Tag Archives: August

August One Year Home

 

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I did not do a nine months home post for August as I did for Leo because we were very busy at that time. It also didn’t feel that much had changed from six months, although we were on the verge of several big changes.

I mentioned in the six months home post that we were considering getting some counseling to help August learn some better ways of coping with his emotions. Right around that time, August had a big verbal growth spurt. August is a guy with big feelings. Being able to express them in more than one or two words almost immediately decreased his tantrums and screaming. Now he regularly shouts things like:

  • I very MAD at you!
  • NO, dat MINE! You not take dat!
  • No, don’t go! Come back!

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-3-23-26-pmWe also felt that August had overcome his separation anxiety enough to be enrolled in the same special needs preschool that Leo attends. It is only 3 hours a day for 4 days a week. After extensive testing, he was determined to be low average in all areas but social/emotional development. That’s great for having been home only 9 months at the time of testing! We all think he will catch up quickly. At school he interacts with other children his age who are typically developing. He also receiving a little occupational therapy. They are planning to give physical therapy as well after the surgical intervention on his leg is complete. August was hesitant only a day or two. He absolutely loves going to school now. I think his favorite part is riding the bus.

August was only at school for a few weeks before he had a break to have his leg surgery. After consulting with a doctor about 5 hours away, and one 2 hours away, we ended up going with a doctor at our local hospital. They recently recruited one of the top orthopedists in the country, but it took a few months for him to move here. We were very happy with him after our initial appointment so we scheduled the surgery for the end of November. August currently has an external fixator, a metal frame mounted into his leg bones, on his left leg. He will wear it for about three months total. Currently, we are planning to have it removed around the end of February. He will wear a leg brace after that.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-3-23-11-pmLeo had cleft surgery about 2 months home. We hadn’t planned to wait nearly a year for August’s surgery, it just worked out that way. I know many families struggle with the best timing for major surgeries after an adoption, so I plan to share more about our two experiences in a future post. For now I will say that it worked out very well for us. I was able to explain to August what was happening. It was wonderful to have him wake up at the hospital and be able to say “Leg really hurts!” or after the pain medicine kicked in, “Feel better now. I go to school today?” After one trip to the orthopedist where some parts had to be switched out on the fixator, he spent the entire trip home ranting to me. “I not like that doctor! He so mean! I very angry at him! I not like him! We go home, we not go see that doctor!” Having him so verbal by surgery time made a huge difference.

Aside from the major surgery, August continues to be happy and healthy. He loves playing with Vincent and Leo, but also happily plays independently with his collection of cars. August misses being able to walk, but really enjoys running over people with his wheelchair (watch out!). We thought winter would be a good time to have the surgery because he couldn’t play out on the playground then anyway, and Christmas would be a good distraction. Having your first Christmas as a 3 year old is an amazing experience. August thought everything was magical, and opening presents on Christmas day was the best day of his life! At one point he opened a simple remote control police car. When he pushed the button and the siren went off, he said “Oh, I love you! I love you!” to the police car. He makes us laugh every day. We’re so happy to have his larger than life self in our family!

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Three Years Home

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Labor Day weekend marked 3 years since Leo became part of our family. I don’t write as many personal posts on the blog now that it has transitioned from a travel blog for family and friends to a public blog for those considering adoption from China. However, I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on what I have learned through this three years of adoptive parenting.

Yes, you can love the children you adopted as much as the children you gave birth to. More and more families are adopting after having biological children. A frequent concern is that it might feel different. People always laugh when I say this, but despite having 6 kids, I don’t actually like little kids that much. I’ve never wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, so you can understand how this was a big concern for me. While adoption might seem at first like babysitting the neighbor’s kid, I was surprised by how very quickly each of my sons felt right in my arms. I think the months of paperwork with seeing pictures and getting updates serves as the “paper pregnancy” preparing your heart. No it isn’t instant, but for most families their adopted children are simply their children, whether they also have biological children or not.

july4thSpecial Needs adoption does not require you to be a super parent. So many people are intimidated by the “special needs” label. We were already parenting children with special needs before we adopted–they needed glasses and braces. In the China program, you can choose which medical needs to accept and only receive referrals meeting that criteria. Sure, Leo’s weekly speech therapy, quarterly ENT nurse visit, bi-yearly ENT visit, and annual cleft clinic visit takes up a few more squares on the calendar, but not any more than squeezing in piano or baseball between the pediatrican-dentist-optometrist-orthodontist. August’s limb difference is going to require some intensive surgery this year, but after the initial correction his need will be less time intensive than Leo’s. Yes, these things take time and money, but you do it because it’s your child. We now know these waiting children aren’t “special needs kids.” They’re simply children whose biggest need is a family.

The other kids will be fine! Another common concern we had was how adopting IMG_2256might effect the children already in our family. Were we going to ruin their lives? However, from the very beginning our children embraced the idea of adopting a sibling. It opened their eyes to the fact that there were children who didn’t have a family. While we in no way approached adoption as a charity project, through our many conversations on the hows and whys they have become more interested in ways they could help children in need. Several of our children sponsor a child to help preserve a family, and two of our older children have written papers on adoption for school. I was so impressed by how understanding they were in the early days with grieving or tantrums because they understood what a huge scary change in was in the life of their brothers. Our children have become more caring and compassionate. Adoption changed the lives of all of our children for the better.

Don’t let fear hold you back. Many people consider adoption but few actually adopt. I don’t know what it is that makes some people take that step forward but I know exactly what it is that holds so many people back. Fear. It took us so long to decide to adopt, but before we had come home from China we knew we’d be going back. It changes you that quickly. Less than a year earlier, we had sincerely explained to our social worker that we would be adopting exactly oneimg_0823 child to complete our family. She was skeptical. As many have said before, adoption is hard to start but harder to stop. When you plan your biological family, you ask yourselves many of the same questions–does everyone have enough time and attention, can we afford another child, do we have another bed and seat in the van–but somehow there’s a greater urgency to the question when you’ve seen all those little faces. When you hold a child in your arms while the orphanage director says “This child needs a family.” After you’ve made that trip, it’s easier to understand why some families adopt over and over. (The children in this photo are home with families now. However, one of the little boys we met on this trip had a limb difference. Meeting him caused us to check the limb difference box during our second adoption, which led to August becoming part of our family.)

At this time, we feel our family is complete and have no plans to adopt again. (Famous last words, I know.) But I still remember how it felt to be trying to make the initial decision. How we went back and forth asking if we should or if we shouldn’t. We had so many fears. What I have learned from saying yes is that if you let fear make you say no, you’re saying no to letting your life change in a wonderful way. Saying no won’t prevent bad things from happening in your life. That happens to everyone. Saying yes WILL cause changes in your life. You’ll learn that you’re stronger than you think, what’s really important in life, and your family will be enriched beyond measure by the children that you didn’t know you had until you saw them in a photo.

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August 6 months home

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Six months already! That time when you feel simultaneously that it seems like yesterday he joined the family and that he’s been here forever. It’s been a really hard six months, but when I sit down to write a post like this, it makes it easy to see how far we’ve come. First, he’s a great sleeper. He sleeps about 11 hours a night plus 1.5-2 hour nap. We recently transitioned him to a toddler bed in a room with Leo and Vincent. He loves sleeping with his older brothers and we’ve had no problems with him getting out of bed.

IMG_6392Also, he continues to be a good eater. While he sometimes will start a power struggle over food, he generally isn’t picky about what food he eats. He has grown about 2 inches in height, but surprisingly only gained about a pound in weight. I mentioned last time that August stopped walking after his growth spurt. He has figured out how to walk again without using the walker. He only uses the walker now to get into trouble. We still have no surgeries scheduled. We will travel in August to consult with a well known specialist in the field while our home hospital is formulating their own treatment plan. Everyone agrees that he will need hip surgery first. I am dreading putting this kid in a spica cast! He is so active, I know that will be a really miserable time for us all. But we want to give him a stable hip while working for as normal a gait as possible for the future. Because he is walking well right now, we can take the time to carefully consider our options.

At three months home, August still had a few lingering Chinese words but now he uses English all the time. He has stayed at the repetition phase of language acquisition for quite a while, repeating anything someone says to him. We are all amused that he says “chicken” instead of seven.” When he counts, it sounds like “1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 8, chicken.” We can’t bear to correct him because it’s so cute! He also speaks in short phrases. However, within the past week or two he has begun to bump up to four word sentences rather than only sticking a few phrases together. Here are some of the things he has said recently:

“Because dat mine, I play dat.”

“JieJie hit my cup. My water gone!”

“Look Mama, big truck over there!”

“Rain outside–all wet!”

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August’s extreme separation anxiety has subsided. We did have some regression when I left for a weekend trip, but that did not last too long after I returned. August is loving the summer activities. He is not a fan of longer van trips, but after visiting grandparents on two trips, and another day trip to a city about 3 hours away, he is dealing with the van better. He loves any playground, the zoo, splash pads, parades, and especially vehicles. He yells “Big trucks!” at parades or when we pass construction sites. Even parking lots will bring on a “Mama yook! Cars!” I took the kids to a Touch-A-Truck event at a local museum and he was over the moon excited. We recently celebrated his half birthday and a 20 pack of matchbox cars was his favorite gift. He likes to keep a car in hand at all times, preferably a few in each pocket, too. I once emptied seven cars out of his pockets at bedtime!

We are slow and steady on the behavioral issues. He is getting more patient and instigates fewer power struggles. He still has meltdowns daily, but they are far fewer than when he first came home. We are continuing to work on transition issues. Usually if I say it’s time for a diaper change he will yell “No diaper change!” at me. If I say “It’s time for a diaper change. Which car do you want to choose to take upstairs with you?” he will usually still yell no at me, but sometimes he will choose a car instead. Because our state offers funding for adoption related counseling, we are looking into that as a way to help him feel more secure with us and learn more positive ways of coping with his big emotions. Many of the behaviors we are dealing with are very common for a 2 or 3 year old, but I think they are magnified by being adopted and moving to another country in the middle of a trying age. Despite all the ups and downs, we still feel lucky to have this spunky little guy in our family!

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August, Three Months Home

Now that August has been home for three months, things feel like they are more settled. August is generally happy, bossy, and playful. He is strongly attached to me, to the point that he expresses separation anxiety if I move too far away from him.  However, he is starting to show an attachment to Matt. Unlike Leo’s experience with me, August never disliked Matt. He was simply indifferent to him. Now he asks about Papa when he is at work and will interact with him once he’s home. August loves his siblings and has definite preferences there, too. He will often chant “Vincent, Gregor, Max,” his three favorites. He will play with Leo, but as Leo is closest in age, he is the competition. He holds Mary Evelyn at a distance. Perhaps because she likes to mother the youngest boys, he sees her as trying to take my place.

IMG_6199August’s activity level has calmed down somewhat. His first two months, he was constantly climbing up on furniture to jump down, running everywhere, and non-stop action. With the warmer weather, we have been making regular visits to the playground. I think that the nannies must have tried to restrain him from exploring because of his leg, so we were getting a bit of the animal-let-out-of-a-cage effect. It’s also possible that he’s understanding our house rules a little better. I try to make sure he has a little bit of outside time daily and give him ways to let out some energy. His tantrums have really tapered off. He is still short-tempered, but feeling secure and being able to express himself has really made things more peaceful around here. Well, not actually anywhere near peaceful, but there’s a lot less screaming.

August’s verbal development has really exploded this month. He is in the stage where he parrots anything anyone says. This can be comical when he repeats Leo, who still cannot say most consonants. Leo has taught August to say “uh uh uh uh oo oo” (chugga chugga choo choo) when he sees a train. He is now putting together three and four word sentences independently, instead of only using phrases that we say to him regularly. His Chinese is now mostly gone. The last hold outs are “hen hao” for very good, and “guo guo” for doggy or any animal. He is equally likely to call any dog or animal Pudgy, after our pug. Max has been practicing the Imperial March from Star Wars for a band concert. It seems to have gotten stuck in August’s head, because he wanders around humming it for a good portion of every day.

We have been out and about more this past month. Some good friends came up to visit. IMG_6253August was outgoing and friendly with them, but still showed a preferential attachment to us. We visited the local children’s science museum where he enjoyed playing in the water and riding on a car. Last week we went to the zoo for the first time. He thought it was the greatest thing. August was happy to look at every animal we stopped to see. When we moved on, he would clap and say “More guo-guo! More Pudgy!” When we stopped to see the gorillas, he was thrilled to see one drinking water. “Ma, Pudgy drink wa-der!” Our zoo is really large, so we only saw a fraction of the offerings. We’re looking forward to taking more trips over the summer since loved it so much.

We have finally finished making the rounds of medical visits. There were no surprises–his health is the same as was represented in his file. He is a very healthy boy with a complex leg malformation. While August has been walking fine on his own, he recently stopped walking. It seems likely that his recent growth spurt has caused his shorter leg to now be too short for him to comfortably walk on. His leg issues will eventually be corrected surgically, but for now we have gotten him a walker to help him maintain his mobility. Ever uncooperative, August refused to stand up at the medical equipment supply store but once we got him home, he took to the walker immediately. We have a lot of stairs in our house, so he still does a lot of scooting. It will be very useful as he grows too heavy for us to carry and as he gets older and more independent.

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Two months home

I’m a week late on writing this post. I wasn’t sure if I should keep doing them, but I remembered that I read through the updates on Leo during the early days home with August when I was up with jet lag. It can be helpful to see the difference a month makes.

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August now goes to sleep without crying and sleeps through the night. He takes a good nap every day. His receptive language is very good. He can follow directions and shows us that he understands what we are saying. His spoken language is a little slower. He says many phrases that we use throughout the day: hi, hello, by, night-night, all done, more eat, more drink, shoes on, outside, mine, no (we hear this one all day long), go van, my turn, no mine, okay, and he says the names of most family members. He still uses some Chinese phrases and often his babbling still sounds more Chinese. He always hears “wait” as “wei”, which is what you say when you answer the phone in China. He often pronounces words with a Chinese accent. He says ee-TUH instead of eat and calls Vincent “win-son” the same as the adults at Chinese school.

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His fine motor skills aren’t too shabby but his gross motor skills are crazy advanced considering his limited range of motion on his left leg. He can climb over the back of the couch and jump off. He climbs up the slide on the playground. Besides this rock structure, he has also climbing two different 8 foot climbing walls. He loves to ride a plasma car around in our basement. Leo was only able to climb one of the climbing walls recently and the other he still can’t climb!

August is a great eater. There are very few foods he won’t eat. He will now drink some juice with water. He also drank more than a sip of milk for the first time over Easter weekend. Plain water is still his beverage of choice. We are continuing to make our way through medical referrals but so far he seems to be healthy and on-target in all areas.

Our biggest challenges continues to be his behavior. His tantrums have decreased a huge amount over the past month but we still have daily meltdowns. He is generally bossy. He gets angry if I turn right while driving if he wants me to turn left. He will often say no or refuse to do something I ask him to do simply to be contrary. For example, he will say “eat” but when I offer him a granola bar he refuses it. But if I put it away he will fall to the ground crying because he really did want it. We relied heavily on distraction as a parenting technique during this stage with our other children but he is usually too strong-willed to be distracted. However, given how much he has improved in the short time he has been with us, we feel he will eventually move beyond it as he matures.

Like any other toddler, he is playful and happy. He loves his family. We are blessed to have him.

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One Month Home

We’ve been home for a month now. The good news is that we’re over the jet lag and everyone is healthy. August has made huge progress in overcoming the sleep issues we had when we were first home. I worked with him for about a week to get a nap time routine which helped him to feel safe in his crib in our room. He now naps at least an hour and sometimes closer to two every day. He doesn’t cry at all when he goes to sleep either at nap time or bedtime. He does still wake up once most nights. Often he goes back to sleep himself or sometimes he needs a little patting and soothing. The hunger strikes from China are also a thing of the past. He has a very good appetite and is not a picky eater.

IMG_5791I think August is proving that the adage about your second child being the opposite of the first is true in case of adoption as well. Leo had no problems sleeping but we spent many weeks working on improving his fine and gross motor skills. Teaching him to self feed was a long slow process. It was months before he felt comfortable around the dogs. August has no delays that I have found in his fine or gross motor skills. He picked up self feeding almost immediately. He can open door knobs, thread beads, climb up on furniture and jump off. He thinks the dogs are great fun. He is very curious about everything. At one point he realized that a shaker egg (a percussion instrument) didn’t bounce when he dropped it on the floor. He went around to different rooms dropping it on the floor to see if he could find a surface where the egg would bounce when he dropped it.

Where August struggles is social skills, I guess you could say. He has a very low frustration index. If he can’t do something perfectly the first time he will throw a tantrum. He will also throw a tantrum if you don’t give him what he wants. He tends to scream if he wants something. This is probably his personality to a certain extent and being 3 is also a factor. Part of this will improve as he becomes better at communicating in English. While he repeats phrases all day long, he still isn’t using English very much independently. We try to be diligent about making sure he asks for a drink, snack, or help. We aren’t picky–he can use English, Chinese, or an ASL sign. Anything but screaming! Hopefully he will get the message at some point.

However, it’s undeniable that a good deal of what is behind all the tantrums is that he was used to getting what he wanted when he wanted. IMG_5769Having a nice round head, fine and gross motor skills right on target, all this means that August got a lot of attention which is wonderful. His orphanage has a reputation for playing favorites and I think that August’s big smile melted a lot of hearts. He is definitely not used to being told no. Yes, I understand that he has gone through enormous changes and we are being loving and patient with him (usually). I’m just saying, when he’s throwing an epic tantrum on the floor but decides to stop and scoot over closer to you before beginning again because he doesn’t think you’re paying enough attention to him, it makes it pretty obvious that someone was just a wee bit spoiled. In the grand scheme of things, this is a much easier problem to overcome than neglect, which is a more common scenario for a child who spent 3 years in an orphanage.

August has experienced loving care in his life and he is bonding very well with us. He has bonded most closely with me since I am his primary caregiver. He is starting to give me hugs and kisses. He hasn’t rejected Matt the way Leo rejected me, he just hasn’t formed quite as much as a bond with him because he spends more time away from home. Similarly among the children he is closest to Leo, Vincent, and Gregory who are the children at home most often. He likes Mary Evelyn and Max, but they spend more time away from home at school or activities. He loves playing with his brothers. I think he’s going to have a lot of fun when the weather warms up and we can begin taking walks to the playground or spending time in the yard and driveway. We’ve already discovered that he isn’t phased by walking on grass at all.

Although he’s only been home with us a month, it already feels like he’s been a part of the family forever.

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