As for most, the summer has kept us occupied. Between camp, visitors, eating, sleeping and my brother's wedding this coming weekend, we've been busy.
We've made some changes to our days which seem to have helped the boys have fewer conflicts. Basically, every morning before Al and I totally awoke, H and L would play together in their room with Legos, drawing supplies, etc. Every morning we would be forced out of bed by L crying "Habtam no! Stop it! I no like that!" Um, probably these phrases would be repeated 15-20 times a minute. We would enter their room to find H stony-faced while L sobbed in frustration over a taken toy, a push off the bed, or 3 Legos to H's 103.
Every day H's chart would be all happy faces -- except for the early morning section. I began to separate them as soon as I heard the first cries of injustice. No punishment, no chidings, just asked them to play in separate rooms. Quiet. After 2 days of this, we decided to ask H (who wakes up a full 45 minutes before L most days) to go into the extra room we have as soon as he awoke. There are toys in there, books, drawing supplies, and writing supplies. We've been doing this for almost a week now, and the mornings are quiet, the boys are happy to see one another after their early morning apart (what you do, Habtam? Cool! See what I make? Good job, Lire!"), and Al and I can sleep an extra 45 minutes or so!
Another change is that we give H simple writing exercises in the mornings. He practices writing his letters and copying new words. He really likes it and it seems to focus him like nothing else. Even more than drawing, which he has been off of for a few months. H is a basically practical person who likes for the things that he does to be for a purpose. He knows that letters make words, and that words create the books that we read. Writing is more grown-up, as well, in his eyes.
I'm not sure how long it will last, but for now the peace is very encouraging. Both boys can have time to play/create without competition, to have a successful and quiet morning before breakfast and the rest of their day. And we get to sleep more.
And now for their latest album cover:
And the liner image (for those of you who actually remember albums...
Lack of school is proving to be difficult for a certain someone in our household. Actually for both boys, just one's behavior is easier to manage than the other.
Being a preschool veteran, I played around with behavior charts a couple of months after the boys arrived home with us. It worked really well helping them to learn our routines: waking up, having breakfast, clearing our plates, playing and cleaning up, brushing teeth, getting ready for bed, etc. They liked the charts a lot, and when they were able, began to talk about it and helped us make the smiley/sad faces on it. Once things started going smoother, routine-wise, I focused on different behaviors (Lire not waking Habtamu up at 5 am, Habtam using gentle hands).
Anyway. The chart, which is a large dry-erase board, had been disbanded and used as a fun drawing surface for the guys. No longer. Unfortunately, we've had to reinstate a chart for Habtam. Oddly enough, he seemed relieved by the whole thing. He is someone who requires structure, likes concrete and consistent rules (though he bucks against them like a goat), and is visual. I think the very visualness of the chart, with the ability to concretely see his behavior throughout the day, helps him consider his choices. Maybe I'm giving the chart too much credit, but he responds to it.
The day is divided into three sections --- morning, afternoon and evening. Each section has three time periods within, and we check back with one another throughout the day to see how he's been doing. We use simple sad and happy faces to illustrate it, and at the end of the day, if he's got enough smiles, he gets a sticker. If there are enough stickers at the end of the week, we'll talk about a privilege, a toy returned, etc. Are you tired reading about it? I'm tired just thinking about it.
The difference this year to last is that H and his Dad and I can talk about his behavior, his choices, and his feelings SO much better. Of course, it also means that H can tell me and Lire how much he hates us, that Lire is stupid, and he never wants to talk to us again! More sophisticated expressions of anger. Sigh.
I'm not sure if Lire is responding to H's renewed misbehavior or the loss of the school structure, but he is regressing a bit. It takes the form of him making baby cooing sounds, attempting to suck on our fingers, and needing to be held more. Fortunately, he bounces back quickly, and if we allow him to act out being a baby, he reverts back to his old self within minutes.
Very much looking forward to camp starting next week for H, that's all I can say. I'm going to be working half-days at the same camp, but with the 3 year olds, so H will have his own space, his own experiences and I'll just happen to be nearby.
Today Lire spit at his brother's food from across the table as they ate their afternoon snack. Nice.
When asked if he in fact did as Habtamu described (Mommy, Daddy! Lire did something really bad... he spit at my food!), we were greeted with a stony silence. Lire's cheeks were full of apple juice, his juice bottle tipped at an angle with which to imbibe more of the offending spit fuel.
He swallowed and said, "I go downstairs."
Daddy: That's a good idea. Please go to your room
Lire doesn't budge. I ask him if he'd like me to help him go downstairs. He nods. I go to hold his hand. Rejection. I pick up the little man and carefully carry his 40 lbs down the stairs and place him gently on his bed.
Lire: I no talk anymore (muttered)
Me: Ok (cheerfully)
Lire: HEY! (surprised and offended)
I went upstairs to help remove a tick from our beleaguered pup as Habtamu watched in disgusted excitement. I carried the tick down the stairs to flush it and heard "Mommy?"
Me: Yes Lire?
Lire: Mommy hup? (help)
I opened the door and saw our little man attempting to put on his pjs "awl by self," because it's "easier."
While this was going on H had gone to watch "Word World." Lire went upstairs expecting to find Habtam, but nobody was there but the birds out the deck window.
Lire: I say sorry Habtam! Where Habtam?
When I told little man where H was, and that he would have to wait a while to be able to watch tv with him, he became the Weeping Birdwatcher.
There's been a lot of activity at our feeder since the cool weather returned, and we saw a rose breasted grosbeak for the first time. There are two males hanging around our deck, and the Weeping Birdwatcher was glued to the window, albeit weeping.
Epilogue: The Weeping Birdwatcher eventually went to join his brother for tv time, an "I sorry Habtam" (H grunted in reply), and an amazing comeback as the Grinning Pesky Younger Brother Who Likes to Talk While Watching TV.
I have been remiss in many things, one of which is getting an Etsy shop up. Instead of finishing my quilts, I've been obsessed with this book.
It's way too much fun. I would be booted off Proj@ct Runw@y faster than you can say Km@art, but I'm having a very good time. I've refashioned a baggy turtleneck sweater, an ankle-length skirt, and a hoodie. The hoodie makeover is very lame, but the sweater looks great, and the skirt has potential. I'll post pics as soon as I finish putting on buttons and finishing edges.
For now I will leave you with the latest Hide n' Seek costumes:
Tiger, tiger, burning bright -- so bright he had to wear shades
Sporty Superman -- eschewing his good-guy image he spent all afternoon attempting to rip the mask off of Tiger's face
Superman was terrified of Tiger. I think that's why he wanted the mask. He finally realized why Batman and Spiderman wore masks -- courage.
Also, I have a question. Why do boys throw things? Just curious.
Boot camp seems to be helping, at least for one day. I won't go into too many details, but we have streamlined H's life toy-wise, treats-wise and privileges-wise. There was a rough patch this morning when he got pissed at me for -- I have a hard time remembering. Oh yes, I enforced the behavior chart when he didn't listen after the fifth time we asked him not to do something.
The first thing he did (after trying to hide behind Alex's legs) was ask Daddy to sit where I was about to sit (next to him). Nothing doing. No more triangulation, Buddy. Then when it was time to say grace and hold hands (Lire's touch, of course), he refused to hold my hand. Daddy told him that he was being rude and alluded to the chart behind him. He put ONE finger on the back of my hand.
I removed my hand and we said grace in a broken circle. Needless to say, Lire was crushed.
Habtam received two out of a possible three strikes on his behavior chart even before breakfast started. If you haven't figured it out, we're working on his ability to be kind and follow simple directions.
Al went into his kindness riff, with Lire nodding his head knowingly all throughout, interpreting Daddy's words in Lire-speak: "Not nice, Habtam!" "Hode hands!" "Habtam, Habtam? Ask 'Thank-oo, yo welcome'!"
I contributed that it was Mommy AND DADDY who decided to "help" him learn how to be kind by taking away privileges and toys, and that we knew he could do it, because he was smart and kind when he wanted to be.
He appeared chastened and he quietly apologized to all of us. The rest of the morning went well and he happily dressed for school and chatted with all of us in a regular, cheerful way. When I went to pick him and Lire up from school he actually ran into my arms! Not a usual thing. I can count on three fingers how many times that has happened. He ate lunch gleefully, went to his rest time and slept 2 HOURS, and then woke up in a good mood. Afterwards the three of us installed the batteries into our new mini maglite flashlights -- sounds dull, pedestrian even? Utter JOY!! OMG how these boys LOVE taking things apart, adding things and then putting them together again! You would have thought I had given them bundles of gold doubloons!
I went to yoga later on, and Alex reported that all went well. I came home in time for a good night hug and soonki and further elated Habtam by informing him that yes, I had been able to locate a bulb for our inside car light. And yes, IT WORKS!!!
Habtam writhed in joy under his Snoopy cover and we hugged in celebration.
So interesting to me what makes that guy happy...
A Habtam philosophical/practical life insight before I go:
M: Yes Habtam?
H: If Daddy Mommy die, Habtam cook Lire (read: "I will cook for Lire")
M: First of all, H, Daddy and I don't plan on dying anytime soon. But if we did, that is nice of you to want to take care of Lire. You know, Lire likes to cook too. Would you let him cook for you ever?
I was all set to write about Habtam's insightful comments, which I will. However, the big "J is for Jealousy" has reared its ugly head around here, and that has shadowed our lives for the past few days. Yuck.
Not to say that we haven't had some grand old times, because we have. On Sunday, Lire, Habtam and I drove to the city to meet Alex. We rendez-voused at Riverside Church for a celebration of Ethiopian Christmas (which was actually January 7). We met up with some other adoptive families, some of whom picked up their kids around the same time we did. Our guys remembered one of their pals, (he has visited us in LI), and we re-met some other parents we had met last spring before traveling to Ethiopia. In addition, the revelers included MANY Ethiopians who live in the environs, and the hordes of kids who were there attend Amharic Sunday School at the Church.
It was really, really fun and the boys had a great time -- eventually. Lire had a blast immediately, while Habtam had a rough time initially. Fortunately his mood evened out, thanks to a rooftop playground, but it was a bit depressing for me at the beginning. He and I have gained a lot of ground attachment-wise, but I think being surrounded by so many Ethiopians, smelling the food, hearing the sounds of the language, and being in the city for the first time ever, was pretty overwhelming.
Basically he reverts to behaviors he exhibited early on during his time here -- Attach self physically to Daddy, do not allow Mommy to touch or talk to you, do not look at her, and intimidate your younger brother as much as possible.
Thankfully, L is goodnatured and was having too good a time to be too upset with having his balloons popped three times by his brother. And he was enjoying the food WAY too much to hold a grudge. He went straight to work on his injera and wats, only hesitating at the hard-boiled egg, about which he said, "Mommy eat."
Oddly enough, one of the ways I've discovered I can reach H. is by competing with him -- in this case it meant I tried to knock his balloon out of his hands like he was doing to L. He loves a good game, and as long as I do it with a smile and in good fun, it seems to distract him. The other day on our walk with the dog he was mad at me for something, so I raced him. He LOVED it. He didn't even mind that I beat him, in fact, I think he liked it.
Habtam comes from a very macho upbringing, but that is a post for another day, because there is SO MUCH entailed in describing it as it pertains to him and to me as the only female in the house.
Anyway, the day ended up really well, with everyone well-fed, and a late afternoon play-date with another friend who lives only 10 blocks or so away. The drive home was a bit rocky, since L hadn't had his usual nap and felt trapped in the car seat, but Mickey D's did the trick for all of us.
As for the Jealousy, well, Lire has started nursery school this week, and H. is p'd off. Really bummed. Thank heavens they're in different classes! "MY SCHOOL!" has been volleyed back and forth by the boys, with Alex trying to say, "It's everyone's school," which is met with much disdain. Lire is a big talker, if you haven't already guessed, so he waxes poetic about every detail:
"People jintay (pee-pee) on floor -- not nice," or "Lire hug grown-ups," and "Lire make pretend dinner." This drives H up the wall, because he hates the idea that Lire may be having more fun than he is. The good thing is that it has encouraged H to talk more about what he does at school. Up to now he's done the usual "nothing" response when asked.
Lire and I can become the focus of H's jealousy and anger, with frequent silent treatments, teasings/bullyings, and insults "Mommy hummus bad," or "Lire no good job school." It reached a fever pitch today where Al had to hold H. for a while, and there was much screaming and crying. It seems to have been cathartic, thank goodness. He spontaneously apologized to all of us for his behavior and complimented Lire on his snowman painting.
I'll save my depths of despair and depression and terrible parenting for another post, because I know you can only read so much of this drama at one sitting. I'm actually sick of my own depression and subsequent thought processes, so I may wait a bit.
Oh, and I have a job interview tomorrow. Very unexpected and I'm not sure how I feel about the prospect, but I like to go with the flow, and the prospect did drop into my lap, so I will flow.
Edited to add: Yikes. Major meltdown by Habtam. Second of the day, which hasn't happened in a while. Begins with defiance at being thwarted (no peanut butter for lunch, e.g.), turns into noise-making which gets progressively louder, spirals into either destructive or odd behavior (throwing toys, eating non-edible objects), ends with jealousy about Lire and a screaming fit. He finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.
Alex and I are both very tired and are working on a strategy for tomorrow. Boot camp here at holding still.