Sunday, August 23, 2009

Birthday, beach and Vomit????

Okay, I'm getting ready to commit a huge bloggie sin... and I have done it before, but this is really bad. I am getting ready to post about my newest son's first b-day as a member of Team Dragovich-- and I am NOT loading pictures. This is not by choice. I used Tony's camera to take pictures and he can't find the cord I need to upload the pics onto my camera. To make matters worse... I didn't even TAKE a camera yesterday to our day trip to the beach because again, Tony's camera is missing a cord AND his card is full... and my camera's battery is dead and I can't find the charger-- which it doesn't really hold a charge anymore, so I see the end of my camera coming... but still. How shameful.

So... Thursday, August 20th, was JB's 6th birthday. Luckily, Sam's b-day was two weeks before, so he got to see a birthday in real time as we celebrate here at Team D. As the days approached to his big celebration, we would mention to him that he was going to have a birthday soon. He would smile and say, "No. Biruk-e birthday. No". We didn't really know why he kept saying this, other than maybe it wasn't the day yet, so maybe he was confused. Then, when Thursday came, we all got up and did our birthday thing and he kept saying, "No. No, Biruk-e Birthday. Sam's birthday. No, Biruk-e birthday". Every time we would tell him happy birthday, or say, yes, it WAS his birthday, he would say no. He tolerated our birthday fun all day, but denied that it was ever his birthday. Tony and I were somewhat puzzled over this, not really knowing if we were making him upset, if he didn't understand, etc. We thought once we did the cake and presents, he would brighten up and say, "Sure! It can be my birthday!" Instead he seemed so uncomfortable and uncertain of what to make of all the fuss over him. And at one point, I thought he was going to cry. He kept his silly smile plastered on his face the entire time, but when Tony kept telling him it was his his birthday and he kept saying no, I wasn't so sure we weren't headed for trouble. The crazy thing is, I think it was exactly what he needed. The persistent attention, the celebration of him, the constant, "Yes! It IS your birthday!!"... he just doesn't know how to handle the attention, affection and consistent love. Tony and I had a long discussion and just wondering outloud about his entire reaction. We laughed that we had just witnessed a first-- a kid who DIDN'T want a BIRTHDAY!! Now, let me just clarify-- he DID want the presents and was happy to unwrap gifts labeled "JB". But, consistent with a lot of his little quirks, the anti-birthday reaction helped put more of a face on our little boy's tough life before us. Joshua-Biruk wears a lot of masks to hide the hurt that he has experienced already in life. Most of those masks seem to present themselves in ultra-silly behavior, resistance to a lot of attention and focus on him, immediate "wounded" behavior when he is offended by a brother, over obsessiveness over Tony... there are more than just these, but Tony and I see these masks the most.

But... PRAISE GOD!!!... we are seeing less and less of the "beaten down little puppy" and more and more of the truly wonderful boy, God has perfectly created. It seems as though in the past two weeks, we have started to turn a corner-- or maybe it is more of a very wide turn... but either way, ALL of us have begun to settle more and more into our new, expanded family. I know I have talked before about lack of eye contact-- just in the last week, JB has looked at me-- ON HIS OWN-- EVERY time I have asked him to!!!! And he will even maintain eye contact for more than 2 seconds! Even when it is for discipline purposes for which I am speaking to him... he looks directly at me, and responds in an appropriate way. He speaks to the boys before he whines at them. They have many hours a day of appropriate and happy playtime together AND he seems to be really digging both soccer AND homeschool-- both of which started this week. And the boys have become INFINITELY more compassionate, kind and tolerant of him. Every day we pray, multiple times a day, for God to weave our hearts together as a family and He is so very faithful. Of course He is!

Okay, so that was a lot about the "birthday"... I'll try to be more concise on the "beach & Vomit"... as they sorta go together. Earlier this week, Tony got a wild hair to take a day trip to the beach-- we live about 2+ hours away and have made it a day trip before. We're crazy like this. He wanted to see the Hurricane Bill waves. Sure! I RARELY turn down a trip to the ocean! So, yesterday morning we get up and out the door later than we wanted, but still pretty early and headed to the beach. I noticed that RiSa was more crabby and lethargic than normal as we got ready to go. She was more fussy and sassy. I assumed she was mad that we weren't eating breakfast before heading out the door-- the girl likes her food. Well... after about 40 minutes in the car, I found out the real culprit. RiSa was sick!!!! She still is. She threw up consistently on the drive to the beach and once while we were there. JB joined her, of course in the vomiting fun-- you know, he gets car sick pretty easily and we don't get to "our" beach via interstate-- two lane state roads, through little towns, full of starts and stops, slow moving vehicles, turns and uneven pavements. She seemed to liven up at the beach. We all had a blast in the waves and sand, came home sufficiently lobstered and I thought all was well. No. She started throwing up again around 7pm last night and is STILL throwing up. It is 10:30 am on Sunday. I have never had a child throw up for over 24 hours. And once she started vomiting last night, she maintained a steady rate of "sick, Mommy" every ten minutes or so. To say that I feel like my head is in a fog right now is an understatement. And I'm still blogging. Whatever. Pour me more coffee. My husband is calling me his "hero" and has crowned me a saint for "letting" him sleep all night while I stayed up. As if I could have woken him from his coma sleep if I tried. What a goof ball. :)

Okay... last but not least... here are a few more quick notes of our last week:

*We started doing school this week. Tricky with 5 kids in-tow, but after a few adjustments to the schedule and activities to keep little bodies busy at the right time... we had a GREAT WEEK!! Who knows what chaos will come, but at least I am over the "starting school again" hump.

*JB seems to really dig school. Don't get me wrong, he loves to play more, but he comes very willingly to the table when it is his turn for "Mommy time" (one-on-one instruction) and has even taken a couple of the things we discussed this week during story time and applied them to every day (the boys sees every American flag we drive by-- and is sure to point them out to me-- "MOM! FLAG-- America Flag!" Too cute)

*The RiSa cuteness factor continues... this morning AS she was vomiting into her puke bucket, Isaac made the comment, "Mom, I just can't get over how CUTE Selame looks in those new pajamas!" She's even cute when she is vomiting-- at least to SOME of us :)

*I have been able to run more lately. I either run while at the soccer fields during practice-- that is, when Tony comes with us, too; or I put RiSa in the jogger, JB and Sam ride their bikes and I even bring Penny-- the dog-- along. I let Wyatt and Isaac stay home, since I am staying right inside our little neighborhood. I can get about 3 1/2 miles out of the boys, and of course, RiSa is happy to ride as long as I can push her :).

*We found out that both of RiSa's ear drums are perforated this week. We are being referred to ENT where we will determine what needs to be done. Obviously, this happened before we had her-- not sure if the holes will close on their own or not. They must be pretty large to still be open after such a long time. We never received any reports while she was in the Transition Home that she had a bad ear infection-- not sure that we would have-- but still... I'm a little concerned that they won't heal on their own and she will need to have them surgically repaired. None of my children have ever needed to be operated on, yet. When the realization hit me (more like Tony mentioned it-- very casually, I might add-- yesterday on the way to the beach), my heart dropped to my stomach and I almost started crying. Then I knew...

... these ARE my children, given to me by God, Himself for a purpose and a plan.

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One month down... an eternity to go!!!

Well, it appears that I am back to "reflecting" (aka-- purging my inner thoughts and turmoil) less and moving through our new family dynamics more and more. Thus, the two weeks between posts! And, really... I should be running. For real. I skipped meeting my running group on Ft. Bragg this morning due to multiple RiSa interuptions to my sleep. Not to mention a husband who came home LATE-- or should I say, early morning??-- from the neighborhood poker match... he just COULDN'T leave, he says. He was winning. Whatever. All that to say, by the time the alarm went off at o'dark hundred, I was not responding. It has to be pretty bad for me not to leave at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning and steal away some "adult" time as well as get in a good run. Now I'm wondering if I should have just sucked it up and gone... hmmmm...

Enough of that.

So much of this side of adoption reminds me of the first months of bringing home a baby-- no matter what the ages of the children... maybe those who have brought home much older children would disagree. In alot of ways, we DID bring home at least ONE baby-- and some times I think... well... nevermind. :) A fellow adoption friend was encouraging me on the phone yesterday and saying how even it has been a month and that feels like a long time right now, when I look back after a year or more, it will be a fog. I concure... I DON'T really feel like it has been a long time since they have been home. I know that "foggy" feeling all too well... I've done it three times so far, and thankfully I am getting a "two for one" deal on this "foggy season"!! I long for the days when I will wake up and not say, "Oh! Here you still are!!" Not in a bad way or an "I wish you weren't here" way; but in a "Wait a minute. How do I parent ALL of you, again?? Oh that's right. There is no manual. I have no clue. Okay. What's for breakfast??" Am I scaring you yet?

The boys are adoring their little sister. I often hear out of one of their mouths every day, "Mom, I think she is the cutest thing ever!" or "Mom, she is sooooo cute!" or "Mom, she is the cutest girl I've ever seen!!" Lots of cuteness. As for little brother??? Not so much. This has been one of the hardest things for me to watch as a parent. The subtle and not-so-subtle rejection of my children to my children. And to make it all more confusing and frustrating to me is the fact that in a lot of ways, I can understand their actions-- I did not say I CONDONE or ACCEPT or ALLOW their actions... I just said I UNDERSTAND. This, of course, says as much about my lack of "seeing through God's-eyes" as it does theirs. The great thing is that I see progress. More of like two steps forward and one step back progress... but progress, none-the-less. JB is a lot more complicated than RiSa is. He can be very obstinate when he wants to be. He is quick to whine when he doesn't get his way. He won't listen to the boys when they tell him to stop doing whatever annoying thing he is doing all the while laughing uncontrollably because he thinks it is funny. Unfortunately for him, these things all add up to "annoying little brother syndrome". Poor kid!! But, the progress I see is in these little things: when he pouts, it lasts less time than it used to. When he is "offended" by one of his brothers he doesn't do his Ethiopian wail (WAAaaAAaaAAAaaAAAA... WAAAaaaAAAAaaaaAAAAAaaaa and so one) as quickly or as long term as before. Note: I call this the "Ethiopian" wail because RiSa's whiny cry sounds the same. Maybe some other adoptive parents can concure this same cry???). He is making better eye-contact than ever before-- although we still have a LONG way to go in this department and I will be very honest in saying that for Tony and I, this eye-contact thing-- especially when he has misbehaved-- is VERY FRUSTRATING. You don't have to tell me how common it is. I know. It is still frustrating. He ADORES Tony. He seems to like me, as long as Tony isn't around. And he always wants me to watch him do some new thing-- esp. in the water. But, he saves all his kisses for Tony and when I tell him how much I love him, he always says, "NO love. Daddy love Biruk-e." Then he smiles and goes off to play, not knowing the inner turmoil between knowing in my head to not take it personally and trying to stop the bleeding in my heart. Like I said-- or at least implied-- bonding and attaching with JB is definately a different road with more twists and turns.

Some other highlights: we made an impromptu trip with Tony to Florida this week. He had a conference to attend in which he was speaking and at the last minute I decided I would rather risk it with 5 kids on a resort than be stuck at home for 4 days with them-- despite the familiar territory. I knew it would be a stretch, but we talked it over and just did it. I'm SOOOO glad we did. Not to say it was the easiest thing to do-- 7 people packed like gypsies in a hotel room (is that politically correct to say?)-- but here are some of the highlights:

** JB is practically swimming. Four pools, the Gulf of Mexico and three brothers you are desparately trying to keep up with, will do that for ya. He was unrelenting and I have to say that the hours we spent working with him to "move the water" resulted in some great bonding and eye-contact practice.

**After driving about 4 plus hours, RiSa started to say indignitely from the middle row, "MOM. House! Mom... Houuuse." "MOM. Draga-bich HOUSE!!" Sweet. My girl can't say her last name without using foul language. I have to confess that this was HILARIOUS!!!!! One for the Memory book.

**Tony and I both think that JB came home from FL more relaxed and connected with all of us than when we went. I consider that trip a "pressure-cooker" of sorts. 5 days of forced close proximity-- esp. between him and the boys. They HAD to interact and although we had a lot of tussles and fussy arguments, somehow God worked in spite of it. It has helped me look at our upcoming school year with a little more anticipation and a little less fear :)

**More than once (as you can imagine) I heard these words, "Are these ALL your children??" "Why, yes!" I would reply proudly. "They are." Some other common comments: "God bless you." "There is an invisible halo over your head and a place in heaven waiting for you." "Wow. I thought four was a lot! And you look so YOUNG!" Yeah... I liked that one. I won't lie. And even as uncomfortable as the rest of the comments were to hear-- It was amazing how at that moment, I was encouraged by them, uplifted and felt like I could finish the day well. Never underestimate the power behind your encouraging words.

**I actually took all five of them OUT to eat by myself THREE times-- two of those times being on the same day. I am crazy. We had to eat. They did GREAT!!!!!

I better wrap this up. Now I am in the middle of figuring out how the heck I am going to homeschool with 5 kids in my house, one of them being a 2 year old-- who is VERY vocal. I'll keep you posted on that adventure. I am also looking at my garden-- or what is left of it. I am so sad to confess that my garden was a complete mishap this year. It is full of weeds and regularly being eaten by the deer. All of my flower beds and pots look the same. Unloved. And running??? Well... it is random and not focused. Imagine that. I'm not Super-Woman after all!! :)

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Tri"ing for a cause... You can Help!!!!

So, if you haven't figured out by now, I am a long distance runner-- some might even say I am a bit obsessive. Fortunately for me-- just because it's fun to have fellow crazies to commiserate with-- I have family members who share in my endurance sport obsession.

Well, my cousin and my little sister-- both of whom are tri-athletes-- have teamed up to bring hope to children in Haiti. Recently, a mission pastor to Haiti came to speak at my cousin's church and shared his story of taking in over 20+ orphaned children who would most certainly have died otherwise. Pastor Isaac, his wife and over 20 children live together in a one room home. It is his desire to build an orphange to not only house the children he and his wife have taken under their care, but also to take in more children who currently live homeless-- and hopeless.

Here is the fun part: Krista and Emily have decided to raise money for Pastor Isaac in a unique way-- True Monke athelete style!! They are facing off in a fall triathalon and asking people to "bet" on who will win. All the detailes can be found on their blog:

Go on over, say "HI" and pick a winner-- backing it up with your financial donation, of course!! But, be ready to add to your amount, should your athelete lose!!!! And... do NOT ask me who to place a bet on-- I refuse to publicly take sides :D!!!!

Grace and Peace,