Friday, January 29, 2016

Six Weeks Together

Six weeks. I feel we are over the initial transition hump. We feel like a family and there is a sense of normalcy to our days. There is calmness and joy in our home now, which did not exist the first few weeks of Roland being home. I know it sounds bad to say, but I have always tried to honestly describe our experiences on this blog. I don't want to present a rosy, sugar- coated picture of our lives. So, if I am being honest, I didn't really enjoy the first three weeks of Roland being home. I cared about Roland's well- being of course, but inside I didn't feel the warm, fuzzy, loving feelings I was expecting. With being sick, tired, and stressed about Matt's upcoming knee surgery, all I could really muster was taking care of what needed to get done throughout the day, and then "fake the love" part. Now that the worst of Matt's recovery is behind us and Roland is behaving and sleeping better, I can finally take a deep breath, relax a little, and just enjoy Roland. The loving feelings are here now, they just took a little longer to catch up. 

Of course, our new sense of normalcy is only temporary. Once Matt's recovery is done in a few months, we will be moving and Matt will be going back to work. We will all have to adjust to a new home, to a new town, and to Matt not being home all day with us. We have been spoiled with having two stay- at- home parents since Roland's arrival. After all we have been through just to become a family and the life- jarring knee injury Matt received two years ago and the subsequent five surgeries, these upcoming changes are small beans. I am just excited to see what the future holds for us. 

The doctor visits (for both Matt and Roland) are finally beginning to slow down. Poor Roland's first month in America and our family was filled with poking, prodding, and boredom in waiting rooms. He has endured three blood draws, four immunization shots, an echocardiogram, and to his mommy collecting his poop and pee. Thankfully he tested negative for all the big, bad diseases. He has a heart murmur, but it is benign and nothing to worry about. He also has an iron deficiency, which after much testing, seems just to be caused by his diet in Congo. He is on iron supplements now, but hopefully that will just be temporary. The biggest issue is with Roland's poop. He has had diarrhea since coming home and it turns out his little body is the host to three different parasites. For the past 10 days, we have crushed up medicine and "hid" it in yogurt or applesauce and force- fed it to Roland three times a day. It was an awful ordeal. The poor kid will probably never eat yogurt again. The worst part is that his poop is still softer and wetter than it should be, so I don't know if the medicine even worked. I would hate to have to start the process over (especially the poop collecting part- that was disgusting!). 

In all areas Roland is improving, except for one: potty training. He was completely potty trained when he first came home. After about three weeks, he decided to stop using the toilet to go pee. He now just goes pee in his pull- ups all day long. We know that potty training regression is normal in newly adopted children. It is just annoying because he was doing so well at the beginning. But, I'll take dirty diapers over the tantrums and sleepless nights that we used to have. 

Nothing is perfect, and some days are still rough, but we are definitely blessed to call a happy, healthy, affectionate little boy our son. It is still sinking in that this is my life now, after so many years of waiting for a child. I just can't wait for spring to come and Matt's knee to heal so we can really start to have fun with Roland. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Roland and the Dogs

Roland has been home for a month and probably the biggest transformation has been his interaction with our dogs. From reading about other people's experiences, we knew that it probably would not go well. We were right. Roland was home with us for only one full day before we brought the dogs home from the kennel. Even though the three of us were getting along well, there probably was not a huge amount of trust yet. I sat on the couch with Roland while Matt brought in the dogs one at a time. Roland pretty much acted like we were planning to feed him to a pack of wolves. I do understand that our dogs are pretty intimidating to a 30- pound child who is not used to having animals inside the home. (Copper, our redbone coonhound, weighs 85 pounds and Yukon, our great pyrenees, is 120 pounds.) Roland just screamed his head off until we put the dogs in another room and then the screaming would start again whenever one of the dogs made eye contact with him. For the first couple of days we had to keep the dogs separate from Roland most of the time. He eventually became somewhat comfortable with looking at them from the other side of a baby gate.

Roland became comfortable around Yukon much quicker than with Copper. Yukon is larger, but he is much more quiet and gentle. Copper, a typical hound dog, likes to bark very loudly whenever he is excited. The soundtrack of our first week home together was barking mixed with equally loud screaming.

At first, Roland would only enjoy Yukon when he had the height advantage. Whenever he was on the floor with Yukon, he would start up with his screaming again. However, Yukon was always so gentle with him and his white fluffy fur is pretty irresistible, so Roland adjusted to him pretty quickly. After about a week, they became best buds and Roland spends a good part of his day rolling around on top of Yukon.

Roland's relationship with Copper has been trickier. All the barking in his face early on must have set a poor mood for their relationship. For most of the past month, Roland would try to set up Copper to get into trouble.Roland would tug on Copper too hard, Copper would give out a loud yelp, and then Roland would come running to us showing us his finger (pretending he had been bit) and pointing at Copper. He played out this charade many times, but to his disappointment, he was the one who got in trouble, not the dog. He would also give Copper a toy block, which Copper would proceed to chew up, and then Roland would come to us yelling, pointing at Copper. For those instances, they both got in trouble. Seriously, for the past month I felt like I was raising three little boys, two of which would bicker and tell on each other throughout the day.

The past several days there haven't been any big instances with Roland and Copper so I am hoping that phase is coming to a close. The house is definitely quieter and more relaxed as "the brothers" are becoming adjusted to each other.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Two Weeks Home

It has been two weeks since Roland came into our family, but it is just now really sinking in that our son, who we have waited for over three and a half years, is finally home. It has always been my plan to continue this blog after he came home, but I simply have not had time to write anything until now. We have basically been in survival mode the past couple weeks, just trying to get through the days with what feels like a 30- pound newborn. Now that Christmas is over and our new family of three has had some time to adjust to each other, life is starting to feel a little more like normal, instead of just  trying to survive the day (and night).

Roland was escorted home from the DRC by his foster dad and we met them at the airport in Spokane, Washington. Meeting our son in Spokane was not the exotic trip we had envisioned, but this was the easiest, quickest, and cheapest option for us at the time. Our meeting was way more special than I had ever hoped. I assumed we would be meeting a tired, cranky, and possibly scared 3- year- old boy. However, when Roland came through the gate and saw us, his face lit up and he squealed in delight as he walked over to hug us. We have been Skyping with Roland for the past year and it was obvious that he recognized us and that he was expecting to see us. It was such a special moment for us.

Roland slept the whole three hour drive back home. It made for an easy afternoon, but a horrible night. With all the napping and time changes, he only slept a couple hours at a time and then was wide awake for another couple hours. After that first night of hardly any sleep, both Matt and I came down with colds, making our first week with Roland a bit more miserable than it otherwise could have been. Being sick, exhausted and adjusting to a new 3- year- old who speaks no English was (and still is) tough.

Roland woke up frequently the first week and a half he was home. Every time he woke up we had to go lay down next to him until he fell asleep because he can not fall asleep on his own. We think we have figured out the mystery of his poor sleeping, though (besides just the time zone change). I was keeping his bedroom around 73 degrees, assuming it was plenty warm since I like sleeping at 65 degrees. Well, we have since discovered Roland sleeps best at 80 degrees and he was probably waking up so much just because he was cold. Now with his new tropical climate bedroom he has only been waking up once per night to go to the bathroom.

One positive surprise about Roland was that he is fully potty trained. Unfortunately, though, he enjoys his bathroom time a bit too much. He will ask to go when he is just bored, wants more attention, or when one of us is in the shower. Once he is in the bathroom, it is a challenge to get him to leave. He loves sitting on his little toilet seat, singing and making jokes that nobody understands but him. It can be pretty cute, but most of the time it really tries my patience when I don't know if he is done and is just goofing off. We are trying to teach him potty time is "no- nonsense time" because we are getting really tired of spending so much of our day in the bathroom.

Besides the sleep issues, there also have been a large helping of crying and tantrums every day. Since he is our first child, we really don't know what behavior is normal for a 3- year- old and what might be adoption- related. One of the toughest things has been the fact that he is not a big fan of toys. It seems his favorite thing to do is get into everything he is not supposed to. So there have been many, many "time- ins" every day. He is learning what the house rules are and tests his limits every day.

Roland really has two sides to him. One side is the mischievous, crying, tantrum- having toddler. The other side is the sweetest, happiest little boy you have ever met. It is clear that he was given such loving care while he was in Congo. He really loves receiving and giving physical affection. He just soaks up hugs, kisses, cuddling, being lotioned, and everything else. Even from the very first day, he has been very affectionate toward us.

There is so much to say about Roland, but I should probably stop for the day. It is my plan to keep you all updated on his transition into our family. It has been trying, but we are so happy he is finally home with us and we can't wait to watch him learn and grow and develop into the man he will one day be. We are just loving him the best we can and taking things one day at a time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meeting Roland

Today we got to meet our son for the first time...via Skype.  The experience was just about as awkward as I had imagined it would be. It was difficult to keep the attention of a very energetic two year old when it  was very clear he would rather be off playing instead of watching a couple of faces on a screen. However, after a while the whole thing seemed to click for him and he realized the faces on the screen were actually interacting with him. Roland would blow us a kiss and then we would blow him kisses and he would blow us another kiss. This went on for several minutes and it was very sweet because it was one of the few times we felt he was actually acknowledging us. Later on his caretaker was telling him that we are his mama and papa and Roland even said "mama" and "papa" a couple times. I don't think he knew what he was talking about, but it was heartwarming nonetheless.

For two years we have only seen Roland through still pictures so it was wonderful to experience him as a real- life child, full of energy and personality. He looks very healthy and happy. Several times while we were Skyping, Roland would run off. It was a relief to see that he doesn't have any trouble getting around. His caretaker told us how active he is and jokingly told us we need to be strong to care for him (he said that as he was picking Roland up before he ran off again). Well, that is exactly what we want: a lively toddler to keep us busy. Even though the whole thing was a little awkward, the minute our session ended I started to miss that precious little boy who so enjoyed blowing us kisses.

Last week we mailed out Roland's Christmas presents. It is so sad that he won't be with us for the holidays again this year, but I am glad he is living with a loving, capable foster family who wants to give all 12 of their "stuck" kids as nice of a family Christmas as possible.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Roland Everett!

Today our son turns two years old. (Just for perspective, he was just 5 months old when we became his legal parents). Another birthday missed and the start of another holiday season with an incomplete family. A couple of nights ago I had a dream about Roland. It was a pleasant one, not like the usual dreams where there are endless things keeping us apart. We were playing and snuggling on the bed and Roland was smiling and we were gazing into each other's eyes and everything was right. Just as all good dreams end too soon, this one was sucked away from me by waking and I was forced to face the world and all it's bitter realities feeling hollow. It is so painful to yearn to hold your child and not be able to. I am still praying for the day that the depressingly quiet, empty void in our home and hearts will be filled with a full- of- life toddler named Roland and that he will finally be able to experience all the love his mom and dad have for him. Happy Birthday, sweet little Roland. Your parents love you and miss you every day.