We are doing well. We've been together for almost two weeks and life is good. Tope is doing better than I could probably have truthfully imagined. He seems to be very easy going and is one of the happiest little boys.
Tope is getting used to his home and surroundings.
*He loves time with superheroes and any other small figures that he can play with. He can also spend countless hours with cars or the train track.
*He speaks to himself and to us in Cebuano/Bisanya, but he also uses a lot of English words and seems to know what we are telling him a good portion of the time.
*Tope is in love with "iro" which is the word for "dog". He hugs and pesters Izzy every chance he can get, which is both good and bad for Izzy, depending on her mood and if she was just trying to eat versus getting attacked with hugs!
*Snow is not an issue! He has never once complained about putting on winter clothing or about the snow touching his skin. It's like he has always lived in Wisconsin! If only we knew better! Oh wait - I guess he does refuse to wear a stocking hat, but for some reason I can get him to keep on an ear/headband. Today he played with Caleb for an hour while the snow was coming down hard. His dark hair was covered in white and he just smiled and smiled while filling a bucket of fresh white powder. So great.
*Sleep is usually not an issue, except for one night where we thought we'd see if he could fall asleep on his own. Long story short, he cannot. But cuddling time with him while he falls asleep is just fine, we have MANY years of lost cuddling to make up.
*He is a pro at getting clean! It took Caleb 6 years to not be afraid of a shower and get his face wet, but not Tope! This kid is in heaven during bath or shower time! I swear this kid is destined to be an olympic swimmer - he really likes water!
*His appetite is very healthy. I keep expecting to put bigger clothes on him already because he eats so much, but alas he is still our petite little guy. I've always thought of Caleb as a smaller kid, but Tope is just so tiny compared to our "U.S. standards" so I frequently have to remind myself that he is 5 1/2 years old. Tope will try just about any food, but he is still the most happy when we give him more of his traditional foods such as stir-fried noodles, rice with squash, and tuna dipped in soy sauce. He has also devoured many bananas, yogurt juice, pasta, and cinnamon rolls. :)
Life has felt so "normal" that sometimes it all seems so surreal: Like this was totally meant to be - Life will always be "perfect" like this -Tope is going to be this happy child that melds into our family like he has been with us the last 5 1/2 years. But we know that the words "perfect" and "adoption" are typically not found in the same sentence together. Although from the naked eye we are coping well as a family and things are going good, we still know there is a lot of "work" to be done. Attachment with a child, and vise versa with parents, doesn't happen overnight. Do I love him? ABSOLUTELY! Is he my child? NO DOUBT! Do I trust him and understand him like I do Caleb? No. *sigh. No I do not. There is so much I have to learn about him: his likes, dislikes, why he cries, why he is so quiet in the morning, how he prefers to be held, to be loved.
The same goes for Tope. He has a lot to learn about us. What I wouldn't give to know what was going on in his head. How does he really interpret snow? What does he think when his Dad and Mom are kissing him and snuggling him? What are his thoughts when we are constantly staring at him and cooing over him? Does he believe he will get to see his orphanage family again soon?
There are books,articles,discussions, websites, therapists, and opinions that all concern with the attachment process. I've read and listened to many of them, and still, none of them can prepare you for what it is like to bring home a 5 year old to be part of your family. I pray every day that our attachment process is the way it is supposed to be. This all really scares me. I want Tope to feel loved and safe in our family. I want him to know that he can depend on us and step into the world knowing that he has parents that love him and care for him. If these things are not instilled in Tope, he can and will struggle in life - the thousands of articles, books, etc. have done their research, it's fact, and I want our son to be "attached" - to us. So, we are doing our best, what else can we do? :)
This little boy gets a TON of loving! He is cuddled, hugged, kissed often! And he is starting to accept and encourage these bonding motions. I was not expecting this, as the first few days you could tell it would throw him off if we kissed his cheek or hugged him too long, but he is now very happy to get a kiss from us and snuggle his head deep into our necks during a hug. It's the best feeling. We are also spending a lot of one-on-one time with him: books, play dough, legos, games, puzzles, coloring, baking, and the list goes on and on. Since I am home with him currently, we are also doing some learning type activities to hopefully start getting him caught up on some preschool knowledge, such as his recognition of letters and numbers. We've started a short routine where we talk about the day, the weather, a letter, and then count something together. It's actually a really sweet time together where we can explore concepts, giggle about fun things, and I can give him lots of praise - I'm cherishing this time. We have also been doing some co-sleeping which was nothing new to us as we have let Caleb co-sleep with us a lot; however, Tope is a MOVER which includes movement of some kind almost every 15 minutes, resulting in no parental sleep. We are now falling asleep with him and then either moving ourselves from the bed or moving him to a different area so we all get some better sleep, it seems to be working well.
We are having some "family growing pains" as our cousin lovingly refers to them. Caleb is probably having the hardest time with the new transition. He is all of a sudden the big brother that we expect to set a good example, he has to share all of his toys and room, his routine at home usually has to revolve around what his little brother's needs are, and to top it off, he was dealing with jetlag and is now still having sleep issues so he is often tired during the day. Needless to say, I know it will all be good in the end, but right now he is really struggling! We are doing our best to support his emotional needs as well. When Jon is home we are often one on one with the boys so that Caleb can also get some good attention. Caleb would balk if I said this to him and not believe me, but he is actually probably getting more attention now than he did before Tope came home! He is such a self-sufficient kid that if we were busy with other things he didn't mind finding something to do on his own, but he has had very little alone time in the last couple weeks. Caleb also really wants Tope to be his best buddy and doesn't realize it will take them both time to get to know eachother. Tope, which makes sense, wants to spend more time with us than with Caleb at this point, and that hurts Caleb. It's sad for me to see because I want Caleb to be over the moon about his brother, but like I said, I know it will all be good, it just all takes time.
Alright, if you made it through everything I just wrote - you rock! That was extremely long-winded! But hopefully it gives a little insight to our lives now. I'm going to quickly wrap up with this:
We are in love. Although it often feels surreal, I can't imagine Not having Tope in our life.
He is our beautiful, wonderfully made, blessing.
Thank you Lord for bringing him home.