Sunday, December 20, 2009

Daddy's back

I've already received my present for Christmas.  I get a whole lot of free time with my family.

It's been a busy couple of months for daddy.  This fall I added a part time job to my routine, which added a lot of hours to my work week....although some stategically-utilized vacation time helped ease the weekly workload.

Since the part time job is on campus, I'm already done for the semester and enjoying a break before classes resume in January.  Being down to one full time job for a few weeks will feel good.

The second job has been a change in our routine that results in more T time with mommy, and a little less with daddy.  On a few occasions, we had daddy/kiddo days, which were terrific fun.



I miss all the extra time I used to have with him, but I'm very grateful we can continue to be home with T.

I also miss blogging.  There have been dozens of blog entry topics I've thought of and forgotten about in the last couple of months.  I'll have to do a better job of writing them down next semester.

I've been thinking a lot about T's future sibling lately.  T has made it an easier wait by distracting us with his infectious personality, but we're talking more and more about our eventual trip back to Thailand.  T is excited about it, but also raising concerns about us holding a different baby.  I suppose it's good he started thinking of this new reality now.  Perhaps it will be less startling than a sudden realization that he's no longer our only focus of attention.

Some have been surprised to hear how excited I am about the second referral.  Apparently, for most families, the anticipation over getting the second referral is less than the first.  I can't help but be excited to find out.

I never forget that for every adoption story, there's likely sad circumstances behind it.  I feel some guilt in being excited, but I can't deny my anticipation.

Perhaps you'll hear from me a few more times before I dive back into my books.  No doubt we'll have some stories and pics from the upcoming holiday.

-Kyle

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I happily have nothing important to say



I was thinking about attachment today because, well, I realized I hadn't thought about it in awhile.  T has been so very lovey lately.  I don't usually make a point to write about attachment when it's going well, but I probably should, or this blog will give the impression that our attachment with T is always a struggle.  It sometimes feels that way, but it sometimes feels easy.

The easy times have been rare since I lost my job in September.  While I enjoy not working 2nd shift, the change in routine was hard for all of us.  But, and I am aware that I am jinxing myself here, the last few weeks have been deliciously sweet.

I hear at least 60 cheerful "I love you, Mama!"s a day that are peppered with kisses on my nose, little arms around my neck, offers of back-rubs, and requests to snuggle longer.  He pets my hair and tells me I'm a "nice little girl".  I think he's in love - I know I am.  For the most part, T has been happy and about as compliant as a kid closer to 3 than 2 can be.

He still usually prefers me over Kyle when given the choice, but he misses his dad when he's at work and is excited to see him come home.

The road to attachment hasn't always been smooth for us, and there seem to be a lot of blind corners, so I'm relishing this patch of road while we're on it.

-Robin

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two years

Two years ago tonight, I pulled into the driveway after work to see Kyle running out the back door, waving me frantically inside.  He had the phone in his hand, and laryngitis in his throat so he wasn't able to talk to our social worker, who had just called to tell us they'd matched us with a little boy named T, born in Bangkok and almost 7 months old.

I tried to keep from shaking as I stood in the kitchen and listened to Marissa read information from T's file.  I remember wondering how she thought I'd remember a thing she was telling me.  When the conversation was over, we tripped all over ourselves to get the computer open and look for an email that would have the photographs we'd been dreaming of seeing for the last year.  We paused before opening the files, looking at each other and holding our breath.  Then suddenly, we could see the beautiful face of a little boy whose name we weren't yet sure how to pronounce (and still weren't after we'd been home a full year, but that's another story).

Sharing the news of his referral with our family that Christmas was an excitement that I'll never forget.


I knew that our lives would never be the same, but I didn't really grasp the enormity of that change.  T is my greatest love and my greatest challenge.  His successes make me prouder than any personal accomplishment.  On tough days, he can make me more frustrated than I knew possible.  His joy is contagious and brightens the entire house.  I feel lucky beyond words that I'm T's mom.  It's hard to believe only 2 years have gone by.  Life feels so incredibly different now.

I'm finally letting myself get excited about the possibility of receiving word of T's future sibling.  It's still a long ways off, but I think I'll feel something like this:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zzzzzz

I was planning a post in my head that went something like this:
ACK!  I don't know what happened, but our little boy who once slept in *his own* bed (after 6 months of Kyle sleeping on the floor, inching himself further away from T's bed) is going back-back-backwards and is now sleeping in *our* bed again.  After vacation this summer he needed us to sleep on his floor.  (And he crawled in bed with us in tears around 3am.)  Then he needed to sleep in a "nest" of blankets on the floor next to our bed.  (And he crawled in bed with us in tears around 11pm.)  Then he needed to sleep in our bed all night.  And NOW he's started sobbing about his fear of being left alone at bedtime before we even eat dinner - even though he's sleeping *with* us.  Monday, a new low, he wouldn't even take his nap in his own bed with Kyle sitting next to him.  HELP!  His crying is desperate and frantic and it's breaking my heart!
And then, this week, in a strange  turn of events, T is suddenly, silently, in his own bed for the entire night.  It makes no logical sense to me.

I have no problem with co-sleeping, but T wasn't even happy with that anymore.  Something had to change.  I don't know what inspired me, but in a desperate attempt to try something different, I slid his bed across the room.  T can now lay in it and see me laying in my bed across the hall.  We had "practice"sessions that afternoon in which we did a super-light-speed bedtime routine (books-hug-kiss-"sleep dust"-blankets-stuffed animals-goonight-i love you) and then he "pretended" to sleep while I read a book in my bed.  He kept a close eye on me, but really liked the game of it all.  We practiced a lot.

The first bed-time came, and there were a few tears.  OK, a lot of tears.  There were tears, off and on, for several hours.  But the tears were totally different than the frantic, desperate sobs we've been having when we were putting him to sleep *in our bed*.  They were quieter and just sort of sad, and he never tried to get out of bed.  (In the past, we'd never have considered letting him just cry because his crying was totally frantic, and would run out of bed and throw himself on the floor or run blindly down the (at the top of stairs) hallway).  He repeatedly told us (through tears, bless his heart) that he was "practicing" and "pretending" to sleep.  He "pretended" to sleep in his very own bed all the way until I let him crawl in bed with me at 6am.  The next 2 nights?  No crying and no crawling in bed with us at all.

I think he really *wanted* to be able to sleep in his own bed.  (He's told us several times that his friends sleep in their "big boy beds".)  All the times we slept on his floor and in the hallway, he was hyper-vigilant because he knew at some point we'd go back to sleeping in our own bed.  He'd wake up and not see us.  He was just waiting for us to leave and being afraid of  it ahead of time.  My theory is that now, he doesn't have to fear us leaving, because we're in our own bed already.  And he can see us the whole time.  For some reason, that distinction is better for his little brain.  Or maybe he was just finally ready.  Who knows.  I have every finger and toe crossed that this lasts.

-Robin

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thai Night and Thai Temple

I feel like a broken record, but we feel so thankful for the wonderful Thai community in our area.  We attended the Milwaukee Thai-American Association's Thai Night and had a great time.  My parents and Kyle's mom came also, and we were really happy they wanted to soak up some Thai culture with us.  T showed everyone his bright, social personality by running around all night making new friends and dancing with beautiful women (I sometimes feel like we already have a teenager).  Kyle and I skipped the dancing  but we ate a lot of incredible food and enjoyed the traditional dancing.  My dad did *not* skip the Thai dancing, and he is very lucky it was dark and the evidential pictures didn't turn out well enough to post.  The very luckiest part of the night was meeting new friends who have a son nearly T's age.  The boys enjoyed chasing each other around.


After Thai Night, our new friends invited us to join them at Buddha Haksa Temple in Waukesha.  We had talked about going in the past but had chickened out because we didn't really know when or how to go about visiting.  Totally psyched to have an "in", we invited other friends with a Thai kiddo along, too.

Here's where I confess that, despite knowing we were meeting multiple  friends, we were still pretty nervous about going.  We'd visited many wats (temples) in Thailand but had never been to a formal ceremony.  Kyle and I are socially challenged in large groups of new people to begin with.  The thought of adding in an unfamiliar religious ceremony and a volatile, unpredictable two-year-old was really making me sweat.   We had no clue what the protocol was for going to the temple.  We asked our friends for tips, and they told us we could bring water or juice boxes for the monks. 

Water or juice boxes!?  This sounded so strange to us!  What kind of juice do monks drink?  Would it be wrong to buy them something artificially flavored?  Do they only drink organic juice?  Do we bring it inside the temple with us?  Like in a plastic bag?  Isn't that weird?  We did not want to do anything disrespectful but I was pretty sure we'd manage to somehow.  Our Thai friend Jet was so sweet and casual, and very, "Oh, whatever you bring is fine" and I think that attitude is *awesome* and totally. not. me.  I need to learn to relax and just go with the flow.  I think living in Thailand for awhile would be good for me.

Sunday morning dawned and Kyle was too sick to go to the temple and then I *really* started sweating.  I was going to have to navigate the temple and T-wrangling solo.  Yikes. It turned out that I should not have worried so much (as is always the case).  We stopped to buy water on the way (because I really couldn't decide which flavor of juice was most respectful for a Buddhist ceremony) and in the gas station, T announced to the cashier "Water for the MONKS!  T give the water to the MONKS!"  The cashier eyed him suspiciously and handed me my change.

After about an hour's drive we arrived at the temple and the parking lot was packed.  T and I stood outside the building with our other white-friends-with-Thai-kid and wondered what to do.  Walk right in?  Wait for Jet and her family? But what if she was already inside?  Thankfully, we spotted her husband Andy outside and he gave us a little tour of the grounds.

The main building is decorated on the outside as much like a traditional Thai temple in Wisconsin can be.  The upper floor is the main temple.  The "basement" (which is actually at ground level) is a large open room set up with tables for feeding a very large group of people.  The group decided we'd like to at least give the ceremony a try before retreating to the basement, so we climbed the steps, removed our shoes, and sneaked in as inconspicuously as a group of 7 adults and 3 kids can.  The floor was full of people kneeling, praying, and chanting.  Monks were all seated in a line along one side of the room on a platform a few inches higher than the floor.

I would love to learn more about the actual prayers being said.  The language used, I later learned, is Pali.  T wouldn't let me hold my hands together in the wai position like everyone else did.  For some reason, that really bothered him.  The ceremony we were there for was the end of Buddhist Lent.  From the Wise Internet:
After three months restricted to their temples, learning dharma and practicing meditation, the Buddhist monks once again return to their social duties.  Thai Buddhists celebrate this occasion by offering food and lavish gifts to monks.
The kids were getting antsy so we sneaked back out of the temple after maybe 10 minutes.  Soon, the gong sounded and people started to file outside, carrying their offerings for the monks.  The monks walked around the circle carrying alms bowls and we placed our offerings inside.  T, who had been super-stoked about giving water to the monks, was suddenly shy and I had to do it for him.  (My camera battery died so these pictures are courtesy of Andy and Jet - thanks guys!)  Some people gave sticky rice or fruit, but juice and individually wrapped snacks seemed to be the most popular gifts.

After the offering, everyone filed back inside the temple to finish praying.  We, instead, hung out in the basement until the worshippers joined us downstairs for lunch.  There were many huge tables sagging under the weight of a feast of food that people had brought.  It was delicious.  I can't get enough of that spicy papaya salad.  We saw other Thai friends we'd met at picnics and Thai Night.  Everyone was friendly and a few women T had danced with at Thai night wanted to hold him again.  He was more than happy to oblige.

After lunch, Jet wanted to take the boys upstairs to give our monetary offerings directly to the monks so the kids could get used to seeing them.  That was a great idea.  Unfortunately, T's parents didn't prepare him for this situation.  Instead of a respectfully kneeling and wai-ing like his little friend, T started to say "No!" and got upset.  We backed off for awhile, and with some coaxing by the adults, and the monk holding out a little ceramic Buddha for him to take, he got pretty close.  I had to take the orange thread from the monk to tie around his wrist, but I think he'll do better next time.
 
Once outside, another monk offered the boys some juice boxes.  T really liked that a lot but wanted someone else to take the juice and hand it to him.  He was still wary of getting too close.

The oddest part of the day was getting a goody bag of treats.  After the ceremony, ladies sat in the temple and package up the offerings people made for the monks and gave them out to everyone to take back home, because there was simply too much food for the monks to eat.  We arrived home with a random collection of Thai snacks, American granola bars, and a banana that T ate before we snapped this picture:


Within 5 minutes of leaving, T was crying in the car because he wanted to go back and thank the monks.  Since we've been home, he repeatedly tells me that "Monks give you juice".  Well, I guess he's technically right, but I think we're all going to have to learn a little more about Buddhism so he takes away something beyond the treats.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Passport photos

Readers who know me in real life already know that I will do almost anything to save twelve cents.  We make our own laundry soap, our own bread, and I'd be sewing/knitting our clothes if I wasn't, in addition to being thrifty, an extreme procrastinator (we'd end up naked, and with Wisconsin weather, that could be very bad).

One of the things I've been procrastinating on is getting a passport for T.  Now I'm down to the wire.  See, we filed for an extension on our taxes because I didn't have a SSN for T.  To get the SSN, it seems easiest to get the passport first.  Got that?  Passport, then SSN, then taxes.  Taxes are due October 15th.  Gulp.  Kyle, cover your eyes and don't read this:  I think we're going to have to just file without his SSN and file an amended return later.  My bad.

But in an effort to get the ball rolling the right direction, I finally looked up what we need to do to get T's passport.  To save exactly $7.84, we're using this website to make our own passport photos.  You upload a headshot with a white background, crop with their nifty help, and download the photos that are magically the right specifications and size.  We'll send this off to our local photo processor and get our passport photos for 15 cents.

The caveat was getting T to *stand still* for our little photo session.  I was all, "Hey T, look right at me, no - right. at. me.  Turn your head this way.  Wait, too far.  Look back *that* way.  Stop moving your arms.  Don't bite your lip.  Open your eyes.  Close your mouth.  Stand  up.  Don't lean forward.  Stand up straighter.  Not that straight.  I have to see both your ears.  Arms *down*."

I should have just told him: "Stop being two years old!!"
Poor guy.  Incredibly, I think we did get a shot that'll work, and Kyle reminded me this was preferable to having the whole scene play out *in public* at the grocery store with an 18 year old cashier holding an unfamiliar camera who might not have as much patience.

And also, T's passport will be actual proof that he's an American.  You never know when someone from Homeland Security will demand to see documentation at library storytime.  We can't be too careful.


-Robin

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I thought the horror stories would end once T was home

Playing at the park with T, minding my own business, a woman watching 2 grandkids sidles up to me and starts yaking at me. With no provocation, she proceeds to tell me:
  • The marital status of each of her kids, how many offspring each had, the childcare arrangements for each, where they currently (and previously) reside(d), which ones still visit and which ones she sees only on holidays.
  • The flaws of each of her grandchildren (she could have skipped that - the little girl who kept pushing T away from the swings and standing with her arms out to forbid him to use them? was bossy - got it).
  • She wanted to go sky diving with her son but he went without her after she tried to reschedule because she wasn't feeling well.
  • She's a blackbelt in Tae Kwan Do.
  • Her friends adopted 3 kids and the 2 boys were just perfect - so athletic and smart - but the girl - oh the girl was a disaster and had XYZ problems and ABC problems and she NMOed and then she PQRed and the police came and DEFed and now she's totally estranged from the family.
Uh, OK. Nice meeting you. I will be finding another park to play at now...backing away slowly...

-Robin

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Adopt a critter?

Some people are strongly opposed to the use of the word "adopt" in sponsorship situations (adopt-a-highway, adopt-an-animal).  Here's one such argument, taken from an article I found online:
Think it through with me for a minute: we try so hard to reassure our adopted children that adoption is permanent and forever. Then we tell them we are adopting an animal, say a gorilla, at the local zoo. We send the zoo some money and go visit "our" animal, then go home. Perhaps we visit once or twice more that year. The next year our family gets together to decide how to spend the money we've set aside for donation to the community. This time we decide to let someone else sponsor the gorilla this year because we'd rather try a whale.
I can understand their argument, but usually, I shrug it off and have decided there are bigger things to worry about.  Would I prefer a "Help a Highway" sign along the road and a "Sponsor a Cheetah" program at the zoo?  Sure.  But I feel like I can't change society's use of the word adopt, so I'd rather focus my energy on helping T be comfortable with the word, and understand its different uses.

At a recent trip to our nearby zoo I was pleasantly surprised to see this display:


Their "Befriend-An-Animal" program uses no "adoption" language.  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.  This was in Madison, after all, which is a particularly progressive city (76 square miles surrounded by reality).  It was nice nonetheless.

-Robin

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Will we ever shut up about that attachment stuff?

Probably not. This is our adoption-related blog. For fluffy family fun, visit here or here.

More thoughts on attachment, in two parts.

Part One: Grossness and TMI. You've been warned. But no pictures, thank God.

A few weeks ago, when we were newly home from camp and T was struggling more with attachment, he came down with an intestinal bug.

Oh, the agony. The pain. The loss of desire to use the toilet (alas, he'd only been potty trained for about one week). The zillions upon zillions of dirty diapers. The smells (T's). The exasperation (mine). The exhaustion (everyone's).

Day after day, for almost a week, was spent entirely changing diapers, comforting him, washing diapers, and keeping him hydrated. He was really fine except for his diarrhea. But he was spent and uncomfortable. It made him cling to me big time. I felt awful for him. I was helpless to do anything to cure him, so I just did my best to keep him snuggled and clean and full of liquids. This was not an earth shattering illness. His pediatrician didn't even want me to bring him in. But T has been so healthy since we got home - I think he's had one cold in the last 15 months - so it was really his first time being "sick" with us.

The amount he had to depend on me that week really affected T. Our routine-shattering, stranger-filled vacation had strained our bond, and I was still feeling that things were still not quite on even footing when he got sick. But T was feeling crummy enough to let me baby him a lot, which is what many attachment experts recommend to help foster a stronger bond. It's often when I feel like T's connection to us isn't so hot that babying him would be the hardest thing to do, because he's actively pushing us away. By the time T's stomach was improving, so was his attachment (until the hellacious diaper rash appeared, but that's another story). Now he and I are tight again, which, ironically (but logically, if you understand how attachment works) means he's much more confident about independently exploring his world. He seems more in control of himself and more in balance again. I'm not happy he was ill, but glad to see there was a silver lining to our challenging, unhappy week. We would have gotten back to this place eventually, but I'm grateful for the nudge.


Part Two: Mom vs. Dad, or, How the Economy Affects Attachment

I was laid off last week. I knew it was coming, and I'm seeing it as an opportunity to spend all day with T, possibly on a permanent basis (at least until he's in school, if this works out). The combination of working 2nd shift and watching T in the mornings was getting brutal on the sleep front. I'm happy for this chance and especially thrilled to see my husband more than on weekends (we worked opposite shifts to avoid needing outside childcare). But this is not about me.

Since I've been home (one whole week), T has spent much much much more time with only me than previously. He used to actually have more face time (by almost 3 hours) with Kyle on an average day. Kyle, coincidentally, just started a 2nd, part time job (it, also, began last week). (Of, felicitous fate, thank you for laying me off at the precise moment we would have started to need childcare!) Due to job #2, he's gone for some of the afternoon hours he used to spend alone with T.

In one week's time, we're seeing a pretty big slide in T's attachment with Kyle. I'm assuming Kyle (lovely, overworked, and currently sleeping Kyle) will not mind my sharing this publicly, but he's now so busy that he probably won't blog again until the semester is over, and in fact, may not even have time to read this. (Um, hi babe! Shouldn't you be working or something? =) ) T is starting to resist making eye contact with him, and is pulling stunts like trying to guess which parent would take him to the toilet before he'll answer if he needs to use it (if I'll take him, he'll go; if Kyle is taking him, he'll hold it). He insists, more than usual, on me holding him instead of Kyle, me doing the bedtime routine (which has always been Kyle's thing), me cleaning him up after meals, me reading him stories, and basically, just on me in general if we're both home. Much of T's insistence is in the form of crying and tantrums, which is painful for everyone.

I feel like this could be because he's milking my being home for all it's worth, or he's worried since his Dad is gone more than he used to be (or a combination of the two). But we're working hard to get T's bond with his dad stronger. We're sticking to the dad-son bedtime routine. Kyle still gives T all his showers. Kyle's doing some eye contact games with him. We're encouraging T to go to Kyle to be held and snuggled. I think we're also going to make a point to give T time with Kyle when I'm not an option. Either the boys or I need to leave the house for a few hours of alone time on the afternoons that Kyle is around, so that they can have fun without the stress of me being there for T to run to. This sort of bums me out because it was this extra family time I was looking forward to, but we'll still have lots of time together. I'm confident T will be begging to snuggle up to his Dad again soon.

The hard part is Kyle not taking it personally. I feel terrible for Kyle when T throws a fit about sitting on his lap after Kyle has been at work and missing him all day, while I'm equally frustrated because I could use a break myself after a day of critter wrangling. Stay tuned...

-Robin

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thai picnic

We had a great time Sunday at the Thai-American Association annual picnic in Milwaukee. What a wonderful group of people...and they know how to do a picnic (including a (tangmo) watermelon eating contest)!

As you might expect, the food was fantastic. Everyone brought something and the grills were working all afternoon. The weather was perfect.

We made some great new friends, some of which we hope to see in between Thai-Am gatherings. If you're interested, the next one is a Thai night coming up at the end of September in New Berlin.

Who do we have to thank for making such an awesome connection to Thai culture?
Meet Phen. Robin and I took an awesome cooking class with her, and she got us included in the group. (You see her and T get along just fine). They're very welcoming to adoptive families. We even recruited two other adoptive families come with us to Sunday's picnic.

Robin and I discussed on the way home how lucky we are to have found this group. Thai culture is hard to find in Southern Wisconsin, but when you find it, it's just as wonderful as what you find in Thailand.

Someone at the picnic was startled that we drove over an hour to be there.

We would have driven much further, if we had to.

-Kyle

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The final step

I'm sure many of you thought that there was nothing left to do for T's adoption. As of today, there isn't.


We traveled to Chicago today to visit the Thai consulate. We were needed there to finalize the adoption with the Thai government. We weren't sure what this meant, but we'd heard from others that it's very quick and very easy.

Consulate officials had requested scanned copies of our passports and a few other docs before we arrived, and amazingly, they didn't need a single document from us once we were there.  They looked us over in comparison to our passport photos, and then six signatures (3 from each of us) and a few photocopies later, we were free to go.  Although T practiced his "sawasdee krab" to infinity over the last few days and all the way to Chicago, once we were in the building he was predictably too shy to say it.

We felt lucky that we live close enough to make this a relatively easy day trip.  Some families have to travel across multiple states for this visit.



It was nice to visit the consulate and see all of the reminders of Thailand.  We can't wait to return.  For me, it also was a reminder of the culture T is now no longer a part of.  We're doing our best to bring Thai culture into his life, but there's no substitute for living there.

There was no sense in wasting the drive to Chicago, so we took a little extra time to eat a yummy Thai meal, find a quick geocache, and visit a nearby park where T terrorized the pigeons with another little boy.


We would like to return to Chicago to do more some day soon.  As simple as the consulate visit was, adding in T's nap schedule, there was little time to do much else before we hit the Big Crash.  Next time...more activities, and visits with friends (That means you, Hannah and co.!).

Now, on with number 2!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Attachment Dance

Two steps forward, one step back.

Our current attachment struggles are our fault as parents - we went on vacation as a family for a week. I feel bad about T's struggle with "reentry" to the real world, but I'm not sure I would have ultimately done anything differently.

Before camp: T was continuing to seem more and more comfortable with his world. He would play in a separate room for short time periods. He didn't seek out being held in the carrier as often. He was comfortably sleeping alone in his bed through the night. (The sleeping was the result of Kyle's diligent work with him over about 4 months of inching his sleeping bag further from T's bed at night.)

Family camp: Approximately 20 families /~95 people who ate meals together and did some organized activities together, with a healthy amount of free time to play however we liked. We shared a cabin with friends of the family. There was beach, water, singing, canoeing, ice cream sundaes eaten far passed bed time, nature hikes, and frog catching. Most of all, there were PEOPLE. Also at camp were my parents, grandma, and my sister and her husband. Between extended family and the other kiddos and great families, T had a non-stop Entourage. T is a very social guy so he ate it all up. A few slightly older kids took a shine to him and spent a lot of time playing with him. One little girl told him, "It's just like I'm your big sister." I was worried the whole camp experience could be really hard on him, but he seemed to thrive. He was a little more anxious than usual - he wanted to sit on my lap for some meals, and he wanted one of us to sleep with him at night. I had expected that and he seemed comforted by the extra snuggles at night. But he also enjoyed his little preschool class (without us present!). He was happy happy happy each day to explore his new world. He cried hard when we told him we were coming home.

After camp: He's back to riding in the Ergo for most of the day. He won't even walk into his play room alone to fetch a book or toy. Bed time is mostly normal (with a few pleas to sleep with mom and dad) but he wakes up around midnight and screams frantically to come to our room across the hall and cannot be calmed. Last night I ended up sleeping on the floor in his room. We really don't want to slip all the way back to him in our bed - it's not that we mind (he's so snuggly!) - it was *such* a long process to get him in his own room. Me sleeping on the floor last night seemed to satisfy him.

None of this was really unexpected. T has been home for 14 months - longer than he lived in Thailand. But a big change in routine would probably affect any kid - it just has the potential to affect kids with a background like T's more. I think the good he got out of camp will ultimately outweigh our current struggles. While this week is hard, he's still generally happy and freely doling out the kisses and hugs and "I love you Mama!"s. I get the feeling that where we are is a temporary adjustment. He's still asking to go back to "Moon Beach Kid's Camp!!" daily. I'm glad we were able to go together as a family for a week and show him that we will always come back home together.

-Robin

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thai Mother's Day

วันแม่แห่งชาติ
Happy Mother's Day to all Thai Moms.

T's first mom is often on my mind, and especially so today. I think she's on T's mind as well. Today while he was hugging and kissing a teddy bear, I asked him what the bear's name was. He told me his Thai mom's name.

When we talked about Thai Mother's Day, T asked if she was going to come over for a visit. I wish this could be true for him. We're off to the garden now to pick a vase of flowers for her.

-Robin

Thailand, forgive us

I try to show T pictures from Thailand often and do my best to discuss what life is like there. He saw this picture and was so proud that he knew who the person was - a "CHIPMUNK!"

Oops. Close, buddy. So close.

-Robin

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Open, domestic adoption

We got great value out of the classes we took ahead of T's adoption.  We learned a lot.

One of the things we learned a lot about is open, domestic adoption.

On This American Life this week, they focused on the complex human experience of (mis)judging others.  One of the people they talked to was a birth mother going through the process of choosing a family for her child.


As the producer of the piece says, the women was having to judge parents on very little information, while at the same time having to deal with a great volume of information from the families as a whole.

We're often told not to pre-judge people, but birth mothers in open, domestic adoption are often in a position where they have to judge on little information...the parents of her own child, no less.

It's an interesting segment.  You can listen to the full episode here.  The segment starts at the 28:50 mark and lasts six minutes.

Give it a listen.

Kyle

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Second Wait

I hate to admit it, but this wait for Critter #2 is currently ridiculously easy for me. I feel guilty saying that. Guilty about how Critter #2 would feel about that, and guilty about how hard it is for other waiting families. I know how hard it gets. The ache of waiting for T has softened in my mind, but I absolutely remember. I could make believe that our adoption of T has made me wise in knowing that Critter #2 will join our family when the time comes, and that worry and want in the meantime will do nothing but add unhelpful stress to our lives. But honestly, I think I'm not letting myself even acknowledge that we're actually waiting for a referral right now because the wait is so long that it would be excruciating to carry the level of angst we had last time for so many more months. Our time line to bring T home was fast and yet felt glacial. We expect to wait at least twice as long this time around. People ask me how the process is going for #2 and I'm honestly a bit surprised, like I've forgotten all about that little old dossier we threw together one weekend* for kicks. So here I am, (pretending not to be) waiting.

-Robin

*heavy sarcasm alert for friends outside the adoption world. "one weekend" = months of paperwork, notaries, appointments, photographs, phonecalls, letters, emails, applications, checklists, and evil courier services.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Growing quickly

I don't need to tell you what everyone already knows...kids grow quickly. I've heard this from enough people in my life that my goal every day is to not take T's age for granted.

T's many advancements are tough to catalog, but I'll try. He's getting more articulate, he's an expert on his like-a-bike, he's pretty good around other kids, he still likes to steal and eat people's noses, he doesn't forget anything, he eats most food we serve him, he's graduated from a sippy cup (at the table, anyway), he can identify pics and music from Thailand, he knows he's from Thailand and now lives in Wisconsin, he picks up his toys when asked (most of the time), he loves books, he loves watching birds, he does role call everyday of all the people he knows, and I'm sure I could come up with a lot more if I spent the time thinking about it.
 

T's is a happy kid...and for that we are grateful.  He's also a 2-year-old, which means he's a 2-year-old.  If you ask him to not touch something, he will hold a finger 1 cm away from the forbidden object and stare at you waiting for a reaction.  Typical attempts to test who's in control, I suspect.

 

We talk to T everyday about Thailand, what it was like there...his story...and what it will be like to go back to meet a new little brother or sister.  I'm sure he's gotten a grasp on that last one yet.

People ask us about the second adoption, and there's not much to say.  We're waiting....and expect to wait a lot longer.  But we're ready if the call comes.  We love reading about and meeting other families preparing to travel.  It's so exciting.

We have a date to visit the Thai Consulate in Chicago.  We're excited about spending the day in the city.

So, how's your summer?

-Kyle

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fathers

I've got a year of fathering under my belt, and I have a few observations to share.  I meant to post this around Father's Day, but you know how life gets sometimes.

Here we go:

--Fathering can be easy, but it shouldn't be.  Like most things in life, experiences with the most value come with a lot of hard work.  It means stepping away from what you want to be doing, to do what's best for your child.  Often, the challenge isn't contending with the extra responsibilities...after all, it can be a lot of fun.  The real burden is giving up a part of your own life for your child's sake.  What you will learn is that spending time with your child is good for more than just your child.

--Most fathers I know are engaged with their children's lives.  Some not as much.  While this is distressing, I can see why it happens.  As I said above, fathers can often get off easy, if they want to.  I suppose many men see the benefits of  spending time with their kids as less tangible than other ways to spend time.  Many men, myself included, tend to work in easy equations...2+2=4.  With kids, the benefits of spending time with them are emotional, dynamic and long term....extremely difficult math.

--Being a father gives me a new appreciation for my own father.  I suppose I knew that was coming....life always works that way.

--I'm sad birth fathers, in many cases, don't hold the same place in the life of adopted children as their mothers do.  Certainly there is little to be done about this, but I mourn the reality none-the-less.

I'm not trying to get down on dads.  There are a lot of great ones out there...LOTS.  I don't pretend to be one of them.  Most days it's easier to find my faults than my successes.

I just want to make sure all dads are at least trying.  If you're not, you don't know what you're missing.

-Kyle

Friday, June 12, 2009

Feeling better

 
T seems to be back to his usual silly self these days.  We're so glad.  I've upped the amount I hold him and gone back to some of the attachment games we used to play.  I'm also adding some new ones - I'm currently reading Parenting You Internationally Adopted Child, by Patty Cogen.  I'm not finished with it yet, but so far it's my favorite book dealing with the subject of attachment.  Cogen's writing style is easy to read and she gives really great explanations of how adoption can affect a child throughout different stages in their life, and relates these experiences to child development and brain development research.  She illustrates some of the different responses children have to adoption by following 4 fictional children (composites of the many children she's worked with).  She offers concrete activities to do at home to help foster a stronger connection with your child.  I feel a bit like I have my very own therapist in a book.  My only wish was that I'd read it before we brought T home.

One idea I have found particularly useful is her "3-picture story".  A detailed life book is important, but also still not finished at our house.  The 3-picture story, on the other hand, is really fast to create and very accessible for T to begin to understand and discuss the changes he's been through.  On one page, we have photos of:  T held by his birth mother, T in a group with his foster family and Kyle and I, and T with just Kyle and I.  This page has everything we need to show him (1) he was born to his birth mother, (2) he went to live with his foster family, who then gave him to us (the middle picture should be the actual transition to his new family), and (3)  we're his mom and dad and he can live with us until he's as old as grandma and grandpa (hopefully not literally, but you get the idea).  Cogen goes into detail about  how to discuss his story with him and what some of the common worries are for adopted children that they may not have the ability to ask yet. 

I think it's safe to say we're all feeling a little better now.  We ended up not doing anything to celebrate Family Day this last week.  We weren't sure which day to pick (meeting him?  taking custody?  the board meeting?  coming home?) and with his mood, we thought maybe celebrating when the adoption was final in Wisconsin (February) might be a better choice for us, at least this year, since it's not as coupled with his loses.  I can't believe it's been a whole year.  I'm so proud of my little man.
"Airplane, Thailand?"
Leaving Thailand, June 2008

Saturday, June 6, 2009

IRL

Through the last few years of blogging, we've made some internet friends who have adopted from Thailand. Usually, we don't have the chance to meet and become friends "in real life".  But back when we were 1st starting the adoption process,  Hannah and Sam were nice enough to meet with us and answer a bazillion questions (like, what goes in a diaper bag, anyway?) before we even got T's referral.  Today we had the pleasure of hanging out with them AND a Holt family we already felt like we knew - Tracy and Joel.  We're used to a one-(albeit rambunctious) kid house, so it was fun to watch all the kids run and play together.  It was even more fun to chat with Tracy and Hannah over Chicago-style pizza.  I wish that we all lived a bit closer.  We're so grateful to Tracy and Joel and their lovely family for taking time in their vacation schedule to hang out with us! =)
And I have to give a shout-out for Tracy's awesome flip flops.  Super comfy and way cuter than the (ahem) 15-year old pair I was wearing.  (At what age am I supposed to get rid of the stuff I wore in high school?)  Thanks, Tracy!
-Robin

Thursday, June 4, 2009

But not every moment is a struggle

Some T cuties so I can remind myself there's a happy boy in there, too...

(on waking)
"Hi Mama. Hi Punkin. Hi blanket. Hi knee."

Pointing to a train - "Potty Train!"

"T happy. Mama happy. Daddy happy. Angie happy. Kisa happy. Courtney happy. Grandma happy. Grandpa happy..."

Biological clock?

I think T may have an internal calendar that is telling him he separated from his foster family, was placed with total strangers, and lost the whole world he knew about one year ago.  I've read that this happens but was honestly a little skeptical.  He's 2.  Thailand has different seasons.  He doesn't even understand tomorrow or next week.  And yet, the last week has been a big ugly slide backwards for us.

I've noticed he has regressed to using a lot of baby talk.  He's extra clingy, like he was maybe 9 months ago.  He's on a hair trigger for tantrums.  His tantrums are nonsensical:
T:  Rock! (pointing at T-sized rocking chair)
Me:  OK, you can sit on your rocking chair.
T:  NO ROCK!!  NO!!!
Me:  That's fine.  You don't have to rock.  Let's go read a book.
T:  ROCK!!  WANT ROCK!!!!  (sobbing)
Me:  OK, it's right here.  Let me help you sit on it.
T:  NO.  NO WANT ROCK!!!  (throwing himself to the floor)
(on and on all day, over just ever subject you can imagine)
Nothing soothes him.  He pushes me away when I try to hold him, which he hasn't done in a long time.  His eating is finickier.  He's sleeping more.  He doesn't seem to be in any pain or getting teeth.  All of his behaviors really make me think it's very attachment related.  He's mostly charming when we have visitors.

So I'm sticking to my theory that his heart can feel it's been almost a year since the changes no little one should have to face.

-Robin

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How we learned to pronounce our son's name correctly, part 2

We thought we had this figured out back in January of last year. The Thai waitress at our favorite restaurant spent a lot of time helping us learn to say T's name correctly in Thai. (It's not pronounced as it appears.)

Today, we were lucky to be invited to the Thai American Association picnic. There is good news and bad news.

The good news: We had a blast and met a lot of really nice Thai families. We also ate our fill of amazing Thai food.

The bad news: Everyone we introduced T to pronounced his name differently than we do (but the same as each other). They all recognized the name and knew the meaning right away (some even shot an imaginary arrow from an invisible bow to demonstrate).

It is kind of embarrassing to have 20 people all correct the pronunciation of your kid's name. Although, in Thai fashion, everyone was extremely gracious and no one actually told us we were wrong. But it was clear. Our non-Thai friends heard it too.

I assume our waitress friend must have a different accent or dialect. In all honesty, our social worker in Thailand also used the alternate pronunciation, but at the time, I assumed *she* was the one with the different accent. We even listened to an online dictionary say his name in Thai about 50 times tonight. To my ear, the dictionary-voice is somewhere in the middle between the 2 pronunciations.

So now my only question is, how long will it take me to remember to say his name correctly? T is totally fine with the change - we used it once or twice and now he's already referring to himself with the new sound, as if to say, "what took you guys so long to get with the program?" (Although perhaps he's just confused, because our little comedian is also telling us his name is "Jim" and "Chicken", with a sly, satisfied smile on his face.)

In the long run, the new pronunciation will be easier for people, as it sounds a lot more like how it's spelled. I feel a little silly, but I'm glad to be able to make the correction when he's only two.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

T is for Two

Warning - picture-heavy post for the grandparents ahead.

We celebrated T's birthday today. We can't quite believe our little guy is two. Since he was still living with his foster family on his first birthday, today was extra special for us. I keep pinching myself at how lucky I feel that we adopted our amazing T. I am sure his birth mom was thinking of him today. I hope she knows how much he's loved.

Last night as T was being extra difficult, we realized that, due to the time difference between us and Thailand, he had actually hit the terrible 2's 12 hours early.

After hearing stories of what his birthday would entail, he woke this morning and the first words out of his mouth were a request to eat cake for breakfast. No dice there, but we did let him wear his shades during lunch, which, for some reason, he thought was the best. thing. ever.

A delicious Thai lunch was followed by an elephant-shaped chocolate banana cake. Unfortunately, T's enthusiasm for chocolate cake was overshadowed by his apparent fear of candles and the Happy Birthday song. After cake (and a much needed nap) the real fun began. The mailman brought him a package of cookies from Grandma Cookie.

He played with his spoils, including a play kitchen that I think may actually allow us to cook meals uninterrupted, and the coolest. non-bike. ever. My dad designed and made it in the space of a week (or two?). T has already managed to use it unassisted, and I think we're going to have to drag him off of it kicking and screaming once he grows another half inch. I wish *I* was the one turning two. What fun!

T is now taking orders for dinner. Call to make reservations.-Robin


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Video fixed

If you came by our blog Thursday afternoon and saw the video Robin posted, it was probably the wrong one. The right one is there now. My bad.

-Kyle

I must have a speck of dirt in my eye

because my eyes are mysteriously tearing up. It couldn't have anything to do with the CatholicVote.org's new media campaign.

I am not Catholic (although many people in our family are). I disagree with many of the positions of the Catholic church. There was a lot of controversy over this group's previous ad that I don't want to touch with a ten foot pole on this blog. But the ad below is pretty darn cool. And me crying over a commercial? I'm my mother's daughter after all.

(oops, if you looked here Thursday afternoon, you probably saw the wrong video...Kyle's fault!)



-Robin

Monday, May 11, 2009

When Grandma Cookie's In Charge...

...T's meals are a bit unorthodox. He doesn't seem to mind.

Ice cream for breakfast


Sharing the table with Punkin


Lunch in the windowsill

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mama Day


Today was a special day for me, as we celebrated "Mama Day" (as T called it) for the first time since T joined our family. T's Nana, Bob-Wow, Auntie M, and Great Grandma all came over to join us for brunch. T enjoyed the many laps he could snuggle into for stories. It was a beautiful day and I am so thankful for my little boy. Kyle and I thought a lot about his birth mother with grateful hearts today. Her decision allowed us to have this amazing little boy in our lives. I can't think of words to describe what that means to me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Attachment Update

I'm often a little unsure exactly where T is, attachment-wise. What I do feel confident about is that his attachment continues to progress.

  • It used to be a struggle to get him to make eye contact with us. Now, he loves to look in my eyes and play with my face.
  • Not long ago, he wouldn't play on the kitchen floor for 1minute without begging for me to hold him. Now he'll play long enough for me to brew coffee (this is really more important for me, personally =) ).
  • For months, he wouldn't let me take a shower without sobbing on the floor the entire time. Now he'll happily grab a book and a toy to occupy himself while he waits for me.
  • Until recently, he wouldn't wait for me in the kitchen while I let the dog out in the morning. Now he runs to scoop out her breakfast while I let her out the back door.
  • The first time we left T with my parents for a few hours (at 6 months home?), he was anxious and didn't stop clinging to my dad the entire time we were gone. Last weekend, he happily enjoyed the park with them while we took a Thai cooking class.
  • Last summer, T had to be in the Ergo for me to hang diapers because he was too scared to play on the lawn.  Now, well, see the photo above, with the Ergo lying on the lawn behind him.
He's clearly making big strides. I also think that his language development is helping with his attachment. He's at the point now where he can use words to clearly ask us to hold him, even to hold him "tight". He asks for the Ergo when we have our hands full and he wants to be near us. He asks for snuggles, and for lotion, and for hugs. On some level, he knows that he needs these things from us, and I'm glad he's asking.

When we're in public, though, I sometimes worry that he's "mommy shopping" (a behavior kids with multiple caregivers may exhibit, where they try to charm all potential caregivers in case they are left by their current caregiver). At storytime at the library, he clings to me for dear life. We've been going weekly for 4 months, and it still terrifies him. But after story time is over and we're back in the kids section of the library with fewer people, he seems very comfortable approaching strangers. He grabbed another mom's legs and looked up to yell "HI!" and then tried to continue the conversation (which for him, means repeated "HI!"s, of course) (while she looked at him funny and backed away). He eagerly worked puzzles with another mom (with me nearby, of course). His personality in these situations isn't any different than at home, I just don't know how common it is to be so out-going at his age.


One interesting bright spot, however, occurred recently when good friends stopped by to visit. It was their first time meeting T and he warmed up to them well. By the end of the visit, he was on our friend's lap, begging him to read story after story. They are expecting their first child (YAY!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!) and are considering an Ergo carrier but wanted to try one out "in action" to see how comfortable it is. We were happy to let them try ours with T, especially since he seemed to be totally comfortable with them. Our friend started to put the carrier on and T instantly broke down crying, begging him to take it off. He was not about to allow himself to be placed in that carrier with our friend. He would happily sit on his lap to be read to, but the Ergo was out of the question. I don't know if he thought they were going to take him, or if that was just too close for his comfort. I felt bad that my friends didn't get a chance to try the carrier with a chunky kid inside it. I also felt like it was probably a positive thing for T, attachment-wise, that he wasn't willing to be worn by someone new. It hadn't occurred to me until he was unwilling to do it, but then it made sense.




I don't ever expect to reach an "a-ha! he's totally attached!" moment with T. For us it's a very gradual process that is so much easier to see in retrospect. I am, however, encouraged that we seem to keep moving in the right direction.


(I also expect to make up for my infrequency of blogging by the length of the posts I write. Sorry about that.)


-Robin

Friday, April 24, 2009

Co-sleeping no more

I think the person who is having the hardest time adjusting to T sleeping in his own bed is me. And that, I suppose, means that co-sleeping has served him well and he's ready to learn to sleep on his own.

I work 2nd shift. For the last week I've arrived home to find T dreaming away in his toddler bed, Kyle passed out in a sleeping bag on the floor beside him, and Punkin curled up at Kyle's feet. My whole little family, snuggled in a space with no room for me. So I kiss them lightly, trudge across the hall, and have an entire bed to myself. This should be a treat after 10 months of the 4 of us battling for real estate all night. Instead, it's just lonely.

I truly expected a
lot more resistance from T with this transition. He falls asleep with no fuss. Kyle has even left him alone the few times that he (Kyle) wakes up enough to move back to our room. T sometimes wakes to cry, but only once a night. Then one of us goes to lay next to his bed, and he settles back down fairly fast.
In the morning he cries for me, but is starting to learn to call "Down, Mama?" and be invited to pitter patter across the hall to join me for snuggles. Thank goodness I don't have to give those up yet! I know that parenting is one long, drawn-out letting go, but I didn't think it would start so soon! Where did our little baby go?

-Robin

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Transracial parenting

In an exercise with our social worker before we brought T home, we used colored beads to represent people of different races. We each filled a cup with beads to create a visual picture of the diversity of people we interact with on a regular basis. My cup absolutely stinks. I knew my world "wasn't very" diverse. Looking at my cup was a huge wake-up for me that my world is not diverse at all.

My embarrassingly pathetic cup:
  • White beads for my family
  • White beads for my co-workers
  • White beads for my friends (at least the ones who live close enough to hang out with)
  • White beads for my doctor and dentist
  • White beads for our neighbors
  • White beads for the kids at library story time
  • White beads for most of the teachers in our schools
  • White beads for the people at the churches we visit as we try to find the right fit for us
  • A few beads of different colors for people we see while out running errands, but really, mostly white ones
  • A few green beads for adopted kids of friends of ours
  • A green bead for T
This makes me so sad for T. Our school district is 1.8% Asian, so he would be the token Asian kid in his grade.

I've been reading a lot of adoptee blogs and In Their Own Voices, a book of interviews with transracial adoptees. It makes complete sense to me that the adoptees that seem to have the best self esteem and sense of identity are the ones who grew up in diverse communities so they could learn what it means to be African American/Asian/Latino from peers and mentors when they reach adolescence and start wondering about their identity and how they fit in.

What I'm doing about it: not enough. T will have the benefit or burden of growing up with the opportunities (or lack thereof) that we provide for him. I'm hoping that stating that publically will help me hold myself accountable for more action, because Thai art on our walls, kids books about diversity on T's shelf, and international music playing on our stero is not a substitute for T knowing people who look like him.
I have tried to find a non-white doctor and dentist for myself and T. I haven't had success in my area yet. (Nearby friends - help me out if you know anyone.)
We connected with a wonderful Thai woman who said she can introduce us to some Thai families with kiddos. We can't wait!
We're seriously discussing moving to a more diverse city when T is older.
It's a responsibility that feels daunting but it's absolutely our responsibility. And if we can overcome our shyness (Kyle and I would not exactly rate at the top of the Outgoing scale) and make some connections with Thai families, the rewards for all of us would be great.

Here's an excellent Transracial Parenting Resource Manual from the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association.

-Robin

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

sa-wa DEE Krab

T taking a shot at saying "hello" in Thai. Forgive the noise from the ice cream maker in the background.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wisconsinite

T uttered his first full sentence today...and at the same time met the final requirement for Wisconsin citizenship.

He said, "I want cheese".

We're not even football fans.

Now he looks at this photo and says "cheese-head!"