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Saturday, August 25, 2012

A (Honest) Three Month Update

Well, our Jack has been with us for three months (13 weeks) now and it's time for an update! :)  Jack has made some major strides this past month, but we have also had some BIG setbacks as well. As much as I would love to only post good things on this blog about our adoption, I feel as though I must be honest. I have said before, Jack had a tough initial first few weeks with us once we brought him home as he dealt with the initial shock of everything and grieved his foster family. Soon after the jet lag wore off though, he began to settle into a routine. He started to understand some of the home rules, began communicating with sign language, and even started speaking a few words. He was sleeping great, pleasant to take out for short or long visits, seemed to play well by himself or with others, he ate well, he obeyed us when we said “no,” and he asked for help when he needed it. Overall, we felt he was doing great!
Well, recently this has all changed!  Jack decided one day that he would wake up in a bad mood and this has continued for the past two weeks!  Everyday Jack has been doing things that he knows he isn't supposed to do, but doing it anyway.  He used to ask for or sign for help, but now he gets angry and throws things instead.  He has been difficult to bring out in public, because his behavior is so unpredictable.  But mostly, Jack just seems overall moody, constantly fussing and unhappy. Bryan and I have been caught off guard by his behavior and still haven't figured out the best way to discipline him in love.  As I have mentioned before, we cannot discipline Jack the same way that you could a child that is already completely attached to their parents. We have to handle him delicately as to not to hinder his bonding to us.  This has been the hardest part for Bryan and me to figure out. Anything I find on disciplining children has to do with older children that you can communicate with. Jack is already behind in his communication because he is from another country, so that doesn't help!  I can't find anything about disciplining a younger child, much less a Christian source of disciplining an adopted child. :( Are you only supposed to discipline older children?! Bryan and I definitely feel like Jack needs discipline, instead of using modes of distraction or us just ignoring his behavior, but we also don't want to delay his bonding process either. If anyone has any recommendations on how they best disciplined their adoptive child, please, by all means, let us know what worked for you!
We are exhausted and overwhelmed most days (which is probably true for most parents raising a toddler). But to me, Jack's behavior was so out of the ordinary that it eventually drove me to search for some kind of help.  Every day, I was on the internet scouring for answers. I was feeling completely frustrated and so alone until God provided me great hope in a blog article, called The Truth About Adoption: One Year Later!  Please, if you haven't read this and if you are planning on adopting an older child, you should definitely read it! Or if you want to know what we have been going through these past few months, it couldn't be any more truer if I had written it myself! God bless Jen Hatmaker! If it wasn't for her bravery in being honest about adoption, I would have continued to feel like I was the only person in the world going through this....

Go HERE to read her blog post.

Apparently, if I had done enough research or talked to my adoptive friends, I would have known this stage with Jack was coming! In her blog post (and many other articles that I have read since), Jen mentions that older adopted children often go through what they call a "honeymoon" period, where the adopted child and his/her parents are on their best behavior and this can last from a few days to up to a few months. Some say they never have a honeymoon period, so I guess I'm glad we did with Jack. ;) Next comes what they call a "testing" period.  During this phase, adopted children test their parents to see if they will leave them. They do this by acting out inappropriately and disobeying, among other things. Many parents of young children probably go through several testing stages too, but with adopted children, the motive is different behind their behaviors. These children have already gone through such great loss in their young lives that they don't know who they can trust anymore. They test and test until they can finally feel safe and free to express love to their family.  It is up to Bryan and me to respond in the right way to Jack's behaviors in order for him to feel this way toward us eventually. And if we don’t get it right during this critical time in his life, he may never attach fully! No pressure or anything! :)
Anyway, we have just had a hard couple weeks with Jack (and probably have a lot more to come), but the whole month hasn't been all that bad. ;) Like I mentioned before, Jack had made some major strides and doing some pretty cute things lately.
Jack is speaking a lot more now! I had been writing down his words, so I could remember to tell our social worker what he was saying. He was really only learning a few words each month, but this month he starting to try to imitate us. It's like he was listening all this time and then he all of the sudden he wanted to try. He doesn't get them all exactly right, but he does get close enough and at least he is trying!  Some of his new words are “Nana (banana), Up (which usually means ‘help’), Jacka (Jack), Bee! (Boo!), Hot, Otz (Socks), Pay (Pray), Wa wa (Water),  MIIILLL!! (MILK!), Buht (book), and Uh…do…TREE!” (One, two, THREE!).  This has made me so happy because I know that once he can start communicating, things won't be quite so hard for him to express himself, and maybe we can avoid some of these tantrums. ;) 
Jack seems like he is more open to learning things now. He likes us to read to him and he often reads to himself, by muttering softly while looking down at his book of choice.  Since Jack loves books now, we incorporated it into his bedtime routine.  First we have bath time and sing songs. For “Old McDonald Had A Farm”, he sings, "Oh Man Oh Man...Eee I Oh!" When he gets out of the tub, we will put lotion on him and say, "massage the leg, massage the arm.." etc. when we put it on him.  He will imitate us by saying "saj da." "saj da." We then read him a book and say our prayers.  He really likes to pray now and often reminds Bry and I to do it for meals.  Sometimes he will pray on his own quietly saying, "umm, ummm, ummm.." then loudly says, "AMEN!" It's so cute!  Jack’s favorite thing to say now is, “Oh man!” He was saying “Uh Oh” when he dropped something or fell down, but somehow it turned into “Oh Man!” We thought this was so funny, so we started encouraging it by saying it too.  Bryan especially thinks it is funny when he says it after he or Daddy passes gas! :P
He still doesn't call us Mama or Dada yet, though he can say it. I think he might be waiting to do that until he has bonded to us. Lord knows I would love to hear him call me Mama, but I don't want to push him. He will say it when he is ready.
We had our second post placement visit a little early due to some scheduling conflicts, but turns out it was great timing, because Jack wasn't in his "testing" phase yet, so we didn't have to address it! ;) We will see our social worker again in October and then finalize Jack's adoption at the end of November or in December! Three more months and Jack will officially be our son!
Jack has been to our nursery at church three times now. With each visit, he has gotten more and more sad each time we drop him off.  Normally this would make most people sad, but it's a sign of attachment, so it makes Bry and me a little bit happy that he doesn't want to leave us. Sometimes, we take him into the service at the beginning, so he can listen to the music. The first time we did it, he had this blank look on his face like he didn't know what the heck was going on. But this last time, he seemed more comfortable. He would reach out his hand to introduce himself during the greeting time, and clapped (almost in rhythm) during the music. ;)
Jack is doing so many new things.  He is such an imitator. He loves his sign language book, because he likes us to show him the signs in it so he can try them.  He likes to copy kids and do exactly what they do. If a younger child falls down accidentally, Jack likes to fall down too. Maybe he is trying to make the other kid feel better. ;) He also likes to pretend.  Sometimes he grabs a bag, (like mommy and daddy do when they leave) and says, “Bye bye.”
He still likes music and his dancing skills are improving. ;) He can walk up the steps with almost no help. He loves watching his Cars movie.  He often asks for “moovee?” but if we put anything else in other than Cars, he doesn’t like it.  “May-ner” (Mater) is his favorite character.  Mommy and Daddy had nothing to do with that. ;)
So, even though we are going through a difficult time right now, God still encourages us every day through moments of joy and gives us glimpses of hope that it will all be worth it in the end! J Please continue to keep our family in your prayers if you ever think of us. We always appreciate it!

Here's some pictures from the last month...

Visiting Magnolia Gardens

Petting the deer.
Playing with Papa's bunnies!
Papa's Tee Pee!
Visiting the Children's Museum.
He loved grocery shopping.
There's a smile!

That's one tired Mama!

That face pretty much sums up this month! ;)


  1. You are doing amazing - Keep your head up and don't loose faith - you are a great mommy & daddy! :) Patti Chastain!

  2. Although not for adopted children specifically, I have really found Love & Logic for Early Childhood to be helpful right now (21 mo). He's more into action, less talking with the little ones, and it is ALL about the parents remaining calm and cheerful. Worth checking out! Aside from that, he is seriously too cute! I might need to teach Mila to say, Oh man! - Ali Kojak

  3. Hey Monica. Love reading your journey. This parenting thing is no joke!! Yall are doing wonderfully!! Jack is one blessed little boy. One suggestion I have on discipline although I'm not speaking from an adoption point of view is practicing self control. We would practice during happy times as well as times of discipline. We would help the girls hold their hands together until they could compose themselves. Sometimes we would sit with them on our lap and hold their hands together until they calmed down and we would count calmly to 20. Now when we say you need to get self control they know they need to fold their hands and calm down. It takes time and practice but it really helped us. Sometimes this momma needs to sit and get self control :) anyways we love y'all and can't wait to meet Jack!!