We are so thankful to have a church family that supported us in our adoption. There are several families that have adopted as well. A couple months before we travelled to pick up Andrew we took one couple out to dinner and gave them total freedom to "wreck" all our false expectations about bringing an adopted child into our home. "The wounds of a friend are faithful" and we trusted their input completely. They were very encouraging and even gave us articles to read concerning attachment and other adoption related issues. It is such a blessing to have people like this in our lives.
One piece of advice that was offered was to lower our expectations for home-schooling the other children when Andrew came home. Initially we shut down school for several weeks. We gradually worked our way back on track but still we have drastically downsized the amount of material covered. It has been a juggling act with 4 kids in 4 different grades and a 4 year old looking for something to do. When he sees the others get their books out, he grabs his notebook and crayons saying "Andrew school?" He is not mischievous and into things, but he does get bored and interrupts. Many times throughout the day Jen hears, "Andrew hungry", "Andrew color" or some other jibberish just wanting to be heard.
We can see his frustration with the language, as many times he will just blurt out made up words just to be a part of the conversation. He will even call someone's name just to get their attention but then just says "Um, um, um" His big achievement around New Year's was that he began speaking in sentences. It all started with us showing pictures to the grandparents and suddenly we heard Andrew say, "This is Cora, this is Rachel" as he pointed to each person in the picture.
Just in the last few weeks he's begun replacing his name with "I" or "Me". Although many times he still speaks in the third person.
Just after Christmas we travelled 18hrs to Massachusetts and New York to visit extended family that had not yet met Andrew. We were thrilled not to have to deal with his anxiety vomiting in the back seat. He seems now to understand that we will always return home. It looks as if that phase has passed.
Andrew did have some major tooth decay, most of which was not too noticeable. However, the dentist did feel that it would be good to fill them to avoid future pain since he will have some of the teeth for another 5-6 years. His first visit went well and the dentist was able to fill a few teeth in one quarter of his mouth. Unfortunately, on the second visit, Andrew remembered the previous visit too well and wasn't able to sit still knowing what was coming.
Early February, we took him to be sedated in order to have the remainder of his teeth filled. Jen held him while they sedated him and then had to wait in the other room for 2hrs. They called her when he began to come to. An assistant quickly carried Andrew to the van, handed her a sheet of instructions and sent them on their way. It was one awful hour long ride home with Andrew screaming and flailing as much as the seatbelt would allow. An hour after being home, the sedatives were still making it hard for him to keep his balance. He had a little pain in his teeth at dinner and breakfast the next morning, but after that our little trooper acted like nothing ever happened.
Andrew finally visited the pediatrician in January. She didn't have much to say. All his blood work looked good. He did need to catch up on a few shots which meant 3 in January and 4 more last week. He didn't like them at all and screamed quite a bit, but quieted down before we left the office. Again, he's a trooper and didn't act like anything was wrong after we left. We did assure him that he would not have anymore shots for a long time. Now when someone says "doctor", Andrew says, "no more shots". The big thing we're waiting on is a visit with a neurologist to see what they think stateside about Andrew's hydrocephalus. Our pediatrician's office got a visit set up for us in Atlanta on the 28th of this month. We'll keep you posted.
It has been almost 6 months since we took Andrew out of the orphanage for good. He is adjusting so well and is definitely attached to us. However, we have only gone out and left him with Jen's sisters a couple of times for a couple of hours. We still do not send him to Sunday school class and don't plan on it until the Fall. He turns 5 in the summer and can go to class with his siblings in September when they switch out the classes.
Maybe we're over protective, but we can still see a change in his attitude towards us when we have left him or even when we have large gatherings. We even noticed a little attitude in him during church on Sunday mornings if we didn't hold his hand coming into the building. These attitudes were extremely mild and not noticeable to others, but we could sense them. For the time being we feel that it is beneficial for him to stick with mommy and daddy. We were the same way with all the others their first year of life, so why do it any differently for Andrew.
Andrew came potty trained. What a huge blessing!!! However, he does wear a diaper at night. Somehow he can sleep through anything and doesn't wake up to use the potty. We even have to have him in a diaper for car rides over a couple of hours because there is a good chance he will fall asleep and wet. We have been prepping him that when he turns 5 and stays dry all night he won't have to wear diapers anymore. He gets so excited, especially when you tell him that he'll be like Tobin and will be able to wear underwear to bed. Aaron's big chant that the kids still use today, "No more diapers, pee pee on the potty!!!!!" worked for the other 4. We'll keep you posted.
Prepping the kids
Before leaving to bring Andrew home we sat down with the kids and talked about what life might look like with a new brother. We told them for a season everything we did would revolve around Andrew and bringing him into our family. He would have to adapt to us as well, which would take time. We told them that they may feel neglected at times but we encouraged them to talk to us about it. At the same time we as parents saw this as a great opportunity to walk alongside our children and help them "consider others better than [themselves]"Phillipians 2:3
We went out to eat one night and a woman asked our daughter, Rachel, if the boys were twins. Without missing a beat she replied, "No, they're 10 months apart." The look on her face was priceless. She then asked if they were all siblings. Again Rachel matter of factly said,"Yes." Now her husband had a look."How do you manage?" he asked. We told him that somedays we don't.
What impresses us is that it never occurs to our children to mention that Andrew has been adopted.
We also explained to the kids that at first, Andrew would not be disciplined the same and it might appear to them as if he were getting away with everything. We told them that discipline would change as our relationship with Andrew grew. Today Andrew is "loved "to the same measure as his older siblings.
A tiny tidbit that worked for us concerning the shoe issue with most adopted children: Andrew wanted his shoes on all the time, which wasn't a problem in Bulgaria. However, we do not wear shoes in our house. Knowing this might be a problem, we bought Andrew slippers as soon as we got home. This way he could have inside and outside shoes. It worked! It actually worked so well that within a matter of days he didn't even bother to wear his slippers and went stocking footed around the house. We don't know if it will work for others, but figured we would make mention of it anyway.
I love you
For the first few weeks of bringing Andrew home we would say, "obicham te" and he would respond back "obicham te". After that we started to say "I love you" and he would respond back with something that sort of sounded like "I love you". While this was amazing and brought joy to our hearts this past week we cannot express the new emotions that came when Andrew said on his own, without prompting, "I love you". This just happened last week when one night he said it to Jen and the next night to Aaron. The third night at dinner, again without prompting, and having nothing to do with the converstaion he said, "I love mommy, daddy."
We love our son more than words can express and are so thankful to God for bringing him into our family.