Questions Questions

The past weeks have been tremendously busy for all of us.

At the end of August we took a family vacation to Mexico.  It was great fun to spend so much time together, especially given that a week after returning Stephen and I both returned to work.  Mola also celebrated his 5th birthday there and was treated to constant singing in both Spanish and English.  He loved the attention and now proudly answers “I’m 5!” when asked how old he is.  There was a kids’ club that he went to for an hour or two each day and the woman who ran the club was wonderful with Mola.   Mostly, though, we spent time swimming, walking on the beach, taking naps and on our last day we took a boat ride which Mola LOVED.

At the beach

The week after our trip was a whirlwind.  Mola went to daycare full time in preparation for his new fall pre-k schedule and he did really well.  Stephen and I were busy trying to get lots of things done before the end of summer and before returning to work.  It was a really bittersweet time for me, honestly.  I looked forward to going back to work, but at the same time knew I would miss spending so much time with Mola.  During the last week I also celebrated my 40th birthday. The day began with Mola singing Happy Birthday to me, which I admit brought tears to my eyes and was a wonderful birthday gift.

On August 30th Stephen started his new school semester and I returned to work.  The first few weeks back were difficult for all of us.  Mola definitely noticed the “reduced mommy time” and had trouble sleeping.  He is such a good boy, though, that it really was just him not wanting to go to sleep; asking for an extra book at night or staying awake talking to me in bed.   Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night and I would go and sleep with him.  The past nights have been better, though, so things seem to be smoothing out as we all adjust.

Lately Mola has been asking A LOT of questions and telling us stories about Ethiopia and seems to have a lot going on in his beautiful little head these days.  For example, at a birthday party a few weeks ago there was a clown.  The clown had a live rabbit with her in a cage.  When Mola saw it he walked up to the cage and said, “Mom, rabbit, eat?” and was definitely asking if we were going to eat the rabbit.  The next morning he told us that in Ethiopia they used to eat rabbit and made cutting motions.  We have also heard about the two cows they had and that he drank the cows’ milk. 

Last weekend we went to an Ethiopian New Year celebration in Manhattan.  Here is a photo of Mola in his traditional clothing (notice the stains from Ethiopian food!):

Mola got very upset when some Ethiopians spoke to him in both Amharic and Sidama.  He cried and was very adamant that he didnt’ want to talk to these people.  He also asked if this place (the church) was Ethiopia and the next day asked if he was going back to Ethiopia.  We weren’t sure if he meant for a visit someday, so we gave a vague, “maybe someday when you’re older” kind of answer, and he again got upset and said “no, Mola no like Ethiopia, no go back”.  He is obviously thinking a lot of where he is now and we keep reassuring him that he is part of our family forever.

A few other highlights from the past weeks:

The other day he bumped into one of the speakers for our home theatre system and he leaned over and kissed it.  The next day before we left the house he kissed all 5 speakers and our piano.

Mola has graduated to a big boy bike and is also riding his razor scooter with confidence.

Yesterday Mola brought in a cd of Ethiopian music to school for show and tell and apparently he became the teacher as he showed the kids his dance moves, microphone in hand!

A few weeks ago he and I spent a day in Manhattan together.  We took the train in (before we had driven) and also took the subway twice.   He became very familiar and comfortable with both and absolutely loved them!!  We continue to be amazed at what a quick study he is and that he doesn’t really get intimated by new situations. 

Mola remembers everything we do, including places, people, situations and even now talks about things that we did or things that happened just days after he arrived in the U.S.  The other day we were reflecting on the first couple of days at home and he seemed to remember just about everything about those days.

Mola’s language is exploding.  There is very little that we can’t manage to communicate and he uses new words every day.   He is also more confident and willing to talk to stranger and other kids in English now as well.   He has also started to write his letters.

There is so much more to say, but little time right now!!  Here are a few more recent photos, taken on a farm animal sanctuary that we visited in Woodstock NY a few weeks ago:

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A good sport

Stephen and I constantly remark about what a good sport Mola is.  In the past few weeks he has put up with a few challenging situations very well.  For example, we took him to Manhattan to a few weeks ago.  He had a cold that day.  We took him anyhow because it was about 98 degrees outside, we couldn’t take him to the pool, too hot to play outside and we didn’t want him cooped up all day long.  In the city we went to a museum (where he lasted 3 hours) and then to dinner.  At dinner in the city he didn’t eat one bite of food.  That’s when we knew he really didn’t feel good at all.  But despite this, he sat quietly (sometimes hugging me) and let us eat dinner and didn’t complain at all. (We went back to the same place a few weeks ago and he proceeded to eat everything and charm everyone in the place with his sunny personality!)

Last weekend I took him to my parents.  He and “grampy” and “nanna” had a love fest.  They really adore each other and we all had a great time.  Nanna had bought him an electric keyboard which he rocked out to all weekend and grampy showed him how to use a baseball bat, read Curious George to him, and Grampy and I took him for a walk along the lake.  We also saw an old friend of mine, her husband and 4 girls, which was a real treat.

On the drive back we hit terrible traffic and were crawling along for over an hour.  Our 5 hour car ride turned into a 6+ hour ride.  A few times he asked why i couldn’t use the horn to get the car in front of me out of the way, and said “faster” but he really didn’t complain.  We were both anxious to get home, of course.  I kept telling him I couldn’t do anything about it and that it wasn’t fun for either of us.  When the traffic started moving he put his hands up and shouted “yeah, here we go!!” and then surprised me by saying “Mom, high five!!” and reached his hand up to the front to give me a high five to celebrate the car finally moving along!.  Again, a very good sport and dealing with things with his usual good manner!!

On Saturday we leave for Mexico.  We decided we wanted to take a real vacation since we both go back to work in a few weeks.  We haven’t had a vacation all year and probably won’t again until the holidays.   When we were waiting to pick up Mola we would fantasize about traveling with him.  We both love to travel and we’re looking forward to showing him places we love.  I always imagined Italy would be his first trip to another country, but we’ll make do with the beautiful beaches of Akumal instead.  🙂

Mola has started to ask a lot of questions about himself, us, america, Ethiopia.  He asks quite often if he is a “farenji”, the word used in Ethiopia to identify foreigners or most white people.  He also asks us if he is ours, we are his, if Jake (the dog) is his, if we will go back to Ethiopia, etc.  Last night we got out the atlas and showed him some maps.  It seemed to help him understand a bit and he liked seeing where Ethiopia is, Sidama (where he was born), showing him the route we took on the airplane when we picked him up, where we live, where grampy and nanna live, Mexico, etc.  It seemed to give him some perspective.  As a friend said, this will be a life-long discussion and we hope we can help him work through this.

Here is a photo of Mola with his grandparents.  I forgot my camera so had to take this with my blackberry.  Not a great picture, but the smiles tell the story.

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Mola the helper

Mola loves to help.  Thankfully he doesn’t go overboard as we’ve heard some kids can do who have been expected to help out at home in Ethiopia.  But we do expect him to participate in our family the way any family member would.  So he makes his bed in the morning (no military precision here, but the sheet and blanket get pulled up), he brings his dish (or whatever we ask) to the kitchen counter after eating, and if Dad asks him to help him in the yard he is happy to comply.  In fact he likes to show his ability by trying to move the wheelbarrow (heavy and loaded) or carry things.

The weather this week has been more reasonable.  Last night Stephen was working on seeding some spots in our front lawn and Mola and I went out and joined him after dinner.    Here are a few photos:

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Mola and the girls

I don’t know what we’d be doing in the afternoons if we couldn’t go to the pool.  It has been a lifesaver these past few weeks.  We always go around 2-3pm and see a lot of the same families in the kiddie pool.  Mola is still quiet with other kids to a certain degree given that he clams up about speaking English to other kids sometimes.  But he is happy enough to play in the water with them as long as it doesn’t involve a lot of dialogue.

There are a few little girls who have REALLY taken to him and today there was an all out battle among 3 girls who wanted to play with him.  First there is Sophia, a 5 year old blonde with a pink and torquoise swimsuit and matching pink goggles.  Then comes Sheridan, a sweet and talkative 8 year old who wears a peach 2 piece.  Last week Mola, Sophia and Sheridan all jumped into the pool together from the side together over and over again.  Mola and the girls.  We hadn’t seen Sheridan since then and when we saw her today she was thrilled to see me and kept asking where Mola was (he was changing).  She literally was holding onto him in the pool saying to anyone who came near “I’m playing with Mola now” and “I was playing with him first”.  Sophia literally turned another girl away who wanted to play and said “No, I’m playing with Mola now”.  And then entered Kate who didn’t realize the stiff competition she had. 

I’ll finish by saying that Mola fell asleep on the sofa today at 7:15pm – the earliest ever.  Enough said.

I didn’t get any photos today, but here are some others from the past days, both in and out of the pool:

Mola in Manhattan

Diving for Quarters

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A few recent photos

All is well here……  A few recent photos.

First Mola in his new raincoat.  A few days this week we’ve had late afternoon thunderstorms.  We’ve had to evacuate the pool and come home.  Thankfully it has been late enough that we just come home and mom starts dinner while dad and Mola sit on the porch watching the storm.  Mola is pretty good at having quiet moments like this:

Hamming it up for the camera

After last night’s rain we had dinner with our dear friend Christine.  We adore her and Mola is very comfortable with her.  She and her husband were the first friends to meet Mola.  In fact we drove by their house on our way home from the airport when Mola was sleeping in the backseat just so they could get a glimpse of him!  After dinner she stayed and helped get Mola into bed and read books with us.  Here are the buddies:

We had a late dinner and lingered a bit and Mola was really good about hanging out at the table with us:

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odds and ends

We’ve had a good few days.  At the end of last week we joined a pool club and we’ve had some nice afternoons swimming with Mola.  He loves the water and is already swimming underwater and diving for coins in the kid pool!  Dad showed him that game last Friday and he did it for a few hours!

Over the weekend we paid an overnight visit to our good friends at their lake house.  They have two adopted children themselves and they and Mola got along really well.  It was so much fun to see him playing and interacting with them so comfortably.  He also seems to have developed his first crush on their daughter, Anya, who is 7.  I can’t say I can blame him. She was so good about including him and helping him and is also beautiful.  On Saturday night when I was putting him to sleep he said “this home gobez, no home, Jake coming in Dad’s macchina” which translates to the lake house being great and that we shouldn’t go home and instead Jake (woosha) should come to us in dad’s macchina which was still at our house.  So I think he was ready to move in!!  On the car ride home yesterday he spontaneously erupted in tears and said “Anya”.  He was so sad to have left them. 

Things are going well on the daycare front.  He went today and they reported that he didn’t cry at all when I left.  Thankfully one of the teachers seems very musical which probably helps to hold his interest.  He even seemed to indicate that he’d like to go back because he asked me if there is school tomorrow and when I said no he seemed disappointed.

Last night Mola woke up at 3am and I went to him.  I also sensed that Jake was upset about something, so I asked Stephen to bring Jake outside.  While Stephen was downstairs and I was still in Mola’s bed the smoke detector in our kitchen started making a “low battery” chirping and in trying to take the batteries out to stop it, Stephen set off the alarm.  The piercing shrill sound blasted me out of Mola’s bed and of course he was very confused at the noise.  Mola has a smoke detector in his room which he sometimes points to and notices the light on it, so when I said “smoke detector” he was very excited and I had to tell him it was the one in the kitchen, not his and that I’d show him in the morning (all this happening at about 3:30am by this time).    All day today he kept saying “smoke detector all finished” and the first thing he  said when he woke up this morning was “smoke detector, e’momma, come I’ll show you”.  I think he wanted to bring me down to the kitchen to investigate!

Also recently heard…..”I got it”, “oh my gosh”, “let’s go”, “everybody”, “today”, “big rain”, “its okay”, “easy (as in “take it easy”).

E’Momma continues to be “gobez” (good boy) and I’m not at all tired of Mola’s hugs and kisses.  He is very affectionate and usually falls asleep at night completely wrapped around me (almost strangling me) after many tight and loose hugs (taught to him last week to demonstrate “tight” and “loose”.  A few times when i’ve told him it was too hot, he instead wrapped himself around my arm and asked “better?”

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Dad is solider

….said by Mola at breakfast this morning.

We have been impressed by Mola’s language aquisition, but this was a suprise, to say the least.

On a lighter note, he also said “swallow” today and asked a little girl in English “can I have your doll please” in the pool.  Every day he says something new.

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Our Little Sprout

Yesterday we went to the International Adoption Pediatric Unit at Yale University.  The facility and doctors were amazing.  We had an hour and 15 minute appointment with a developmental specialist first, followed by a medical examination.  The developmental specialist was very pleased with Mola’s skills and the way he interacts with us, sees patterns, logic, his memory, etc.  She thought he could do equally well in kindergarten or pre-K in the fall.  The jury is still out on that one for us. 

One of her little analogies has stuck with me.  we talked about bonding and attachment.  We feel that Mola is bonding with us very well.  He definitely wants to be part of our family now, which is awesome, and he is very affectionate with both of us, looks for us and our approval appropriately, etc.  But as the doctor said, our adoption was essentially us planting a seed.  Mola is now a small, vulnerable sprout and as we nuture him and continue to provide him with safety and security, the “sprout” will become a strong plant, but it isn’t yet.  It is a fragile, growing thing that needs our constant water and sunlight.  Our job has just begun and the health of our sprout is tenuous.

On the medical front, the doctor we saw is actually a specialist in parasites and was exceptionally good at explaining all the screenings that they will do (using the TWELVE vials of blood that they took from poor Mola).  They will rescreen him for all the things that were checked in Ethiopia, plus genetic things that his family may carry, as well as diseases specific to East Africa and his likelihood to have those diseases in the future.  Both doctors are still slightly concerned about Mola’s large head.  It is still off the charts, even for a 4-5 year old.  They are greatly relieved to have seen him in person and see that cognitively he seems “all there”, but they aren’t ruling out a visit to a specialist.

On another note, my favorite times of the day with Mola are morning and after dinner.  In the morning he now wakes up at almost 6am on the dot, comes to our bed and we (Stephen and I) pretend to sleep while Mola joins us and we all cuddle.  Of course we are pretending to sleep in hopes that one day he will fall back asleep with us, but that hasn’t happened yet!! But in the meantime he is very affectionate, hugs us, says good morning, wiggles around, usually brings in singing Elmo, and that is how we start the day. 

After dinner is when Mola seems at his most content to simply entertain himself (and us) in the house.  He picks the “song of the day” and kind of dances around singing, tapping out his chopsticks, and usually gets both of us singing with him while we clean up after dinner.  He tries out different songs, beats, patterns, etc.  It is fun for all of us.  Today was “I gotta new way to walk! Walk Walk Walk” from Sesame Street and “Put Down The Ducky”.

Tomorrow Mola starts a few hours of daycare.  He’ll go MWF from 8:30 to 11:30am to start.  He is dying to play with other kids, so we hope he is excited by it – he seems to be.   We have built it up as “school” which seems to be exciting for him.  I hope he will be okay!  I’m not expecting an easy time, really, though we have visited many times in the past week, driven by, said “hi” to school, seen moms and dads bringing their kids and picking them up…… More on his first days later this week!!

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Musical Mola

We learned in Ethiopia that Mola loves music. Not surprising given how important music and dance is to Ethiopian culture.  One night in Addis we went with two other families to a traditional dance and music performance at a restaurant.  Mola and his new friend Eyasu sat at the edge of the stage for almost 2 hours watching and listening.  Mola was smitten with the performers and the music and kept trying to touch the speakers to feel the music and where it was coming from.  His attention span was astounding that night!

The next day we had the chance to meet Mola’s birth father and we told him that Mola had enjoyed music the night before.  His birth father, Abera, told us that one time Mola had attended a church service where there was a piano and that Mola had loved it and when he went home after the service he tried to “make” a piano out of wood and string.  We were delighted to tell Abera that we have a piano in our home and that we love music and Abera was thrilled to learn that we would foster his love of music.

Mola started playing our piano almost the moment he got home.  He does not just bang away at the same keys, but moves up and down the octaves and can pick out some patterns.  Often what he plays honestly sounds like jazz.  A few days after coming home he pulled out two chopsticks from a crock on our counter (unprompted by us) and started tapping them and drumming.  We now have a routine where I will play piano and he sits on a chair and keeps the beat (accurately).  I have played piano on and off since I was young and was recently (read pre-adoption) taking lessons again, so this has been very enjoyable to me to share this with Mola.  Mola finds it delightful that I can go to the piano and play his favorite songs, which now include “elmo’s song”, “ABCs” and so on.

Given all of this, today we started a music class together.  It is on Thursdays and is for a parent and child and  the class encourages them to find their rythym, sing, clap and play different instruments that the teacher brings in.  Today, the first class for us, Mola grabbed a bongo and two sticks and played like a mad man.  He also loved playing bells and moving around the room.  He was like a different kid – very outgoing, watching the teacher with wide eyes, he put all the instruments back when she asked…..amazing.

Tonight after dinner I put some dried beans in a plastic container with a lid and gave them to him to shake, which he did with abandon (along with dancing).  Dad got on the drum (a turned over plastic bucket with the famous chopsticks) and I got on the piano and we had a blast.  We need to get some more instruments in this house!!

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Weekend of Firsts

We have had a very busy weekend.  Mola did so many new things over the past days and seemed to enjoy them all and he did really well with a lot of new experiences.

We went to the Bronx Zoo on Friday.  It has been on our “to-do” list and the weather was beautiful, so we decided to go for it before a looming heat wave kicks in.  Mola was a little tired that day, so he was happy to sit in the rented stroller and be pushed around the zoo.  He particularly liked a big alligator tank in the children’s zoo which allowed him to only have the glass between him and a few quite large alligators.  He stayed in front of that tank for quite some time!   Another favorite activity was taking photos.  This is generally a very popular activity for Mola and we have many photos of random things to prove it: ceiling fans, the television, photos of me from the shoulders to the knees (I am headless in most of them!), photos of woosha, the stove….you name it.  And so from the zoo we have blurry lemurs, alligator tails……

On Saturday we again wanted to take advantage of a mid-80s day and low humidity and decided to take our first hike with Mola.  This is something we have been missing this spring / summer.  We were too busy to do any hiking before we went to Ethiopia and obviously since coming back, so we decided to go for it.  We went to Minnewoska State Park which has a few beautiful  trails through gorgeous forrests, mild change in elevation, and water along the way for Jake the woosha.  At first Mola was very apprehensive.  For as athletic as Mola can be, he also has a BIG lazy bone in his body and tends to be either on-the-go or a couch potato.  He did NOT seem like he had any idea that this whole hiking thing was something he wanted to do.  In fact, he also seemed afraid to go into the woods when he saw the start of the trail.  But Stephen convinced him it was okay and he was happy to follow Jake the woosha and actually seemed to enjoy himself once we got going.  There is a beautiful stream on this hike which is great for Jake because we don’t have to carry water for him on the hike, and which was also great for Mola because he decided it would be a great place to cool off!  He took off his shoes and socks, left them on a rock and went in.  He then decided that it was a pain to hold up his shorts (which weren’t even getting wet at that point) and so decided that they too must go.  And so there was Mola, eventually buck naked, playing in the stream.  Nature boy.  It was adorable and of course mom had to take off her shoes too (though nothing else) and we splashed around in the stream (which was FREEZING) while Stephen threw in sticks for woosha.   All in all it was a few miles and he did really well!  And after that he still managed to ride his bike around the park for almost two hours…..can I say again that this kid has energy???

And…..after the hiking and the biking, we walked to a park to see fireworks.  Mola was thrilled to be out at night past bedtime with mom and dad (though not so thrilled with the walking).  Dad was nice enough to drive to the park and leave the car, biking home, so that after the fireworks our car was there waiting.  Mola was pretty scared at first, but then loved the fireworks.  He was sitting in my lap and my arms were around him.  His little heart was beating like crazy, but he pronounced the fireworks “gobez” which means “good boy” but has become his default word for anything good.  TV is Gobez, mom can be gobez, the pets….gobez…..and yes, fireworks too can be gobez!!

Today we went to the beach.  The heatwave is here and since we find it much easier to occupy Mola outdoors, the beach seemed like a great idea.  We got there early and stayed almost all day.  Mola loves the water and is fearless.  He goes in right up to his neck and gets quite a thrill when his head goes under.  of course we have his hands in ours so he is safe, but really he just loves splashing around and running through the water.  Swimming lessons can’t happen quickly enough.  Mola tends to be shy with other kids, so we were happy when he played a bit with several other kids, both in the water and on the beach.   He was so tired after all the water and sun that he literally fell asleep as Stephen carried him for the last time from the water to our spot on the beach.  He laid down on the towels under the umbrella and took a short snooze while we packed up!!

So a great few days for everyone.  We still have some concerns about how defiant Mola can be at times.  He  also gets very jealous when I speak to other kids (and today I played with one in the water and got MANY shrugs from Mola afterward).  We also need to help him learn how to share, which is very difficult for him.  But overall things are easier each day and he is sleeping 8-9 hours each night, so though still waking up at 5:30am, he goes to sleep easily and sleeps through the night for the most part.

In about 10 days we’ll start Mola at daycare for 3 hours a day, 3x per week.  We think this will help him to learn to socialize with other kids in English, follow rules and to share.  It will also be good for us to have a break from one another a few times a week!

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