Thank you, and farewell.

10 Feb

I came to this blog at the urging of a couple friends, hesitant and anxious. I worried about feeling over-exposed, sharing details about our private journey with The Internet. Instead I have been overwhelmed by the love that has flowed back from this computer screen. I hadn’t realized that welcoming you into our virtual home would also make you a little part of our family.  Many of you have shared joy and tears with us. So many of you in our local Deaf community have emotionally invested in our little man and I guarantee we are seeing return on your investment.

At this time, one year ago today, I was finally holding that screaming kiddo in my arms. Within hours he had settled and within days he and I were attached at the hip. We had years of catch-up to do. Even a year later I can’t have him within a foot of my face without smothering him in kisses. That magnetic pull of soft baby skin.
Yet, as smooth as our connection went initially we all worked hard to become a family. It took ten months before he would truly relax his head on my shoulder. Even longer before he and his sister would spontaneously snuggle up for a book together. Ten months before he would fly across the living room toward the front door signing DADDDDDDY HOOOOOME!!!!!
B is tender and brimming with love, but he had already learned not to give it away for free.

And somehow here we are, we made it. We are a family. We have silliness and inside jokes, we have tears and frustration, we have impenetrable love, we have each other. This family is more than I could have ever hoped to ask for, these kids an embarrassment of riches. Aren’t the things hard-won often the most worthwhile?

And now, as we step in to Year Two, we bid this blog adieu. Thank you for watching our journey. For your words, your support, your love. It means more than you know. Thank you for being a part of our family. Thank you.

Almost a year!

3 Feb

As we near our one year anniversary of becoming a family, I find myself looking back at how far we have come. Before I think too much about what this year has meant for us, I felt the need to take a deep breath and finally watch the video of the first moments Mr. B and I shared airspace. I cried approximately 372 times while editing this video. So much happiness and sadness in one moment. It never ceases to amaze me how much the joys of adoption are also peppered by fear, grief and immense loss. I can only imagine what could’ve been going through his mind when I pulled him from his caretaker’s arms.
Soon he was seeking me out for snuggles and kisses, but in that moment he couldn’t have known who I was or why I was holding him. I’m thankful to him for coming to trust me. He was incredibly brave in those first days.  Sweet, sweet lovebaby.

NOTE: Push CC button for captioned song lyrics in addition to the already-captioned dialogue.

Ready for my close-up.

3 Sep

My sweet, loving, hilarious husband is camera shy. Fo’real. Getting him in a photo is like nailing jello to a tree. As you would imagine, we’ve never had professional photos done. Engagement, nope. Wedding, nuh uh. Pregnancy with cute little heart hands on my belly? Not a chance. Well, when my adoptive mama friend told me about Red Thread Sessions, I knew that our number was up. This organization matches adoptive families with talented photographers who DONATE a session to honor the newly minted family member. Who could turn that down? Not even Mr. Sano.
I scrolled through a long list of talented photographers and one clearly stuck out. You see, we don’t usually frolic through daffodil fields after 5pm. We don’t often gaze longingly into one another’s eyes while petting unicorns. Our life is not rainbows and puppy dogs kisses. 
Hannah’s photos showed real families in their homes, doing what they do. (Granted, with slightly more make-up and fewer yoga pants than normal.) Perfect. She came and spent time with us, in the background, as we did what we do. There were tears and meltdowns, also fun, laughter, and snacks. Yet somehow that magical husband managed to escape nearly every shot. I’ll get him, one day. Bwahahahaha.
Here are a few of my favorite shots, but be sure to check out the official post on the Red Thread page and Hannahs’ beautiful work on her blog

Now, since I’ll probably never have another photo session, please excuse me as I now post one-and-a-half million photos.

 

 

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Six Month-iversary!

10 Aug
6 Months Ago

Then.

Now. Hannah D Photography

Now. Hannah D Photography

The Love

Six months ago I didn’t know that you ARRRR like a pirate when you’re mad, that you amble like a drunken sailor or that your face drops with worry when you see someone crying. Six months ago I was sitting, waiting in a nondescript government office with a thousand questions and worries. What if he doesn’t love us? What if he isn’t really deaf? What if his spirit has been so damaged that he’ll never recover? I never could have imagined what was in store for us. Baby boy, you have challenged us in so many new ways and proved to me that my heart really wasn’t complete before I met you. I could burst from this love. Thank you, a thousand times.

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Now, amidst all that gooey love, I don’t want anyone to think this has been easy. In these past months we have concluded that pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn are a walk.in.the.park compared to adopting a toddler. When B first came home it was clear that he had to be a lone wolf in the orphanage. He didn’t cry when hurt, since crying didn’t likely net results anyhow. He used his smile and charm to get more food, sometimes to the point of overflow. And after all these months he is still trying to figure out what role daddies play. It took time for him to trust us enough to fully, finally, let his guard down. Now when I see him laugh so hard that he blows snot out his nose, or when he wipes tears from my cheeks on particularly hard days, I can tell that everything will be okay. Somehow, even with a rough beginning, Bennett came away with a huge, empathetic heart and a wicked sense of humour. And energy. Oh lordy, does this kid have energy.

The Language

Six months of access to language has turned this kid into an opinionated toddler. No! I want peanut butter, not jam on my toast. No! I don’t want shorts, I want jeans. No! It’s MY TURN on the bike!! Well, he certainly had opinions before but instead of being able to tell us what he wanted he would just scream. Or bite. Or hit. He continues to learn new words every day, we’re thrilled that we have completely lost track of how many he knows. He will watch and parrot full sentences back to us, and is starting to learn how to put more complete sentences together himself. “Mama push bike, please.”

We knew the language would come once he was immersed in it, but the part that has been even more interesting to watch is how language is tied to his problem solving skills. Mila is often his best teacher. I watched them the other day doing puzzles together and saw her explain (in ASL) that his piece was upside down, that he needed to flip it over. He did what she said, and after that checked every piece to make sure they were right-side-up. Later she was reading a book of fruits to him. She showed him the apple, signed apple, he repeated. Showed him the berries, signed berries, he repeated. Showed him a green fruit with brown skin, signed peach. He paused and pointed to the picture with a puzzled look. She signed peach. He pointed again, and again, and again until she spelled (the the best of her 2-year-old ability) K-I-W-I. He was satisfied, they moved on.

Seeing him experience this cognitive dissonance and helping to find a solution blew me away and made me realize how far we have come. Six months ago he didn’t even know that objects, feelings, people have names and labels…now he is schooling his sister in what those labels are.  Killin’ it, B.

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The Letter

Child relinquishment in China is a complex and controversial topic. It is true, as in any country, that some children are simply unwanted. In other cases, families are truly unable to afford to keep children who they desperately love. The costs can be related to providing medical care to children with disabilities or severe health issues, or for payment of government fines for having more than one child. In any case, when a family relinquishes a child in China, they are breaking the law. Unlike in the US, when parents are unable to care for their child, there is no system in place to legally relinquish parental rights. This means that many parents have to leave these children in public places and hope they will quickly be found and taken in to care and eventually adopted. For most of these parents, they never are able to find out what happens to their children.

Some children are found with brief notes, explaining why the parents couldn’t care for them but these notes rarely contain any personal information. “Please save my baby, his heart is bad” is often the extent of the note. Including birthdates, birth locations or any information about their birth families can lead the police back to the birth parents and land them in legal trouble.  We knew that Bennett had a note with him when he was found, but weren’t able to get a copy while we were in China. Finally, a month ago, our agency contacted us with a scanned copy of his note and an English translation. Our caseworker told us in her 10 years of this work she had never seen anything like it. It is a full page. His letter contains his birth date, extensive information about his birth family and mostly importantly makes it clear that he was very loved. It would have been quite risky for them to include all of this information, and we will be eternally grateful to them for that gift. We hope that someday we will be able to let them know that he is alive, loved, and astonishingly cute.

 

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Paging Dr. Sano

29 Apr
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Who? Me?

In case you have forgotten, we met Mr. B just 2 1/2 months ago. He didn’t seem to have any language aside from one gesture he decided meant “up”. It seems his brain was hungry, starving to communicate. Yesterday he was evaluated for acceptance into an early intervention program and his language checked in at the 24-28 month level. Nope, not a typo. In less than 3 months he has caught up to age level. Some of his choice signs these days include “seaweed” “garbage truck” and “barrette”. *BEAMS*
The downside to this is that he can now tell me NO! and ignore what I’m asking him to do like every other two-year-old.

The person who evaluated him felt pretty sure that he will be a rocket scientist someday. With Boeing just up the street, we’ll settle for aerospace engineer. You know, just to set our sights low. /mamabrag

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Happy Birthday, Mr. B!

7 Apr

Hazy Days

After 6 weeks of snot bubbles and elephant tears, the fog is finally lifting.
Remember the sweet big sister I mentioned in the last post, rubbing his back and helping to change his diaper? That lasted until she realized he wasn’t leaving, then sheer terror set in. You see, as far as both kids are concerned “She was MY mommy first!”. So they have taken turns shoving, clawing, screaming and biting their way into my arms. It’s been lovely. Don’t you wish you were here?

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In the past week, though, we have started to see daylight again. Bennett suddenly doesn’t mind being somewhere other than my arms, and kids are finally laughing and playing together…amidst the biting and screaming, of course.
Yesterday I was thrilled when both kids snuggled up with me together for the first time, a head on each shoulder. I told them I was so proud of them for sharing mama and being so gentle with each other, to which Mila responded with a full-speed, open-handed slap across his face. I may have jumped the gun.
Being two is hard enough, like being a hormonal teenager but without the communication skills. And since both of their lives changed completely in an instant, we knew it would take time to settle in. So we’re doing a million “gentle do-overs” and “hand time outs” every day. They’ll get there…right?

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Serious conversations

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Easy as ABC

On the language front, things are getting fun. By the time we left China, he had mimicked more signs than we could count and was producing a handful accurately on his own. But when we got home, much of that stopped. It felt as if we were starting again from square one. I’m sure his brain was so busy dealing with all of the changes that he just couldn’t take in language for the first time as well. For a long time there were very few new signs, but he was copying us some. Then like magic, at the same time he has become more comfortable and happy in his environment he has also become thirsty for communication. He is copying so much of what we say, asking us for signs and initiating communication. He is learning how to get his needs met without crying. He has signed things like “wash-hands please”, “diaper”, and last week we got the very impressive “more banana please”. It is thrilling to see the look on his face when he realizes we understand each other and that his words can garner results. We still have a long way to go before he is caught up completely, but he is making incredible inroads in a short time.

Happy Birthday!

Little Mr. B will be two tomorrow! We had some friends over to celebrate his first birthday with us. There weren’t presents, or balloons, or candles, or singing but there was cake and there were lots of wonderful people, so we considered it pretty perfect. Ever wondered what it looks like in a small house with 8 babies under 3? Kinda like this:Image

And somehow nothing and no one got broken. Win.

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And lastly, just because you needed more cute:

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I shake my little tush on the catwalk

First Days Home

1 Mar

Apparently I was sucked into the ohmygoshwehave2children vortex. My hair is a little windblown, but everyone appears to still be breathing, so I’ll put this week in the WIN category. We got home 5 days ago and I can barely tell you a thing about what has happened since, jet lag’ll do that to ya.
We tearfully sent the two award-winning grandmas back home today and are now beginning to learn what our life as a family of four looks like.

Our flight home from Hong Kong was blissfully uneventful. Bennett showed us how to travel internationally the right way.

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And since he slept in mama’s seat for 9 of the 10 hours in flight, that meant I had a mostly vertical flight home. I also learned that the footrest on those seats can support the weight of a full-grown adult for a verrry long time. But you know, I’d take a seatless flight with a sleeping toddler over a seated flight with a screaming toddler, any day. I’d fashion a guess that our plane-mates agreed.

Once we landed in Seattle and made it through customs and immigration, Bennett decided to celebrate his new citizenship by chucking my phone across the baggage claim area. RIP. So there are photos being held hostage until I get a new screen. Luckily grandma got the Nikon out in time to snap a few of our haggard faces before bedtime. Nearly all photos here are credited to Ruth Sano. The kids giggled and played while we tried not to fall asleep in our tacos. We left at 9pm on Sunday and got home at 6pm…on Sunday.

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Bonding via sticky frogs

Since then we have explored the zoo, eaten pizza and learned how to share. Mila thinks Bennett is an itty bitty baby so she likes to help change his diapers and rub his back to help him fall asleep. She has been so understanding about sharing and not having mama all to herself. I don’t know how it happened, but when I left she was 23 months old and now that I’m home she suddenly seems to be 5.

Well it ain't no congee, but I'll take it

Well it ain’t no congee, but I’ll take it

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Signing MORE!

Signing MORE!

 

Bennett isn’t sure so far what to think of having a sister, a papa or having to share his mama with anybody. He is mostly settling in easily, smiling lots and picking up more new signs every day. But we’re still learning how to make him feel safe (just found out he is very afraid of the dark, oops) and teaching him that his papa is A-OK. He has started taking food from Chris and is giving him more smiles and giggles, but isn’t comfortable being held by him yet. Earning his trust and love is a process, we’re confident we’ll get there.

For now we’re learning that having two kids bears almost no resemblance to having one and that a full, peaceful night’s sleep may be found somewhere around 2030. But really, who needs much sleep? My tacos taste better with my eyes closed anyways.

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Who is this girl and why does she keep kissing me?

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