper tantrum at the YMCA. Surprise, surprise!! Once at the Y, Sam eagerly went in the pool, and Leo gingerly followed. No, Leo didn't embrace the swimming lessons, but he did get wet without any tears. We followed the morning swim lessons with my taekwondo class. Both boys played nicely (in my sight) while I sort of paid attention to my taekwondo class. After taekwondo, I received a call from the school nurse. Connor was really sick, with probably strep-throat and a sinus infection. Off to the school we went, to pick up the big kids, and rush Connor to the doctor. Leo and Sam played loudly and energetically in the doctor's waiting room, charming the pants off the office staff. Since we were already at the doctor's office, both Sam and Leo received their first series of shots-- 5 shots each. Leo did cry then, understandably, but Sam didn't even shed a tear. John told Sam that if he was brave, Mom would get them ice-cream (which I did).
After the doctor appointment,  I took Leo to his second dentist appointment since coming home because he needed a cavity filled. Leo actually acted like a regular little guy, in spite of the stress of seeing the doctor earlier. The first month, whenever Leo was stressed, he started hitting, scratching, and pinching himself (or me), or he threw a tantrum. This time, Leo trotted into the dentist's office holding Ben's hand, and he happily shared his prizes with all the other boys.
  Really, most of my time these days is spent at various doctor appointments! In fact, this week I also had to take Austin to the doctor for the follow-up on his concussion that happened back in February!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One week home!

We've been home one week, and I'm happy to report that things are going remarkably well. Much Better than we anticipated. Both Leo and Sam are no longer terrified of the dogs! Leo is finally sleeping through the night! Sam has new glasses! Leo rarely pinches and hits anymore! Sam began taekwondo lessons! Leo doesn't have to be carried everywhere! Honestly, Sam fits in our family as if he's always been here! Leo adores Connor! Don't get me wrong; adoption isn't always easy. But, we'd do it again in a second. The things that are worth doing are often difficult. Check out this video that another family created.