Friday, November 7, 2014

one month in.

There is so much to reflect upon now that Joseph has been home for almost a month and a half. I know I've said this before, but it seems so he's been here forever. And so much has changed within such a short span of time.

If you had asked me a month ago how things were going, honestly, I was a little "frazzled," to say the least. Things were a bit stressful over here. It is way too easy for me--as an over-analyzer--to get stuck focusing on the hardships and the difficulties of Joseph's transition. Of course, my heart's desire is to get to the root of each issue, so that I can "fix" things and make the hard times go away for him. But that's not reality, and it is something that simply takes time and healing. Thank goodness I have a merciful Father in Heaven, a saint of a husband, two parents whose door is always open, lots of angels, and some true friends who helped me navigate through those hard times.

When one considers how suddenly--and drastically--Joseph's life changed, he has done amazingly well.  I would be remiss if I didn't sit back and take a look at all of the beautiful blessings that have taken place here in our presence. I want to post some of the important milestones in the major progress that Joseph has made. A friend of mine recently wrote the most beautiful post about how resilient kids are. It is so true when you think about all the change this child, and others like him, have dealt with, but it's all for good. It is such a God-given blessing to watch his glorious unfolding.

I will always remember the first time we went to the park with friends, and how Joseph's instinct told him to run over to me and "check in" every few minutes to make sure I was still there, even though I was in plain sight. He just wanted to touch me, call me "Mama," hear my voice, and then would go right back to playing. Now when we go to the park, his check-ins are much less frequent, (unless we are in a new setting) and it is clear that he feels much more secure.

His first week home, I watched our son stuff a large Ziploc bag full of cars and small toys that he selected from our "communal" toy bin. He quickly ran off to his room and hid the bag in his bed, along with a few other special things we'd given him. He'd bring the bag out to play, pretty much daily, but it always went right back to his "secret" hiding place. A week later, Joseph came into the living room, and I watched him place his bag of prized possessions behind the toy bin. What a huge step for him! At one point, Joseph had stacked so many things on his nightstand that I finally emptied out one of the drawers beneath his bed to hold all of his special belongings, and there is such an assortment in there: a church bulletin, a roll of scotch tape, his first birthday party take-home gift, a pack of crayons wrapped in a LaBamba kiddie menu, to name a few. He still, even now, prefers to keep his gifts and certain items right next to his bed, as if that is his "safe" and designated space. Eventually, he will realize that it's not necessary, and that his items are safe in the house wherever they are. But he is, alas, making significant progress.

I recall, in those first weeks of his daily tantrums and I struggled physically to hold a stiff and rigid body--his eyes appeared as though he'd 'checked out' emotionally, and it seemed almost impossible to console him. A month later--in the midst of a breakdown--I embrace a little boy who melts into my arms and allows me to cradle him, dry his tears, and ease his pain. Joseph's adoption file indicated that he didn't emote at all and stated that "the child is introverted, cute, does not like to express his happiness and anger."  Yes, he is cute, but he is far from introverted now, and he readily expresses both happiness and displeasure! It is hard to believe this is the same child based on that report. Perhaps, (as a dear friend reminded me) this is a normal part of the developmental process that he'd missed out on. Could it be a huge step that he even feels comfortable enough to show that side of himself? That thought made me view a temper tantrum in a whole different light.
One month ago, our little boy had complete fits getting into the van. It made complete sense. Previously, his life had been--for the most part--confined to the walls of an orphanage. Becoming accustomed to our life of driving here and there took some time. He now knows "the program," jumps into the van without resist, and also buckles his seat belt voluntarily without any fight (for the most part). I can't begin to explain how much progress has been made there! Trust me on this...

We are thankful that Joseph didn't skip a beat when it came to his bedtime routine. He and Charlie go right to sleep in their beds every night. Joseph still makes his way into our bedroom between midnight and 2 a.m. every night. He crawls up and snuggles in between Jimmy and me. We can only imagine that he must wake up feeling the need to make sure we are still there. Heck, he missed out on five years of this. And we are perfectly fine with this routine and firmly believe that it is temporary. We feel that eventually he will wake up and his little brain will tell him, "Oh yeah...Mommy and Daddy are right down the hall," and with that he will go back to sleep. To us, it is a bigger and better deal that he is going to sleep in his own bed every night at a decent hour and that he is getting sleep at all. 

Our little guy still loves his bath. It is evident that he is thrilled to bathe every single night instead of the two times per week that he bathed in the orphanage. At first, Joseph insisted on washing himself from head to toe, and he was quite proud to show us what a good job he did. I loved his independence, but I wanted him to know that he doesn't have to do everything for himself. He deserves a little motherly pampering, doesn't he? Only after a couple of weeks, Joseph began to prefer that I shampoo his hair for him, and he gives the sweetest smile while I rinse his hair, carefully trying to avoid his eyes and face...a far cry from the little guy who, a month ago, dumped buckets of water over his own head.

Food...ah, food! One of my mommy struggles...I can't seem to put weight on this kid! But he is getting taller, so that's a positive! Joseph hasn't proven to be a food hoarder, which is quite common among children his age from orphanage settings; although, he does enjoy stalking the pantry. Joseph grazes throughout the day, which is a really good thing. He loves protein, especially chicken. He can clean a chicken wing like no one I've ever seen, and he will pick on a roaster chicken for days! His other favorite foods include potatoes, bananas, strawberries, grapes, and graham crackers. We can get him to drink whole milk, but he's fallen off the yogurt train, and seems to decline foods with a soft or mushy consistency (applesauce, hummus, guacamole, shakes, cheeses). He's not a big bread fan, either. Thankfully, he takes his Juice Plus pretty faithfully.

Joseph's English words are coming in slowly but he is getting it! This child understands so much! Sometimes I will direct a request to Charlie or Madi, and Joseph is the one who actually does what I ask! Of course, there are still times when the language barrier becomes frustrating, but we are managing it pretty well! I think amazingly well, actually, when I think of those first weeks! Somehow the language of love gets the point across every time...hard to imagine, but it does! He can recite the alphabet and can count pretty clearly to at least thirty. Oh...and he definitely knows how to say, "Let it Go!"

Joseph is a loving child with a big heart, and he loves to share...on his terms. And when it's not on his terms, let's just say he's still learning! In the presence of friends, he will run inside to grab snacks for all the children, not just himself. He loves to be the one to give. He loves to be the one to help...usually on his terms, too. He really likes to be in control...not surprising given his circumstances. And he is strong willed and stubborn as the day is long...hmmm, just like the rest of us in this house!

Our son is definitely at his happiest when he is surrounded by kids. He just glows! Joseph loves to play and his personality comes alive, especially when he is outside. He is incredibly active and physical, but at the same time, he is creative and loves crafts, too. We are constantly struck by Joseph's determination. It seems there is nothing this child can't do!

Here I sit, a mere month-and-a-half later, to say that we have made it through the toughest part of this transition. That spec of time is nothing in the scheme of things! Of course, having put that statement in writing tells me that Murphy's Law will somehow prevail. Kidding aside, I am truly in awe of God's blessings. He's found us, once again, the perfect match for our family. We love this new little Murphy so very, very much. Adoption rocks.

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