Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving and the Nutcracker

We had a wonderful time hosting Thanksgiving in our home this year. Eli and Mikayla were fortunate to have both sets of grandparents come over, as well as other wonderful members of our extended family. We enjoyed our feast, watched football, and played bocce ball in the backyard.
All set for our guests...

Since Mikayla wore new clips in her hair, Eli asked for his mohawk!
The day after Thanksgiving, Mikayla and I had a "girls night out," and attended the Nutcracker ballet! This is a pretty regular tradition for my mom, sister, and I. It was fun this year to bring my daughter along :) She woke up from her nap early that afternoon because she was so excited to put on her beautiful dress. You can also see her purse making an appearance in some of the photos below. She was so proud of that purse! She loved the Nutcracker and has added the words "ballet," "ballerina," and "nutcracker" to her English vocabulary. She picked out a beautiful ballerina ornament for the Christmas tree, and brought home a nutcracker ornament for Eli. By the way, Eli definitely didn't get the short end of the stick as he was lucky to have a guys night with dad hanging out at the Apple store and seeing a movie in the theater!

All ready to go!
The beloved purse
Waiting in our seats for the show to start - we had so much fun!

Adoption Attachment/Adjustment Update

It's hard to believe, but we have been home with Mikayla now for just over seven weeks! Our family has come a long way in that time in regards to adjusting and attachment. We still have a long way to go, but progress has been made little by little. I wanted to share a few of the areas where we have struggled since coming home, since I know many adoptive families read this blog and can either learn from us or relate to us :)

  • Mikayla would often have periods of "zoning out" on us, when we were in Ethiopia and when we first came home. Most of the time, we would notice her losing interest in whatever was happening at the time (eating, playing, etc.) and then we would notice the tears falling. Sometimes the tears became full sobs, and other times remained silent tears. We would often just respond by holding and comforting her. She typically bounced back in a fairly short amount of time. Nowadays, she doesn't really fall into this pattern of "zoning out" anymore. She will usually approach us when something is wrong and doesn't usually cry for no apparent reason. It is likely that she was just having moments of grieving during those first weeks. She also had no attachment to us at the time, so she would not approach us for comfort - she would just be content to cry on her own, unless we approached and held on to her.
  • When we were in Ethiopia, she had multiple episodes of refusing to eat meals. We knew we were serving her foods that she liked, because she would ask for them and most of the time it was something she had liked, and eaten, the day before. Once the food would arrive though, she would take one bit, shove the plate, and just start crying. At first we tried to order something new for her, but she repeated this behavior with anything that was given. So, we quickly started holding a boundary with this... she either ate what was served, or chose not to eat. This resulted in a few "fits" during meal times, but we also noticed that she quickly learned she wasn't getting something else and would often decide to eat the food. This behavior has only repeated itself once since we've been home. We aren't really sure what it was, but likely some type of control issue or way of testing us - versus actually being about the food. Thankfully, she now enjoys almost all types of foods and usually asks for "more!"
  • Mikayla seemed to attach to Micah more than me when we were in Ethiopia. But since coming home, and Micah returned to work, she has been acting out more defiantly toward him... refusing to listen, obey, etc. She will also hit him at times. This typically happens if I leave the house to go run errands and Micah is home alone with the kids. There are so many "good" reasons Mikayla could have as to why she is acting this way with him, that we don't even try to pinpoint it. Instead, we are just working with our social worker to use strategies/methods to help her break out of this pattern. We have actually seen some improvement in the past couple of weeks, which was a huge relief because we felt like we hit rock bottom before that. Poor Micah :(
  • When we first came home, Mikayla rarely liked to make eye contact with us. She was also not very affectionate. She was more affectionate in Ethiopia, but that was probably "fake" affection that wore off once reality set in. We have used some strategies given by our social worker to help in these areas, and I have seen huge improvement here!! She will now let me cuddle with her before bed... the trick being that SHE is cuddling back with her arms around me (it's no longer just one-sided!). She will also make eye contact much more often, and if she does look away, she will eventually look back. Our son, Eli, is very affectionate so her lack of affection has been hard for him. He loves giving hugs and kisses. She is finally responding more to him as well, and I even saw her initiate a hug with him the other day! That is huge change from how she used to just try to pull herself away.
  • Eli really had a tough time adjusting to his new sister, even with as much as he loved having her here. We saw him acting out in ways that we had never seen before. I often wondered where my little boy had gone?!? Although he still has tough days, things are nowhere near as bad as they were just 4 weeks ago. The two siblings are learning to love and play with one another. Just this morning I listened to them play and laugh together without my having to intervene!! It was music to my ears :)
  • We have dealt with a few health issues: tape worm (now cured), nail fungus (still dealing with), ring worm (still dealing with), and quite a few cavities that we will eventually get taken care of. Nothing too serious, but ring worm is definitely annoying! All of us caught it, and it's very stubborn about going away :(
  • The fact that Mikayla didn't speak English, really hasn't been an issue at all - I add that in here because many people ask about that. Honestly, there are so many ways to communicate without using words :) She is learning the English language so rapidly, it's just amazing. She already has a large vocabulary and is now attempting to ask questions and/or explain things in English. She mostly understands everything we say to her. The language barrier was one of the least concerning things we encountered since taking custody of Mikayla.
  • As a mom, I am attaching more and more to my new daughter each day, in the same manner that she is attaching to me. I am thankful for the moments that God provides where I just have the opportunity to glimpse deeper into her beautiful personality/soul and see who she really is and see how we fit perfectly together. More and more it is becoming hard to remember what life was like before Mikayla was part of our family. I am so thankful that God brought her to us - it was the perfect match.
So there's a glimpse into the past two months of our lives on the adoption-related issues. That probably wasn't interesting at all to some of you, but it will make me happy to look back at this post a year from now and compare where we are then :) Even 6 months from now! Feel free to leave a comment and ask questions if you have any.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankgiving Eve

Typically we do not set up our Christmas tree until after Thanksgiving, but tonight we gave in and put on some Christmas music while we hung ornaments. It has been fun the past couple of months experiencing all of Mikayla's "firsts" with her, and decorating the Christmas tree was no exception :) She thoroughly enjoyed hanging ornaments and each time she hung one she would come back and ask for "more?" "more?" "more?" Eli loves Christmas decorations as well. He gets excited as soon as we start seeing them in stores, so he was thrilled about tonight's activity and kept asking me if Santa was coming. When I asked him what he is thankful for on this Thanksgiving, he replied "I'm thankful for Christmas trees." Yes, he is. Me too.

What is Mikayla thankful for? Well, I think one of things she is most thankful for currently are her new earrings. Yep, we got her ears pierced last week! She picked out the pink flower earrings (very fitting) and shows them off to everyone. I think they look so cute with her short curly hair! We even had success getting some clips to stay in her hair today, so we now have a few more options other than headbands. We had tried barrettes a couple of times, but they would just fall out after a short time of playing. I think she'll be sporting the new clips for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow :)
To top off the night, Eli taught Mikayla how to "truly" eat Oreo cookies by dipping them in milk. So yummy!

Our family obviously has so much to be thankful for this year. Here are a few things that stick out in my mind right now:
  • Bringing Mikayla home and experiencing the joys of a daughter
  • Eli, my little boy, who makes me smile and laugh on a daily basis
  • Harvest Community Church
  • Free baby-sitting (on many occasions) from my parents and in-laws
  • My sister who is always "on call" to help clean my house :)
  • A job that challenges me and that I enjoy
  • Being a mommy and having the opportunity to stay home with my kids for the past two months
  • Our Zoo membership
  • Starbucks bottled frappucinos
  • Finding great buys on clearance
  • Technology (internet, cell phones...)
  • The ability to play the piano (my outlet!)
  • The Twilight book series (hee hee)
  • The Bible
  • Micah - my confidante, my best friend, my lover
  • Jesus Christ - My rock, my redeemer, my strength, my Saviour
  • And finally, I am thankful that my world view was challenged this year. I'm thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to truly "see" the 142 million orphans who live in our world, and that He broke my heart for them. I'm thankful for the many conveniences I enjoy in my life that I so often take for granted (CLEAN DRINKING WATER), that much of the world does not have access to. I'm thankful that thinking about this makes me uncomfortable - because it should. I'm thankful that I live in one of the richest nations in the world, and have the "wealth" to help others... even if I don't always think I have much wealth, I just need to remember the mother in Ethiopia who lived with her two babies in a cardboard box in the alley behind our hotel. Then I am reminded, I have much to be thankful for, and am accountable for what I choose to do with the "much" that I have.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Ride on the Polar Express & More!

Last week our family enjoyed an overnight getaway to northern Arizona. We had tickets for the "Polar Express" train ride this year, and the kids really enjoyed it! We stayed in Flagstaff, home to NAU where I attended college, so it was fun to walk around the campus and reminisce a bit! We also enjoyed hiking/playing in the forest amongst the tall Ponderosa Pines, and even stopped to have dinner in Sedona on the way home to enjoy the view of the Red Rocks as well as the Christmas light competition held each year at one of the resorts. So fun!

Here we are waiting to board the Polar Express... the kids were so excited to wear their new jammies. Eli is sporting Buzz Lightyear, and Mikayla has on Princess Tiana in honor of the upcoming Disney release :)
Child wonderment and awe...
We enjoyed singing Christmas carols on the well as eating chocolate chip cookies! Every child on the train even received a silver bell from Santa when we reached the "North Pole."
Sitting on the steps of NAU's Old Main building
Thanks to the nice lady in the bookstore, our kids proudly marched down the sidewalks amidst the students holding these spirited signs :)I think they had more fun running and playing in the forest with sticks than they did doing anything else!Dressed warm & cozy at the Sedona Christmas lights competitionAnd of course a pic with Santa!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Family Photo Shoot

Thanks to my lovely sister-in-law, we had a FREE family photo shoot last weekend :) Despite having to wait out the rain and sitting on entirely wet surfaces (a rarity for where we live), I am so happy with how they turned out. Jen should go pro and start making some $$ off this gig!

Here are a few to share...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Happenings

Some random things we have been up to...

Pulling Mikayla down the tunnel slide since she was "too scared" to go by herself (thanks Eli)
Wearing our cute Ethiopian "Brother" and "Sister" shirts, made especially by Carrie (currently waiting to bring her beautiful baby princess home!)
Mikayla's first trip to the Zoo in honor of the Komodo Dragon exhibit opening
Look Mom!
Eli spies his favorite... the rhino!And the ever important stop to brush the goats... Mikayla kept pointing out their pee-pee on the ground and making sure I knew about it!
Feeding the ducks at the park with grandma and great-grandma (Eli told me the other day that he "likes both the grandma's")
Playing dress-up (yes I might use this to blackmail Eli during his teenage years, we'll leave it here on the blog for safekeeping in the meantime) BTW, a huge fight ensued over the tu-tu not long after this picture was taken, so all of the dress-up clothes are currently in "time out"
Just being cute so mom can take lots of pictures!
And finally, giving lots of hugs!