Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving: A Review (Mostly) in Pictures

Eli's first Thanksgiving was a smashing success.  Having read some horror stories about how holidays can trigger trauma-related behaviors, I had a lot of anxiety about Thanksgiving.  It would be the first time we had a house full of guests, and I wasn't sure how Eli would handle it.

He was in Heaven.

Of course, it helped that we had a house full of amazingly awesome people.  But I also think Eli's ability to take holiday chaos in stride is another testament to his strength and resilience, because even good chaos can be very unsettling for anyone. 

I am again reminded of just how lucky Brad and I are that he's our son.

Without further chatter from me, on to our Thanksgiving Review in Pictures.  Or maybe I should call it a Thanksgiving Review in Candid Pictures, because Eli not only objected when I tried to photograph him, but whenever I tried to take photos generally.  So I couldn't even ask everyone else to look at the camera without risking Eli throwing his arms up in protest.

I can't wait to tease him relentlessly about his constant cries of "No Pictures!!" when he, hopefully, exits this stage.  Kid, you may as well tell me to stop breathing.  Photos will be taken.  They may not be very good photos without your cooperation, but there will be photos.

So, where were we?  Ah, yes, Thanksgiving weekend.

Eli met his Aunt Trish, Uncle Paul, and cousins Samantha and Bailey for the first time.

Instant mutual love and adoration.

And our boy who hates cameras hammed it up with his cousin Bailey on her iPhone.  I should get her to send me some of those crazy photos.  Or would that violate some cousin code that allowed the photos to be taken in the first place?

We joined 10,000 of our friends and neighbors at Denver's Turkey Trot. 

See the spot of orange to Brad's left?  That's Eli, hiding from the camera.  Sigh.

Brad made a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner.

(As an aside, a friend recently pointed out to me that I often begin sentences with "Brad makes the best. . . ."  My apologies for this highly annoying habit, but I'm a truth-teller.  And if you ate Brad's cooking regularly, I'd challenge you not to find yourself speaking like this.)

Captain America joined us for appetizers.

Just like Eli, Captain America refused to pose for a proper photo.

And we noticed that we never see Captain America and Eli in the same room, together.  Hmmm. . . .

We used our wedding china.  I love any meal served on it.

And Brad's mom had a beautiful centerpiece made for the table.

I was particularly fond of the juxtaposition of our china and Eli's Rock Star tumbler.  I feel the beginnings of trend here.

Eli sat happily nestled between his Aunt Trish . . .

and his cousins Sam and Bailey.

And since we didn't know whether Eli would like pumpkin pie, we made traditional Thanksgiving cupcakes.  (And pumpkin pie.  Always pumpkin pie.)

The next day, once we emerged from our food comas, we did it all over again.  

This time with prime rib . . . 

and the most exquisite bottle of 1996 Petrus, compliments of Trish and Paul.

I've never been much of a prime rib person, but I'd never before had Brad's prime rib.  Brad makes the best prime rib.  (haha, there I go again!)  But, seriously, he does.  Remember, I'm the truth-teller.

The day after Thanksgiving officially became my favorite holiday of the season so far.

And I deny any correlation with the amount of champagne and wine served at that day after Thanksgiving dinner.

I love this photo of Brad and Trish, two of my favorite people.

The next day was Eli's baptism, which I'll write about separately.  

Reflecting on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am reminded of how very fortunate I am for the people God has placed in my life.  Our family knows how Eli and I have been struggling with attachment, and I am so thankful for the support and understanding--and grace--they showed me.  Even when I was at times as nervous and jittery as a cat in a room full of rockers, and at other times a bit glum with jealousy that our child seems to have affection for everyone but me.  (Wah, I hate being so whiny.  But, again, truth-teller here.)

Eli had one dysregulation incident, and even that wasn't a big deal.  I think the cumulative effect of the fun and excitement became a little much, and he started to melt down in Whole Foods.  I carried him out of the store while Brad finished our shopping, and Eli and I went for a walk around the block and talked.  Eli held my hand the entire time, which is how I knew he was feeling out of sorts.  By the time we returned to Brad and his dad back at the car, Eli was calm and regulated.  So proud of that kid, how he's able to center himself and move forward.

I was apprehensive about what would happen when everyone departed after such a fun weekend.  Would he have the "fun hangover" I've read so much about, and dreaded pretty much the entire weekend?

Not at all. 

In fact, after everyone left Saturday afternoon, Eli's attitude and behavior were even better than before the fun-filled, chaotic weekend.  He was happy, he was relaxed.  We went to church, went out to dinner (he tried sushi for the first time!), then settled in for a movie and a lazy Sunday the following day.  We talked about how much fun it was to have everyone visit, and when we'd see everyone again.

In the week since, Eli seems to have made great strides in his attachment with me.  Brad has always been very affectionate and loving toward me, and I often see Eli watching us as Brad hugs and kisses me.  But it seems the love and affection shown me by the rest of our family really made an impression on Eli.  He seems to think maybe I'm not so bad after all. 

And that perhaps I can be trusted with his love, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Knowing how much Eli enjoyed his first experience rock climbing at his school, our friend Alane invited us all to go climbing with her at Thrillseekers, a local indoor climbing gym.

When we walked in, Eli was in awe.  He was so excited that we had to pull him off the walls to get him fully geared up and ready to go.

Alane is a certified belayer at Thrillseekers, so we were able to climb just as our small group.

She taught Eli how to tie on to the belay line.

And off he went.

Up, up and away.

He made it all the way to the top.  And he did it on a 5.6 route.  I have no idea what that means, but Alane said that's very good.  Then tried to find the bell at the top, like they had on the climbing wall that had been brought to his school.

Mommy even got in on the action, trying her hand (er, fingertips) at climbing for the very first time.

Impressive, no?

Haha, I was barely off the ground.

I did climb the big wall Eli ascended, but didn't make it to the top like he did.  Maybe next time.

To thank Alane for taking him climbing, Eli took her to lunch at his favorite restaurant.

Yes, GB's Fish and Chips.

It was a very good day.  Thanks, Alane!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three Months Home -- The Recap

So hard to believe it's been three months already!  A quarter of a year.  Wow.

First hockey game.  We have season tickets to DU hockey, and Eli loves going to the games.  He often asks to go "let's go Denver," referring to the cheer led throughout the games by the students.  The student section is only a few sections over from our seats, which caused us to briefly consider relocating our seats this season.  Thankfully Eli hasn't picked up any of their other frequent chants.  I've told Brad that when Eli does, he's in charge of answering the inevitable question: "what's a wh0re?"

Eli of course loves the zamboni.

And he had his first Dippin' Dots.  (Yes, Eli, it's ice cream.  Sort of.  I know it doesn't look like ice cream.)

First visit from the Tooth Fairy.  Followed a few days later by his second visit from the Tooth Fairy.

First time playing in the snow.

First jack-o-lantern.

First time trick-or-treating.

First time rock climbing.

First time playing the piano, in the kids' room at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  He's never showed any interest in the piano in our living room.

First family photos.

Rode his bike without training wheels.

(Yes, that's our nanny in the video, not me, watching this "first."  Sad face.)

First parent-teacher conference.  (Ok, this was technically a first for us since he wasn't there.)  His Preschool teacher reports he's doing great, is very smart, loves being there, and has lots of friends.

First movie in a theater, IMAX Rocky Mountain Express.  Followed by his first 3-D movie a week or so later, To the Arctic, also an IMAX. Now if I we go to a regular movie theater he's going to wonder why the screen is so small.

First comment by another kid about his skin color.  (First in front of me, anyway.)
[Decided this should be a separate post.  More to come on this. . . .]

Eli's still sleeping every night on the bedroll next to our bed.  He feels safe there, and has told me he always slept next to his Ethiopian mommy.  We've discussed with our social worker strategies to eventually transition him to his room, but we're going to give this a little bit more time.

For the most part, we no longer have to fret too much about what Eli will eat at any given meal.  Although we still try to focus on foods we know he likes, he's starting eating pretty much whatever we make.  This week it was brussels sprouts; I thinly sliced them, mixed them in with pasta and lots of onion (which he loves), and he ate them up.

Eli's first paella.

For any other parent out there struggling with a super picky child, just keep offering them healthy foods and don't resign yourself to serving a diet of "kid food" or cooking to please the demands of that picky child.  This is the advice from every single book I read, and from our experience it really does work.  They will not starve themselves.

Eli also suddenly started drinking milk again.  And then stopped.  And now has started again.  I tried whole milk again and he gave his approval, saying it was like what he drank "in the Gambella."  Sometimes he'll drink only a few sips of milk with his meal, but I'm counting is as progress.

And his love of GB's Fish and Chips remains.

I Heart Mom t-shirt.  You KNOW I was trying all day long to get a clear photo of that.  :)

Eli's English language skills continue to improve at a pretty amazing pace.

He still uses "no" a lot.  I'll tell Eli he's a good boy, and he'll say "no, mommy a good boy."  So I've learned to use this to my advantage.  When I need a little flattery, I tell Eli he's beautiful and get "no, mommy beautiful" in return.  Yes, I can stoop pretty low for a compliment.

We're still working on his tendency to try and boss us around, and often use "are you asking or telling?"  I think his attempts at bossiness may be partly a control issue and partly just a language issue.  Commands use fewer words.  Although hopefully he's learning that having to do through the full "are you asking or telling" routine takes a whole lot more words than just asking nicely in the first place.

The Dogs
There are lots of dogs in our neighborhood, so he saw lots of dogs while trick-or-treating.  Dogs calmly hanging out with their owners on front porches, dogs excitedly barking from behind their owners at the front door.  This seemed to scare him initially, but the excitement of trick-or-treating soon overcame his fear.

He's continued asking to have Ruby hang out with us if we watch a movie at night, and he now asks for Ruby to come upstairs with us when we prepare for bed.  (He loves to watch Ruby getting her teeth brushed.)  We still put the baby gate up before we go to bed, to keep Ruby out of our room, but we're happy that Eli seems to be much more comfortable with Ruby now.

Eli and several other boys from his class at SVdP now regularly play together after school on the school's front lawn.  They wrestle, cover each other in the fall leaves, throw a bit of snow if there's any to be found, roll down the hill, jump off the ledge--typical boy stuff.  Eli seems to really enjoy these boys, and they him.

We also discovered two other boys from his class visit the same library every Monday after school; I'm not sure how we've missed them in the past.  So now we all meet up there together, too.  The library has a play room where the boys can continue their play together, and it's been nice to be able to chat with these moms more than the few minutes at school pick-up and drop-off allows.

Whenever I see Eli play with his friends, I'm impressed by the polite nature of his play.  He's rough and tumble, just like a typical boy, but is never the one who takes things a bit too far.  In fact, one of his best buddies hauled off and slugged him one day and I saw Eli de-escalate the level of play instead of responding in kind.  Sometimes I see in him a maturity that is way beyond his almost-five years.

Eli and Grant, his buddy who lives a few houses down from us, now play together several times a week after school.  Brad says it's really cute, the way each goes to the other's door with the "can Eli/Grant come out and play?"  We adore Grant, and are so happy with this blossoming friendship.

He also seems to have a lot more friends at both schools now, too.  He talks about his friends and tells us about some of the things they do.  His teacher at SVdP told us the other boys really like him, and that Eli loves making them laugh.

This has been a hard month for me, to be perfectly honest.  Eli has been talking with Brad and me a lot about Gambella, which I think is great, and Eli's bond with Brad appears to be deepening.  But Eli seems to have redoubled his efforts to keep me at a distance. 

Eli misses his Ethiopian mommy.  Eli and I have talked about it, to the extent his still limited English language skills have allowed, and I'm so thankful that he feels comfortable and trusts me enough to share his feelings.  I've assured him that his Ethiopian mommy loves him very much, and I've told him I want to know all about her.  That, even though I've never met her, I also love her.  And then I've just listened.  There's not much I can offer to console him; his loss breaks my heart, too.  I just want to make sure to keep this dialog open.

I suspect Eli's attachment with me is going to be a bumpy ride, and that I need to prepare myself to weather these setbacks.  He's a hurt child, protecting himself from further loss; my mind knows that, but my heart still hurts when he pushes me away.  I'm trying hard not to get discouraged, but it's really hard at times. 

Although Brad has been incredibly supportive, I often feel like an interloper.  An outsider in my own family. 

I'm not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me here--I'm a very blessed woman and I know it--I'm just trying to be real about what's challenging me right now.  I have a child who at times doesn't seem to want me.  It's a pretty awful feeling, which elicits responses in me that don't always make me proud. 

I'm struggling, but embracing each new day as an opportunity to further connect with our child.

Friday, November 16, 2012

First Christmas Stocking

A quick sharing of cuteness before I head out for my day.  My mom brain forgot to bring home the file I need for court this morning, so I have to leave extra early to stop by my office (north of our house) before court (south of our house).  Ugh.

Anyway, Eli's Christmas stocking arrived yesterday.  By the time I got home from work he was overwhelmed with enthusiasm for whatever was in the boxes left by the UPS man.  He's received a few gifts lately, and so thinks pretty much every delivery is something for him.

As I unpacked the box, I showed him his Christmas stocking and asked if he knew what it was. He said yes (like he always does), so I asked him if he knew what it was for.

He said yes (like he always does).  And showed me.

When Brad and I debated the pros and cons of adopting an older child versus adopting an infant, I thought hard about all the "firsts" we'd miss.  Would I feel like we missed too much?

It's been such an unexpected blessing to share "firsts" with an older child, who can make us laugh so hard with his "been there, done that" bravado.

Not missing anything here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

RnR Denver Epilogue

The mind is a funny thing.  You think you remember something one way, when in reality things went down a little (or a lot) differently.

For instance, I thought I did a face plant at the finish line of the Rock 'n' Roll Denver Marathon.  But when I saw my photos following the race, I realized I did a face plant before the finish line.  Then I got my raggedy butt back up and finished that sucker.

Since I first saw my race photos, I've been debating whether to share them on here or not.

First, they are certainly not the most attractive photos and I'm a fairly vain person.  Marathon Foto doesn't usually do me any great favors with the camera lens, but these are beyond my usual bad race photos.

Second, I feel like I said more than enough about the race in my initial post.  I try not to go on and on about running because this is not a running blog and, while I enjoy reading running blogs, many of you probably don't.  It's like, unless you're a golfer (which I'm not), listening to a golfer talk about this hole and that.  We get it.  You hit the ball, it rolled into the hole.

I bought this shirt for Brad when I ran the NYC Marathon a few years back.  I think it sums it up pretty well:

But then I realized I did have a bit more to say about the race.  Like, lots of things about the race were really great.

I saw my friend Suzanne at the start.

And I really enjoyed the course, which highlights some beautiful parts of my hometown that I love so much.

As I said in my first post, seeing Brad, Eli and Brad's parents on the course was beyond fantastic.

If this doesn't put a bounce in your step, I don't know what can

I was well trained and felt strong during a good portion of the race.

In Cheeseman Park
Until I didn't.

She's going DOWN!

It was this next photo that made me remember that I actually face planted before I finished the race.

Um, why is the medical dude running beside me with my hat and sunglasses?

Yeah, let's zoom in on this beautiful photo.  (*chucking vanity aside*)

But I still managed to (kind of) raise my arms in a feeble "victory" sign while crossing the finish line.  (Just call me Super Dork.)

Before grasping for the barricade in desperation.


I'll always remember this race.

Not because I ran a fast time and it's my current PR (personal record).  But because it was the race where I fell down, picked myself back up, and finished.

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You're never gonna keep me down."

Probably worse than the pain of the actual fall was having to walk around like this for a few weeks:
The day after the race
And a few more days later.

My friend Michele told me she thought the shiners brought out the beautiful green in my eyes.  Sweet girl, that one.  A deacon at our church tried to stage a domestic violence intervention during a baptism class Brad and I attended.  (Yes, seriously.)

My body has mostly healed; I still have some pink scars on my left knee and bumps on my nose and chin that will hopefully disappear over time.  And I'm looking forward to my next big race, the Boston Marathon in April.  I know from having run it previously that there'll be Gatorade available every mile.

But, just to be safe, I think I'll have a pop tart the night before like Ritz (who has also struggled with sodium loss-induced cramping).  Since we'll be in Boston I can have a super delicious one from Joanne Chang's bakery, flour.  Maybe it'll bring me good luck.

Because these "lucky clover" arm warmers sure haven't done it.

Final postscript.  (I promise.)

The bills have now all come in for my trip to the ER, and totalled about $6,000.  I'm thankful that Brad and I have good health insurance, so much of it was covered.  But under our high deductible plan there was a sizable chunk that was our responsibility.

I won't say exactly how much, but let's just say I could've paid for a lot of on-course Gatorade that day.  For everyone.  And I wiped out Brad's health savings account, which he amassed over a period of several years as a single guy who never utilized the health care system.

Sorry about that, sweetie.