Wow, I can't believe we have been a family of 5 for 4 months now and it's time for another update ( I will post pictures in a different post, after all, that's really why you check my blog, right???). The time has gone by fast. We are all doing well. Nicholas is very happy and has been really growing. He is now about a size 4, up from about a size 2 when we first met him. He looks so much healthier in relation to his age. He started preschool last week and will attend from 9am to 1pm Monday through Friday. He really likes his teacher and he had fun as they have things he enjoys during free play. He is also learning to follow direction and rules and how to play with other children.
Yesterday afternoon, after the girls finished their homework, Nicholas wanted to work on a perler bead project. This is an activity that really helps with fine motor skills, something he needs to improve. He kept asking for help over and over and since I was helping Olivia with her homework, I told him Claire could help. He didn't want Claire's help, he kept asking for me over and over to help. I finally told him he needed to start it, do as much as he can and then I would help. Well, I was astonished that he continued to stay focused on this task and finished all by himself! I am so proud of him. Claire also did a perler bead project and I'm so proud she even did a nice pattern on the flower instead of just random colors. Olivia (with just a little help from mom) made a Panda out of polymer clay for her teacher's birthday. It turned out really cute and she really did most of the work on it.
I am reflecting back on the last 4 months and to be honest, there have been difficult moments. The beginning was rough as I compare Nicholas to an alien having been dropped into our planet. Can you imagine being almost 4 and being taken away from everything you know even if it wasn't that great there? The food in your new home is all different, the language is all different, the rules are all different and you don't understand anything. All you know is this nice Mama and Papa are taking you for a plane ride and you will be living with them. And they are not always nice because they don't let you eat apples all day and they tell you 'no' a lot. Will you have to go back to the babyhouse? Why are you going for a ride in the car? What is going to happen next?
Everything was so new to Nicholas and in the beginning there were a lot of tantrums, I mean kicking, biting, spitting tantrums that lasted for a long time and often. There was also a lot of turning on and off of lights, discovering the refrigerator, stove, faucets, and other appliances. We had to really babyproof our house again, putting dangerous things away, decluttering, finding ways to lock up cabinets. I really worried about day to day things during the beginning, like how was I going to take a shower and get ready, what about taking the girls to and from school, getting to the grocery store, etc. In the beginning, I locked the door to our master bedroom and closed the girls's doors as there was still a lot of things he could get in to and we also had to make sure our house doors were childproof. I ended up taking a shower and getting ready in the kids bathroom while I had Nicholas watch a Baby Einstein video for about 20 minutes.
Now, he understands more of what his boundaries are and I think it was important to work not only on bonding but on boundaries and what is expected. We also had to teach him toilet 'etiquette', turning on/off lights, water, etc. while building our bond and trust with him. I feel so lucky that we had so many friends help us out in the beginning with offers of help with the girls, meals, offers of getting groceries for us. This is what we needed the most, more than new toys or clothes for Nicholas. We needed help just so we could focus on Nicholas and really be there for him during this huge transition for him.
It's so amazing to think back to 4 months and look at Nicholas now, playing happily by himself, happily sometimes with Claire, playing with his buddy, having fun experiencing new things like Christmas, parties, trips with a stay in a hotel, etc. He is just so happy. He is also a very sweet and loving boy. A parent from his school told me he accidentally kicked a ball in her chest as she walked through the playground and he ran up to her and told her 'Are you okay? I'm so sorry!'. There are still challenges as the times when he is defiant and tells us 'no' just to say 'no' but we are working on that. Hubby and I have had to struggle with parenting, adjust our strategy and it has been stressful but we love each other and our kids and we strive to make it all work. I feel lucky and blessed to have such a wonderful family, kids who want to contribute to our family, kids who who are eager to learn and who are loving and a husband who is involved and supportive of all of us. I also feel we are blessed to have so many friends, church friends, family and even strangers supporting us through their prayers for us.
I was inspired by another adoptive family who had their son help make truffles. I remember having Olivia help me in the kitchen when she was really young and it's always fun to see them experience something new, get messy, and enjoy helping. So I've started having Nicholas help me more in the kitchen so he feels a part of our family and also to learn practical skills, stirring, pouring, cutting, etc. I hope this will help him with some of his fine motor skills. Here are some pictures and video of the kids helping to make truffles in December.
Whew, the first week back at school is over. It was also Nicholas' first week at preschool. The girls were anxious to go back to school to see their friends and Nicholas was so excited to go to school like the girls. It was really tough with a new schedule even though I had about 2 hours to myself. It was really nice to have a little time to myself, but that time goes so fast.
We are leaving Sacramento after celebrating the New Year Japanese-American style with my hubby's extended family. We had an awesome trip! Truthfully, I was anxious about how the trip would go and how Nicholas would be on his first trip. I'm so glad we chose to stay in a hotel, it was nice for us to be all together and be able to get away from a lot of new people (for Nicholas). I cannot even begin to tell you how good it feels to have such a great trip, this really bodes well for our future trips and adventures.
On our trip, Nicholas kept saying, "I so happy", "Mama so happy", I think he had a really good time. I could see he did get overstimulated and didn't know what to do with himself sometimes. He was happy most of the time and especially enjoyed swimming at the hotel pool. Today, we took him to the train museum and he really liked it, except he kept saying 'oh, the trains are broke', I don't think he fully understands the concept of a museum.
As we make our trek back home, I can't help but remember this time last year when we went to the Secretary of State's office to apostille all of our documents for our dossier. While Nicholas was in a babyhouse halfway around the world, we were finishing up our paperwork and thinking about our son to be. Incredible.