Friday, November 30, 2012

The First Year...

As we have determined in the past, I am a slack blogger. I failed to post my one-year report. Who does that? Everybody has their one-year post! So, here it is:

As of October 29th, we have been a family of 5 for a full year!!

Seems like it was days ago when we stepped off of that airplane. We were tired after trying to get home for over 30 hours. We were cold because we had gotten dressed in Africa, and flew home into some freak winter storm in October. We were stinky because I didn't pack enough pull-ups for a 30+ hour trip. I had to hold Serwaa in my lap on the last flight because she was so tired she kept falling & hitting her head on the seat in front of her. She peed on me, but I was too tired to bother changing either one of us into our emergency dresses that I kept in my carry on. The kids were too exhausted to speak to anyone when we got to the airport (and lacked the English to do so anyways).... Yep. Seems like yesterday.

But- it's been a full year! And although it seems to have flown by, it also seems that they've always been part of our family.

General Updates:

Serwaa & Konto are now fluent in English, even to the point of forgetting their first language. (Which is
something we are trying to stop!) They eat most American food, although they still cook Ghana's food quite often. They are working hard in school. (Neither of them could read at all upon coming to the US. I'm not sure why, because most of their friends who have been adopted could read. Serwaa knew all of the letters, but not their sounds. Konto didn't even know all of the letters.) They have melted into our family easily, and really enjoy being around our huge extended family.

Physical Updates:

In this year, both kids have grown an amazing amount.

Oct 30, 2011
Nov 29, 2012

When I traveled to Ghana to pick the kids up, Konto was still so small. All of his clothes were size 4t & 5t. And they fit. He is now in size 10/12. His shoes were size 1 & 2. Now they are 4. Serwaa was in size 7/8. Now she is in 12/14. Her shoes were size 2. She is now fits in my shoes.

Serwaa is still wetting the bed. But- her doctor has verified that it is not the result of any kind of abuse. In the beginning, I was putting pull ups on both of the kids. (Konto had insisted he needed them.) However, he eventually admitted that he just liked how soft they were!

They've both gained a huge amount of weight, lost several teeth, and have grown several inches.

Emotional Updates:

Now the part that other adoptive families (especially of older kids) always ask. Bonding, attachment and
general emotional health.

Overall, the whole emotional part has been 100 times easier than I could've imagined. I know we could never get this lucky again.

I'll start with Serwaa. (11 years old) She has always been easy. Her culture taught her to be loving and affectionate. (To the point of leaving me with no personal space!) She still holds my hand when we go shopping alot. (Sadly, I kinda unintendingly discouraged that. At first, both kids would hold my hand non-stop when we went out. Of course, I couldn't shop with no hands, so I had to pull away alot. Not sure how I could've avoided that, (other than spontaneously growing extra arms) but I wish I could go back & let them be clingy all they wanted before they grew out of it!) Anyways, Serwaa showers me with hugs and kisses all day long. She can make prolonged eye contact easily. (Something I was never good at, so I have to be very careful not to discourage it too!) She somewhat allows herself to be comforted by me when she is hurt. (She doesn't come to me for comfort, I go to her. But- she allows herself to be held and consoled.) She struggles a little to say 'I love you'. She can do it, but sometimes it's a very soft delayed reaction. (For instance, I tell the girls I love them when I'm tucking them in. Serwaa often waits until I shut the door, then responds 'I love you too, mommy'.) Other days though, she will just come and tell me she loves me. (But that isn't as common.) She expresses a great desire to go back to visit her friends and family in Ghana. She doesn't want to go back to stay. She just misses her friends, just like any child would. She talks to her friends in the orphanage every once in awhile. She hasn't really seemed to grieve. (Except when she realized her biological father was dead. She never knew him, but just the fact that he was not alive somewhere made her sad.) She seems to have a sense of belonging here. She has mostly released her motherly role to me. (She doesn't try to be Konto's mom now. Although she will still sometimes stand by when we are disciplining (talking) to Konto.  We have to gently remind her that we can take care of it, and dismiss her.) She is very obedient and respectful. She is a great sister, and very easy to get along with. Of course, I can't read her mind, but her attachment seems pretty great.

Now Konto. Konto has also always been pretty easy to get along with. In fact, if I hadn't read so much dang literature on attachment- I would say it was perfect! He is also semi-affectionate. I think part of that he has just grown out of. He is, after all, a boy. He used to hold my hand everday, hug me every 5 minutes, and tell me he loves me 'soooooo much' at night. Not to mention want to be carried around 24 hours a day. But now, not so much.

He actually reminds me SO much of myself as a child now. I remember my mom telling me that I was like hugging a board! (I loved my mom & dad, just wasn't an affectionate child at all!) I was VERY uncomfortable saying 'I love you'. And I didn't like holding hands in the parking lot.

Konto almost never says I love you anymore. I think it is a very uncomfortable thing for him to say. He usually stands stiff like a board when I hug him. However, he does like to snuggle during movies. He still likes to be carried around- but only if I offer to carry him. He doesn't ask anymore. He is able to make eye contact, but not maintain it. It usually only lasts about a second at a time. Also, he doesn't normally allow me to comfort him. For instance, if he falls in the driveway, I will go to him. When I try to sit him up to look at his cut, he pulls away. He also won't allow me to hug him when he's hurt. Same thing when he is upset. I will try to hold him, but he won't let me. He doesn't want to be consoled. He usually eventually lets me hold him- but only after he's quit fighting (physically & emotionally). Once he finds the courage to say what is really wrong (not the fake reason he finds to cry-like his room is boring), he will relax his body so that I can hold him. (And I'm not talking major meltdowns like most people would picture. Just simple, rare nights where he is fussy and doesn't want to be consoled.) Konto is a very happy boy, but he does grieve more than Serwaa. Mostly- he misses his friends. They were like his brothers. He knew them almost his whole life. He's always had 'brothers'. And now, he is the only boy. He asks almost every night if we can 'get him a brother'. He hates having his own room because he is lonely. He also can't wait to go back and visit Ghana, but at the same time, he doesn't want to have to say goodbye again. He feels like he abandoned them. At first, he didn't want to make friends here. He felt like he was betraying his old friends. That must be so hard on such a young boy- constant feelings of guilt and betrayal. It makes me sad for him. But- he is amazingly strong. You would never know by being around him how much loss he has suffered in his short life.

And last but not least: Malorie. People also often worry about how adoption will affect the children already in their home. I'm no different. I went through the whole 'what have I done' panic attack on the way to Africa the last time. Was it fair to jeopardize the life of  'my' child? Now I realize how silly that was. Yes, it could've been worse. It may get worse. Our new children could've had major trauma and attachment issues. It could've been hard. Very hard. But- making life harder doesn't neccessarily mean making life worse for our first children. After all, an easy life doesn't always breed better children anyways.

We are thankful that we haven't had to deal with some of the really tough stuff that many families do. That's not to say that it hasn't affected Malorie though. Much like giving birth to a 2nd bio kid does. Malorie is jealous sometimes. She misses it just being me & her sometimes. She would miss that no matter how we added another child to our family. So yes, she's lost some. But she's gained alot more. She would never admit it- but Serwaa is her best friend. They do argue alot, but not as much as I did with my brothers. They dress like twins alot. They bathe together. They do secret handshakes....

Malorie's capacity to love has grown. She looks out for her brother and sister. She really does love them. Many nights I hear her voice floating through the air. I just have to smile. She's telling Serwaa bedtime stories again. Whale stories. (Like on Finding Nemo. She speaks whale. It's loud. It's kind of annoying while I'm trying to go to sleep. The girls love it.)

So that about sums it up. It's been one good year. I'm looking forward to the rest of them. We are so thankful for our 3 beautiful children!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Konto's Birthday...

I know, I know! Slackest blogger EVER!! Sorry! But, last but not least in our string of seemingly back-to-back birthdays was Konto. This poor guy waited FOREVER for his birthday. In fact, I went to Ghana on Oct 20th last year to pick him up. At that time, we hadn't determined a birthday for him. (Between all of the 'birthdates' on his legal paperwork, we had several to choose from!) It wasn't until several months into him being home that we decided on an age & birthday to give him. So, he was pretty much with us a full year before getting a birthday. He waited so patiently.

When it was finally his turn, he was so excited! First, he picked out his invitations. He looked for a good half hour before deciding on an invitation. At last, he said he found the PERFECT invitations. He proudly held
them up for me to read: "You're Invited. 1st Birthday!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him it was for a baby. He was just too happy. He wanted everyone to know that it was his first birthday he had ever had. (I did, however, talk him out of getting the pretty pink '1st
Birthday' invitations to mail to the girls.)

We had his party at a house/party rental place with a basement full of toys and games. It was awesome. He loved the presents, and he loved the attention!

For his birthday, he asked his sisters to cook for him. So, Malorie made his cake. Serwaa made jollaf and
salad. And of course, we ordered pizza.

I can't believe he's already another year older!! When we first fell in love with this guy, he was '5 years old' (according to the paperwork). So hard to believe that he's 9!


9 Things Konto has grown out of this year that I already miss:

1. Chanting whenever he wants something to happen

2. Asking to be held all day, every day

3. Calling Serwaa 'Maame Yaa'

4. Breaking into dance on a daily basis

5. Using the word 'buttocks' for bottom, end, butt, trunk...

6. Speaking Twi

7. Using only red, yellow and green crayons

8. Asking 'Is it true?' about everything (statues, talking veggie cartoons...)

9. Responding 'Thursday' when asked for his birthday

And one random story: A couple weeks ago, someone asked his name. After responding, he turned his back to the lady. I asked why. He said, "I was afraid she will ask me how old am I. And I didn't remember, so I turned around." And he doesn't remember most of the time. Neither does Serwaa. They never had to. I think it's kinda awesome that, in their culture, age really doesn't matter. Something can be learned here...