Today marks the day that we have been home for the same amount of time that we were in China. It’s crazy because China seems like a distant memory now. Jet lag is gone, and all our bags are unpacked. I even had a craving for Chinese food this week, something that took over three months to return last time. I miss it. I miss walking through the markets. I miss being in a world full of people that look like two of my sons. And I even miss the horribly misspelled t-shirts that made no sense.
So how’s it going?
Better than I could have imagined. We came home in the midst of baseball season and the end of school year frenzy, but the other than a jam packed calendar, our adjustment has been pretty darn beautiful. I’m thankful that the kids only had two and a half days of school left after we returned from China. It has allowed us to ease into our daily schedule and routine without the pressure of bus schedules and rushing to after school activities. And I’ll be honest. Having the three bigger kids around has been a HUGE help. Showering would likely not be an option most days without some help from Mickey Mouse and Waverly. Caleb climbs up in my bed under the covers to watch tv, and Waverly sits in the pack and play with Caston. She loves being the baby snuggler at our house. As for Braden and Annalise, they jump up to help whenever I ask, and even a lot of times when I don’t. When we’re trying to get out the door to head to an activity or to church, at least one of them jumps in to put shoes on toddlers or put them in their car seats. They are so willing to help that it would be very easy to take advantage of my teen and tween and ask them to help way more than I do. However, I don’t want them to feel like any of the littles are their responsibility. (Unless of course, Kevin and I need a sushi night, and I will happily pay them to babysit!)
Caston’s transition into our family has been pretty easy. However, he doesn’t seem to have attached to either Kevin or me yet. It’s not surprising. We are his fifth place to be since birth. We assume he was with his birth parents before he went into the orphanage. Then he was transferred to a foster center and then to a foster home in just 16 short months. At that point, we adopted him and stayed in five different hotel rooms in China. And then there were numerous planes, trains, and buses. The poor baby. The only thing that has been consistent for him is the constant change in his life. How many people held my baby until he was mine? While he seems happy enough to be with us, it will be a long road for him to trust that we will always be there when he wakes up in the morning, when he’s hungry, and when he needs to be held.
Right now, he sleeps in the pack and play next to our bed. When he wakes up in the morning and sees us there, he is so excited. Grinning from ear to ear! One morning, I put him in our bed, and Kevin said, “Ok, buddy, now we’re going to teach you how to snuggle.” I love my husband. It’s not every guy that would fly across the world TWICE to love kids that he didn’t have to love.
As far as Caston’s adjustment to being HOME, I’ll break it down like this:
- Car seat–Caleb HATED the car seat for at least a month. Caston doesn’t seem to mind it! We’ve been on a couple of hour long trips in the short time he’s been home. He watches a movie and plays with a maraca. All is good! (At least until we inadvertently lose the maraca.)
- Siblings–He was in a foster home with around 12 other kids, so he’s used to a lot of people. The noise level here though was a bit much for him the first few days. He cried if the kids rough housed and squealed in delight or if we shouted “Dinner’s ready!” or “Time to go!” He’s getting used to it though.
- Pets–He loves the cats. It’s hilarious when Hobbles comes in the room. He drops everything to bear crawl right behind her. When she comes around, I am constantly retrieving Caston from the laundry room because he will not let her out of his sight!
- Baths–H.A.T.E.S. the bath. From our first day with Caleb, he loved baths, and we have dumped cups of water over his head ever since. He doesn’t care at all. And I guess we sort of expected that with Caston! The first time we put him in the tub in China, he completely came unglued and flopped over facedown in the water. Yikes! We weren’t expecting that. For a couple of weeks, it took two of us to bathe him, just to keep him from thrashing and going under. Now, he only mildly protests with whimpers and some tears, but since baths are not optional here, we will keep on keeping on with smiles and reassurance.
- Brushing Teeth–See “Baths.” Minus the potential for drowning.
- Language–I do believe he understands some of what we say. “Clap clap” evokes a response, and he signs “more” when he’s eating. He is beginning to learn a few hand motions to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Pat a Cake.” He smiles in anticipation when one of us says, “I’m gonna get you!” He currently repeats ma-ma, na-na, and la-la. He also “sings” little tunes.
- Eating–I can’t say for sure that he has ever been exposed to solids. He currently takes four bottles per day. When we were in China, I was surprised that he refused solids altogether. The Gerber puffs brought tears. Rice caused him to gag and cry. We got a few spoonfuls of congee (super watery rice that has been boiled forever–think porridge consistency) in him and finally decided to hold off until we were home. He has some super awesome thigh rolls, so he isn’t malnourished. Maybe he was just a little apprehensive about us in China. Since he’s been home, he has started eating stage 1 baby food, and he knows what’s about to go down when I open a certain cabinet door. (Unfortunately it is also the cabinet door that hides the coffee, so I have to visit it in secret sometimes.) Currently, he will try anything smushy (bananas, hummus, etc) as long as it’s on a spoon. Forget the pouch foods. (We are currently keeping Gerber and GoGo Squeez in business, as Caleb asks for a “squeezy” about 42 times per day.) And we can put anything in the bottle, and he chugs it. One morning, his bottle consisted of formula, rice cereal, Poly Vi Sol vitamin drops, Amoxicillin, Pedialax, and some stage 1 carrots. Now that’s an interesting cocktail. At least nutrition isn’t a concern!
- Sleep–Champion. Even better than Caleb, which we didn’t think was possible.
Some other random tidbits:
- The Cardiologist Appointment–This is our biggest news! We saw Caston’s cardiologist about a week and a half after we got home. He was such a trooper through the EKG and the 40 minute echocardiogram. Kevin and I exchanged a few worried looks when we were in with him for the echo, as we watched the screen that showed the mechanics of our baby’s heart. Imagine a severe weather radar screen jumping around erratically. I’m not sure I breathed while I was in that room. We got FANTASTIC news though. Caston’s VSD (ventricular septal defect) closed on its own! We go back in one year for a follow up EKG and echo. I secretly prepared my own heart for worse news, and I was so thankful it was all for nothing. We discussed the minimal health history that we had with his cardiologist, and he told us that based on what was written in his file from China, Caston was likely a pretty sick little baby when he was left to be found at a month old. It makes me so sad for his birth parents. Was he left because of his illness? We will never know for sure, but I can’t imagine that it wasn’t a factor.
- The Twin Factor–No, they are not twins. I have explained this one roughly 7,000 times already. Apparently, you put two Chinese babies in a double stroller, and you’re asking for it. They look nothing alike except for their size. And they are built so differently! I put them both in 18 month outfits yesterday. Caleb’s shorts were literally falling off, and Caston was about to pop out of his. Those thighs, I tell you!
- The Capacity of My Hands–“You’ve got your hands full!” Every day I hear it. And I’m pretty certain that not one of those people has seen our entire family together at one time. It must be confusing for mere acquaintances that see us at church or baseball games. I show up with a different combination of kids at different times and places. The Monday after we got back from China, I had to take Braden’s folder to school that he left at home. It was my first time out alone with the babies. I put Caston in the Ergo carrier and stuck Caleb on my left hip. Mouths dropped open in the middle school office and the proclamation was made. “You’ve got your hands full!” I joked that I still technically had one free hand and that I could probably throw one more on the other hip.
I’ll make this one loud and clear. My hands (and heart) will never be too full to love another child.