Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beautiful Baby Boy

A hundred thanks to my friend Christi for coming over last week with her camera and taking some amazing shots of Matthew.

When Maya and Sam were little, my then brother-in-law did a photo shoot of each of them, and those photos are framed in our bedroom. I wanted to capture Matthew as a baby too, since I know he won’t be one for long.

I know that in a few weeks (on August 16, to be exact), Matthew will go to Seattle Children’s Hospital and have his cleft lip and squished nose repaired. And that’s as it should be.

But as Matthew’s mama, let me confess to you that I think my boy is SO beautiful already. His cleft lip is just part of what makes up his face, but it IS part of his face, and I think he’s gorgeous just he way he is. And yes, I’ll still take him to Children’s for the surgery, because I want the best for him and I want his body to be healthy.

But a part of me will always miss the way he looks right now. I will miss this sweet face that I knew first—the eyes and lips and cheeks that I kiss and touch and know intimately. So I’m grateful to have these beautiful photos—so that one day my boy knows just how much his mama loved him from the start.

So here are a few of the amazing photos to share with you. I hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just some photos

It's been very busy around our house, and soon I'll write a post updating you on all Matthew's new accomplishments. But for now, here are some shots of how we've been spending our time. I especially love the sequence at the bottom with all the neighbor girls who adore Matthew. It melts this mama's heart.

Man, can that kid smile!

A serious face

Love this look--he seems surprised

And here's another serious face.

Playing letters on the fridge with Maya

Our neighbor Maggie, who LOVES Matthew

Matthew's big-girl buddies

Matthew's first dip in the kiddy pool with neighbor friends

He loved it!

Now the big girls dry him off!

And he gets another hug from Maggie

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Standing Tall

Our boy reached another milestone today, and he did it in the presence of dear friends. While having dinner with our friends Erik and Tauni (and their girls Emma and Lily), Matthew learned how to stand up on his own two legs from a crawling position ALL BY HIMSELF. The look on his face when he stood up for the first time was one of delight and pure joy. He knew he had just done something important, even without the many cheers and claps from the eight people standing around him. It was a big moment.

But honestly what delighted me the most about tonight wasn’t Matthew’s standing up (although it was pretty fun to watch). I was enchanted, all evening long, by the love and attention Matthew received from our friends, who are HIS friends now too. They carried him around, talked to him, clapped for him, commented over and over again how adorable he is, and asked us about a million questions about him. This was the first real time they had spent with him, and it was such a gift to me to see how enveloped he was in the friendship and love of this other family.

This happens all the time these days, and it reminds me that our call to adopt Matthew wasn’t just about our family—that we believe strongly that we have an extended family and community who have amazing love to give, and everyone gives it so freely. We knew that when we brought this little boy home, he wouldn’t just have our immediate family, but a whole host of friends and family members who will be part of his life, love him, and cheer him on. This is remarkable to me.

Yesterday, on the Fourth of July, we spent most of the day at my parents’ house celebrating with some of their friends. Matthew got love and attention from three extra grandparents yesterday, who took a zillion photos of him, helped him walk around, played with him, talked to him, and watched him all afternoon and evening. This kid already has four of the most amazing grandparents anyone could ask for, but what a double blessing to have all these extra grandparents (friends of our parents) who are also caring for him and loving him in that same way.

I don’t want to paint a picture of some fairy tale life at our house. Please hear me when I tell you that there are plenty of challenges, obstacles to overcome, and new things to learn. Most nights I literally fall into bed, I’m so exhausted. Aaron is really tired too. Just the change from two children to three is overwhelming, and trying to build attachment with a stranger from another culture is doubly exhausting.

But we are also so mesmerized by all the growing and changing this little boy is doing right here in the midst of us. He has the opportunity for stimulation, affection, attention, and interaction. And this has made a huge difference for him.

I know some of you who read this blog don’t live close enough to come over and tickle our boy in person right now. But we feel your love and support, even from a distance. Your emails, comments, cards, prayers and thoughts surround us and give us strength to keep on this journey, even when at times it feels insurmountable. Please know that you matter—very much. We couldn’t do it without you.

Enjoying the beautiful northwest ourdoors

Matthew and Sam--they are such buddies, and Sam wants to kiss Matthew every 10 minutes!

Working on his balance.

Matthew meets a special friend: Another Matthew!

Bath time and snuggles with mama

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Just the Opposite

We’re doing things in the opposite way around here these days. When you bring home an 18-month old baby to new parents and a new family, it seems like you spend most of your time trying to turn the toddler back into a baby.

It’s actually going well, honestly, although it’s quite a change in thinking. For instance, instead of holding his own bottle, we want Matthew to learn to let US hold the bottle for him. This helps him trust us, know that we will take care of him, and create attachment. We also rock him to sleep at both naptime and bedtime. By 19 months, both Maya and Sam were well on their way to putting themselves to sleep. We’d lay them somewhat awake in their cribs and they would fall asleep after they were down. This was something we did to try and help build a little bit of independence on their part, especially once they were past the infant stage.

But with Matthew, who didn’t have an infant stage with us (or with any “parent,” for that matter), we are doing things backwards, trying to help him be the baby he never got to be before growing up into a toddler.

This means when he’s hungry, we feed him. When he cries, we pick him up (immediately). When he’s awake, we get him up out of his crib. I have such a mixed relationship with his crib, knowing how many hours a day (possibly up to 20 hours) he spent in his crib while in the orphanage.

Some days Aaron and I feel joy and frustration in the same moment—like when Matthew learned how to unplug the wireless router. We were frustrated because he was getting into something he shouldn’t be touching, but in the same moment we were filled with joy because he was doing something that was developmentally appropriate for his age. Each milestone, even when it makes us roll our eyes, also delights us in ways we didn’t expect.

And I can’t speak for Aaron, but I have to admit that I find I have a deep well of patience and energy for Matthew. Any time he gets fussy, or when bedtime takes an hour longer than I was expecting, I just think about all early months of his life that we were not part of, and I feel a strong sense that we are re-writing those months somehow, reclaiming some of the time we missed. Any chance for a hug or some time in the rocking chair brings me joy and helps attach this amazing little boy more closely to us.

He’s changing so much—and learning something new every day. He continues his exploration of the world around him while standing on his legs. He’s not walking yet, but he pulls himself up and “cruises” from one place to another. He’s also making so many sounds with his voice, trying to communicate with us or at least join all the chatter he hears around him. He’s still only drinking from a bottle, which is definitely a source of frustration for me, but we are getting good support from a nutritionist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which has helped a lot. He’s sleeping now in his shared room with Sam, at least during the night, and he has actually been quite a good sleeper too, which is a wonderful blessing for two already-tired parents.

Life is simple now, but we are still doing some of our fun normal activities. Yesterday Maya and I went and picked strawberries, and I made four beautiful batches of jam. Yum! We are enjoying hanging out with friends and spending time with family. And we even braved church for the first time this morning, although I spent the sermon walking around with Matthew in the foyer of the sanctuary.

So life goes on . . . with all its challenges and joys. And we are ever grateful.

And here are some photos:

Eating time

Taking a walk with Dad

Sam's birthday

Maya's ballet recital--with Grandma (Aaron's mom) and Aunt Chrisy (Aaron's sister)

He's all smiles

Cutie boy

Maya's field day butterfly face painting

Some of our homemade strawberry jam