Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Kennedy is playing soccer this spring and Brian is her coach again. They practice at a great park, so sometimes I take the other three along and we play while Kennedy practices. Gabe has discovered he LOVES the twisty slide. He kept going round and round, up the stairs and down the slide. The cutest part? How he says "slide!" and signs it too when he gets to the bottom.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In so many moments in every day, I think to myself, "I have to blog about this tonight!"  But by the time I am laying down with Gabe to get him to sleep, I am often either completely exhausted or not feeling all warm and fuzzy about things and don't feel like sharing.  Just being honest here!  But tonight, after I put Gabe to sleep, I felt such love, deep and true, for this little one who I am so thankful is my son, that I couldn't wait to get on here and share what the past couple of months have held, the beautiful moments and the difficult ones.  No one is fooled by an adoption blog that is all sunshine and roses, at least I hope they aren't.  Parenting a biological child is incredibly difficult at times.  Parenting a child you've only known for less than a year can be beyond difficult, while you're waiting for the bonds to seal.

During our time in Russia, and during the first couple weeks home, Gabe was a fitful sleeper.  After he fell asleep, I couldn't help but try to stroke his hair or cheek, or tiny little arm and hand.  I wanted him to feel my love and the safety there.  But each time I did, it was met with an abrupt lashing out, while he was still soundly sleeping.  Any touch was met with a strong rebuff.  I wondered if maybe he shared a bed at the orphanage with another child, and was used to fighting for his space even in his sleep.  I wondered other things too, but chose not to spend too much time wondering why.  Sometimes kids are just fitful sleepers, but this seemed like more.  Anyway, this started to improve after a few weeks home.  And tonight, I came home from the store just in time to tuck him in.  He likes to have me lay next to him in his bed while he falls asleep.  We read a story, sing two songs, and talk a bit about our day.  Tonight he was telling me how he dressed up as a firefighter (one of Jake's old Halloween costumes) and also had a cape on.  He did this by gesturing and trying to say the word and by signing "firefighter", then grabbing the back of his shirt to show me "cape".  I give him the words to what he's trying to express and he amazes me at his ability to imitate my English.  Several weeks ago he had 25 English words he used correctly and in the right context.  25 words in only a few weeks time!  And now I'm sure he has at least 10 more.  One of my favorite is "kisses!"  After we've done our bedtime routine, I give him a kiss and he kisses me back and always smiles and exclaims, "kisses!"  I love it.

Anyway, tonight his poor little cheeks and chin were dry from being outside on a cool windy day today.  We planted some flowers together and took a walk to the park near our home, where we met some friends to play.  Later, he played outside with friends from the neighborhood as I worked in the yard.  In bed, he turned to me and whimpered a little and said, "chin, chin." His little chin was bothering him.  He has a habit of picking at his scratches or hurts, so I took his hand and held it gently and told him not to touch his chin so the lotion could work to make it better.  He settled into the crook of my arm, laid his hand on my chest, sleepily said, "mama," and was soon snoring away.  This is the same child that only two months ago was repelled by any kind of cuddling at bedtime.  It  used to make my heart hurt to have him take my arm off his body and push it away, even though I understood where this was coming from.  I knew it would take time to trust, time to believe that I wasn't just another care giver, time to realize just what a mama was.  And so tonight, as I laid there with my sleeping boy, stroking his hair and perfect eyebrows, holding his hand close to me and feeling his tiny body snuggled next to mine, all without any attempt to push me away, I truly marveled at what a change he has gone through.  I felt immeasurably blessed to be able to witness this change.  It is like watching the butterfly emerge from its cocoon, slowly but surely expanding his wings, taking in the sunshine and all of the possibilities around him.  And it reminds me all the time of how my Heavenly Father has always been so patient with me, forgiving me over and over, always patiently waiting for me to become the butterfly he knows I can be.  And so I remember that when the trying days and moments come.  I remember to just wait with my love for Gabe, keep it in my pocket for when the challenging moment passes and I can pull it out and encircle him in it.


The past two months have been the hardest and most blessed of my life.  I feel like I was well schooled in attachment and all of the possible situations we might face once we brought Gabe home.  In the back of my mind I tried to prepare mentally for the worst possibilities, just in case.  Thankfully, we haven't faced anything that has completely blindsided me.  But something I wasn't as prepared for, even though I had heard it discussed before by other adoptive moms, is how, sometimes, it takes longer for you, the parent, to attach to your new child, than it does for the child to attach to you.  I didn't want to think about this!  In your mind, you imagine yourself bringing this child home and immediately falling in love!  And in many ways, I did, when he was being an angel.  But when he wasn't, I was so surprised at how quickly my feelings could swing from adoration to frustration and detachment.  Just when I thought I was doing so good, something would happen that would take my feelings in the other direction, and I would have tremendous guilt because of it.  I would ask myself why this was so difficult.  Why could I only feel that bonding kind of love for him when he was acting "good", I wondered.

I have come to realize that time and shared experiences are great healers, and that feelings of unconditional love come through serving him.    The days that I had the hard feelings were the days I was busy doing things other than spending quality time with my kids.  They were the days I had to get something done around the house, or go to work, or focused too much on myself.  I came to know that I needed to focus on spending the time to be face-to-face with Gabe throughout the day.  The more I did this, the more my feelings changed for the better.  And over time, I began to be able to stay even-headed even in the most trying of moments.
I remember on our first trip to Russia, how he loved to play doctor, thinking about how Jake loved that also, and how much fun they would have playing it together.  I was right :-)
As I did this, I began to see big changes in Gabe.  One of these was his eye contact.  If you think about eye contact, it is the most intimate of communication.  So much of what we say and how we mean it is expressed in the eyes.  If we don't feel safe or comfortable with a person, we avoid eye contact.  I still remember clearly our first visit in the orphanage.  He was wild!  He wouldn't hold still for more than two seconds!  And he almost never made eye contact.  He would only look at you for a quick second.  He loved wrestling with Brian and running around and I sat there and wondered if I would be able to handle a child like this.  How grateful I am that I was able to see beyond his orphanage survival behavior and know that he had a beautiful personality inside that was just waiting to feel safe to emerge.  By our last visits with him, his eye contact had improved somewhat, which gave me a great indication that this could improve greatly once home.  I have treasured watching Gabe finally feel safe enough to look me in the eye, to smile while doing so, not just a courtesy smile or a smile to get something he wants, but a real and lingering smile.  It has taken him time to work up to this.  His eyes smile the most beautiful smile.  And every time we connect with our eyes, he gets a message of, "I love you, I am your mama, I will never leave you, you will never be alone again, you can trust me, I will take care of you."  These moments of sharing our feelings through our eyes make me feel so much more bonded to him.  So as I laid there tonight as he slept peacefully beside me, I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me.  I am taking this journey one day at a time, savoring the special moments and working my way through the challenging ones.  There can't be rainbows without a little rain, and the amazement of the rainbows always wash away any memory of the rain.