Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving (over one week late...)

Sorry for my lack of blogging lately... I figured the sheer length of my last post would keep you all busy for a while :) 

The last few days around here have been pretty challenging and although I know it could be so much worse, 
I still feel like it's taking all I have just to keep my head above water. Still, I have so much to be thankful for 
and on that note, I decided it was time to post about our Thanksgiving. 
(Canadian Thanksgiving was last Monday for all my confused, American friends...)

Obviously the concept of holidays is still lost on Samuel but I was determined to find a way for him to participate, other than just eating turkey! Samuel has no interest whatsoever in anything crafty but I nevertheless managed to trick him into making a Thanksgiving centrepiece... On Sunday we went to the park and Samuel enjoyed walking through the woods collecting leaves for a few minutes and was then quite content to sit in his chariot (i.e. stroller) and order his servant, I mean mama, around telling her which leaves to hand him so that he could put them in his bag. When we got home, Samuel had fun arranging all of the leaves, sticks, etc. inside of a vase. Actually, Samuel thought he was making soup (his absolute favourite game)... shh, don't tell him he was actually doing a craft!

On Monday we glued on some little leaf cupcake toppers that I found at the dollar store 
(ok, I glued, Samuel pointed at where I should stick them). 

In the end it actually turned out ok and looked pretty good on the dining room table. It was fun to watch Samuel's confusion turn to pride when we took his creation over to Grandma's and she put it on the table. It was especially fun to watch his little smile when he saw that it was still there the next time we went over. Just for the record, no this hasn't increased Samuel's interest in crafts but you can't blame a mama for trying!

I wasn't sure how Samuel would do at our family's Thankgiving dinner but he was amazing. He knew all the people who were there but it was his first time being with everyone at the same time and up until that weekend, he was still really quiet and clingy at my mom's house. On Thanksgiving however, Samuel was in his glory! He laughed and played and laughed some more for an hour with his mama, aunt and uncle before my grandparents got there. The sweetest moment came after my grandparents arrived. They were sitting on the couch with my brother and all of a sudden Samuel grabbed my hand, led me over to the couch and squeezed in between my brother and grandmother. Samuel sat there for several minutes, smiling and just looking at all the people around him. My mother put it best when she said it's like he was thinking, "They told me I had no one but just look at all these people who love me..."

Precious boy... unwanted by some but cherished by so many.

I don't think I have to tell you that Samuel devoured his dinner and turkey has now officially been added to the list of meat that Samuel loves. Samuel sat in his own chair (not on my lap) at the table for the first time outside of our house. 
It was like he got it and I think he was thankful for his family... 

Sweet boy, I think it's safe to say that the thing that everyone around that table was most thankful for was you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

One Month Home

It's hard to believe we've been home one month today... So, I know the question you're all asking is HOW IS SAMUEL DOING??? The answer is, amazingly well! It's crazy how much has changed since my last Samuel update a few short weeks ago. Yes, we still have our challenges and hard days but first I want to focus on all that is going great, because there's a lot!

Sleeping: We are no longer camping out in the living room! A little over two weeks ago Samuel was having a hard time falling asleep. After laying on the mattress in the living room with me for half an hour he all of a sudden got up and was ready to play. As I tired to coax him back into bed he let me know (by pointing) that he wanted me to move the mattress into his room. I was shocked but obviously complied before realizing that this was Samuel's way of letting me know that he was done sleeping (we would always move the mattress into his room in the morning to give us more space in the living room). Well, sleep time was not over and I was not moving the mattress back again. Eventually Samuel joined me on the mattress on the floor of his room and that was it, he never asked me to move the mattress back into the living room again. I cannot tell you how good this felt, giving me my own space in the evening and making things feel less temporary. I slept with him on the mattress for the first few nights then moved up onto his bed. He would fall asleep on the mattress but when he woke up in the middle of the night whimpering because I was not beside him I would pull him up onto the bed with me. It didn't take long before one night he voluntarily climbed into his bed when it was time to go to sleep and he has been doing so ever since. Eventually my plan is to move myself back onto the mattress on the floor and then gradually move the mattress out of his room but I am in no rush to do that. I am sleeping well (his bed is so much more comfortable than that old mattress on the floor!) and more importantly, Samuel is feeling safe and secure with his mama sleeping beside him. For the most part Samuel falls asleep between 7:30-8:00 every night, wakes up between 6:30-7:00 each morning and sleeps soundly through the night - I am totally spoiled!

Safe and secure in his very own bed...

The added bonus in all of this is that Samuel now likes his room! Up until about two weeks ago Samuel would hardly take one step into his bedroom. Now, he loves to play in there and even has this little game he plays where he says "bye", waves, blows me a kiss and then goes into his room and closes his door for a few minutes before coming out to say hi again. This is a big deal as far as attachment goes!

Does this look like a little boy who's afraid of his room to you?!

Eating: I would have to say that eating is no longer an issue. Yes, we still sometimes have mealtime meltdowns but these can be attributed to the fact that it's the end of the day and he's tired, etc. and don't seem to have much if anything to do with food. Samuel has a great appetite and will eat just about anything. He loves fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. and is already starting to eat things that he did not like when he first got home. My biggest challenge in this area is making sure that I get enough to eat! Samuel eats more than me and I have to either shovel down my food quickly, refill my bowl/plate several times or eat again after he goes to bed to make sure I don't waste away to nothing :) When he first got home Samuel was eating off of plastic dishes and using a dessert fork, tea spoon, etc. and then one night this is what happened:

Samuel insisted on trading plates with his mama so that he had the big plate and spoon and I had the little green plastic plate and dessert fork! We've both been eating with grown-up dishes ever since :) Like I said, Samuel will eat just about anything but I'd have to say that his favourites seem to be pasta (yes, still!), meat (chicken, pork, roast beef, ground beef, ham...), shepherd's pie, smoothies, grapes. goldfish crackers, bread, soup and scrambled eggs. Although definitely not his favourite, he has been eating rice when that's what I'm serving but tonight he refused and went to find the leftover shepherd's pie in the fridge instead... What can I say, this boy is Canadian through and through!

Samuel loves his Nana's shepherd's pie!

Health: I am happy to report that, as far as I can tell, Samuel seems to finally be back to his normal self health wise. His sores have cleared up and thankfully no new ones have appeared. We had Samuel's full physical last week (what was supposed to be his first appointment with his paediatrician but was actually his third...) and all appears well. Samuel weighed in at 43 pounds and is 42 inches tall. My baby has only gained three pounds since his last medical in Vietnam one year ago but with the way he's eating, I'm not worried :) Yesterday my mom and I took Samuel to the Children's Hospital blood tests and x-rays. The doctor is not anticipating any problems but we wanted to rule everything out. My little man was an absolute rock star during the whole ordeal. He laid so still for the x-rays and didn't even flinch when they took his blood, he just wanted to get a better look at all that was going on. I'm expecting to get the results of all the tests back gradually over the next few weeks and am looking forward to knowing that Samuel officially has a clean bill of health (or getting on top of addressing whatever may need to be addressed).

We took Samuel for his first ice cream cone in between
the x-rays and blood tests... It's the least a mama can do
before letting someone draw 7 vials of her baby's blood!

Walking/Outings: This is one battle I am no longer choosing to fight. When Samuel wants to he is walking really well, sometimes for up to 10-15 minutes at a time! When he doesn't particularly want to go somewhere he won't take a single step and so I put him in the stroller. I've decided that it's just not worth the fight to make him walk when he doesn't want to go in the first place. In those cases, the stroller is our compromise. Samuel is walking more and more, liking his stroller less and less (although he will reluctantly get in when he doesn't want to walk, he only really wants to be in there when he's feeling overwhelmed in new places) and I figure that we have a natural transition coming in that once the snow comes we'll no longer be able to use the stroller so I will just put it away, never to reappear (until baby #2 of course!). As far as outings go, Samuel is doing better and better out in public. We took our first trip to the grocery store this week and he did great! He sat in the cart and was like, "oooh grapes, I like those! put those beside me... yoghurt? you can put that beside me too..." :) 

When I first brought Samuel home he wanted to be outside all the time but if I walked to the park with him he would only play for 5-10 minutes (if he even got out of the stroller at all!). After a couple weeks though I saw a total turn around and I would have to drag him away from the park after over an hour! Samuel has come to like the slides, etc. but his absolute favourite part is the sand. I'm pretty sure he would sit and play in the sand all day if I let him. His favourite park is beside a marina, right on the water, kind of like a beach... The more I watch how much he loves it there, the more I can't wait to get him to a real beach next summer (PEI here we come!).

This tube thing swings back and forth - he loves it!

"Look mom, I'm driving a boat!"

Sliding down all by myself...
(this was a big accomplishment)

My mama says that this is what freedom looks like...

For a little boy who loves sand...

...and loves water...

...it doesn't get much better than this!

Yes, I'm soaking wet...
and YES, I'm having the time of my life!

Did you know that up until 6 weeks ago I spent
my days stuck in one tiny little room???
Now I'm at the beach, playing in the water
and all of heaven is smiling down on me!

"Fits": Samuel has only had one "fit" as I was calling them, since that last one that had my neighbour knocking at the door 2.5 weeks ago (thank you Jesus!). Instead, Samuel is now having what would be better referred to as "tantrums". What's the difference? Well, although his "fits" may have been triggered by not getting what he wanted, it was obvious that they quickly became about much more than that. His eyes would fill with fear, sadness, etc. and I would watch this internal battle take place before me where one second he wanted to be held, then he would push me away, etc. The tantrums I'm seeing these days are different. Although they are at times just as loud, they only last 10-20 minutes and then I am able to distract him and we can move on with our day. Also, I no longer see that heartbreaking distress in his eyes. Instead all I see is anger that he is not getting his way which is pretty typical toddler/preschooler behaviour. The frequency of these tantrums vary quite significantly with him sometimes having 5 or 6 in one day and then going several days without any tantrums at all. They are still exhausting, especially when he has a lot in one day, but it's clear that he knows they're not going to work (he never, even gets what he wants when he's screaming) and I would much rather have a little boy who's angry over not getting what he wants than a child who is clearly emotionally distressed with nothing I can do about it.

Communication: This is hands down the area where I have seen the greatest growth. When we first got home Samuel had stopped speaking and was hardly even pointing any more then one day about two weeks later it all came back with a bang! Samuel started using his voice again and has been speaking more and more ever since. At this point, Samuel can tell me what he wants the majority of the time and he rarely even has to point. Samuel is consistently saying (and signing) more, eat, drink, hot, water, milk, juice, all done, go, come, bye, hello, gentle, help, music and light (and I'm sure I'm forgetting some!). He also knows the words eggs, cereal, banana, grapes, bread, shoes, socks, thank you, grandma, etc. although he is not using these consistently yet. When I say consistently, what I mean is that I do not have to prompt him. When he wants more, he asks for it, when he wants milk, he says so, etc. Sometimes he just says the word, sometimes he just signs it, often times he does both (which I strongly encourage). His words are not always clear but with him also signing it makes it very easy for me to understand what he's asking for which has served to alleviate a lot of frustration for both of us. He is learning new words every day and I am having to scramble to keep up (I have to learn the signs before I can teach them to him!). The best part is, he wants to communicate, I really haven't had to push him. His motivation to speak is really strong too. For example, he has been signing music consistently for two weeks now but last week he started saying it too, even though signing alone was getting him what he wanted. He attempts to say everything and his words get clearer every day. When he first started saying "all done" even I could not understand him; today, anyone off the street would know what he's saying. It's amazing how he understands how one word applies in different contexts too... For example, he says "monkey" (I don't know the sign for this one) and will use it when talking about his stuffed monkey, his barrel of monkeys or when he sees himself in the mirror in his hooded monkey towel. His language comprehension is especially good - he follows every directive I give him and I almost never have to point. I know, I'm bragging, I'm sorry... It's just that this is the little boy whose "big, scary diagnosis" was that he was "non-verbal" and look at what he has accomplished in one month! He's even started putting two words together such as "music all done" and "more water"... It wouldn't have made one bit of difference to me if he never spoke (or signed) a single word but I am just so proud of how hard my boy has been working to communicate with me. The only word I ever really wanted to hear came about a week ago... "Mama". Two simple syllables never sounded so good!

The Challenges: I don't want you to think that it's all been smooth sailing because it hasn't... It's the honest posts of those who've gone before me that prepared me for my own adoption journey and I want to do the same, no matter how big or "small" the challenges. Lately the biggest challenge for me has been Samuel's ever changing needs and demands. As expected, Samuel is testing and trying to figure out what he has control over and what he doesn't. He's keeping me on my toes as what he loves one day he may refuse the next. When he first got home he loved his baths then out of nowhere he outright refused to get in. It was a battle every time then just as quickly as it started it was over. 

Pre "no way you're getting me in that tub!" phase...

Loving the bath once again :)

Next it was his clothes... Taking them off at night and/or putting them on in the morning was nearly impossible. I confess that there were nights that he slept in his sandy clothes and mornings where I let him run around naked for nearly an hour as I just couldn't deal with him screaming. That too has passed. Then he wanted to be in the car all day. He refused to walk/get in the stroller and if I put him in the car and drove somewhere he would refuse to get out. The only sure bribes to get him out were sand toys or grandma otherwise, I was the parent carrying their child kicking and screaming through the parking lot. We seem to be on the tail end of this phase... Tonight, he only wanted to sit in the front seat of the car and screamed when I buckled him into the back; is this what's next? It seems like nothing compared to what we were going through a few weeks ago but it's exhausting, especially on the days where it seems like he his whimpering/whining/crying all day. I find myself praying often for grace and patience and keep reminding myself that this too shall pass and that my son just needs to know that his mama is in control.

So yes, the challenges are still there but overall I am amazed with how well Samuel is doing. All the signs of trauma and depression that I saw just over two weeks ago have been washed away before my very eyes. Samuel is happy, not just content but truly happy, 85% of the time. He cannot contain his joy and it just bubbles over as he spends most of the day laughing or singing (or both) - it's contagious! For the most part my son is secure, above all he trusts me, and that is a miracle in and of itself. 

Samuel's middle name is Yigael which means "God will Redeem". It's the promise God spoke to me as I prayed for this little boy for months before I even knew he was my son. These days I have the privilege of watching God fulfill that promise little by little each day. Samuel loves to sing along to this song while we're driving in the car and the profound truth of it's chorus never ceases to bring me to tears:

I am set free, oh oh oh
I am set free, oh oh oh
It is for freedom that I am set free

Yes, Sweet Boy, you are set free and you know it...

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south...

Psalm 107: 1-3 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

He Plays!

I was washing the sheets yesterday morning and when I walked into Samuel's room this is what I found...

He had pulled his comforter onto the floor, laid down with his blanket over top of him and when I walked in he closed his eyes and pretended he was snoring! Can you believe that this is the same child who six weeks ago spent his days wandering the hallway of his orphanage, pretty much completely disengaged? Even though he has never had the opportunity to play before, this boy has a great imagination and loves to play! Of course, right after I took this picture he pulled me onto the floor to join him under his blanket. Today he brought his blanket and body pillow along with an extra blanket and pillow for his mama into the living room and took off my glasses and tucked me in before climbing into his own imaginary bed... 
Love this sweet boy of mine!  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Exceedingly, Abundantly Blessed

I received an e-mail from my adoption agency last week, just checking in on me as bringing home a child is quite a change to adjust to and she wanted to make sure I have all the support I need. The answer is a big, resounding yes. I may be a single mom but I am not doing this alone. Yes, my God is with me and He is more than enough but He has also given me an army of people who love my son and are standing with us. My mom is my #1 support and I have no words to express how amazing she has been. Samuel loves her more than anything or anyone (except his mama!) and I can't imagine how we would have done this without her. Samuel also has his granddad and noni, great-grandparents and godparents who adore him and would do anything for him. Then there's our incredible next door neighbour who never ceases to amaze me with her kindness. And of course there's also my "blog world" friends, most of whom I've never even met, who pray so faithfully and send timely e-mails of encouragement along with gift cards in the mail (thank you E!).. But that's not all! Here's what the last four days have looked like:

Samuel has decided that he loves having new adults to play with as long as it is in one of his two safety zones - at home or outside. Because of this, this week we were able to have some visitors other than immediate family. On Thursday I took Samuel to the park beside my workplace to meet my team mates. These wonderful women have been with me every step along this journey. Through the long periods of waiting and the exciting e-mails with new pictures, a travel date, etc. which I would most often receive during my lunch hour. Their overwhelming love and support has earned them the well-deserved title of Samuel's "work aunties" and I couldn't wait for them to meet him. I was so honoured that they all made it on Thursday, despite crazy, unpredictable work schedules. Samuel did so well and one of his work aunties had him laughing even though he was surrounded by six people he had never met before - a sure sign that he loved them as much as they love him (well, almost...).

On Friday, Samuel's great aunt and uncle from the US were passing through and stopped by to meet their first great-nephew. They came bearing food, winter clothes and trucks (or course!) and spent over an hour playing with and doting on Samuel, making this mama's heart swell. I know how hard it is for so many adoptive parents whose families are not supportive and I have been so blessed to see how Samuel has been welcomed into our extended family with open arms!

Saturday, two friends from work drove an hour each way to meet Samuel and spend some time hanging out with us. I wasn't sure how it would go but Samuel was just basking in the extra attention and they were incredible, letting Samuel boss them around, putting up with his children's music (which is on pretty much all day!), taking care of dinner, dishes, etc.

Finally, this morning Samuel and I were driving to a park we like to go to for walks. I realized that we were going to be right down the street from my mother's church and that it was almost time for their service. As I listened to my son singing along to worship music in the back seat of the car I spur of the moment decided, "forget the park, we're going to church!". The love and support we found there was truly overwhelming. No one stared at my son splashing in the water fountain (what can I say, the boy loves water!), no one commented on the fact that my son is too big for a stroller... Instead, countless people I've never even met (along with many others I do know) spotted Samuel from across the room and came over to tell me that they've been praying for him. We only lasted for half of the worship before Samuel was done and ready to leave but it was the first time in 7 weeks that I was able to join in corporate worship, the first time ever with my son in my arms, and it was beautiful.

We ended the weekend by having dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's home where my sister-in-law had made spaghetti and watermelon smoothies just for Samuel (does she know her nephew or what?!)... My son is so loved by so many. This is just the last four days! There are still many other people/stories I didn't get a chance to mention... Samuel is doing amazing (the big Samuel update is coming, I promise!). I absolutely love being his mom and although I find it challenging and at times exhausting to try to meet Samuel's ever-changing needs and demands, these past four days have given me what I need to head into another week. Yes indeed, we are exceedingly, abundantly blessed...

Because I know that you're all dying for new pictures, here is Samuel in the adorable new outfits he's gotten over the past few days... thank you Uncle Robert, Auntie Kathy and Auntie Lynn!!!

The rest of this adorable outfit is underneath the
sweatshirt but seriously, that touque is deadly cute!!!

Of course, this is a good look too... :)
LOVE this jacket which came just in time...
it was cold out today!
The angle on this picture is weird but
these skinny jeans are super cute!!!

Samuel's actually quite a clothes lover but,
I think the truck wins!

Friday, October 4, 2013

You try sleeping with him!!!

Continuing with what has turned into a bit of a sleep series, these pictures were taken one week ago today.

This is what it looked like when I tucked Samuel into bed...

This is what I saw when I went to check on him one hour later...

This is what found when I went to join Samuel in bed one hour after that...

Seriously, you try sleeping with this child!!!

p.s. for those of you who are observant, yes, the mattress is no longer in the living room in these photos. 
Since taking these pictures, Samuel and I are actually sleeping in his bed! More on that to come :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Pillows Are For...

Samuel had never used a pillow before but ever since being sick and having his mama prop him up on the couch with his pillow and blanket, he has decided that he loves his pillow... 

Just don't try to tell him that it's supposed to go under his head!

(pictures taken over two weeks ago... better late than never! 
I have a bigger Samuel update in the works but this is all I have the energy for tonight)