Friday, September 27, 2013

So Why Now?

Why wait a year to tell the entire story – the whole truth – about our two weeks traveling in the Philippines?  For one, I really don’t remember the last time I’ve been more exhausted than during those two weeks.  I left with every good intention of blogging at least a little bit every day we were away, and within days those good intentions vanished into thin air.  I was too tired to think straight, let alone type a coherent thought at the end of the day.  And to be brutally, brutally honest, by the time we were ready to leave Legazpi, I was too afraid to blog.  Days with Francis were not the sunshiny honeymoon period that I had expected and read other moms blogging about.  We had our good moments, yes, but we had other times that just terrified me.

So now, one year later, why am I digging out all the dirt?  Why rehash it all now?  First of all, to be absolutely clear, I’m not trying to degrade Francis and say that he’s a bad kid.  He’s not.  Yes, he’s had his moments (doesn’t every kid?) but believe me when I tell you that MY son is the most FANTASTIC kid to ever walk the planet.  (OK, you probably don’t.  You think that about your kid.  But will you give my kid a close second, then?  Thanks.)  I’m reliving all of these memories because, after speaking with a few pre-adoptive parents about our experiences, they told me that nobody ever told them this kind of thing could happen. 

Everyone’s experiences are different.  Every child is different.  Every adoption is different.  I’m not going to tell you that if you adopt an older child your adoption will look exactly like ours did.  I’m also not going to tell you that if you adopt an older child that it won’t look like ours.  I will tell you that if you adopt an older child – or any child, for that matter, you should do your research and be prepared. 

Gregg and I were very lucky to have an arsenal of support in our first year as “trauma parents.” What got us through?

  •  An attachment therapist who didn’t just help Francis, she helped us cope.

  •  Despite the fact that Francis spoke fluent English when he came home, we had good people around who spoke Tagalog with him until he decided he was ready to stop speaking Tagalog completely.  (He still understands it and will answer in English.)
  • Family who would jump in and help with Francis or errands or housework when we needed a break.

  •  Members of the adoption community who were ready to listen and offer suggestions at a moment’s notice.

  • The proper medical treatment.

  •    Love – it’s not enough, but it does help.

We have only been a family for a year, and by no means are we parenting experts at this point.  I somehow doubt we ever will be.  On the other hand, the transformation in Francis and in us over the course of the past year has been dramatic.  He is no longer an angry, frightened little boy.  He is our delightful, funny, charming, and outgoing son, who continues to inspire and amaze us each day.  I have no doubt that as the years go by he will continue to grow and change, amazing us more and more each day.  We traveled a hard road together the past year, but I wouldn’t change a single minute of it – it was because of this that I got to be Francis’ mom. 



Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26, 2012

September 26 was the day that did not end.  It just kept going, and going, and going, like the Energizer Bunny.

We had another 6:30 flight out of Manila back to New York, resulting in a 2:00 a.m. wake up call.  The plan was to get everyone up and dressed and to start getting the luggage down to the lobby.  Then, right at the last minute, we would change Francis and bring him down to the waiting car with the last of the carry-on bags.  If everything worked right, he would stay asleep.  It was, after all, 2:00 in the morning. 

That’s right; I said IF everything worked right.  We changed him with no problem, picked him up, got to the door of the hotel, and – bang.  He woke up.   He quietly got into the van and drove with us to the airport, saying goodbye to Manila in his own way.  He was going home to the United States.

Because it was such an early flight, we were able to get checked in right away.  In fact, we were pretty much the first people in the boarding area waiting for the plane.  We sat down to wait, and Francis finally fell asleep on Gregg’s lap.  He woke up when it was time to board, though, and that was pretty much the last he would sleep that day.
The only time Francis slept on the plane.
Francis really didn’t appreciate the Americanized version of the kid’s meal that the airline provided for him.  This was the first that we discovered that macaroni and cheese was not to his liking at all.  He ate some fruit and some cookies and picked off of our plates, but otherwise didn’t eat too much.  He discovered how to work the personal television on the back of the seat in front of him and played the same cartoon over and over and over again for almost 22 hours straight.  Francis slept for a total of about three hours of the 22 hour flight.

When we finally got back to JFK Airport, we were again thrilled with our decision to have a car pick us up and bring us back home.  We were beyond exhausted.  Francis didn’t want too much to do with me on the way back home and was pretty much stuck to Gregg like glue.  

Headed home at last.
 When we got back to the house, we got the special treat for Lakota that we had left in my car while we were away.  The idea was to give it to Francis so he could give it to Lakota, thereby putting him on solid ground with her.  She would then be busy chewing and we would have some time to bring in the bags.  Not so much.  He took one look at Lakota and ran screaming into the next room.  Our heads pounded.  My mom took care of the dog, my dad took care of the bags, and we took care of Francis.  Fortunately, Lakota did want to be friends with Francis and it only took a day or two for the two of them to become best buddies.  That day, though, we didn’t know what to expect.

Of course, after being up for well over 24 hours at that point, all we wanted to do was pass out in bed.  We still didn’t feel well.  We did want to show Francis his new house, of course.  Francis loved his new room.  He didn’t want to sleep in it – he was afraid of being by himself.  He didn’t want to rest.  We finally got him to lie down by 8:00 p.m. or so, and we had to camp out with pillows and blankets on the floor next to his bed. 

Our adventure in the Philippines was over, but our adventure as Francis’ parents was just beginning.  The next year would be filled with some of the most intense ups and downs imaginable.  Our boy was finally home.  Now forever could begin.

To Be Continued (One More Time)…   

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 25, 2012

Our last full day in the Philippines.  There were things that we wanted to do in Manila, like visit the aquarium, while we were there, but we were pretty much out of energy and out of pesos at that point.

I had a little more shopping that I needed to finish in order to have all of the gifts that I wanted to have for Francis for future Family Days.  There was a mall directly across the street from the hotel that had a cultural store that would suit this shopping purpose, so I went over with my parents while Gregg stayed in and watched cartoons with Francis. 

At this point, we knew that television was a major trigger for Francis.  He didn’t care if you said no to the television, he found a way to get it back on.  And if you turned it off, he pitched a fit.  We had already made plans for our television to be “broken” when we got back home, so at this point we were just going with whatever he wanted when it came to watching cartoons.   The less we said no to, the fewer fits he threw.  And that was definitely the way to go.

When we came back from the store, we set Francis up with a Spider-Man puzzle.  It had about 100 pieces, and even though we gave him some help, he was able to knock out almost the entire thing by himself.  He really loved to figure things out and had a real knack for the puzzle.  We also played BINGO with him, and he got a kick out of calling the numbers. 
The other thing that Francis really enjoyed was paging through a Halloween circular from one of the stores at the mall.  He thought the costumes and pumpkins and decorations were very cool.  We were pretty sure this was the first time he had seen anything having to do with Halloween.  He decided after looking through the catalog that he wanted to be Spider-Man for Halloween.  Gregg was in his glory, since Halloween is his absolute-favorite holiday.

Later in the afternoon, we had one last meeting with our agency’s liaison over some babingka and tea.  At one point during our meeting, Francis came out wearing my shirt and his backpack. 
One Cool Dude.
 After saying goodbye, we started to make sure that everything was totally packed.  We had a very early wake-up call the next morning.  We planned on an early dinner and a very early bedtime.  It was just about time to say goodbye to the Philippines and head back to the United States. 

To Be Continued…

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24, 2012

This was the long-awaited ICAB day.  This was supposed to be the high note on which our trip would end.  We would meet the people who matched us with Francis, gather the documents necessary for him to come into the United States, and take the requisite picture on “The Bench.”  It was something exciting to look forward to.  We had puppets to explain to Francis what would be happening this day. 

Francis had some other plans about ICAB day.  Thankfully, the ICAB staff has probably seen it all and then some before. 

Sit for a picture?  We couldn’t get him to sit at all.   I was very thankful to have my parents with us that day, because while Gregg and I went over the necessary paperwork with the ICAB social worker, my parents sat on the floor with Francis and played cars with him. 

About the time we were supposed to be touring the ICAB office and speaking with the other social workers, Francis decided he didn’t want to play and didn’t want to walk with us (or be carried).  He preferred to run up the stairs, dart into offices, and go just about anywhere he wasn’t supposed to go.  Gregg ended up finishing the tour and I ended up walking with Francis to keep him out of places he shouldn’t be.

This was the closest thing we got to a Bench picture.
 After ICAB, we visited the Philippines office of our adoption agency and heard more about their local outreach programs.  Fortunately, they had food, so Francis was quiet and a little more settled there.

We took the long way back to the hotel through the streets of Manila and got to see lots of the crazy Manila driving we had heard about.  Stop signs?  Red lights?  Mere suggestions.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.  Unfortunately, the man who was hired to be our driver while we were in Manila had his car detailed that day and had some sort of scented freshener in it.  By the time we got back to the hotel I was gagging, coughing, and having an asthma attack.  Between my asthma attack, Francis being in a cranky mood, and needing to pay the driver, we were beyond grateful to have my parents with us for the extra help at this point. 

We had hoped that going to ICAB would be the end of Francis’ nasty tantrums, but that hope was quickly dissolved.  Another tantrum followed later that day, perhaps the worst one yet.

We had one day left in the Philippines, and then we would be on our own.  We were looking forward to routine – and hot showers.

Celebrating ICAB Day with a fresh mango.
To Be Continued…