Sunday, July 29, 2007

Road Trippin'

Sorry I haven't blogged for awhile, we have been busy on our Summer Adventure! I simply haven't made time to write, and perhaps I needed a bit of a brain break from all of the intensity of emotion that often comes out when I post. I just haven't had the urge, which surprised me as I figured I'd be blogging every day! However, in my own defense, we have been very busy and I haven't even taken that many photos while here which I just realized and which is very unusual for me! I'll have to remedy that during our remaining days here.

We got off to a rousing start Monday morning and were off at 6:30 AM. We had a bit of a difficult day with Kenny in the car, as he was stubborn and obstinate about several things, and mommy was really NOT in the mood for it at the beginning of a 10 day trip alone with 3 boys. After a couple of bottom chewings and a little moment of "attitude adjustment" he had finally gotten the idea that Mom's Law was exactly that, The Law, and he was not going to get away with acting up. None of it was very serious and he was mainly testing me at every opportunity to see if I really, really, really meant it when I said "Yes, you must use the headphones for the DVD player" or "No, for the final time, we are NOT going to the store so you can spend your $5 in the first 2 hours of our trip". You know, stupid stuff like that.

However, by the time we arrived in Las Vegas things had mellowed a bit and when we got to the beautiful room we both looked at each other and apologized for the challenging day and we started over with a smile and a HUGE jump on the big beds by all of us, including mom. All 3 boys' eyes bugged at the big screen TV in the room and the view from the 18th floor! Then we were off to visit friends, which we enjoyed tremendously. I had hoped Kenny would visit in Russian while he had the opportunity but he was too busy exploring the new environment to do too much chatting. Mom got to visit though and had a great time. We then drove up and down the strip viewing the lights and Kenny's "oohs" and "Ahhhs" were priceless. After a good nights sleep, we were on the road again to Destination California!!

We arrived here in California and all the boys were anxious to see their Grandmas, who in our family's case are good friends and live 5 minutes from one another. This makes it easy for all of us as my mother-in-law graciously invites my mom over to hang out all the time we are here staying with her so we don't have to feel torn between two households and moms. I'll bet the boys think that every family has both sides together all the time! Matthew hadn't seen his grandmas in 2 1/2 years so it was almost like meeting new people all over again. Josh had been here in October with me so all was fresh in his mind and for the first time it was as if he was not the rookie! Kenny, with his usual flair, showed no reticence and was very happy to meet his extended family. It seemed to be extremely important to him to understand these familial connections and piece it all together, to feel a part of a larger family. He met cousins and aunts and his only uncle as well as the myriad number of family friends who are always in and out of the house, including a kind young woman who is a friend of the family who speaks Russian and interpreted a few things for us! We spent the first couple of days with downtime, just hanging out, swimming, and seeing a couple of stores...and yes all 3 boys spent the $5 that Dominick had given them as spending money for the trip.

The Big Event thus far though, was yesterdays trip to Legoland, which honestly couldn't have been more perfect. We had the surprise pleasure of having Auntie Beth and cousins Jake and Bethany offer to come along and spend a hot, sweaty, busy day with us and we were so happy to have them! Matthew was living out his dream, and Legoland was the end result. This was Kenny's first trip to an amusment park like this and as if a sign from above, while we were standing in line to buy our tickets a couple of Russian woman with children were in line behind us and Kenny was very excited to hear Russian spoken. Josh and Kenny both rode their first roller coasters, much to their collective delight (and Mommy's joy that cousins could taker her place a time or two!). All three were entranced as they watched the live Pirate stage show, and the squeals and laughter at the waterpark area alone were worth the trip. Auntie Beth was the designated "Official Squatter" holding down park benches loaded with backpacks and bags while the rest of us wandered through various rides. Joshie got to drive a real car (kids have complete control, no track it follows!!) and even though it was only about 3 MPH he thought he was such a grown up!! I am certain Matthew could have remainded in the Lego Building Center the entire time, although there were no complaints when we said it was time to move along. Once Kenny got a taste of roller coasters there was no stopping him.

We have also visited the most amazing library I have ever seen, it is a brand new $26,000,000 library here and is just awesome, and I am jealous that I don't get to visit it more! Although for a small city our Montrose library is also something to be proud of. Our family is really into libraries and the boys consider it a treat to go.

One hard part of this trip is that a dear friend had emergency surgery while we have been away and I hate that we are not there to help in some way, so faily calls ahve been flying back and forth to keep us up to date on his condition, and thankfully he is doing well now.

It is a bit strange, being back to the place that for so many years was "home" to me. I lived in Camarillo from the time I was 5 until I was 30, and yet I have almost no close friends here at all, almost no one I want to visit other than family. The cost of housing here is so out of control almost no one who grew up here in my time still lives here, and I also realize with gratitude for Montrose that larger cities do not lend themselves to forming friendships more easily, despite the larger population. I am driving along streets I know like the back of my hand, pointing out various spots to the kids where we played ball, went to school, etc. And yet there is no strong feeling of nostalgia, no yearning for days gone is all factual to me, and I discover I have no heart connection to this place where I spent 25 years of my life other than the presence of our mothers. I keep thinking I should feel something more, that reminiscing should bring about certain emotions and yet it doesn't and I wonder if there is something wrong with me that I don't feel more than I do.

The boys have all been outstanding with very few meltdowns or issues at all even though they are exhausted much of the time due to late bedtimes, tired out bodies due to sun and swimming, and being bombarded with new people. One thing I have realized on this trip is just how much I actually LIKE my sons...not just love them, They are good company, they are funny and smart, kind and generous, and even if I didn't have a piece of paper that said I was their mom I would think they were pretty cool cats :-)

A couple more days and then we are on our way home to Daddy and real life, whatever that may be. Still have a busy 3 weeks before school starts and I dread getting back to a real schedule. I love the laziness of summer, the spontaneity, the relaxed betime rules. I enjoy having the kids home and doing so many things together, but this summer I think it will take school starting for me to catch my breath!

I have pictures to post but will add them later when I have high speed access. Hope you all are enjoying the last part of your summer too!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

California Here I Come!

Well I am going to try and post again and see if this makes it and remains on the blog. We are back a few hours from a terrific time camping with several of our church families and will be off to California in the morning to see Grandmas and Aunties and Cousins and Uncle! I am frantically washing up last minute clothes that our adopted Auntie sent the boys that they fell in love with when we opened the box this afternoon and insisted on taking. I never knew I had such clothes horses...I don't have girls for a reason but seems they are turning into it for sure! A couple of totally cool surfer type shirts make Matthew look like a Hawaiian dude for sure :-)

Anyway, camping was awesome...Kenny caught his first fish and the sheer delight on his face was worth the entire trip! I stepped out of the box a bit and due to adult peer pressure jumped off the pontoon boat into the lake with all my clothes on!!! It was a riot and we had so much fun, even if it did rain much of the time. I did not take any pictures because I didn't feel like hauling the camera around int eh rain much of the time, but a friend got pics of the first fish so I'll post them when we get them emailed to us. Never to fear though, the camera will go everywhere in California!

So we're off...and we'll post soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Summer of the Suitcase

For the title of this post I am borrowing from a conversation a friend of mine and I had this week, this is certainly the "Summer of the Suitcase" for our family! For someone whose first real vacation was my honeymoon at 19, I sure am making up for lost time!

We are home for 5 days this week from Summer Camp, and then Friday we are off to Ridgway Reservoir for a fun weekend of camping with families from our church. We arrive home Sunday afternoon and then take off early Monday morning for the loooooooonnnnnngggg drive to California to visit both Grandma's!! Kenny is excitedly awaiting the chance to see his Babushka's face to face, and Matthew hasn't visited them in about 2 1/2 years, so it will be a wonderful time for all of us, if we can manage to make it through the long, dull drive first. We are also so fortunate to have Dominick's brother and sister-in-law coming to visit as well, so seeing Uncle Peter and Auntie Beth will be a real treat!! Matthew has promised to be my Co-Pilot since Dominick has to remain at home and work. He can't do any worse than I have done in the past when returning from Las Vegas I somehow ended up in Salt Lake City! Yes, it is the running joke in our family and I will never hear the end of it :-)

We will be going back to visit in the city I grew up in, Camarillo, and since leaving it feels nothing at all like home. Montrose was home the first moment I stepped foot in it and it has done nothing but grow fonder to me throughout the past 10 years. I loved where I grew up but as any city in Southern California will do, it has changed so much it doesn't at all resemble the little town I was a child in where I remember celebrating the arrival of the first McDonald's. I think the yearning for that kind of feel again is what led us to settling in Montrose to raise our children, and we have never regretted that decision for a moment.

Other than hugging family we have other adventures planned for this trip as well! We will be meeting some special friends in Vegas who have helped us tremendously with our adoption, we are planning a trip to Legoland, paid for with Matthew and Joshie's savings for the last year of all their birthday, Christmas and allowance Matthew saved every penny he earned this past winter helping us out in the restaurant. It was originally meant to be used in Kyrgyzstan and shared with Kenny to buy souvenirs but not much ended up being used so we made a deal to take a trip to Legoland...Matthew's dream trip...when we went to CA. I will have the pleasure of seeing my closest old high school friend. We will visit the beach and show Kenny the ocean for the first time, visit the Science Museum in Los Angeles, and maybe...just maybe...I'll get to rest a bit too. Yea, right...I doubt it!

So we are taking this next couple of days to do absolutely nothing but hang out. We need it! I have clothing scattered from one end of the floor to another as I pack for two trips and clean up from the last one!

And yet, in the midst of this controlled (somewhat) chaos, there are still those special little moments that capture my heart. Matthew took it upon himself this morning to pull out some of the younger aged computer games he enjoyed in years past and try and teach Kenny how to use them. He ran down the hall to the kitchen this morning and with a huge grin on his face told me I had to come see what Kenny was doing. I walked into our bedrooom where the desktop computer is and there was Kenny sitting in the chair maneuvering through one of the games, Josh on the bed avidly watching him. Matthew hopped onto the chair sitting behind Kenny and hugged him from behind, giving him a kiss and telling him "Good job, Kenny!".

Yesterday all the boys were busy, busy, busy and Dominick was working at home cleaning a popup trailer for a customer. Kenny decided to go out and help Daddy and was out there for 2 hours cleaning the inside of it thoroughly, coming inside once or twice for water for the two of them, grinning from ear to ear and proudly declaring that he and Daddy were working together. Later Matthew joined them laying on his back and cleaning the tongue of the trailer and he came into the house with his face covered in dirt, happy as a clam. Josh, as usual, sat back and enjoyed the show!! Hahahaha! We had a very happy day yesterday without a moment's problem from Kenny. We capped it off with a swim in the evening at the public pool and the everyone exhaustedly went to sleep once we came back home.

As I read the above paragraph I realize that even yesterday wasn't really a relaxing day!! Whew! I'll continue to blog during our trip to CA, as I am sure there will be many, many new adventures in Kennyland that might be fun to share. I keep thinking I will stop blogging as the "big" adventure is complete, but there always seems to be some silly thing to share with anyone who wants to waste time reading this! :-) Things like Kenny calling our popup trailer a "Yurta Machina" and watching his eyes widen in surprise at it opens up, or hearing Joshie explain his family to a visitor to our home this morning saying "I have two brothers from different places but they are both 8...but I'm not!!"...or then there is the heartrending prayer of Kenny as he says his prayers at night thanking God for his family and then throwing wishes for his buddy Turat who is still in the orphanage in Kyrgyzstan.

And I say to myself, what a wonderful world...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer Camp Transformations!!!

We arrived back home last night after a wonderful week of church summer camp at La Foret, the United Church of Christ's awesome facility located in the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs. Matthew and Kenny went, and I was allowed to attend as Kenny's adult "companion" to assist as needed and work with him individually. We left last Sunday and were there for one week.

Prior to going, I flip flopped a number of times about whether Kenny should go or not. On one hand, I realized that most experienced adoptive parents of older kids would consider it insanity to involve their child in such an activity so soon after arriving in their new home...after all we have only been home with Kenny 4 weeks! On the other hand, if Kenny was capable of doing so and would enjoy it, I figured it might be worth a try and the worst thing that could happen is I would be proven to be the idiot so many probably already think I am and would leave and return home. Thanks to the Christian missionaries who had already so blessed his life and led to his adoption, he already had an understanding of the concepts of God, prayer and Christ, and I thought there is no time like the present to begin to nurture that in a more personal way for him. Soooooo after a long phone conversation with the Director of the camp...wisely or not, off we went!!

Matthew attended La Foret last year for the first time as a soon-to-be second grader and already knew the ropes. I made a promise to him that I would try hard not to be "mommy" during camp, that he would stay in a different cabin and could completely ignore my presence as I was only there to help Kenny.

I was to drive over a total of 5 kids, Matthew and Kenny, and 3 others from our church. Everyone spent the night at our house the night before so we could get an early start for the long 5 hour drive ahead of us. At 6:00 AM we were up and in the car and on our way to the Air Force Academy which is quite near the camp. My biggest surprise was how much the kids all enjoyed it, even the three girls who were with us! After a picnic lunch on the grounds we toured the gift shop and museum area, visited the beautiful chapel and then saw the cadets marching in formation. It was a memorable afternoon for all of us, and I so enjoyed all the kids I was with...the girls are all very close to our family and I love them dearly, so it was great fun to spend the time with all of them.

On to La Foret...and Kenny and I were graciously offered a cabin of our own so that any "meltdowns" and disciplining could be done in private. Our cabin was right across from Matthew's cabin so we were able to visit all the time and were not at all left feeling like outsiders while still having a place to go to mellow out if needed. In fact, Susan, one of the Counselors, went out of her way to make a velcro icon schedule packet that we used daily to explain to Kenny what was going on each day in pictures. We spent the next 6 days doing crafts, swimming, singing, going on hikes and walking labrynths, taking blindfolded trust walks, etc. It was AWESOME!! Along the way I was able to sit back and observe Matthew and Kenny both, along with all the other kids, and the transformation in that short 6 days was nothing short of astonishing.

Upon arrival the first day, Teddy, the Director, allowed me to say a few words to explain to the other 22 kids in this age group where Kenny was from and why he could not understand them or speak English. In our group there was another little guy adopted from Guatemala as a toddler along with Matthew and another domestic adoptee with special needs.

Day 1 and Day 2 Kenny spent on the fringes of the group. We had to go back to the cabin a couple of times to reinforce that he was to act like a Big Boy, not a Baby Boy, and that if he didn't want to participate fully in an activity he would have to go back to the cabin and take a nap :-) Uh...yea...not what he wanted so he finally got the idea that he would either become involved and follow along or spend the next week on his bunk. He tended to hang back, to revert to very childish behavior at times with arm flapping, dancing, singing out loud when bored, etc. This was NOT all the time, but at times when he had decided he wanted to disrupt things a bit to get attention. I realize from this description this almost sounds like autistic behavior but believe me it is nothing like that at is simply to gain attention when things aren't going his way! The kids were not at all mean or exclusive, he just wasn't at a place yet where he could join in so he was mostly left on his own after a couple of attempts by a few of the kids to communicate and involve him. While it bothers any mother to see their child as the outside in a group of their peers, it was totally understandable.

The night of Day 2 brought about a change though. We were in the cabin with Matthew's half of the group and out of the blue Kenny makes a cool origami frog. Suddenly, every kid in the cabin wanted to make paper frogs and Kenny showed each of them patiently how to do so...and the ice was broken. He was part of the group then, and I noticed two or three of the kids going out of their way to pat him on the back and say "Cool, Kenny!". He then went on to show them all how to make a beautiful origami bird and they all "Ooohed" and "Ahhhed", and you could almost see his chest puff up a bit. I too was as surprised as the other children, and it reminded me there is so much I don't know about my oldest son, so many hidden talents waiting to be discovered. From that moment on things changed for Kenny at camp. His frogs became part of a play about Moses performed by the older kids, and the other children realized that just because he was a bit different and couldn't communicate well with them, he was bright and kind and that was all that seemed to matter.

The next day was really amazing. Kenny matured a bit and tended not to revert to the more childish antics as often. We had a 2 mile hike in the heat and he didn't complain at all until the end. Later in the day while gathered inside one of the lodge rooms he started goofing around with a couple of the other girls, pretending to direct them while singing and it morphed into an act for the talent show on Friday afternoon with "Kenny and the Aspenettes" (the Aspenettes are named after the cabin they all were in) and he stood up in front of the entire group importantly "directing" his girls in songs that had been learned at camp. It was a great way for him to be included without needing language, and he was followed around by his little groupies for 2 days as they practiced their act. While he still showed no real interest in any of the outdoor sporting activities such as basketball or tennis which all the kids were playing during free time, he didn't seem disturbed by it at all and instead elected one day to spend his free time cleaning up the sporting equipment shed.

We had an evening chapel service with the entire camp which included grade and middle school aged children as well as a few adults, and it was a moving, magical evening spent in the company of enthusiastic, bright, loving kids who all have special gifts and talents. The singing and accompanying guitars provided the background music while children of all ages shouted out one at a time their "thank you's" for various things in their lives. As I sat there watching not only my children, but the glowing faces of other children whom I had come to know over the past few days, I felt hope for the future, hope for what our world might become in spite of the naysayers and doomsdayers. And I felt so blessed to be there at that very moment with 2 of my 3 sons, watching the changes taking place in each of them over the days, weeks and months of their lives. That alone is an incredible gift from God...the gift of witnessing changing life. As we all sang "Our God is an Awesome God" it was hard not to agree...

So Kenny had a very successful time away at camp, one that brought about new language skills, new experiences, and new friends. Matthew showed remarkable maturity in keeping "Mom" separate from the camp experience, in understanding that I was not there at all for him but for Kenny and for not taking advantage of my presence. In fact, he ignored me quite easily! Hahahaha! But interestingly, when I asked him on the way home which year he enjoyed the most, mainly to ellicit a response about Kenny's presence and if it was embarassing to him or not when he acted up, he said that this year was better than last year because I was there and even though he knew he was supposed to pretend I wasn't around he felt good knowing I was there anyway. For my son who keeps his emotions quite close to the vest, this was high praise indeed.

While I came home quite exhausted and in need of a rest, I too felt transformed by the experience. I had reinforced for myself that I should trust my instincts more often, that even though others might not do what I elect to do, that does not mean I am wrong for my family...I do know my own children better than anyone else whether it is a question of adopting out of birth order and artificially "twinning" my kids, or having our newly adopted son attend camp. That doesn't mean I won't sometimes make errors in judgment, but more often than not if I listen to God's leading and plan for our lives I will make the right decisions, even if they are questioned by others. Secondly, I came away from the experience feeling closer than ever to my God, being with children has a way of doing that for us all, and being with children in a nature setting is that much more moving. I saw how quickly a "family" atmosphere is naturally created when a group of people of any age is thrust together for a certain length of bonds are created with people you might never connect with in another setting.

I also finally flushed down the toilet the laughter and derision I once oozed over the "It takes a village..." concept, as I saw firsthand how valuable the input from others is for our children, how they can take away lessons from others that I don't have the specific life experience to teach them. We can't do it all on our own, nor does God want us to. He wants us to build bridges to one another and then to cross those bridges to learn all about what is on the other side. That does not mean we abdicate responsibility for our children's upbringing to others, but that we need to reach out to others to help fill in the gaps and lift us up when needed. I was offered warm words of encouragement all week from three fine ladies who didn't think I was nuts to have taken on this challenge. I was witness to their kindness, their patience, and their wisdom when working with Kenny, Matthew and all the other kids.

My first summer camp was one I will never, ever forget, and neither will my children.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Perfect Race???

Today I had a friend add highlights to my hair...and it ended up making me look more like Billy Idol on a bad hair day or perhaps ready to go surfin' in CA!! Hahahaha! My hair didn't end up highlighting at all but instead looks almost bleached blonde which wasn't the intention but might be fun until it grows out. When Matthew saw it, he had a very interesting reaction, when asked if he liked it he said that now I was like "the perfect race, blonde hair and blue eyed". Now this might not sound as bad once you recognize that he has this huge interest in history and Dominick and he had just had a conversation recently about Hitler and the "Master Race", but it really did make me stop and think about how my sons view their own race as well as ours. Do they really see white as "perfect"? Do they see themselves as somehow inferior? I of course, sputtered and reassured that I thought it was silly to think of any race as "perfect" and that I thought Asians were beautiful and that I wished I had darker skin like Matthew does so I wouldn't burn at every opportunity...but it felt so lame, so weak.

Later as I thought more about it, I realized that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change this...they are Asian and we are white and we can't paint ourselves different colors to look more alike. I also realized that regardless of my efforts to present positive Asian role models, to add diversity into their lives, they will always view themselves as different than us, because they are. It is not as if I hadn't understood this, but the reality of it sometimes hits you in the face like a ton of bricks just as it ocassionally does when someone unknown to me will ask me if I am babysitting because they can't see that these could possibly be my children. We are forever marked as a different family, but I think the main responsibility I have as a mother to my kids is to somehow get across the idea that "different" doesn't mean "bad" or "wrong". There are moments I feel fairly successful at this and then there are moments like the "perfect race" comment when I think I am an utter failure. How can I ever express to Matthew that there never lived a more "perfect" son than he or his brothers??

Happy Birthday America!

We celebrated the 4th of July by attending an old fashioned afternoon get-together at the home of some dear friends of ours. We always have a blast with this large family, and they go all out when planning an event...there were water balloon tosses, BB gun target shooting and pie eating contests. Kenny got a real taste of what America's birthday is all about! We laughed more than we had in a long time (and for our family, that takes a lot as we laugh constantly!), were wet repeatedly due to water fights with Super Soakers, and had our tummies filled with all the soda and BBQ pork we could consume.

A chord was struck deep in my heart as I looked around at this gathering of friends...of Americans and Kazakhs and Kyrgyz and South Africans...this is what our country is all about. Our best friends hale from South Africa, immigrants 6 years ago and we often joke that when our families are all together Dominick and I are the minorities, being the only 2 of the 10 of us who are American's by birth! All of these ethnicities and backgrounds and cultures that are put into the melting pot that is America and out comes this glorious mixture of freedom loving people, a more diverse population was never found anywhere else on earth. I love my country, I love all that it stands for. It is not a blind love, her faults are evident but so are her gifts to all of us. There isn't another country on earth where people die on a daily basis trying to reach it's soil as they do trying to get to America. For all that is wrong, there is so much else that is right, that works.

I often joke with people who ask us about how we are going to manage to pay for college for our kids, knowing the overwhelming cost of adopting them in the first place. I always respond, in half jest "We got them to the land of opportunity with their college funds, they can figure out college for themselves!!". The truth of it is, this IS the land of opportunity, a place where any immigrant family from China or Vietnam can find itself within one generation owning a business and a home, their children getting a free public education and headed for a University. This is a place that welcomes those who are downtrodden and persecuted in their land of origin, who come to a place where they are relatively safe and secure. This is a home for thousands and thousands of children who could find no home in their birth country, who are in the loving arms of American families who will nurture them into adulthood. Sure, we have crime, problems with access to health care, political discord, disagreements on immigration and much more that needs to be improved upon. But when one looks at the greater picture, it is a place I am proud to call "home".

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th, and that you took a moment to reflect on all that is right with our country, for just one day, rather than focusing on what is wrong. We are a very blessed nation.

We have a busy week ahead of us with a week long church summer camp that Matthew and Kenny are attending along with me as chaperon for Kenny! I will be hauling 5 kids to and from camp, and am looking forward to the chance to be with all of these outstanding young people. Actually, it will be my own first experience with summer camp, having never gone to one when I was a child. I am looking forward to it with anticipation and, if being honest, a bit of dread as well. It might be very challenging being in this setting with Kenny for a full week with no break offered by Dominick. I am sure we will have a great time, but no doubt there will be some very tough moments as well. Please keep us in your thoughts as we embark on this little adventure!!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Blood Bath of '07

I am officially declaring that we have had our share of BLOOD for the month now! Monday evening Matthew and Kenny were showering together late in the evening, having had a total blast together with Joshie out riding their bikes in the waning evening sun while mom and dad visited with neighbors. One of those classic summer evenings where all feels right in your world, you can hear the sound of nearby sprinklers and children's laughter, a light breeze is keeping the mosquitos at bay, and you just wish life could go on like this forever. I went inside to clean up the kitchen and in comes Joshie carried in Dominick's arms, deep sobs and crocodile tears flowing as he has a seriously skinned knee from falling off his bike. The blood flows, I coo softly in his ear that he will be all right, and then my Drama King's sobs slow as he watches how cool it is to see hydrogen peroxide bubble up. Because he insists he simply can not have a bath or shower tonight because his leg will fall off, I gently wipe him all down, lotion him up and get him dressed for bed while Matthew and Kenny are giggling and teasing one another getting into the shower. Man, are they really enjoying one another!

As I am finishing getting Joshie done, I hear a blood curdling scream, I kid you not, and Matthew who is sitting on the floor of his bedrooom with sopping wet hair alongside Kenny is holding his ear and in between screams says that Kenny was trying to clean his ears for him and jammed the QTip in way too far. We never let the boys clean their own ears for exactly this reason, but Kenny came to us already doing it so we have allowed him to do it for himself. I never imagined he would try to "help" his brother and clean his ears for him too!! Well, one look with a flashlight and the sight of blood had me rushing to throw on clean clothes and rush him to the ER, where thankfully the eardrum was proclaimed intact. Matthew had calmed down on the way there and said it was now more like a dull ache, so as we sat there watching "Deadliest Catch" on the TV in the ER room, I am mentally calculating the $200+ cost of this evening's visit. However, with blood in the ear we didn't want to take any chances. Both Matthew and I had a hard time keeping a straight face as we explained to the admitting nurse what had happened, and the young kindly ER doc came in laughing saying that on the admitting board they had listed "Overzealous ear cleaning by new brother" as the injury :-)

The next afternoon was not filled with as much humor though, as it was Kenny's turn for the "Blood Bath of '07" at the LaJoy's. After being asked at least 40 times how many shots he might have to have and not being satisfied with Mom's "I don't know" answer, we headed off to Kenny's first dental appointment...the first of many we will no doubt have over the next several years with his cleft issues. When making the appointment I had explained to the dentist's staff about Kenny's fear of anything having to do with his mouth, and his background and they called in a prescription of valium for him to take an hour before the appointment to help him relax a little. While it definitely had an effect on him (when in the car on the drive over he sat half numb, for once not having to open the glove box 600 times or play with every switch he could reach), when we were called in to the treatment room he still started crying, obviously fearful of what the next hour would hold for him.

The dentist and his hygienest were superb, very kind and understanding, explaining every single move to him, letting him see tools, etc. Immediately the dentist determined that the one tooth we were most concerned about would have to be pulled (a baby tooth, thankfully), and there was another one upon visual inspection that would need a filling. Trying to keep this all less traumatic for Kenny, he decided to forego the whole cleaning and full xray treatment, and just work on those two teeth this time around. Kenny was so scared, shrinking away from his touch, crying when he saw the dental tools that he thought were needles (They do look sharp!), and asking repeatedly if he was going to get a shot. Once we knew what was going to occur, I sat him up in my lap, and told him he would have to have 2 shots, one on the top and one on the bottom, and then the dentist would fix his boo boo tooth. I didn't tell him he was yanking the one tooth, not wanting to further scare him. He was understandably very upset and they gave him nitrous oxide to help further relax him, which really didn't do all that much good. In between every step, Kenny would sit on my lap, letting me comfort him, and I was holding his hands through it all as they let me sit right beside him even though I know I was in their way. They really were quite kind and understanding.

The shots were very painful but once they were administered he seemed more disturbed at the numb sensation than anything, and he did very well with the drill and fill of his tooth, which the dentist said he almost thought about pulling because it was so deep but decided to try and fill first. Then came the really tough one...pulling the bad tooth. Prior to trying to pull it, the dentist tested it to see if it was numb enough, and of course with our luck during Blood Bath week, it wasn't. He looked up at me and said he was going to need to give him a third shot if he pulled it. Luckily, this young man seemed to understand that there were more important things at stake here than a bad tooth, that Kenny's trust of what I told him was paramount because we have so much more that is coming down the road medically. As he looked at me with questioning eyes over his mask, trying to see how I would want to proceed, I told him that even if we had to stop and come back and it cost us more to do it later, it was more important to me that Kenny be able to trust what I told him...and I had said only 2 shots so that was what it needed to be or Kenny would be unable to trust me in the future if I told him something else about medical treatments. He then pulled down his mask, looked at me, and said "Why don't I ask him what he wants to do, then you are out of the decision and he is in control of it...and if he wants to wait, we wait but then you aren't the bad guy..." so I agreed, and he tried his best to convey to Kenny that he needed to pull the bad tooth but he would need one more shot to do it, at which of course more tears errupted. He told Kenny that he could do one shot now or come back another day and do 2 or 3 shots and pull it then. The emotions that flashed across Kenny's face were very difficult for me to see...the obvious fear of more pain, the thought of having even more pain later...and then in an almost palpable way I could see him screw up his courage and he asked him quietly "Only one more??? No zaftra(tomorrow)??" and the dentist looked to me to understand and I told Kenny "Yes, one more today, no shots zaftra"...because I had no other vocabulary to say "later" but we seemed to understand one another. At this Kenny looked up at the dentist and said "" and then he laid back in the chair again, proving to me that courage sometimes comes packaged in 8 year old bodies despite what adults might try and dismiss in children. After 3 or 4 jaw crunching yanks, and Kenny's body arching into the air in pain as this large molar was extracted, it was over and he was in my lap and I was firmly whispering "All Done".

As I sat beside Kenny throughout this small drama that was unfolding with me as a very unwilling participant, I don't know how I kept from crying myself. I remember thinking to myself "If it is this bad for a dental visit, what will it be like for sugeries??? How can I be there for him and not fall apart???" and then I thought even further "How in the world does a parent of a child who has been horribly burned or needs painful cancer treatments handle this and not totally lose it??". I also realized that just as I walked with Josh through the valley of his own sorrow and helped him work through the crippling emotional pain he was experiencing as he worked through his attachment issues, I was going to have to walk hand in hand with Kenny down into another valley of pain, only this one was physical. I am not really sure which one is worse...the physical or the emotional. Perhaps they are equivalent, each attacking insiduously until the spirit simply withers away if uncared for. And that is my job, to care for the spirit when I can't "fix" the other things, to carry their spirits when they can't and then hand them back over the reigns when they make it through successfully.

Not an hour later Mommy had to go for her allergy shots and Kenny accompanied me where, quite fittingly, I had to get 3 shots myself! Revenge should have been his as he could have sat back and watched with a smirk on his face as I got what was coming to me after his nasty afternoon, but no, instead I had him gently lift up my shirt sleeve and kiss my boo boos after each shot. What a wonderful little boy we have brought into our lives, I said to myself.

I was filled with great love for all of my children, for the compassion they showed one another over the past couple of days. Matthew and Kenny both cuddled Joshie as he cried over his knee, Kenny could hardly let go of Matthew after hurting him, apologizing profusely and was awake when we returned home from the ER at almost midnight, immediately asking if Matthew was ok, and both Matthew and Josh making a big fuss over Kenny's bravery and his prize tooth that he carried home in a litte green box to share with everyone.

And thus ends the Blood Bath of '07. Ears, teeth, knees. I think I am done for awhile!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Giardia Anyone?

I am waiting for a call back from our MD about testing Kenny for Giardia...he has lost 3 pounds since coming home and is eating like a horse! I was wondering if anyone reading this blog who has adopted from Kyrg or is familiar with the orphanages there can tell me if this is common or if there are possibly other parasites we should have him tested for as well....Thanks for any input you can offer!