Friday, August 30, 2013

When Did Home Become Home For Everyone?

This was a tough question.  How long did it take for Lucas and Eli to understand that our home was their home?  

During the first year home I don't think they truly understood the permanence.  Permanence had to be proven.  They should have come with signs saying, "Prove It To Me!"  They would go through phases, that we'd call "check in with the Philippines" where they'd ask if they decided to go back to the Philippines would that be ok with us, would we take them to visit (they were always careful to make sure we understood it was for the purpose of visiting only).

Later on it became talk of when they grew up that they want to take their children to see the Philippines.  That's the phase we are at right now.

The other big event that helped to solidify home as theirs was when they each got their own room.  For us, it was a necessity as they were going to kill one another if they stayed in the same room.  Their initial tight bond loosened and they became their own individuals with definite likes, dislikes and (shall we say) levels of neatness.  Lucas being the neater and Eli being "if it hits the doorway it is put away" type of kid.  Separate rooms and their input into the room style gave them ownership and pride.  It was a good move, a little hard on me and my sense of what looked good but hey they like it.

So ultimately I'd say they felt like this was home consistently after that first year.  The pressing issues of the first year's adjustments had settled down and they were able to settle in.  When we were in Florida on vacation this summer we'd only been gone from home for 3 hours when they started checking on when we'd be home again, who was taking care of home and how much they missed it.  I think they've settled in for the long haul.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Way or The Highway?

This was part two of a question from a reader.  Did we accept the practices and beliefs that Lucas and Eli arrived in our family already having established?

I would have to answer yes and no.  There were some behaviors and practices that were learned institutional behaviors and were not acceptable outside of an institution and most especially as part of a family.  Those were the black and white issues, that while not easy to redirect, reeducate and build new, they were easily identified early on.

The ones that were more of a personal nature such as religion, customs and mannerisms has taken a more thoughtful and discussion based consideration, both on our parts and the boys'.

An example would be that the boys learned to eat in a south east Asian style of dining and different from our Midwestern style.  When they set at a table to eat, the difference in the styles were readily noticeable.  Initially they were too engrossed in learning that food would be plentiful and they could have as much as they wanted.  I would guess it was probably 8-10 months and random comments from people that led the boys to become aware of the difference.

Lucas, especially, wanted to know what was the "right" way of eating.  We let him know that there wasn't a right and wrong in the style for eating as long as he remembered to apply manners which were pretty standard in either form.  In the past 3 1/2 years both Lucas and Eli have adopted the Midwestern style they see everyone around them using.  It was not a deliberate change but one that comes from daily exposure and the environment one lives in.

We have found that this has been the evolution of a lot of their beliefs and habits.  They did not come into our family with a whole lot of entrenched beliefs but more of daily living habits, skills and customs that people generally don't even know why they do what they do.

The most noticeable exception would be the choice of what religion to practice.  Lucas was taken to Catholic Mass once a week.  Eli appears to have only attended on special days.  Added to their Catholic knowledge were Islamic practices and a huge dose of superstition and super natural exposure.  

We are not Catholic and attend a non denominational Christian Church.  They were both actually very interested in God, church, beliefs, Bible stories and fairly knowledgeable about religion in an 8 and 9 year old way.   We did talk about the differences in religion and what they knew about God and where they were comfortable learning more.  

Overall and as I talked about in the previous post....we learn as we go.  We talk, adjust and move forward as we meet each new situation, sometimes on a daily basis and some days it seems like many times a day.  As they mature, Lucas and Eli will form more independent beliefs just as their sisters's part of growing up.  Mike and I are here as their guides, part of that is knowing when you've given them every tool you can and then stepping back and letting them chart their course.....ok it's not that easy to let them go but that's a whole other post.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

They Arrived As A Whole Package of Themselves

This post is in response to a wide encompassing question from a reader in the Philippines, asking about how we've handled the fact that the boys were older when they came home and therefore had their own set of established personalities, practices and beliefs.  I'm going to cover this question over a couple of posts.  I learned my lesson with another article.....too much info for such a short frame work.

One of the big things that we spoke with our agency about before and after the boys arrived home was what their cultural and religious differences might be from our own and how we would deal with those differences.

One of the blog readers who is also from the Philippines, wrote to ask the question about how we've dealt with those differences.  I must say in all the talks we had and all the books we've read, an adoptive parent could receive a hundred different responses in how to incorporate, honor and perpetuate those beliefs and customs.  Unfortunately, as with a lot of advice, we've found we've had to adapt those wonderful ideas to our situation and have found that the advice really didn't meet our situation.

I really thought that with the boys being older they would have some idea of their culture, traditions, food, celebrations and history of the country.  In our situation, I was really wrong.  Lucas and Eli knew very little of customs, traditions even the types of food that we'd thought were staples of the Philippines.  Those were not part of their lives in the orphanage.

The brief time we were in Manila, we wanted to make sure that they got to see and learn about the cultural and historical things the city offered.  We did cover a lot of ground in 3 days of touring but it was more than a little difficult to explain a history and the significance when we didn't speak the same language.  Our guide was wonderful.  She interpreted and told all of us so much.  We took a million pictures and documented everything and those items are pulled out and talked over when the boys have questions.

We have taken most of our ques from the boys in regards to what they are interested in about the culture and their birth country at any given time.  At first I wasn't sure if this was the "ok" thing to do....we were always afraid we were not doing things right....all the pre-adoption educational stuff tends to make you doubt yourself.  Over time we have shed that feeling and learned to trust our instincts.

We do have a wonderful parent in the school where I work that is from the Philippines and moved here in her late 20's.  She really relates to the boys adjustments and is a wonderful source for information. There are certain times throughout the year; holidays, birthdays, Christmas and such that Lucas especially will ask, "what did we do in the Philippines for  (whatever we are doing)"  that is when we start digging for information if it is something we don't already have the answer to.

I think that the life they led within the orphanage encompassed so little physical area and extremely limited outside involvement with their culture that they did not have opportunity to learn about that aspect of themselves.  Basically they are having to learn about two cultures simultaneously, American and Filipino. 

I really believe as we see them getting older, they are asking more questions and with greater frequency about the Philippines.  Their questions are more involved and the answers are better understood than if we had tried to force the issue with them.  Everything we do is at their speed.  Everything, that is what has worked best for us.

They know we value the Philippines and the people there who helped to bring our family together.  They know that there is no question that they can't ask us, whether it's about the Philippines, the orphanage, their foster family in Manila or their biological family.  

As far as answering the question of, have we tried to change any of their beliefs or practices.  I'd say we have introduced them to how we do things within our family.  Some things they have chosen to adopt for themselves, some things they continue to do as they were taught in the Philippines.  

I'll close part one of this answer with,  Lucas and Eli have probably taught ourselves and our extended families as much about how things are done in another part of the world as we teach them.  I think of it as a blending, a mixing, a sharing of ideas that make for a recipe of a new type of family that happens to be made of American and Philippine cultures.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dealing With Jealousy

One of the questions I've been asked here on the blog is whether or not our daughters are or have been jealous of the boys and how we deal with it.

I had to think about this one for a little bit.  Our daughters are older than Lucas and Eli, the closest in age is Sydney and she is 7-8 years older.  Initially we were concerned about their reactions to adoption and to having brothers in general.

We try, more successfully at times than others, to keep the status even with all five kids.  Whether it is time, attention or one on one time.  Usually this involves Mike and I dividing and conquering the needs.  Let's face it we are not always able to cover all the bases, there are two of us and five of them.  It's worked out well to have that wide age span, understanding your parents need to spend time or assets on a sibling is a whole lot easier as an adult than if they were closer in age.

I think the girls were pretty used to having to take turns, if you would, sometimes time, money and opportunity would favor one over the other.  By the time the boys came on the scene those type of choices haven't really played too big a part for our family.

If I were to pinpoint one area that can rub the girls the wrong way, it would be that we are not as strict or impatient with the boys as they perceive us to have been with them.  Let's face it, we are older parents.  The things that were stressers or a big deal to us as young parents aren't as big a deal to us now.  That's not to say we let the boys run amok, we just deal with issues differently.  Similar to the difference between a new parent hauling everything but the kitchen sink on an outing to the grandparents house and a parent with multiple children being lucky to make sure the kids are all wearing shoes...priorities shift.

How do we deal with this subject when the girls mention it?  We generally let them talk it out.  With girls there is always a lot of talking....especially ours.  They have known from the time we walked off the plane (Sydney knew in Manila as she traveled with us) with the boys, that meeting Lucas and Eli's needs were going to have to be handled differently.  

The girls also have the advantage of having 2 sisters in the same boat.  They talk a lot to one another.  Not in an effort to gang up on the boys but to get the other sisters' perspective on things.  

This is where I take advantage of being a proud parent.  We are extremely blessed to have some wonderful kids.  I wish I could capture the look on their faces when I posed the question to each of them about what they thought about having adopted brothers and what they thought of their sisters.....separately, every last one of them said, "they are just by sisters/brothers, I don't think about the adoption part".  To some people that phrasing may seem dismissive of the journey we've traveled.  I find it to be a testament to the relationships they've forged with one another and the equality they feel for each others' place within the family. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Trending, What Is In The Air

I finally finished up the article for Holt Magazine and sent it out to the editor.  Hope it will be what they were looking for.  It is really hard to compress years worth of experiences into 1000 words.  I was so frustrated trying to hit the right tone and information.  I enjoy writing....I've proven and bored all of you for a long time, but sometimes it's hard to that what they term "writer's block".

Generally, Lucas and Eli supply me with enough material to keep up a steady stream.  Sometimes it has to take a back seat to life.  Chores, errands, practices, games, family, school, homework.  Sometimes I'm just tired....and apparently having a pity party!

I follow several internet friends' blogs, mainly on adoption and it's relevant issues.  I think we all must be having a collective writer's block.  I'm not the only one having trouble writing regularly.  There is strength and encouragement in numbers, right?  So for every time I open a friends' blog to read the latest update or article and find that life has overtaken them and they haven't posted lately, I will make an even more concerted effort to write regularly.

It's not as if life and especially the boys' lives are standing still....there is a lot to document, the good and the frustrating.  Next post we will start on the questions that were asked by some of you out there in blog world.  Thanks for being patient and continuing to check out the Pickle Patch!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Haven't Forgotten the Questions

Thank you to all who replied to my post asking for your questions and comments concerning the boys' adoption and integration into our family.  I posted some of the comments that you did not ask to keep private, the private ones I did not post but will answer those questions also.

Right now I'm finishing the article for the Holt magazine and when I've got that under my belt I will definitely answer your questions here and post a link to the article as well.

I just want to tell all of you out there, near and far, how much we appreciate your support and interest in the boys and their well being.  They are always excited when there are comments or questions and love to see where in the world people are reading about their journey.

Lucas especially likes to know that the world though large can also be a very small place and that his birth country and the people there are a little bit closer through the internet.  Eli, well if you've spent any time reading this blog, you will know his sense of humor and out look is pretty blunt.  When Lucas is reading the post, Eli is saying, "Mom why would anyone want to read about us?  We are kids, this is us, we do this stuff cause we are who we are."

Anyway from the Pickle Patch, we thank you for your continued support and interest.  Hopefully you are able to touch a life of a child in need of a family, either personally, through monetary support of organizations or the power of prayer.  It all matters and so do all of you.  God Bless!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

and there he goes!

Today was the much anticipated/dreaded first football game of the season.  Eli was the excited, Lucas was the dejected.  I have to say I'm proud of both of them.  Eli for his performance and Lucas for standing on the sidelines cheering his team mates.  One of those hard to watch moments.

The boys' team won the game 24-7 with Eli running 55 yards for a touch down.  Thank goodness he listened because on the way to the game he was determined to do a back flip if he made a touchdown.  I'm not sure if I was holding my breath watching him run because he was doing so well or because I was terrified the little stinker would do the flip.  One broken son at a time is enough.

Lucas suited up and did his part from the side line.  He's still holding out hope that the xray at the end of next week will show a miracle and he will somehow get to play some time this season.  We will see.

I'm not quite sure what their oldest sister, Alison, thought she was going to see when she came out to watch today's game....she leaned over after watching the first quarter and said, "Mom.  I think I could like watching them play this sport, it's not nearly as bad as I thought."  What can I say, before Lucas and Eli showed up on the scene the Pickle's did not do sports....of any kind.  It was music, drama and piano.  There were no contact sports involved unless the three girls decided to have a sisterly argument.

I wonder if Alison knew she was standing and screaming as Eli ran down the field.....I'm thinking that she just may have out yelled me,  "there he goes!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Day of School Interrupted

I did manage to get a picture of Lucas and Eli's first day of school on Wednesday.  It absolutely amazes me that when I say I want a picture, they both adopt the same poses that they grew up using for the pictures we have of them in the orphanage.  I guess there are all different learned behaviors from an early age, even posing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Thought We'd At Least Make One Game

I tried to be brave.  I relinquished and let the boys go out for football.  They (and I mean mainly me) survived nearly 3 weeks of practice with the first game slated for this coming Saturday.....

Then came a friends birthday party and of course what do a bunch of preteen, mainly football boys do?  Play a friendly game......without equipment.  They had fun, I'll say that, but unfortunately for Lucas it didn't end well.  He fractured his ankle, thus the lovely air cast you see below.  

You wouldn't know it by the photo but he is one seriously depressed kid.  He goes back in 10 days for another x-ray to see what, if anything they need to do.  Hopefully it starts healing on its own.

Mike took him into the doctor and on the way home they stopped in at my work to talk.  Luke was so disgusted, "Mom!  The crack is only this long!  I said, "Lucas, hold your fingers down by your ankle, that may not look like much in front of your face but on top of your ankle 2 1/2 inches is a long crack."  I have to say that may have ranked right up there with one of the best visual lessons I've given him. 

I will also note later in his life that I did not freak out (at least not where he saw) about football and the hazards of it.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Message to "the sister"

You ever have a moment (or a billion moments as the case may be) when one of your children openly admits that they really do like one or more of their siblings?

Sydney moved back to college on Monday.   Starting on Sunday as we were loading the vehicles and continuing several times these past few days Eli has worried about her.  Where is she (he knows), what is she doing? Who is she with?  When is she coming home?  What did she eat?  and so on.....

I finally stopped him and asked him if he was worried about something in particular about Sydney.  He said, "no but when she is home I know she's okay, brothers look out for sisters."  There you have it, brother/sister relationship expectations according to Eli.

Monday, August 12, 2013

If You Could Ask A Question...

According to the status updates that I get on viewers to our blog, I know there are more than a few of you out there.  I don't have a tracker on the blog to show me who is reading (not from lack of trying, I can't figure it out) I'd love to know who checks into the sight.

I do have a question for you all though.  If you could ask a question or two of our family about older child adoption, what would it be? 

I've been asked to write an article about the boys, their adoption and their perspective of things.  This will be the third article like this and I'm trying to approach it from a different angle.  At no point am I an expert on anything but I can relate our experiences and with Luke and Eli's permission and help tell things from their perspectives.

So if you have a question or two, if you are simply curious about something please feel free to leave your question in the comment section.  Your information will not appear here or any where else (again still can't figure out that illusive live feed).  Maybe together we could answer some readers of this future article's questions that would slip by.

If you go to the bottom of this article (or any) hit the word comment, it will allow you to place your question/comment and then hit word "publish".  Nothing will publish until I review it.  If you do not want your question/comment published please let me know within the context of your comment and I will honor that.

Thanks in advance for your help and for continuing to make our journey a part of your blog world.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sprained or Bruised Either Way....

It has been a busy week-end here at the Pickle Patch.  Sydney's last week-end of work before heading back to college.  Packing up her stuff and putting everything in vehicles for the move, Rachel has a meeting set with her student teaching advisor and classroom teacher,  Luke went with friends overnight and participated in a 5K walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, then Eli and Lucas went to another overnight birthday party that left us with this view....

Playing football at the party, Lucas took a hit and now we have an ankle that equals 2 of his normal ones.  You can't tell it here but it's a lovely shade of purple, black, blue and a color that's really a weird shade of green.  I'm thinking his football coach will be less than pleased as the opener is this next Saturday.  Oh well accidents happen, I just thought the football injury would be on the field and probably Eli.  Shows what mom knows.

Here are a couple picks after he came home from the 5K Run prior to the friendly fire injury in football.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mom Check Up

Going back to work in the fall for school employees is stressful, fun, hard work and more hard work.  Not only for the employee but their families.  Everyone's routine has to change and it's not always smooth going.  Things that were "miraculously" handled (I can say that as I was the one handling them) are now left undone, postponed or left to others (who non miraculously don't understand the need until it's too late) to complete the task.

The past several days I've not been able to leave work on time and with errands and college supply shopping with Sydney, haven't gotten home until later in the evening.  With football practice in full swing, I don't see the boys some evenings until 8:30-9:00.  I don't like that, at all, and apparently neither does Eli or Lucas.

Last night after practice I found myself with two smelly boys on either side of me, patting my shoulder and asking how my day was and if I was tired.  Hmmm.  Ok. Boys.  I've got the message, home earlier from work, you need that to happen and work will be there.  Lucas and Eli, on the other hand, are growing up too fast and I won't miss out on that.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Project Is Planned

What else can the three males in the household dream up?  A look out tower/tree house (without the tree).  Why (you may ask) do they dream up huge projects a week before school starts in the middle of the starting weeks of football practice and my return to work?  Because, I truly believe, they are trying to drive me nuts.

So far the project has accumulated 2 out of 4 telephone poles, post hole digger, miscellaneous board, tools and a whole lot of big ideas.....and it's all piled a short distance from the drive way.   I promise if this "big idea" comes to completion I will take a picture...until then I'm choosing to ignore the mess and the idea and the planning meetings (I did nix the idea of it being constructed beside my nicely landscaped patio).  I also believe the girls and I will be going shopping when and if the project is actually started.

Pacific Rim

We decided to end the summer (or at least the last free week-end we have for the foreseeable future) by letting them pick a movie.  Of course their choice had to be one that they believe is the best combination of Transformers, Battleship, 2012, Battlefield Los Angeles and Xmen.

They weren't disappointed with their choice but the fact that the movie theater has installed "amazing" recliners truly made their night.  Overall they had a blast but Eli did note that the soda was "too big and nobody needed one that big"......where did that kid come from?

Friday, August 2, 2013

August Arrival

It makes me a little sad when August arrives.  August also makes me very tired.  It seems like the month is totally dedicated to all things school.  I work in an elementary office....I'll not bore you but just say yes people work before students arrive and it's long hours.  Sydney is preparing to return to college for her sophomore year, Rachel begins her student teaching in preparation for college graduation in December, Lucas and Eli are ready to return to school one day and not the next...either way there is a whole lot of school shopping that has to happen.

This August we added another task to the apparently the boys wore us (me) down to let them try football.  In the four years that the boys have been home I have never, ever seen Eli tired.  The third night into practice, he came home, cleaned up, flopped on the couch and sat there.  I asked him if he was tired.   His response, "Yes.  Football does that to me."

I honestly think the kid has never truly experienced tired.  He is just wired to go and go and go.  Lucas is absolutely absorbing everything football.  We had told their coach that their knowledge of football was limited and they'd have their work cut out for them trying to explain everything.  We've been so lucky not only with this sport but most every one the boys are involved in, to have coaches who will go above and beyond trying to explain and figure out ways for the boys to understand the sport.  It's one of those areas that most people don't realize that they weren't aware of until 4 years ago.

Either way I believe football has now been added to the August calendar and I think we have one day open that we might be able to squeeze that school shopping in.

I also got a huge grin out of these photos.  For 4 years I've been telling the boys to smile for pictures.  Here I told them not to and it just confused Eli (you can tell that) and Lucas just can not not smile in a photo.