Thursday, August 9, 2007

Summertime....and the livin' is easier


"Love is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer's year - it brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul." ---Author Unknown

We are nearing the end of summer now, very warm even here in San Diego where the temperature varies very little year-round. It has been a summer of discovery, of learning, of growth, and a whole lot of "firsts" for Sam and Maggie--well, for all of us. A brief report on our summer, and with it an update on the progress of building a new family....

In a nutshell, we are doing fantastically well. Those first couple of months were rough, with Maggie's tantrums (resulting from her frustration at her loss of life's "control" and her inability to communicate), and Zach's "regressive" behaviors (tantrums, aggression, as he struggled to come to grips with his new siblings). But what a difference a few months makes. Sam and Maggie's English is amazing, and I think this has been the real "giant step" in turning the corner for creating a new family. With growing language skills, their frustration level is minimal. They understand everything but the most complex concepts, and can almost always make themselves understood--even if the word order is a little chaotic sometimes, or the verb tense is wrong. And our frustration level is much lower because, finally, we can actually parent these guys. Developmentally, they have been old enough from the beginning to understand the penaties/consequences and the rewards of bad or good behavior. But early on, without language, it was impossible for us to use those as parenting tools. Now they understand only too well that, if the playroom gets cleaned up and their pajamas are on by 7:15PM, they might get to watch a few minutes of their favorite TV channel (PBS' Sprouts) before bedtime. The conflicts with Zach, though still there, are better all the time, and are probably near the level that we will always see with siblings. Maggie already is a master at verbally taunting Zach, trying to provoke him to lash out physically at her, which promptly gets him in trouble....gee, this sounds familiar. I seem to remember doing the same thing to my younger sister....

So what have we done with our summer? We stayed really close to home those first two months or so, but we have definitely ventured out these past three months. Probably the biggest adventure was our first trip together as a family. John had a business meeting in Aspen, Colorado in July, and we all went with him. We took our wonderful nanny Liz with us, to provide that extra pair of hands and eyes at the airport and the hotel and the swimming pool. And we had a wonderful time--the kids rode horses, took the skylift to the top of the mountain overlooking the town, explored the village, and even attended two of the mostly-adult nightime functions related to John's business trip. One was a wonderful barbeque, complete with a bluegrass band, and newborn foals to pet, outdoor fire pits and their favorite--ice cream! It was a great trip and gave me hope that maybe I'm not, after all, doomed to live out my days in the same zip code, day after day....

Other firsts--

We took them to their first baseball game a month or so ago, and have been a couple more times since. Like most 5-6 year-olds, they were much more interested in the hot dogs and french fries (and of course the ice cream in a bowl that looks like an upside-down Padres cap) than they were in the game, but that's OK for now. Zach has been to a number of games now, and he is finally beginning to watch the game a little and ask questions about the rules, etc.

We went to the beach for the first time, at least the first time to actually swim in the ocean. They both loved the sand, the waves slapping the shoreline; Sam loved the water but Maggie decided she would rather swim in a pool than the "salted water". ( I second that one!)

    We had backyard barbeques with relatives and friends, to "introduce" the kids to a broader group of people, but in the familiar (and kid-proof) setting of our home. We had a wonderful time with relatives visiting from Chicago and Phoenix, and even with the family of our friend Don, visiting from Italy.

    And then there was the usual lazy, wonderful summertime activites--swimming lessons, or swimming in Don's pool (they're getting quite good, all three of them). Taking meandering neighborhood walks in the evening, ending at the little deli 4 blocks away, sitting at the streetside table enjoying our--you guessed it--ice cream. Trips to Balboa park to ride the miniature train and the carousel. Birthday parties on the bay with jumpers and face painters.... So nice, so nice. It seemed as though it was a long time coming, but really, it has only been five months....

    School is just around the corner and we were fortunate enough to get them all into the same school for the first time--one drop-off and one pickup for Mom or Dad. They will be attending one of the larger Catholic schools in our part of San Diego, one with an excellent academic reputation and large enough to have two classes per grade (Sam and Zach will likely always be in the same grade). The kids are excited to all be going to school together at last....

    So--onward and upward. There are still occasional frustrating days. There are days of bickering and jealousy and the constant "testing" of limits. It has been hard, hard work for sure. But there are no days where we question whether we did the right thing for Zach, or whether these (all three) were meant to be our kids. We thank God every day for the opportunity to enrich each others' lives, and we try to imagine how things will be 10 years down the line....

    For the first time Maggie recently asked me, in her broken English, if Papa and I were happy that she and Sam came to live with us. "Yes, honey, we searched and waited for you for a very long time", I said, and told her the story of how, saying bedtime prayers with Zachary over the past couple of years, we would always ask God to please send him a brother or a sister. I asked her if she was happy that she came to live with us. "Oh, yes, Mama, so, so happy!"

    Love to all....

    52 comments:

    Jackie said...

    So happy to see an update :) The kids look great (all three of them ;) I was so touched to read that Maggie is so happy to be with you...I can imagine that was a very special moment for you.

    Madeline Petersen & Tim Avery said...

    Hi Debbie, John, Zach, Maggie & Sam
    Thank you so very much for these updates......5 months....is it possible? We think of you all the time, and were so happy to have a chance to see you in San Diego when we attended my nephew's wedding. I sent some of the photo's to our French family. We even sent some to Nicolas, who now realized his dream of becoming a physical therapist and is in partnership in the South of France.
    Thinking of you with much Aloha

    Mala said...

    What a great update!!! Thank you!

    smileysk8 said...

    I am so happy to read an update on your wonderful family! I've been wondering how things were going. Thanks for posting the update and such cute photos of your kids! I would love to chat with you sometime about the first few months of adjustment. Our daughter has been home for about 2 and a half weeks now and it's quite an adjustment. God bless!

    mblatham said...

    I would so LOVE to add a link on my blog to this post or quote it if it is ok. It's such the answer to my last post on my blog entitled, "Do You Think God Doesn't Want You to Have Another Baby?" Feel free to email me at mblatham@charter.net. We are just starting our adoption process (the 4th process - not adoption) in Kyrgyzstan! Thank you for your refreshing honesty!
    Maria

    TheHappyNeills said...

    i've been hopping from blog to blog...yours stuck out because you adopted siblings. we are adopting 2 from kg, siblings if they are available in our age range (which isn't likely, but only the Lord knows!), but 2 unrelated if not. it's encouraging to see stories of completed adoptions. thank you for sharing this. feel free to peek in on our blog! www.neilladoption.blogspot.com

    TheHappyNeills said...

    Came to your blog from the yahoo group...Just curious, do you know if Aigul has been adopted yet? I loved seeing all your pics on your photo album link. Makes me so excited, wondering if that's where our child(ren?) is at!

    Mala said...

    August 9, 2007..... 2007!!!!!!!!
    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, inquiring minds want to know!

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