Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It feels like about ten weeks have passed in the past two days since we got home.  We're all doing pretty well, I think, but it's pretty intense at times.  The two youngest kids are sleeping for night now, and I wanted to take a short break and post something here.  I have so much stuff swirling around in my brain that I wish I had more time to get it all out and onto paper.

From everything I've read and learned, if kids are able to feel comfortable enough to tantrum and express temper and grief, things are going ok re: attachment...well, if that's the case, I'd say things are going really well! They're definitely both/all starting to let their emotions out.

Lizzie Senait had a couple of spectacular tantrums in ET already (wow, does she have a shrill scream - I may need to invest in ear plugs 'cause I might otherwise lose my hearing with that one) and she's had one biggie here at home.  She is also becoming extremely cuddly and affectionate, and has taken to rubbing her hands over Geoff's and my faces, before kissing them with big, open-mouthed, suction-cup kisses.  She is a girl of a thousand facial expressions - everything that's going on in the inside shows up on her face.  From a beaming smile to giving one of us the 'evil eye,' and every nuance in between, she's extremely expressive.  She has been very indulged at the Transition House, I believe, because she certainly seems to believe that everyone should jump to her every whim with one imperial chin raise.  If she doesn't get what she wants that second, she screams with utter outrage and sorrow.  For now, to build attachment, we're just letting that kind of behaviour go, but the time will come when reality will have to sink in a little.  She loves, loves, loves being held and wants one of us to be holding her every moment of every hour.

Seth Asrat was quite reserved for the first couple of days that we had them, but he's certainly let loose now.  We've gone through 3-4 major tantrums with him.  Last night, for example, when it was time to get ready for bed, he decided the he wanted to keep playing with the Little Tykes car that he loves so much.  When I asked him to come, I just got the big shoulder shrug ("no!") and when I asked again, the shoulder hit his chin with emphasis.  So I very gently disengaged him from the car, and wow, was he mad!  He dissolved into rage and shrill screams, and wouldn't look at me.  I picked him up and took him upstairs into the bathroom, so that his noise wouldn't disrupt the entire house.  He screamed and screamed and screamed...for at least 45 minutes.  Of course, the screaming wasn't really about the fact that it was bedtime - he just has lots to be sad and mad about and I'm glad it's coming out.  I held him when he let me, and tried to keep a hand on him when he wouldn't; and eventually the screams of rage turned into tears of sadness.  He eventually fell asleep.

This morning, at about 6:30, Geoff discovered that Seth A. was already awake and lying quietly his bed.  Geoff picked him up and we had a good cuddle in our bed, which he seemed to enjoy.  He started to fall asleep again, but suddenly Geoff and I noticed that his arms were shaking.  A minute or two later, he let a couple of little sounds out - they sounded strangled, as if he was trying not to let any sounds out.  We realized that he was trying his hardest not to cry.  Every 5-10 seconds, he would let out one of those little pathetic sounds; Geoff and I just held him and rubbed his back. After about ten minutes of this, he suddenly clamped his hand over his mouth, hard, and we simultaneously heard an escalation of the sounds he was making.  The poor little guy was trying to so hard to hold himself together...and he just couldn't.  Eventually, he just gave way, and he spent about 20 minutes in full sobbing mode. These tears were so different than the tears of rage we've had before; these were great, heaving sobs of grief, that seemed to come from somewhere deep within.  It was hard to watch, but we're just so glad that he's letting loose a little with his harder emotions.

Both kids are understanding a surprising amount of English already, especially when accompanied by gestures; and they seem to remember things once they're taught words once.  It's quite impressive.  Until today, we've heard them try only a few words (cough; hello) but today they started repeating other words after us (finger; flower; hand; toes; nose; eyes; hair; etc etc).

Both have a real sense of humour and adventure, and we have had no issues with car seats, or van rides, or even a doctor's visit.  They seem ready to engage life, and I have no idea how I'm going to keep up with Seth Asrat's curiosity about everything.  My fears related to their mental development as a result of malnutrition have almost been forgotten; these are two very bright and curious and mischievous children.

Matthew is struggling a little...in entirely expected ways, but it's hard to deal with at times.  He tries sooo hard to manage himself, but he just can't always, and his behaviour degenerates into really annoying stuff.  But I'm trying my level best to keep thing stable for him and to make bits of time for him.  I find it painful to watch him go through this adjustment, and we're nowhere near through it.

On that note, I think I need to sign off.  I'm falling asleep in my chair, and apologize for lack of coherence.  Many thanks for your support, and for your encouraging comments...I'm reading every one, and am grateful for them all.




  1. Ruth,

    I have to confess that what I liked the most about your new family pictures, was the looks on your and Geoffs faces. Joyful, relaxed, HAPPY! Just thinking today that if you need Matt to have a playdate with his buddy, we would be happy to oblige.
    Sending love (and hopefully soon a meal!)


  2. Thank you so much for your honesty Ruth. I am leaving to pick up my son very soon and I really appreciate to hear the true even if I cry when I read your post. Praying for you my friend.

  3. What a mystery this whole experience must be for Seth and Lizzie and Matthew. Matthew, I guess, has had the most realistic preparation, with greater cognitive capacity to 'understand.' Of course, the actual experience is always more powerful than any preparation could be. Seth and Lizzie have had so much grief and upheaval, it's no wonder their feelings are all over the place. At the airport I was very moved by watching Seth take everything in--hypervigilant and cautious and reserved. I was imagining what he might be thinking and feeling about all these white people hugging and talking and everything being so strange, i.e. unfamiliar. Thank goodness all three of them have you in their lives!

  4. Just keep breathing! It sounds like you are doing great!

  5. Oh my goodness, poor Seth Asrat. What a poor little love, trying to be strong and hold it all in. Oh, my heart bleeds....

    I have heard from another mom who just brought her 4.5 yr daughter home that she has almost the exact feelings of entitlement and seemed to have been very catered to at the TH. I guess that is something we may all need to take into consideration when our kids get home, as it's not the 1st time, or 2nd or 3rd, where that has been mentioned!

    Hope you can get some rest, and glad the kids are feeling safe enough to 'let go' a bit with you.



  6. I'm sitting on the couch reading your post to David. Oh man, the memories it brought back. It's amazing that our little ones make it through such a rough adjustment (to say the least) so well. It would be so hard for Matthew too!
    It gets better thankfully! You are all in our thoughts and prayers right now.


  7. How I remember those days! You totally have the right attitude about it though...it is good that they are expressing themselves. Hang in there!

  8. Oh Ruth- trust that you do have the patience and strength needed to get through this difficult transition. I can't even begin to imagine the loss/upheaval you all are facing.
    Give yourself permission to take time for yourself (as the mother of a little girl who also has blood curdling screams and lengthy tantrums- trust me you will need the emotional break). As moms we tend to give so much, but do make sure to look after your own needs. It's easier to support others when you yourself get a breather. It must be far healthier for the kids (all 3 of them) to get their emotions out and work through them rather than bottling it up inside.
    So glad you took the time to update us all as I've been wondering how you are doing.

  9. oh wow... what a big few days! Glad to hear that so many things are going well. Go and get some sleep!

  10. Hi Ruth, I'm a friend of Sharla's and have followed a bit of your story just from talking with her. I'm SO happy to hear that you are FINALLY home with your little angels! I'll be praying for this transition time for you all - and esp. for Matthew. We adopted our little girl when our bio son was 7, so I can easily imagine how his life has been rocked :) Just so happy for you... Your children are just beautiful.

  11. I'm reading your blog every day and am laughing and crying with you. I continue to pray for you all as you adjust. What joy and sadness all at the same time! Best wishes today!

  12. Awww... yep, you made me cry. The thought of that little peanut holding his sadness and sobs in is just heartbreaking! Glad things are settling in as well as can be expected!

  13. One of these days I will write a bit more about our transition, which is going very well overall. But...I can relate to various issues around sense of entitlement/immediate gratification (our boys lived in a large family with teens/young adults & I suspect there was always someone available "now" to help them out...which is a bit of an issue with the eldest, who was described as being "demanding at times"), and tantrums (had a 30-minute one yesterday because I was with the baby, had just finished a meeting with the social worker, and had just encouraged him to put his pants & underwear back on after toileting - he typically prides himself on dressing independently, but likely wanted some extra nurturing after not being in my spotlight for a couple of hours...so opted to sit half-clothed in the bathroom, screaming and crying, "I didn't want to put my pants on", since I let him know that coming out and roaming around with no lower body garments on was not an option).

    Must admit I have not stuck as strictly to the adoption attachment parenting practices re: time out/in and going a bit easy on anger/tantrums at this stage - although I thought I would be as "by the book" as possible. I think it is partly because the boys have had a very "typical" upbringing (along with quite healthy attachment to one set of parent figures so far), and I see some of the behaviours and our responses as needing to occur within the context of what they are used to, (particularly for the type of crying/screaming that worsens and becomes more forced when a parent or any other audience member is present)...so hard knowing what to do at times. And thinking of how my choices now will impact my kids and our relationship 10 years down the road.

    Look forward to hearing more about your experiences and adjustments along the way.