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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Slow and steady progress!

Above photo taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (I'll post more pictures soon. When we picked up the boys in Ethiopia, both of their heads had been recently shaved because of lice. Their hair has really grown and is forming the most beautiful little curls!)

Today we have been home from Ethiopia with 2 new family members for 5 weeks, and each day it feels more and more like the boys have ALWAYS been a part of our family. Our transition has been remarkably smooth, especially when I pause to think about all the "baggage" these boys are carrying. They have so many experiences in their little lives that affect everything about them, experiences that have formed them as the individuals they are - and much of it we may never know about.

With Wesley, our 2 1/2 year old, for the most part he is a typical two year old. He is very quick to learn and to figure out what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior in our family. For example - saying "no" to him pushing the buttons on the remote would bring on a defiant stare and then deliberate pushing of the buttons . Repeated "nos" would bring on an angry stare and then pounding the buttons. He has rather quickly learned that not obeying brings consequences - usually physically picking him up and sitting him against the wall in another room. While we were in Ethiopia, we noticed that if we put him somewhere - he stayed right where we put him. So we use this technique when we need to - physically removing him from the situation and taking him to another room and stepping out of his line of vision for a few seconds. He is quick not to repeat the earlier offense.

Early on, Wesley would absolutely refuse to try new foods or anything that he does not recognize. And what he recognizes is bananas, crackers, bread, and pasta with red sauce. Add meat to the red sauce and he won't eat it. Put corn or strawberries or grapes on his plate, and he clamps his mouth shut and refuses to try it. Since we can't allow him to eat only what he wants - bread and crackers - then the battle lines are drawn (especially since he is so undersized already and fruits and vegetables need to be part of his diet). We employ ketchup at times to get him to eat some foods. At other times, we use crackers to dip and scoop stew or soup that he would not eat otherwise - and slowly we are introducing him to new foods and flavors that he discovers that he likes. But no progress on vegetables so we tried a new tactic...

I put the bowl of pasta that he wants, behind the single piece of broccoli he does not want. I make it very clear that he must try the broccoli (or corn or apple - or whatever the offensive food item of the day may be) before he gets the pasta. He is extremely stubborn and would choose to skip the meal entirely, thinking that he'll get a snack later. But when snacktime came - there was the single piece of broccoli sitting in front of the pasta. Again - he chose to skip the snack, but by dinnertime he knew the routine. And once the broccoli was presented in front of the pasta bowl - he chewed and swallowed the broccoli (and I could tell by the look on his face that he liked it) and then he was presented with the big bowl of pasta - which he gobbled down and even had seconds. Out of curiosity, when we were done eating, I offered him another piece of broccoli and he happily ate it. So we have now added broccoli and corn to our food repertoire.

I have gone back to work full time and I was pretty certain that he would not bat an eyelash when I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. We had been noticing that he was quick to go to any stranger - not fully understanding that his new family was a forever deal. Sure enough - he was fine with me leaving, especially since the new "nanny" (daycare) was nice and her house was warm and he was being fed. But when I showed up again at the end of the day - he glanced up at my voice and his face registered pleasant surprise that I had come back for him. Ever since then, I think he has started to figure out that this family is a "long-term gig" and he is becoming more and more secure with us. Today at church, instead of running to every person that greets us, he stuck pretty close and preferred to be in the arms of a family member. That's reassuring and good progress!

With Jayden (7), the only situation we have needed to address is his possessiveness of Jay. Anytime Jay gives any attention to one of the girls, Jayden jumps up and inserts himself between them. A few times, he has physically pushed the girls away from Jay. When Jay says "no" to this behavior, Jayden is quick to turn on the tears. At this point, I step in and we go have a conversation in the next room about how many kids mom and dad have ... 4 not 1 ... and he is quick to turn off the waterworks and re-join the family because the insta-tears have not worked. Jayden continues to LOVE school and looks forward to going each day. He is learning English very quickly and understands more and more of what we say everyday, even though he is not able to speak English as readily as he can understand it.

Last night at dinner, we had tacos. And Jayden was eating his tacos everywhere BUT over his plate (you can imagine the mess). We kept reminding him to eat over his plate and he kept forgetting. So Jay finally explained to him ... "In America, we eat like this" (demonstrate eating over the plate on the table), "not like this" (demonstrate eating in several other goofy positions). Jayden quickly caught on and we were laughing at Jay's exaggerated demonstrations. Then Jayden said ... "In Ethiopia - eat like this" ... and then he went into a full demonstration showing us how you grab your food, hide it and scarf it down as quick as you can. Then he demonstrated someone grabbing his food and running away with it. He then pretended to be the "thief" and after he finished eating the stolen food, he came sauntering back to the table with his hands in the air, shrugging his shoulders as if to say "food? what food? I didn't eat your food?"

We were all laughing with him at his great demonstration and how well we were able to understand his "charades" - but at the same time Jay and I glanced at each other and once again commented on how much these kids have experienced that we may never know or fully understand. We are both looking forward to the day when Jayden has a better grasp of English and can tell us more about his life in Ethiopia!

These kids are smart and they have developed survival skills and tactics that have worked well for them in the past. They operate on all 5 senses and can sniff out a pack of gum in someone's pocket within 5 seconds of walking in the door. Those street smarts don't always work within a family environment - but both of the boys have adapted very quickly to our family and we continue to fall into a comfortable routine. Some days we make great progress - then things regress - then it seems we go several days with no progress - and then suddenly something clicks, and everyone is operating within that new and better balance.

1 comment:

KLT said...

Thanks for the wonderful descriptions of your family adaptation. How encouraging and helpful!

Kristy Tapper
DTE 6-13-08 Siblings 0-6