I hadn’t planned to post at the 9 month mark because I thought we would seeing fewer changes. That hasn’t really been the case. I’ve still seen enough changes that I thought I should go ahead and preserve this point in time. So, here is what has changed from the 6 to 9 month home mark.
First, when I said Leo handled the move very smoothly, that was the truth, but things did not stay that way. My husband started his new job a week before we moved, so there was a week that he wasn’t with us, and during the move the kids and I stayed at four different houses in five nights. Before we could really get settled in, my husband had to be gone for five days to a professional conference that he had committed to before we knew we would be moving. This turned out to be the last straw for Leo. He began to have shortened naps and he lost trust in Matt. He also stopped doing the happy dance when Matt came home from work. He was very clingy with me. It has been several weeks since the conference now and things are pretty much back to normal. His nap is the usual length and the happy dance is back, although after the happy dance he will want me to pick him up instead of wanting to follow Matt around for the evening.
The bout of clinginess was in keeping with Leo’s general trend the past two months or so. He has become very whiny, especially if he doesn’t get what he wants. He will be overly dramatic for every little perceived injury and demand hugs and kisses. When I pull a shirt over his head, he will point the spot where the neckband squeezes over his head and insists on a kiss there on either side. At first I worried a lot about how the move had reawakened his fears and insecurities from the adoption. He needed reassurance that we were always going to be here, and he was making up for a lack of affection his first two years (although I saw plenty of affection on our trip to the orphanage). Then I realized–he’s just being a two year old! All of our children have acted this way at two, but Leo hadn’t been demanding at all until now.
Leo’s default coping mechanism is to withdraw. He’s been very comfortable with us, very happy and silly, to the point that we didn’t really realize that he was still holding back. Apparently he felt he was okay to share his happy feelings, but was still on his best behavior. Now we’re seeing more of the normal 2 year old behavior, good and bad. Or maybe he’s just learned how to be an obnoxious American 2 year old!
Now that we feel we understand what’s going on, it is easy to dip into our vast stores of 2 year old parenting tools. Leo doesn’t like hearing “Vincent’s turn” (as you can see here) but he will keep hearing it, along with words like “share” and phrases such as “Can you say ‘up’ in words?” It turns out he can say up instead of whining to be picked up. Mary Evelyn even looked up the sign for ‘please’ in her quest to cut down on the whining, but he sometimes gets confused as to whether ‘help’ or ‘please’ is what he should say.
Leo has loved the warm weather. With the unpacking behind us, we have more time to get out and play. When I opened the garage door for the kids to go out into the driveway Leo grabbed his favorite ride on toy and ran out immediately. We are fortunate enough to have several playgrounds within walking distance of our new house. In the fall, Leo found swings and slides scary, but now he loves them. Spring is birthday season at our house, and he has gotten excited every time he recognized the signs of a birthday cake. He loves cake! We have celebrated several more new firsts including making pretzels for Lent (top picture), getting ashes on Ash Wednesday, dyeing and hunting for Easter eggs, and his first trip to the zoo. He is starting to be more accepting of new foods. He no longer spits out every bit of meat he finds in his bowl, just most of them. He and Vincent continue to be best friends/worst enemies. All day long I hear Vincent’s little voice saying “Leeeoooo! Come on! Let’s go!” and then the pitter patter of little toddler feet following obediently behind.
Really, our only ongoing challenge continues to be his speech delays. He keeps making steady progress. I would say he is still adding at least one new word per week. He is now regularly using two word sentences with signs, and sometimes will use them with one sign and a verbal word. On Mother’s Day he said his first three word sentence: “Help (sign and verbal) me (sign) candy (verbal)!” Leo loves candy, and picked up on that word very quickly! My favorite new word is hug, which he asks for multiple times a day. He is using a wider variety of words, and using them more regularly. He used to like to point to different body parts and have me say the name, but he wouldn’t often repeat them after me. He now will try and say most of them, and is now pointing to objects and repeating them too. When I read a book he is very interactive. He will point out objects that he knows (ball, car, shoes), make animal sounds, and I was very surprised when he started saying a word that shows he is listening to the story. For example, when Max and Ruby are making a cake, he will say and sign ‘help.’ He says ‘night-night’ when he sees someone laying down in a bed. At this point he is not much behind where Vincent was at the same age. Both Max and Vincent didn’t start really talking a lot until after they turned 3. I suspect that his hesitancy to express himself verbally is also tied to his tendency to withdraw when he is unsure.
I still feel that he would benefit from more speech therapy, but getting him in Early Intervention in our new state continues to be a headache. I started the first work day after our move because I knew it took a while but I am very disappointed that three months later he still hasn’t had a single therapy session. I’ve filled out two paperwork packets, provided them with a copy of his assessment from our old state, waited for them to request the exact thing I provided them with from our old state, then they decided to re-evaluate him anyway. Leo had a physicians’s assessment, and I’ve had two meetings with people so that they could explain how the program works and what services are available to us. Now we have two more meetings scheduled to plan Leo’s exit from the program in September even though he still hasn’t had any therapies! Apparently the exit meetings are a state mandate so they take priority over actual therapy. Matt says this has been a colossal waste of my time and effort and should just drop out. I admit, I probably wouldn’t have bothered if I had known all that would be involved here, but now I feel really committed and don’t want to waste the time I’ve put in so far. I’m feeling optimistic that he will finally get a speech therapy session in June. If so, that means he might get four whole sessions before he ages out of the program in September!
See you in the fall for the one year update!