Friday, April 27, 2007

The Long and Winding Road


"Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished:
If you're alive, it isn't..." --Richard Bach

Well, we are still alive, despite the worries that some of you have had. It has been a grueling, exhausting, fascinating, exciting and busy (busy, busy) month. We will have to bring you up-to-date in several installments, but here at least is the first.

We arrived home late on the night of April 5th, after a 32-hour journey involving three airplanes, four airports, layovers, long flight segments, and very tired kids and adults. Two kids who were so excited about being on the airplane for the first few hours were totally "over it" by the end of the trip, as you can imagine. The trip went amazingly well, I think, with a few meltdowns and tantrums but that isn't suprising. The hardest part was that, as we mentioned in an earlier post, these kids have few of the normal fears that most kids have--like being lost, or separated from Mom and Dad. So between Sam's running full-bore across the airport terminal because he thought it was funny, and Margarita's wandering away because she was curious about something, the layovers and airport waits were scary because we couldn't let go of them for a second. Margarita actually got lost inside the business-class lounge in Moscow, where we were waiting out our 5-hour layover; we couldn't be sure he hadn't somehow escaped to the outside concourse, so we called in airport security. (She was a few minutes later discovered in the lounge's men's restroom, washing her hair...!). We were really, really glad to get home. The homecoming was neat--Zachary was still up and he was so excited to meet his new sister and brother, and they were excited to meet him. The kids ran and screamed and checked each other out for about an hour, before everyone crashed. That, unfortunately, was the last night anyone had a decent night's sleep for the next week or 10 days....

The transition has been difficult for everyone. We experienced all the classic homecoming "symptoms" that we had read about internationally-adopted kids--sleep problems, eating problems, tantrums, hyperactivity. All of this while we were still incredibly jet-lagged from the 13-hour time difference. That first week was exhausting--we unfortunately had not arranged for permanent child care prior to our trip (not knowing exactly what we were going to need), and it was immediately clear that, for the time being, we needed a lot of help. My sister Diane, who had come from Venezuela to stay with Zachary during our travels, was wonderful and stayed several extra days while we found some temporary full-time child care. We were so tired and overwhelmed we couldn't even think or plan or see into the future at all. The kids were tearing around the house, opening every drawer, pulling everything out of closets and cabinets, pushing every available button (the TV, the clothes dryer, the telephone, etc. etc.). They were on sensory overload again, and in this new environment they were totally hyperactive for the first two weeks. Zachary finally figured out that these two weren't going home, and then the bickering began. Both Margarita and Zachary are used to being "top dog"--Zachary of course has been king of the roost around here for almost 5 years, and Margarita was the oldest in the orphanage and was used as another caretaker for the younger kids--so we expected the power struggles between those two. Poor Sam kind of gets the brunt of it all from his older siblings, but he's a pretty tough kid and, tiny as he is, stands up for himself pretty well.

So--all of that said--how are things now? Calming down nicely, we must say. We now have everyone in school, at least part-time. Margarita seemed so sharp and, really, bored at home, that we decided to enroll her in Kindergarten at the public elementary school 3 blocks away. And we found a 3-day-a-week preschool program for Sam at one of the nearby Catholic parish schools. (Zach has been in full-time preschool all year.) Then we have child care in the afternoons, including Saturday, so that Mom has help managing three kids and dinner, etc. The "nanny" also stays late two nights a week, so Mom and Papa can take a night off and go out or just watch a movie on their own. This arrangement is working fairly well, though mornings are still a two-man job, between getting everyone up and dressed and fed and to three different schools. In the summer, all three kids will continue to go to school, but probably just to two different schools, so we'll assess things again then to see if we need additional help in the mornings. At least we are not exhausted all the time and we have a little time for ourselves, time to think and talk and plan....

I'll try and post again in the next few days with some interesting antecdotes about this fascinating process of creating a family from two "halves", tell more about the personalities of these two children, and more about how Zachary is handling all of this. The top photo in this post is Easter Sunday, three days after we got home; other photos are just "hanging around" ones....

Love to all.


8 comments:

Tapsalteerie said...

I so understand what you're talking about! We adopted 2 boys (2 and 1 year old) and we have a bio daughter who is almost 7. The day that she realized they weren't leaving was the beginning of a week long pout that finally ended with her wailing that she missed her one on one time with us. Luckily they're all getting along now and we really didn't have the hyperactive stage... but getting to know two new people and meshing them into our established family isn't always easy :)

heidie said...

John and Debbie,
WOW. You are soooo brave and we are so excited for you all. We have been wishing you well in our hearts and prayers and look forward to meeting your new children very soon. Hugs and Kisses, Eric, Heidie, Jesse & Jack

Madeline Petersen & Tim Avery said...

Hi Debbie and John,
Thanks so much for the update. I am, (I'm sure like many of your friends and family) delighted to get some of the story.
The blog has been a beautiful way of sharing your new life as a "Gang of Five". Can't wait for further installments on personalities and events. Here's to a good full nights sleep the nextt time that happens.
Thinking of you with much Aloha
Madeline and Tim

Kara said...

I've been reading your blog, and am so happy to read your update today. We are in the process of adopting also. Your story touched my heart, as I'm sure it has so many others. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your journey. Congratulations and best wishes in the days and months ahead.

Mom to 2 Angels said...

I'm glad things are calming down and getting back to "normal". All three of your kiddos are so adorable. There were many of us on the Yahoo board anxiously waiting to hear how things were going for your special family. You can see recent pics of AP (Eileen) on our blog. She is doing great.

Scott, Kate, Mac and Jack said...

Glad to see your alive and well. Keep up the good work and we will be in touch shortly.

Scott, Kate, Mac and Jack Slagle

imtina said...

I hope your transitions are smoothing out for the better each day that goes by. I love seeing Maggie and Sam's faces as I really see joy splashed all over them!

Are you all coming to the AO picnic in late June? Suzannah REALLY wants to see her friends. We are coming for sure! We'd love to meet you in person.
Tina

LaJoy Family said...

John and Debbie,

I have followed your blog and posts in our Yahoo group, and I am grateful to you for posting to your blog post-adoption. We are traveling in 2 weeks for our 8 year old and I know I can learn much from your experiences home the first few weeks. When you have time, I'd sure love to read more about specifics regarding the adjustments and any recommendations you have for those of us bringing home older children. I know it will take a long time to fully settle in as the new version of your family, and will so enjoy reading about the challenges and joys along the way. Best wishes for the coming weeks! Cindy