Posted by: Kristin W | March 29, 2012

What I’ve Learned in Three Weeks

I’m taking a break from the story of our trip to give an update on the last three weeks.  That’s right, we’ve been home three weeks now.  I should probably wait for the one-month mark to roll around, but there is a lot in my head that I want to share.  Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll forget some and have it left over for another milestone.

Here is a list, in no particular order, of what I’ve learned in the three weeks since A and H came to live with us:

1.  My older kids are amazing.  Yes, I already knew this, but I’ve gotten to see them be amazing in a new light.  They have taken their role as older siblings seriously.  They are helpful (well, not always, but most of the time), they are enthusiastic, they are playful, and I’ve even seen some real empathy from E.  Of course, empathy from S is always near the surface, like tonight, when A got a time-out, and S had tears in his eyes because “I hate to see him upset.”

Here’s proof.  If I interrupted Mario Kart, I doubt S would be so accommodating:


2.  This is hard work.  Yes, I read the books.  Yes, I talked to families who had adopted siblings.  Yes, I attended the classes.  Yes, I poured over the boards for information.  Yet somehow I felt completely unprepared.  The level of fear that we could see in A’s eyes was staggering, and without language, we were helpless to do anything about it.  The word tantrum gets used a lot, but I think there needs to be a different word for it when newly-adopted kids do it.  I’ve seen tantrums…some real doosies.  But this was all new territory.  The good news is that it’s already getting better.  Both the frequency and the intensity have drastically dropped off over the last week.  And, while I’m on the “good news” front, both kids are doing great with attachment with at least one parent.

3.  Food is going to be an issue.  Both kids have strong likes and dislikes.  A is not willing to try anything new, which leaves us pretty limited.  Does anyone know how long a kid can live on Ritz crackers and bananas?  I had all these plans and had read all these things about what to feed them.  Fail.  We had doro wat frozen when we returned.  He doesn’t eat chicken.  We had a shaker of berbere on the table so he could add to anything we were eating.  He used it once and refused to look at it again.  We had a list of food that other adopted kids have eaten.  Forget it.  So, we just keep feeding him Ritz and offering other things.  Slowly, we are adding to the list of acceptable items, but it’s still a very short list.  H, on the other hand, will try most things, but is very far behind developmentally.  At 11 months she should be eating mostly solid foods and only drinking with meals.  However, at Horizon House, they don’t let the kids self-feed, so she had no idea what to do with solid foods.  We had to back up and start her on Stage 1 baby foods and move on from there.  She will now eat some finger foods, but we still have a long way to go.

We did find a winner in corn on the cob:


4.  Language is a funny thing.  Everyone told me that I’d be amazed at how quickly A picked up the language.  Well, I got the stubborn kid.  He has chosen to hold on to his language.  He is not willing to use words that we know he knows (and we know he can say).  He continues to try to get us to use Amharic words.  I don’t fault him for that at all.  I get it. And I would love for him to teach us Amharic and us be a bilingual household.  Problem is, he is still going to have to go to school someday.  I don’t think they are going to be quite as willing.  Don’t get me wrong.  We’ve made great progress, and he is starting to use some words more regularly.  It’s just not the “wow” speed of language that I had heard about.  I’m compiling some video clips of his language, which I will post later.

5.  Giardia smells as bad in human poop as it does in dog poop.  Enough said.

6.  Names are important.  And confusing.  We are still debating this one.

7.  A loves to brush his teeth.  For a while, he insisted on doing it every time he went to the bathroom.  Flush, wash your hands, brush your teeth.  He also enjoys vacuuming.

8.  A is likely to be voted class clown.  He is always trying to get a laugh.  And with a 10-year-old brother and limited vocabulary, that usually lead to jokes about bodily functions.  Boys.  Anyway, while I tell the kids not to laugh and encourage his behavior, I have to admit that it’s pretty funny and I love seeing him try to crack up his older siblings.  He is also a singer.  He makes up songs about everything.  The other day we were driving along and he was singing something that sounded like “God Damn-O” over and over again.  If anyone knows what that means in Amharic, I would love to know.  I thought it was pretty funny, but not sure it would go over in most circles.  He continues to amaze us with his facial expressions.  He can express a lot of emotion in those eyebrows.  He really does remind me of Jim Carey.

9.  H is the sweetest baby.  Ever.  With H, I kind of thought that maybe we were having the honeymoon phase that I’d heard others talk about.  But, I have decided that she is just 100% adorable.  She does have her moments (usually when I am not holding her) when she screams and cries.  But, for the most part, she’s content to be along for the ride.  She smiles.  A lot.  She’s a little shy, or maybe just afraid that someone besides me might have the nerve to hold her.  She’s also a bit of an entertainer.  Once she learned Peek-A-Boo, that’s all she would do for days.



  1. E loves corn on the cob too. She picked it out in the store, shucked it in the car ( messy) and we cooked immediately. She definitely ate it in Ethiopia. We went through a short period when E didn’t seem to say the English words she knew. But now, she won’t use an Amharic word and gets mad if we do. So I bet it’s a matter of time. Everyone is lookin good!

  2. Love the update! Sounds like life is happening as it should! I can onlly imagine the craziness of having 4 kids, as I still cannot pull it together with 1 so it sounds like you guys are doing AWESOME!!! I totally understand about the food piece, take my advice, don’t stress yourself or him over it (it took me 2 months to not do that!) and guess what she is now eating pancakes and waffles, he will get tired of the food, but it will take awhile! It is awesome to hear about the older ones! You guys are awesome parents!! Keep posting!!

  3. I think I have heard every single adoptive parent say something along the lines of what you have said – I knew it would be hard, I did the research, etc., but man, this is so much harder than I ever thought it would be! I guess it’s something you can just never, ever be prepared for. It sounds to me like things are going pretty well, even if they are not straightforward and easy. Hang in there. It sounds like you’ve got 4 amazing kiddos, and things will be better someday.

  4. Why haven’t I been reading your blog all along? This update is awesome! I think S might be in competition for the sweetest baby ever (are we still in honeymoon?) or maybe they just made a pact together at the care center to be the most awesome babes on the planet. (minus the giardia, of course, but we can’t blame them for that) ;). Thanks for the update! Genet says hi to her idol Eleanor.

  5. So glad the older kids are so into their new brother and sister!

    Sorry about the giardia.

    Toothbrushing and vacuuming, wow, great habits for a four-year-old!

    About the language, many kids go through what’s called “the silent period.” It’s a very normal part of language development. Some kids learn 2 words and run around saying them; other kids don’t talk for six months then suddenly start speaking in complete sentences. The good news is that neither approach has any long-term implications for language proficiency – it’s just a personality thing.

  6. When my girls came home I was expecting a lot more language out of my older daughter at the month mark than what actually happened. I heard from my case manager that w/siblings language development can take longer. Even though my younger daughter was too young to talk, her older sister would still talk to her in their language. It took about two months, rather than the one month I had heard and read about. Maybe your son is in the same situation?

    It does get easier…really!

  7. Great update; I am so glad ot hear all this good news (not the giardia, of course).

    I am all too familiar with having the “stubborn kid.” I just keep reminding myself that tenacity can be a very useful trait down the road–just got to channel it in the right direction somehow.

    I’m interested to hear what you guys decide to do with names. I thought you were giving them new first names?

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