Family Tree

As we pulled up to the house one day a couple of weeks ago after a fun day of summer camp, Jonathan said to me in a quiet and not at all like him voice, “Thank you mommy for adopting me I like living here.”

WHAMO!

After I recovered my brain from jelloville, I told him I was happy that he likes living here and that we adopted him. He then asked if we could talk about adoption so in we went inside and had a very grown up conversation over dinner. It went like this:

Jonathan explained to me his adoption story and we played the dance where I ask him questions about who he remembers and he tells me the same things and we go through the houses he lived at and I ask him questions about them and he tells me the same answers and he tells me that his first mum and dad didn’t know how to take care of him so he had to move and I asked if he wanted to meet them and says no and on and on we go around and around on repeat.

But something felt different this time and inside my head was going “JUST SAY IT JUST SAY IT JUST SAY IT JUST SAY IT”

And then I said it.

“Jonathan, I have to tell you something. You know how Anthony is your brother? You also have TWO more brothers.”

Insert screams (excited ones) and some hand flapping and bouncing in his chair. You’d think I just told him he could eat the world’s supply of ice cream.

He asked their names and I told him. He said he wanted to meet them, as in right now, and I explained that we couldn’t now but one day we would. I showed him some pictures of his brothers and explained who they lived with – their paternal grandparents, oh yeah kid you also have more grandparents don’t you know?! And then I drew him as simply as I could a family tree. He was all over it. And calm. And appropriate. The whole thing was strange and great.

Then off he went to have a bath, but not before he insisted that the family tree not be thrown out so up on the fridge it went.

A week later I asked him about the family tree and if had been thinking about his brothers or had any questions. He answered “nope” and that was that.

It was one of the more interesting conversations we had that’s for sure and I’m very proud how he ‘s handling it all so far (the next morning he slept in an extra hour and half….coincidence…? )

family tree

(Don’t judge me on my drawing skill;) )

An Interview with Anthony

20130203_102514

(March 2013)

I’ve been wanting to ask Anthony his thoughts on adoption for awhile now, and I finally had the opportunity this past week as we were stranded in doors by a blizzard. No school, no work, just a day to hang at home and be lazy:)

        Anthony is 11 years old and is my step son. He lives with us 50% of the time; a mixture of weekends and weekdays and we see him every morning before school when he comes for breakfast. He was the only child between Gord and I, until last year, and he is still the only child between his mom and step dad. Needless to say adopting Jonathan was a shock to his system!

        Jonathan has now been with us for 13 months and below are Anthony’s honest and unedited answers to my questions on his feelings around Jonathan and adoption.

Enjoy!

***
What is the hardest thing about adopting a brother?
I like being an only child better because people pay more attention to the younger sibling.

What’s the best thing about adopting Jonathan?
That I’m not lonely anymore.

What did you think adopting was going to be like before he moved in?
I thought he would be a different age. I wanted an older sibling.

What is it actually like?
It’s interesting. It’s just that my expectations were a lot higher than they should have been. I expected him to be more mature.

What is it like having a brother with a disability?
Honestly I don’t think that being deaf is a disability. I know it effects his hearing and all, but once he has his ears (CI’s) on he can still hear and if it’s a more older person they know how to read lips and once they get older they can be more mature.

What’s the most annoying thing Jonathan does?
When he says ‘why’ repetitively.

What’s the coolest thing about Jonathan?
That he likes to play games a lot. Like hide and go seek and stuff like that.

Would you want to have another adopted brother or sister?
Yes but only if they are older, about my age and over.

Do you think it’s different having a brother who’s adopted? Or is it like any other brother?
It’s basically like any other brother, it’s just that the parents are sort of getting a head start because they are usually older than a new born.

What do you think about his birth mom and dad?
I don’t know, some parents aren’t really fit for a child like Jonathan so people shouldn’t have a child if they know they can’t take care of a child then they shouldn’t have a child.

Do you think that he’ll want to meet them one day?
Maybe if he figures out that he had a mother and father.

Do you know anybody else who has adopted brothers or sisters? Or is adopted?
One year in school there was a kid in my class who was adopted. He told us. I was like, meh, ok.

Do you have any other thoughts on adoption or Jonathan you want to share?
No. (laughs)

20130111_180540
(November 2012)

Them Mountains

There’s therapy out in them mountains (and foothills) and we are on the look out.

20130908_124002

We’ve not only enjoyed getting out for ourselves the past four weekends, but have notice changes with Jonathan as well, which was our main goal to begin with. Although we were just hoping to help him burn some energy, it’s effects seem to be more far reaching than that.

So far we’ve done one fairly hard hike, 2 easy/moderate hikes and an easy but loooong walk through a really huge prairie hill in the middle of our city (it’s called Nose Hill, is 11 square km and it’s one of my favourite places in Calgary)

20130902_105650-2

The changes are subtle that we are seeing in Jonathan and they could be due to other factors too – we’ve removed time outs and have been using more natural consequences and have been doing a lot more debriefing and talking. But, we are fairly certain that they might be related to our hiking.

There is a large amount of trust and confidence that he is suddenly needing to have with us and himself. He inevitably needs to rely on us; hold our hands on certain part of the trail for safety, trust we won’t let him fall as he jumps off big rocks, let us talk him through going down a steep incline and be close to him just in case but give him the room to work it out himself (it also forces him to slow down and think about where his feet are going and plan each step). The more these things happen, the more some little things are shifting.

IMG_20130910_092430-2

In the last couple weeks he has, several times, held my hand in parking lots (a rule we have) without me even asking. I just hold out my hand and he grabs on. There’s been a few times when he’s even asked or just come up and grabbed my hand while out running errands. HUGE!

He is listening better. At home that is:) Overall he’s taken things down a notch and instead of getting upset or shutting down, he’s able to listen to an explanation and accept it. WHOA!

IMG_20130824_054630-2

He’s been labelling his feelings more. We’ve been working on this so it could just be as a result of that, but we’ve been doing it for a while and nothing has come about. Since hiking he’s been able to identify being frustrated and sad a couple of times on his own.

He seems calmer on the last two hikes. He’s not full steam ahead the whole time and doesn’t need to be first the whole time. He is sometimes slowing down a bit, dragging behind, checking things out. He seems distracted occasionally but it’s a different kind of distraction – not in a ‘squirrel!’ kind of way but actually looking at things, going slow enough to see little things around him like flowers.

IMG_20130908_022223-2

Not all of these little shifts happen all the time or to their potential full outcome; they are subtle and slight and would probably go unnoticed if we weren’t looking so darn hard for them.

But, they are significant in their own way.

I’ve also really been enjoying spending this time with Jonathan. I wrote a few weeks ago how going back to work has been overwhelming. With that has come way less patience and it’s nice to put it all aside for a few hours each week and just enjoy being with him and being outside and doings something that is challenging. It’s also been fun to teach him a little bit about plants and flowers and animals as we chit chat along the way. Plus, it just feels good to be out in the sun and moving.

20130902_102643-2

I’ve made a commitment to myself and to him to get out more this fall/winter (I tend to hunker in for the winter) and keep this going. I hope the positive changes keep a-comin’ !

Side note: I started writing this the night before kindergarten started, before his little world got jostled again and thew him for a loop. Things have quickly, ahem, slide down the mountain if you will, and we are working hard to reclaim some security and safety and good behaviour. Hopefully things settle down soon again. Fingers crossed. And toes.

IMG_20130908_021944-2

Truckin’ Along

Time to catch up!

We’ve been cleaning up and cleaning out and moving stuff around in our house, doing small projects and making it feel nicer. Putting things on the walls, cleaning off book shelves and all kinds o’ fun…I guess it’s kind of spring cleaning-esq.

It started with my sewing area: (why this is upside down is beyond me)

20130321_142942-2

20130321_141032-2

It’s not completely finished yet but it’s a huge improvement.

This quickly snowballed into Gord’s comic collection being moved and restored in a new easier way (He is seriously giddy over this, he even took a photo and put it on Facebook. He never puts photos on Facebook. Never). It’s also a work in progress but things are slowly getting there.

We had to move Anthony’s lego to make some of this happen so he/we made a lego table. He too will have an official spot to work at his hobby.

20130331_123417 20130401_111518 20130404_183850

He’s so far moved about 1/20th of his lego into it’s new home…it’s a bit of project:)

And Jonathan doesn’t have a special spot just yet, he generally just takes the whole house:)

We had spring break the last week of March. It started well….the boys playing together, we went to zoo, indoor amusement park aka kiddie gambling…

        20130326_132226-2       20130326_132520-2

20130326_134029-2

and then after a blissful 24 hours of respite it nose dived, crashed, burned and left with a bang. Going back to school and routine has been no treat either. Change in routine and schedules are proving to be difficult for the wee man, and in turn us…we’ll get there yet:)

Just like spring break, the weather has taken a dive for a few days but before the current cold snowy madness we were enjoying some steller spring weather. The bikes were dusted off, we made use of the park without winter boots and coats and shivering and we played in the mud down by the river one afternoon.

IMG_20130402_033300 IMG_20130402_033131 IMG_20130402_033521

Along we truck. Our wheels are a bit wobbly at the moment,  but we think we know where the screw driver is so we’ll keep on going:)

Birthdays and Back to Winter

So this happened this week: IMG_20130228_192210Anthony turned ELEVEN!!!

He had a laser tag party with his friends, a special dinner and cake and presents at our house and then another cake and present night at his moms. If some kids think that having divorced parents sucks, come talk to this guy, he finds it all good;) And that hat, that’s a Finn hat I made him. It hasn’t left his head in 7 days. If you could hashtag blogs it would read: #donttouchitwitha10footpole. If you are not familiar with Finn from Adventure Time and you have a young boy in your house, you should check it out.

Making a card for the big bro. He was so proud:)IMG_20130228_152636

****

This week we started trying some new parenting/behaviour ideas with Jonathan. It was hard. He pushed back, in a big way. He knew something was up and day one he had a freak out to end all freak outs. I almost joined in. It was probably the worst day since he moved in. But then, the next day happened. And that next day was beautiful and sunny and calm. We went for a big walk in the sunshine, I think we both needed it. Close to the end of our jaunt, Jonathan went running down a hill and did a head first slide into home base. But there was no home base, only a mud puddle. He handled it like a champ!IMG_20130301_161625

We’ve had a couple more freaky freak outs and extra hiding under his bed in the past few days, but he is coming around quicker and things are less intense when they do happen. Insert large sigh of relief….for now. I really don’t know where I can find another bucket of patience to handle much more of what went down the other days, but I’m willing to pay a pretty penny if anybody gots some!

****

The next day after our wonderful sunshine and walk, this happened:20130303_113357
Oh Calgary. You sure keep it interesting.

And I couldn’t think of anything better to do during a snow storm (except go get groceries…always an adventure) then this: IMG_20130303_141758

My poor plants have been very neglected the past few months and but they recieved lots of care on this snowy day. I can’t wait for spring to get out in the garden with Jonathan this year!

****

And just a final picture to follow-up on my last post about our cats, this has been happening more and more:IMG_20130306_203121

It’s cozy and wonderful.

Brotherly Love

I wish I had time to write more in-depth about this, and perhaps I will at a later date, but I just wanted to write a quick note about Anthony and how being a big brother has rocked his world.

IMG_20130216_035347

Anthony was an only child for 10 years. An only child who has two families and all the attention in the world. One family, his mom’s side, is very big with lots of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Our side is smaller and all who live between 3 hours drive and 3 hour plane ride away, but the first and only grandchild on Gord’s side of the family. Needless to say, Anthony has been the centre of attention and love for a looooong time.

When I get overwhelmed and I have no more patience at the end of the day (or sometimes the beginning too:) and I can feel myself adjusting to all this crazy emotional toll and change and madness that is occurring in our once quiet house, I sometimes forget that Anthony too is feeling the same adjustment, the same change, and is trying to cope with this new little fire ball running around making fire truck sounds, spilling water, and screaming in time outs. Our house before Jonathan was very, very quiet. Very. Anthony is a very quiet, passive, laid back kid. Very. Jonathan is anything but.

Anthony has been on high emotional alert since the night of meeting Jonathan. Just as it was for us, all the talking and preparing and processing that happened before meeting Jonathan could not prepare us for how things would actually be. And I saw it hit Anthony hard the very night he met his little brother. The reality of it all was very different then thinking about it and talking about it. For everybody. But I think even more so for Anthony.

The age difference between them is big (6 years) and the language barrier between them also creates some difficulty (Jonathan’s at about a 2.5 yr old language wise). Anthony and I talk about this often and I explain being what being Deaf means and what Jonathan can and can’t do right now, how he is learning etc. He often will say things like, he ignores Jonathan because he can’t understand him.

We can see Anthony is edgy most days, but those edgy days are slowly fading and becoming more mixed in with his laid back days. He is still sometimes quick to cry, get’s frustrated faster than normal, but overall when we look at the bigger picture of this whole wild journey, he is handling things pretty well. We think so anyway:)

IMG_20130216_034948

(Last week I watched some instinctive (I could hardly believe it!) brotherly love kick in: I was too far ahead of these guys and turned back just in time to see Anthony move himself behind Jonathan on a slippery hill and brace himself in case Jonathan fell. My heart melted a little bit right here)

There are lots of conversations explaining, fairly generally, where Jonathan came from in hopes of Anthony understanding some of Jonathan’s behaviour a bit more (the idea that sometimes kids come from rough places is not new to Anthony – the joys of having two social workers for parents!) There are lots of conversation around what being 4 years old means. And there are lots of conversations around what being a brother means, looks like and how it’s okay to feel mad and pissed off sometimes….as long as you move on afterwards.

And I am trying my best to remember that loosing your cool really means “help I can’t cope with all this change today”. I know Anthony, I know. And I’m sorry sometimes I forget just how hard and big it all is.

But then, there is this:

IMG_20130214_040103 IMG_20130214_040023

They often don’t physically share the same space, so to see them not only close, but actually interacting was awesome. This happened a couple of days ago on a day off from school; Anthony, on his own initiative, blew bubbles for Jonathan to chase and pop. And then, because Jonathan had earlier asked and was now sporting a pirate eye patch and sword made by my madd crafting skills, Anthony asked me if he could make him a pirate ship to play in. Are you freakin’ kidding me?! YES YES YES!!!  I sat at the kitchen table pretending to work on the computer while secretly having a victory dance party in my head. Of course I also snapped as many secret pictures as I could of the brotherly bond, slowly, starting to finally shine through.

It’s happening. It’s slow and it’s hard. But it’s happening:)