Sunday, August 17, 2014

We're Home: Four Weeks

Yes. I realize that my blog has had us stuck in Ethiopia for the past few weeks. The reality couldn't be further from that. On July 19 we scooped up everything from the guest house, took our sleepy little son to the airport, and spent the next twenty-something hours traveling and trying to make it home. It was hard. But sometimes we got fun pictures like this:

And then, when we thought we could not take it one more step, handle one more in-flight meal, or deal with one more airport, we arrived home. In our tiny town. In our tiny airport. With our friends and family. That airport moment? The one we had been waiting for since March 2011? It finally happened. On July 20, 2014 three of us stepped off the plane in our matching attire and our friend Gerik snapped this photo of our family, finally in our town.

Aren't you glad you can't smell airport stink in photos? You should be, my friends. You should be.

I drove the short drive home with a wide-eyed boy in the back, next to my husband. We gently placed him in the bed we'd lovingly assembled and crashed into dreamland. Hard.

And that, my friends, was the beginning.

I've wanted to write you for four weeks. To tell you what life is like and tell you we're safely at home as a family of three. That's easier said than done. I am more tired than I can explain to you. The free moments are fleeting and usually, by the time our little is asleep, I send out a few work emails and crash. Hard.

I struggle to tell you what the past four weeks have been like. If you have heard of Jen Hatmaker, she says things way better than I ever could. Of course, she's a professional author so that's probably why. Here's a post Jen wrote a few months after she arrived home. And here's one she wrote a year later, reflecting on what their journey was like.

For us, we had heard we would have a "honeymoon period" where our son would kind of live in "fake world" before he started to deal with the struggles of trauma and brokenness. While this may be the experience for some, this wasn't ours. Pretty much from the moment he got home, we saw how hard this whole thing was for him. As we've mentioned before, we aren't sharing the details of his particular story or struggle. Those details are his. But know that adoption always comes from brokenness. And we see him struggle with coming to terms with that brokenness each and every day.

Picture, if you will a moment, you're seven. Everything you've ever known has been ripped away from you by some people who don't look anything like anyone you've ever seen before. They promise you it will be for the best but you met them about a month ago so in your head, you have no reason to believe them. They tell you family is forever. You have no concept of this. They take your language, your food, your friends, your school, your smells, your home, and everything you've known. And then, they expect you to act happy. Grateful even.

Guys, that's the definition of insanity. I mean.

But attachment is a dance. And in between the hard stuff, our days are filled with beauty and connection and love.

Anyway, here's what I know. The last month of my life has been incredible. I love a little boy more than I could ever, ever imagine. In four weeks, he's wrapped himself around my heart in ways I thought might be possible but I had no. stinking. idea.

I realize the next sentence makes me really lucky. I got to take a month off work to bond with my child. This month could not have been more needed. And it made me realize how lucky I am to have adopted an older child. Because bonding? Well. Lets just say I'm pretty tan from all our bonding. Exhibit A:

From the moment we got IC home, he talked about the pool. So we started going every day. I can't say this has been the best summer for the pool. It's been a little cold. But he hasn't noticed. We go almost every day, rain or shine. In case you were wondering, no, he had never been swimming before. But he went from staring in amazement to spending almost our entire three hours each day underwater.

We've taken to getting ice cream after our pool adventures so I have a regular little Starbucks lover. He did eventually figure out what real ice cream is. But mama still gets Starbucks and he then goes through the ice cream window for a vanilla cone with sprinkles.

Another thing we've been doing lots of: bike riding. A sweet friend got IC a bike. Before he had ever met us, one of his updates said he would like to learn to ride a bike. We promised to make this happen. So on day four of being home, we tried to teach him. And on day five, we bought training wheels and went back out again. Because teaching without training wheels was surely going to be the death of E or me.

For the first few weeks we ran beside him and he pedaled. We found a cute park near our house and would take morning outings to the park. IC loves to take pictures. He usually asks to send them to daddy or grandmama. Like this one:

And this one:

The running-by-the-bike worked for a short while but it wasn't long before I was panting. Well. A dear friend and neighbor offered me her bike and I started riding next to him early two weeks ago. Which was just in time. Because last Saturday we were on a ride, he headed home, found a wrench, removed his own training wheels, and took off with fury. I was so glad I had a bike to keep up. That kid is fast! And he NEVER gets tired. Between E and I we probably rode 25 miles or so with him this weekend. Is IC tired? No. But mom and dad are sleeping well at night.

And maybe you're wondering how the dog thing is going?

Let's just say Dash has a new best friend and we have one less dog sleeping in our bed at night. Those two are inseparable. It's like they knew they were meant for each other. We're so glad they have each other. They have a sweet little friendship going on.

Yes, this month has brought us so far. We're figuring each other out. We're falling in love and learning how to love better.

I am sure a million times a day I'm doing it all wrong. But as my friend texted me the other day, I have never been more in need of Jesus and his grace than I am right during these early days as a family of three. 

I've been so thankful for our little village. We've had meals dropped at our doorstep, gift cards mailed to us, texts sent, visits on the from stoop (so as not to disturb our bonding process), prayers given, hugs given, tears shed with us. And we know this is just the beginning.

Someone found the costume bag

We're slowly beginning to add real life back in. I went back to work this week. We've started to attend church. And yes, little IC starts second grade on Tuesday. I've never seen anyone more nervous to start school in my whole life. If you think about it, say a prayer for our beauty on Monday night or Tuesday morning.  One more thing in the list of new experiences and our little perfectionist is so worried he won't do well because his English isn't at the standard he has set for himself.

In the midst of all this, I have an amazing husband. When I'm sure I can't be alone for one more second, he sends me to Target or the bathtub or the grocery store. Or, amazingly, to take a nap. And I am refreshed.  And thankful to co-parent with a man who loves God most, me second, and our little IC in amazing ways.

Each day we cling to each other and our faith as we learn how to be a family. And each day we laugh, we smile, and we know God's up to something good. And sometimes good means hard work. And that's just fine with us. Because we can't imagine life without our little IC.