Happy 6th Birthday, Tariku!

Wednesday was my sweet Tariku’s birthday. I actually think I’ve been spending the last few days just reflecting on him, on his life and his precious precious place in our family. More on that later, for now…

Waking the birthday boy up.

Little sister wanted the first hug.

Tariku chose donuts for breakfast. This kid can’t resist chocolate, high fructose corn syrup or fried goodness. And really, can you blame him? Also notice his afro, can you tell which side he sleeps on? 🙂

We got in the car and…he no longer needs a booster seat! Woohoo! He was actually thrilled about this little revelation.

Tariku (or “chooch” as well call him) wanted cupcakes for his school birthday treat. BUT, that didn’t pan out so he wanted the cosmic brownies as back up. Again with the chocolate and HFCS.

The littles partook in the action as well.

Got a quick picture of Tariku with his really, really amazing teacher. This teacher challenges our supremely intelligent little guy. She recognizes the special needs Tariku has (with regards to food issues and schedules) and she supports and loves him. He has positively thrived in her classroom.

Zach picked Chooch up for a little daddy/me time. The rest of us hung out at home. Tomas actually got to Skype with his friend Yenenesh from Ethiopia. They were unbearably cute together, can’t wait for it to happen again!

When Tariku got home, Tada stopped by. Tada was the counselor from Barbados I mentioned awhile back (so this is why people tag their posts, eh? Need to start doing that). It was actually Tada’s birthday as well.

We spent a few hours outside. 65 degrees. Was the perfect afternoon for baseball, soccer, football and bikes. All of Tariku’s favorite things.

For dinner Tariku chose omelets. Ham and cheese again. Chooch likes more onion powder, garlic and salt and pepper than your average 6 year old. Normally I say no so as to give him high blood pressure at such a young age but today I obliged.

At the end of the night, he was still jubilant. Still perfect.

Man oh man this boy. I read Living and Loving Outloud by Cornel West (a great book, by the way). One line struck me because it reminded me so much of our “Choocie boochie”.

“Go on. Move on. Do what needs to be done. Care for those who require care. Spread love wherever you walk. Spread love whenever you talk.” -Cornel West

That is Tariku in a nutshell. He spreads love in every.single.action. Every word. Every hug. Every smile. I’m fairly certain those of you who don’t know Tariku personally, have never met anyone who brings the sunshine with them the way he does.

I remember the first time I saw his picture. “Look at his eyes!” I said to Zach. The sunshine was there. Behind the gray skin, the reddish hair. The swollen belly and stick thin arms. Behind all of that there was the sunshine.

And it’s gotten brighter and brighter since.

Our Tariku is smart. Whoa buddy is he smart. I still cry every time he reads me a book. Yeah, reads me a book. He’s been able to do that for some time now and it still shocks me.

He’s the first one to offer help of any kind. When I’m cooking, if something drops off the counter he’ll run from the next room to pick it up for me. If he sees Dailah struggling with a toy or Binyam struggling with his shoes he’s the one to fix the problem. In fact we have to literally tell him multiple times a day, “Tariku thank you but I asked Trysten to get that. Tariku thank you but it’s Tomas’s turn to get the plates ready.”

Tariku is funny. He’s a great dancer, an amazing friend and a great brother. He is so good at every sport he tries I’m fairly certain he’s some sort of prodigy. He is beautiful. Striking, even. The eyes, the mouth, the cheeks and hair. Fuggetaboutit. Not a day goes by that I’m not tempted to pimp him out to the highest modeling bidder.

And boy has he settled in my heart. I love him fiercely and fully. Truly, he is everything I hope to be one day. Joyous despite my trauma, full of love despite being full of pain. He inspires me, he really does.

And we get him. We share him, with some amazing, amazing people in Ethiopia but we get him. I am so, so thankful for that.

Man I love him. 6 years old. Can I just hold onto him forever?

Tomas’s Surprise

I mentioned here that Tariku and Trysten surprised Tomas for his birthday eve. Oh it was so sweet. So, so sweet.

So while I was cooking Trysten came up to me, “Mom, could you keep Tomas out of his and Tariku’s room? We are making a surprise for him.”

They closed the door, only coming out once in awhile to get more supplies. When Trysten told me Tomas could come in, I wanted to come in first.

And the boys were so proud of themselves. They didn’t explain it first but my initial reaction was still “this is really cool”. And did I mention they were so proud of themselves?

They called Tomas down and randomly broke out in “Happy Birthday”.

He was so happy. But then he started crying. Tears through his smile.

“This is the sweetest thing ever to me.” Hearing him say that made me cry as well.

After tears were wiped up the boys explained it. Tomas, see, loves African safaris. So there were monkeys and snakes everywhere.

Tariku’s bed was actually the Mississippi River (because, obviously, that’s in the Safari as well).

Tomas’s bed was the arctic (again, because the arctic and safari clearly go hand in hand). Notice the penguin pillow pet.

The capes were “as close as we could get to streamers. Plus, they show Tomas how strong he is. Like a superhero.” Trysten explained.

When dinner was served Tomas said. “Mom, this will be my first birthday I celebrate. I didn’t know how old I was until you told me. I like how you celebrate birthdays here.”

So much tragedy, so much heartache, so much hope in those few sentences.

He’s 7.

6 years without a party. 6 years without anyone really celebrating his birth or him in general. This is not to say his birth family didn’t celebrate somehow, I have no idea if they did or not. But according to Tomas, it was nothing like this.

Nothing like his 2 brothers who spent 30 minutes decorating his room. Making him know they were happy he was there. They celebrated him in a way he had never known before.

That, to me, is some amazing love. I am constantly inspired by the way my kids love each other.

Happy Birthday, Tomas!

Yesterday was my second eldest’s birthday. My Tomas. Oh my heart. Pretty much since Tomas got to America he’s been asking when his birthday is (Dailah’s was just a few weeks after we got back home, so he had seen it first hand almost immediately).

Then Trysten’s birthday came and went and well, he’s been counting the days since. Sunday night Trysten and Tariku did something really sweet for Tomas (more on that later) and so by yesterday morning his excitement had reached new heights. Proof? This was his face when we woke him up with “Happy Birthday”.

Tomas chose pancakes. Because of that, he got a “T” to honor the birthday boy.

Off to school where he got his name called over the loudspeaker and a free pencil (no big deal). Tomas chose cupcakes (he actually called them muffins) for his school treat. Have I mentioned Tomas’s teacher is the beezneez? Mmmk because she really is. He has an entire community of men and women at his school that are doing everything they can to make him successful in school. Mrs. Dunlap deserves more than a cupcake but for today, it’ll be enough.

Then he got his special Toys R Us time with Papa Frank. For dinner he chose pizza and I chose Old Chicago.

The siblings were there to support.

We were entertained.

We played with tape (Bini before and after).

Tomas opened presents. Of course he had picked out foodstuffs.

Papa Frank. Amazing Papa Frank spoiled him rotten, of course.

Aunt Kara (KK) also spoiled him.

Tomas actually ended the night reading that book. Reading it. Crazy business. I was able to get one picture of the two of us together. To prove I was there.

What to say about Tomas? He loves food. Loves food. All kinds every kind. At one point he didn’t like eggs but that phase has passed and he’s back to loving everything. Except ice cream. Ice cream he only kind of likes. Everything else he positively inhales.

Tomas is funny, really funny. He is so sweet, helping out brothers and sisters and friends. Everyone who meets him constantly comments on his smile because it’s huge and wonderful. Tomas is just shorter than Trysten and almost 15lbs heavier, he’s a big kid. But can be surprisingly smooth with his body.

Did I mention he’s smart? Whew he’s smart.

And did I mention we love each other? He grabs my hand without thinking about it. He leans in to give me a kiss goodnight and a kiss good morning. I do the same. And before I pull away I look him in the eyes and tell him I love him. He meets my gaze and says the same.

I kind of can’t believe how quickly time has passed since last year on his birthday when we had just found out we were going to be able to be his parents. I loved the idea of him then.

But boy the reality is so much better.

Love, love him.

Oh Attachment

So I had read this post last week and I thought “I should really write something” and then birthdays, bronchitis and laundry (yay!) got in the way.

But as any blogger will tell you, once you get an idea for a post in your head more often than not your day is consumed with little note taking on what you want to include in said post, how you want to say certain things, etc.

So I’ve been mind editing this post for the better part of a week which is probably a good idea since typically I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl and typically I’m left frustrated that I didn’t say everything I had wanted to say.

This post is about attachment. I’ve written about it off and on for 3 years since bringing Tariku home but I’ll try to be a little more mindful about it today because I’m getting more and more emails asking about older child adoption/twinning (and lots of discussions on forums as well) and I really feel a bit responsible for people who might enter into the same kind of arrangement we have.

For those new to hotflawedmama, we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia as a 3-year-old. We brought Tomas home from Ethiopia as a 6-year-old and Binyam, also home from Ethiopia, pretty much as a 4-year-old (he turned 4 a month after we brought him home). Remember in a country where they don’t have birth certificates, these are all fairly good guesses at age. We think they are pretty close, but they could be +/- a year in there.

I don’t really want to go into why we brought home older kids, but I will tell you some of the ways I thought we’d be equipped with some pretty good attachment related devices.

-awesome marriage
-amazing husband/dad
-good kids at home
-pretty rocking supportive family
-pretty rocking supportive and knowledgeable (read: other APs and PAPs) friends
-read the books
-knew my skills/shortcomings as a mom
-lots of faith-a faith-a faith-a
-some naivete that it would all work out in the end

I think all of this has contributed to our success in the attachment journey with all 3 of our adopted babes.

I will tell you what I was scared of before bringing Tariku home. I was scared of my attachment to him. I was scared of his attachment to me. I was scared of looking at this kid as someone else’s for a very long time. I was scared of protecting my biological babes at the expense of Tariku. I was scared that it would ruin my marriage. I was scared it would show me every day the places I fell short of the mother I wanted to be.

And with the exception of ruining our marriage, I had the right to be scared of all of that.

That said, our journey in attachment continues to go downright swimmingly compared to a lot of other fellow AP (Adoptive Parents). BUT it still took awhile. Just when one day I’d look at him and say “Oh Tariku, he’s my son!” The next day he would do something and bring anger out in me I had never seen. He’d say something mean to one of the other kids and I knew my reaction was not a reaction I would have if I was feeling fully with him what I felt with the others.

For the first few months I was caught in this cycle of getting mad at him, hating myself for doing it, getting a little resentment towards him that he made me get that angry, turn around be super nice and loving to him because of all of the shame/remorse I felt. Wake up the next morning and rinse and repeat.

Can you imagine how that was for him? I was like the very worst of the worst. He had no idea which mom would show up. I can still recall in an instant the face he would greet me with in the morning. It was a smile, no doubt, but it was hesitant. It was a “which mommy are you right now? The mommy who greets this smile with one of her own or the one who wears the permanent scowl?”

Thankfully, he’s an amazing, resilient, blessedly beautiful and innately happy little guy and we got through those ugly hours pretty quickly. Please don’t misread that, there were still days like a year after we brought him home, shit there were days like that almost 2 years after we brought him home!

And his attachment to us followed a cycle of it’s own. Wake up happy about current situation in life, oh crap mom’s late on getting breakfast started. I’m hungry. I’m probably never getting food again. Look at the way she’s smiling at Dailah. She doesn’t smile at me like that. Because I don’t have a real family. Because this is just pretend. Because she’ll leave me too, that’s why she doesn’t smile at me like that. Oh wait, she just smiled at me like that. Maybe she will stay. No, no one stays what am I thinking? I think I’ll go take that toy away from Dailah just to show mom that I don’t care if she leaves. Just to show Dailah that I control things around here. Oh crap, Dailah’s crying. I like Dailah. I love mom. What am I doing? Now they are definitely going to leave. Etc, etc.

Tariku still has moments where I can literally see his brain logjam back into that crazy ugly cycle. This attachment thing is a journey, we must never forget that.

Tariku has little things stored around him that show he’s not living in a dream. This is his reality, like it or not. Some of the things stored around him are in his brain, he’s got some great ways of reminding himself, but other things he hoards in his room. Notes I left in his lunch box, valentines, pictures of us, little gifts I gave just to him (even things like a sucker stick-with the sucker long gone-that I snuck him when the others weren’t watching). And I’m ok with that.

Today, I’m increasingly relieved to say that I love Tariku with full on, I’m about to get ridiculous and brag about this boy-he is my son-I love him more than I ever thought possible-he’s amazing, kind of way. I’m talking about some days he’s my favorite kid (hey, we all do that, let’s just be honest). I’m talking about my cycle now completely falls all back on him. Now I question only his escape back into fear-ville, no longer do I have a fear-ville with my name on it.

And it’s a pretty rad place to be.

With Tomas and Binyam I had the same fears because I knew I needed them. I had additional ones related to Tomas’s age. Can I really fall in love with a 6-year-old? They don’t snuggle, or stop for a second, can I really do this? Can I really find penis, fart and booger talk that charming? Am I prepared to handle a boy who will certainly remember life in Ethiopia? Am I strong enough to handle both the stories and whatever issues have come out of those stories? Are my shoulders big enough to carry his burden too? Will he ever love me knowing I suck in comparison to the nannies and all of these people who love him? When he’s aggressive, will I be putting my other kids in danger with this big kid who doesn’t have his anger in check? What if this ruins my marriage? What if he and Binyam only want to hang out with each other forever and ever?

Before bringing Tomas and Binyam home I literally wrote out a list of things that I needed to forgive myself of in advance (most of the things in the cycle from Tariku). I wrote myself a note, “This will be hard. This will be worth it.” The way I entered into the relationship with T and B was considerably different than the way I entered into the relationship with Tariku.

And that has made a huge difference. It turns out when I let myself be okay with not liking them as much as the others, the anger didn’t puff up my chest. It didn’t get out of control. It turns out when Tomas did something to hurt (emotionally) one of the others, I was quick to forgive instead of quick to anger. I’ve been such a different mom with these two.

Whew, that’s been nice. 🙂

Turns out I do find talks of penises, farts and boogers charming when a 6-year-old is saying it with an adorable accent. Turns out when I give myself a little leeway to just be who I am instead of getting frustrated with the person I thought I was and turned out not to be, I’m a fairly decent “just me”.

So as far as my attachment with Tomas and Binyam, it’s light years ahead of where I was with Tariku at this stage. Once in awhile I’ll still feel the anger of old flare up sooner than it would normally. I still get more easily frustrated with Binyam’s more difficult road of assimilation (i.e. language development, social development, etc). Just this morning I went in to get the two littles. Dailah said something hilarious so I jumped on her bed and wrestled with her. Binyam meanwhile was shouting something that sounded like “Do that to me! Do that to me!” and I had to talk myself into doing the same for him.

But I also find excitement at seeing them every morning. I find joy and delight in them. I can brag you under the table about them. I know the way I look at them is on the verge of something very real and for 7 months home-I’ll take that.

I need to tell you that their stories have a lot to do with the reasons they are doing so well. I owe everything to their first families (and even some to the care centers who housed them for so long, specifically with Tomas and Binyam). But so much of my attachment to them and vice versa-is because of them. Because they are stinking easy to love. Because they let me start each day new. They hold no records of my past mistakes (Hallelu) and continue to look at me with hope and love and total adoration in their eyes.

Because they do that. Because of that,  we’ve had no real problems.

I realize a large portion of this large post was about me. I did that on purpose. Because as a PAP (Potential Adoptive Parent) I only wanted to hear about the parents. The kids we are bringing home are all a big question mark. Depending on their level and specific hurt and trauma, mixed with their specific personalities, the kids would have their own journey. But I wanted to hear what to expect from me.

So there you go. And if you’re an AP and are feeling any or all of this, know you’re not alone. It’s a scary thing, it’s a beautiful thing it’s a really, really exhausting thing this attachment. But I need to tell you it’s worth it. As a woman on the other side. It’s so worth it.

And so are they (our kids) and so are you.

Glorious

Last week my mother-in-law Terre had told me she was getting a brand new washer and dryer. My washer/dryer combo was about 15+ (ish) years old. Example A: the washer.

Not only was it old, but it was tiny. And with a growing family such as ours, that meant I was doing laundry all day every day-no exaggeration needed. So I asked Terre if, when she got her new washer and dryer, she would be willing to let me have her old machines which were still newer and considerably nicer than mine. Because she’s amazeballs she said I could (yippee!).
So on Thursday she told me her new stuff would arrive Friday morning and then she was just going to have the peeps deliver her old ones to me. Yay! That sounded perfect. She was excited about her new ones, I was excited about my new(oldish) ones!
On Friday we were coming home late from the doctor/pharmacy so that by the time we got home, the truck was already there. I saw my new/old washer and dryer and was super excited. I saw Terre and my dad-in-law, Frank there too, which also excited me. So as I got to them and gave them a hug Terre said, 
“Now I know you asked for my old washer and dryer and I know you would’ve been happy with those but I couldn’t give you old ones so I went ahead and got you brand new ones too.”
And then, the moving guys wheeled out beautiful, brand new, huge, glorious, terrific washer and dryer.
And I cried.
And I hugged Terre and Frank.
And I told them I felt like I was on Oprah because, well, I felt like I was on Oprah.

Terre later told me she wished someone had done this for her when she was knee deep in laundry with 4 young kids at home. So, so sweet. And actually, she got me nicer ones than she got herself. Unselfish woman, that one. 
You ready to see them? My new babies? Ok. Here I am, in my sweats of course, just chillin on my most amazing babes.
Did you know there are buttons on washers and dryers? Did you know there are multiple settings to choose from? Mmmmmk I had no idea.
Truly, I pray that my kids end up with in-laws as amazing as mine. I was young enough when I married Zach that I didn’t even consider the fact that I’d be marrying his family as well and boy did I get tremendously blessed despite that naievete. It could’ve been all kinds of bad for me but it’s not. I love, love, love every.single.one.of.them. And I have no doubt in my mind they love me too.

Any idea what a relief it is to know that I have 2 moms and 2 dads, not to mention hoards of brothers and sisters? Such a relief. 
Speaking of relief, these beauties are going to give me exactly that. A bigger wash load, a better dryer (I was drying each load about 3 times in the old one). This means less time, better/less energy use, and all of that means more time with my 5 babes. Which is so vitally important to me lately (and always).
So, so thankful for my mama Terre (and Papa Frank). Such generous souls. Truly. I love them so much. I love them so much I love them more than my washer and dryer-which is a pretty big deal. 🙂