Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 1 at Home (or how we ignored conventional wisdom and lived to tell about it)

Our first day home really couldn't have been any better.  Before we left Addis, Brad and I talked (lots!) about what life at home would be like for us.  We planned to have a very relaxing first day at home; a trip to the park in the morning, and maybe heading over to the ice cream shop in the afternoon.  We'd play it by ear and see how Eli did.

When we arrived home late Friday night, Eli spent some time exploring our house.  First the main level, then upstairs to his bedroom and ours, his bathroom and ours.  When we asked him if he wanted to see the lower level, he first said no but then headed downstairs.

His playroom is down there, with a train set, a circus tent, and lots (and lots) of toys.  But he only had eyes for Brad's road bike.  He climbed up on it and had the biggest smile on his face.  Right then we knew, if was at all possible, we needed to get him a bike the next day.

Our trip to the park Saturday morning was fantastic.  Although Eli was very tense on the walk over, he soon relaxed and began to enjoy the playground.

He was a happy boy.

But every time he saw a kid on a bike, or a bike just laying on the ground near the playground, he'd stop whatever he was doing and point.  He knows very little English, but we're all communicating quite well.  And his message on this matter was clear.

Things were going so well.  But Target on Day 1 in America?  On a Saturday?  Were we insane?

Maybe, but we decided to give it a shot.  And he did great at Target.  We got him a bike, which he and Brad assembled when we got home.

And then we headed back out so Eli could give it a spin.

I've mentioned before that Eli's malnourished; his BMI is not even on the CDC growth charts.  What we realized yesterday is he has almost no muscle tone.

It was obviously very hard for him to pedal the bike, and he was also having trouble figuring out how to position his feet on the pedals.  He was using a sort of duck-footed position, so with each stroke his heel hit the crank and stopped him.

But he was determined to ride that bike.

At the end of the block we asked him if he wanted to turn around and he gave us the Gambella shoulder shrug to indicate "no."  We asked him if he wanted to keep going and he gave us the Gambella eye raise ("yes").  This went on, and he got better and better with his foot position on the pedals, and he rode that bike for well over a mile.

Yes, a mile.  It was slow going, but he persevered.

And he would've gone further if we hadn't gently swung him back around to our house through the park.

It was about 6:00 by the time we got home from the bike ride, and the next thing I knew both he and Brad were crashed out upstairs in our bed.

It had been a very busy day, but it was oh-so-good for us all.  Peeking in on my boys napping after such a great day just about made my heart explode with happiness.

Life is good.


  1. How perfect that he loves bikes so much already, you really are a family!!! I'm sure that will help him get strong in no time. So, so, so happy for you all!

  2. that made me so teary! great post!

  3. Is it just me (I'm sure it's not lol), or is it just surreal how only a few weeks ago, you were longing to have Eli home with you, and here he is!! Thanks so much for sharing these photos. :) :) :)

  4. That story makes me smile all over! :)

  5. Kathleen - we had an almost identical experience with Nen. The ONE thing he had really asked about before coming home was if he would/could have a bike. We had planned to get one, but wanted to wait until he could help pick it out. So yes, we made a trip to Walmart on day 2 at home to get a bike. Nen, although older, had the EXACT same struggles. Very little muscle tone to pedal the bike, couldn't figure out how to position his feet so they hit each time around. Good news, he kept going, loved it, built muscle tone and memory and was riding it WITHOUT the training wheels in about two weeks I believe. One thing that really helped was getting training wheels that had some spring/give to them. This allowed him the feeling of having to balance on the bike without the fear of actually falling over. Found them at WalMart.