Sunday, September 12, 2010

'Meant to be....'

One Year Ago


I have wanted to write so much about the past year but life is so much busier (and richer) now. It's also just so hard to put into words all my thoughts. I came up with the title of this post based on something Claire told me on the way home from Texas. We were somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona staying one night in a hotel. We were swimming in the pool and Claire says to me “Mama, you know, Nicholas and I were meant to be brother and sister. We’re good brother and sister even if he wasn’t in your tummy.” Wow, isn’t that awesome?!

Exactly a year ago, we were arriving in America with one of its newest citizens, Nicholas Roma. I go back and look at those pictures and Nicholas looks so different. He just looks so shell shocked. Now, the first 6 months especially were very challenging with him, but he is doing so well and is so happy. I think he is resilient and a testament to how the human spirit can overcome a difficult start in life.

I will never forget the first day we came together as a family on September 12, 2009. All 3 of us were so jetlagged, but especially Nicholas. We arrived home to an empty house after the drive from LA. Nicholas was amazed at everything in our house and kept saying 'spaseeba' (thank you)over and over. At one point he was searching through the house while asking a question in Russian or Kazakh. He broke down in his room and all I could do was try to rock him and soothe him although we were trying to learn how we could best comfort him. It is so much different with an adopted child than a bio child. I managed to soothe him a bit and it was about this time that our friends arrived with our girls.

Well, when they arrived with their bags, Nicholas ran out to greet them on our walkway and hugged Claire like they were long lost brother and sister. Unfortunately I totally missed this special moment. He was so happy to see the girls, maybe he was worried he would be by himself. I can't imagine what was going through his mind and body when he first arrived. He is just so young to really comprehend what is happening. He started showing all the toys to the girls as if they were arriving for the first time, too, it was the funniest thing to see him say 'smotree' (look) and show all the toys. Claire kept saying 'I know that'!

In the very beginning, he was like a wild thing just getting into everything, throwing toys, overflowing the toilet, burning his fingers on the hot stove, exploding in tantrums, biting/kicking/spitting while I was trying to restrain him but at the same time he was amazed at new things like toys, airplanes in the sky, so much food, new foods like strawberries, tacos, sandwiches, fun parks, etc. At first he was stubborn about learning English and insisted on calling an airplane 'samolyot'. Of course, he had to learn English and he did learn so quickly!

Physically, Nicholas is very healthy. He has had some digestive issues as well as some other symptoms, though. This summer he went to an allergist who determined through a blood test that he is either allergic or has an intolerance to gluten. The doctor recommended a gluten/lactose free diet and since then he has not had the runny nose he used to have. In the past year he has grown at least 7 inches and put on about 4-5 pounds.

He has changed so much over the year he has been here, not just physically but also emotionally. More of his true personality emerges with time. Deep down we can see he is a caring and sweet boy. He truly wants to please us and is willing to learn. Every morning he is happy for another day and he enjoys going to preschool. He usually greets his teacher with big hugs and starts his day at school at full speed.

I am so glad we made the decision to send him to preK again this year as opposed to Kindergarten (in CA he would be eligible for Kindergarten since he turns 5 before December 1st). He is learning lots of social skills and enjoying more play time. I know he will not be as stressed to start Kindergarten in 2011 and will not have to struggle to catch up.

He has learned so much about living in America, a new language, living in a family, etc. He is not the only one to learn, as I feel like I have learned so much. I've learned about unconditional love, I've learned about real parenting, I've learned about dysregulation and regulation and I've learned about the resiliency of children. And I've learned how, oh, how different boys are from girls. It's a whole other world!

During our challenges, I have tried to access all the resources I could find. I've relied on other adoptive parents, adoption and parenting books, our pastor, counselors and friends. We are lucky Nicholas qualified for the 0-5 years program at a local guidance clinic. He just began a weekly social skills class based on 'The Incredible Years' curriculum for early intervention. I think we have also been fortunate that he has had 2 really great teachers at his preschool. Nothing can completely prepare you for this journey but for adoptive parents out there, keep an open mind, read different types of adoption books, learn about attachment parenting, talk to other adoptive parents.

We are definitely settling into our new normal and can't imagine our lives any different!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Fun 2010

Wow, the summer flew by. We had a busy and fun summer. Nicholas started summer school at his preschool, the girls finished off the academic year with performances in their ballet school’s Gala, the girls also did some summer day camps with friends and the girls attended VBS at a friend’s church. For the 4th of July holiday, we made our usual trip up to Sacramento to spend time with extended family. We also had the pleasure of meeting another adoptive family who had adopted 3 children from Asia including an older boy about Nicholas’ age. We met at a park and it was so nice for the kids to have kids to play with and it felt like we had that instant bond that adoptive families have, especially those that adopt ‘older’ kids.

The summer started off well with lots of activity and lots of swimming. Swimming lessons were in order for Nicholas but it turned out he is half fish and he learned to swim really quickly. We did have some challenges with Nicholas when he started back to summer school. He had a really hard time with the transitions of one teacher leaving, changing classrooms, new class, etc. Also, hubby and I took a much needed weekend away to the coast while Grandma and Grandpa stayed with the kids. This was also the first week for Nicholas to meet Grandma and Grandpa in person. We thought he might be expelled from preschool due to some aggression, fortunately the school staff was patient and understanding of our situation and Nicholas was able to attend 2 sessions as we planned.

By mid July we were packing our bags and getting ready for our ‘annual’ trek across the Southwest so we could spend 3 weeks in Texas. We had a great time and Nicholas did better than I ever expected. We spent one night in Amarillo with my dear friend, D, then headed for the Big ‘D’ to spend some quality time with hubby’s family. Some of his family had never met Nicholas in person. It was so much fun to see all the little cousins playing together. One morning all the girls made a special shopping trip to the American Girl store while the boys went the airplane museum near Love Field. While in Dallas, we spent time with family and a few friends. We also had the pleasure of meeting a family who had just brought their almost 5 year old home from Kazakhstan. I’m sure it was confusing for him but he was a sweet boy and I hope we get to see them the next time we travel to Texas. We also visited Houston and Austin; we enjoyed time with dear friends, swimming, and museums. On the way home, we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns and enjoyed a long hike into the dark caverns.

All in all, we had a wonderful trip, we wanted to go home yet 3 weeks was not enough time to enjoy all the swimming, fun times with friends, Blue Bell ice cream, Tex Mex food, etc. Nicholas did really well during the trip and had a good time and can't wait to go to Grandpa and Grandma's again.

More pictures to come later...