Thursday, August 9, 2012

How far we've come...and how far we have yet to go

I was starting to feel guilty about not updating as regularly as I would like to.  I have great intentions to update weekly because at least daily something happens that I think "I need to write about this" and then the short time comes at the end of the day when I'm exhausted and get a second on my laptop to post and it is the last thing on my mind.  So here is my attempt to get caught up and share with you updates from the last 2-3 weeks.  First off, although we haven't done our real family portraits yet, we needed some to post around the house so with my tripod here is our latest attempts at a family of 4 picture with everyone looking at a flashing camera hoping to smile when the flash went off.

First I'll start with the negatives and end with the positives...we still have moments of shutting down although they have become fewer and further in between and don't last as long.  We still have some times of stubbornness and wanting to be in control and not accepting of what we ask as easily as we might like, of course I know this is also a typical child thing to do so I do not anticipate this ever leaving fully.  We also still have moments, although they are quite few now, of asking for something to eat, seeing a picture or the food itself even and then being given it and due to I'm sure some confusion and language barrier it is not what he really wanted and instead of trying to ask for something else, just getting upset and saying "no" with a pushing away motion followed by a mini-shut down until he realizes we are trying to help him figure out what he needs.  This actually happened yesterday at a drive through to get ice cream and thankfully my mom (ice cream lover) gave up her flavor ice cream to Jalen and Jalen gave up his vanilla to Fetinet so my mom could eat what Fetinet wanted at first but then didn't...almost had a full shut down but thankfully we had a few flavors on hand to understand what he really wanted.  Honestly this may seem funny and not the biggest issue in the world and truthfully it is in retrospect but I will fully admit that sometimes it is overly frustrating.  I also often wonder if some of these moments aren't intentional to be difficult or test us, maybe not but as smart as he is getting I do wonder.  I am about to share the positives we have had and you will see that although I know Fetinet has a lot of learning, trusting, and fitting into this new crazy culture and family he has been adopted into, he understands a lot more than we think or he lets on.

So today marks 5.5 weeks we have been home and I have been told my countless adopting families that generally the first 6 weeks are the hardest and I can see that is very true in our case.  Now I have also heard the opposite in that a child has been in honeymoon phase for the first couple months home even up to a year or more and then it gets rough so with that said, I'll take the rough times now and get them out of the way if possible :)  I have been really reflecting back on Fetinet's first day home and I cannot even begin to explain the changes that have occurred in him from learning what is accepted in our culture to speaking English, to diminished shut-down times, he really is becoming more comfortable with being a part of our family and seems to be happier each week.

So for the positives we have been witnessing...Other than using a few Amharic words to reiterate what I am saying or asking in English sometimes, I barely have to use them.  He understands just about everything we say or ask of him and although his English isn't fluent yet, he speaks English  enough to get across what he needs or is trying to say.  He will recall things we tell him and ask about them later, for example, last night we told him that my dad "papa" was coming next week and then yesterday during school registration we told him that he is starting school next week and out of the blue today he said "papa come here tomorrow?"  I said, "no Papa comes next week", he replied then,  "I go school next week? (with a big smile mind you).  He loves riding his new bike which still has training wheels but they will be removed tomorrow, loves to play in the water, swim, says please and thank you appropriately and more often now without being prompted to do so.   Has certain shows he likes to watch and asks for them by name, knows that we take turns between who picks the movie at night between him and his brother and knows to look on the calendar to see whose turn it is each day, and is working on knowing the days of the week and months and getting the concept of when things happen. He has made a few friends and talks to them, plays with them, laughs with them and gets very excited when he gets to be with them and I am blessed to know such amazing families who have raised their kids to be so nice and patient with him.  He has learned more about sharing, taking turns and waiting in line and although I know next week there will be some struggles with starting school I am confident that everything will be just fine.  He will learn like the rest of the kids and in some areas he may be a little advanced actually and of course in many he will be delayed but my biggest concern wasn't how he would match up academically but that he wasn't going to be able to communicate or understand what anyone was saying.  Now I don't have that concern as much, I think he will do just fine and I anticipate more shut downs, problems and changes but I feel like he is ready for this next chapter of his life in America, starting school and making more friends.

So all in all our little 7.5 year old Ethiopian son has come a long way in the last 5.5 weeks and we couldn't be any more proud of him.  He has also in the past 1-2 weeks, gotten a new haircut and had some extensive dental surgery that has allowed him to enjoy food more and feel more confident about smiling.  Now we haven't reached the point of him getting up in the morning and running into our room and giving us a big hug and a kiss in the morning or at night time saying "I love you" and initiating a hug or outward affection.  This will take some more time but the things he does now that he didn't dare do the first few weeks makes me really see he is starting to feel like part of our family and I just imagine it will take time to fully build trust in us as his forever family!  I continue to thank God daily for breaking our hearts for older adoption, allowing us the privileges to be on this journey and for all the blessings (many in disguise) that we have gained.  There are ups and downs in adoption and especially in older adoption but we wouldn't change the course of our lives in the last couple years for anything!


  1. thanks for your honesty. so enjoying following your story.

  2. Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! We're at the very beginning of fund raising for our own Ethiopian adoption and it is nice to see the finished product! In two months we've raised $3,000 and still have a long way to go, but feel incredibly blessed by this journey already. Your family is beautiful and I hope you know what a blessing and encouragement you are to others! I wish nothing but the best for your beautiful family!

  3. Joely, you do write a beautiful story. You seem to find the right words for every event. If you ever get tired of what you are doing, you can always write a book. Fetinet is a fine looking little boy, as is Jalen. I'm sure in time Fetinet will be so grateful for being part of the O'Neal family. Keep up the good work. I do have you in my prayers. Grandma West

  4. You are already doing better than me on the blogging...don't be hard on yourself, we understand! Wow - you have one handsome boy there. I'm rooting you all on and love to "see" the progress he has made.


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