Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gotcha Day! Celebrating One Year!

      We had just walked through security and were getting our belongings back in order when I heard someone ask.....where's the baby?  I was taken aback at first and then followed the security officers eyes to the diaper bag hanging over my shoulder, complete with bottles in the side pockets.  I'm sure you could hear the exclamation marks in my voice as I told her we were going to get him.  She seemed genuinely excited for us and wanted to know a bit more.  We talked for a minute and then went off to wait for our flight to Moscow.  I was so excited.....and so.very.relieved.  While I still had some feelings of uneasiness which didn't subside until we landed in the US, I knew our court decree had come into full legal effect two days prior and that we should be all set.

       I really can't believe it has been one year since the day we woke up in Russia, more than ready to go get our son!  I'll never forget the sleepless night prior and our being ready well before needed.  But most of all, I will always remember the fact that.....we couldn't get out of our room!  Key stuck in the door, unable to communicate with the front desk, and just wanting to get out that door and to our son!  In time we were freed and on the road.....the familiar hour drive to a little town....to the only home our son had known thus far.  I remember it feeling surreal that we were really there, and that this was it!  I'll never forget his smile and little arms reaching for us when they brought him in.....any fear that he wouldn't remember, would hesitate, would reach back as we walked away....all subsided then.


Finally officially a family!!
So thankful for all of these women!
Back at our hotel.....surreal that we were finally on our own with him!
Worn out!
             I also really can't believe how much this little boy has grown and changed in one year.  It's truly incredible.  When we first brought him home, I was giving him a bottle.....pureed all of his food.....he was just a baby!  That seems like forever ago, another lifetime.  His drinks had to be warm, or room temperature........doing anything required so much focus and hard work, and often resulted in throwing it in frustration.  It's crazy to think that he's gone through casting, surgery, braces 24/7 and is now so very close to walking on his own.  All while learning what everything is in this world, what it means to be a family, learning a new language.....I could go on and on.  There have been so many stages with this little guy, crammed into one year.  I'm so thankful to have had some time with him as a baby, even while he was 17 months old when he came home.....he was really still a baby and I'm so grateful for that brief time.  I feel like we enjoyed each stage, just in fast forward, with Levi.  He is such a miracle and thinking back over this past year really just leaves me in awe.

January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013

January 2014

                                                     *                        *                       *


         In celebrating one year as a family of four, I also find myself reflecting on how much someone else has grown and changed, and significantly impacted Levi.  Caleb.......and his being a big brother.  On this day one year ago, his whole world changed.  We'd talked about it and prayed about it for months, but I knew he couldn't possibly have really understood.  And then one day, there he was.....the little brother we'd long since talked about..........


 
       When God first laid it on our hearts to pursue adoption, I remember thinking it was a crazy time....definitely not what we had planned.  Of course now I see a million reasons why it was perfect timing, but one of those is Caleb.  He's only 15 months older, and Levi has loved watching his every move since day one.  Levi had been so used to being around other children so I think it was really helpful for him to have Caleb there.  He's also been great motivation for Levi since he always wants to keep up with what Caleb is doing.  I think in many ways Levi has learned the most from Caleb.  Especially in the beginning when I'd often try teaching him a new word, sound, movement or sign......many times he would just ignore me, but if Caleb did it?  Then he'd try!  I'm sure hearing Caleb repeat everything and talk nonstop every day has helped with learning a new language too!

       For both boys, however......learning what it means to be brothers, well, took some learning.  And I think it's one of the things that melts my heart the most as I look back over this year.


       The excited boy you see in the video above, seeing his brother for the first time, was genuine.....but it wasn't always that way.  When we came home, he had to learn how to share our time, our attention, his toys.....his world!  I learned quickly that I could never leave the room without bringing Levi with me.  While Caleb clearly liked his new brother, he also liked to control what he did and didn't do.....and he had trouble understanding him.  He couldn't understand why he threw the toys, or wanted to play with the toys the "wrong way"!!  He didn't understand why he wanted to keep touching the garbage, or didn't "hear him" when he told him something.  So...he'd nudge him a little too hard....or block his way.  For the most part, Levi would just move on like nothing happened....or let the toy be taken and move on to something else.  I felt a lot like a referee for a while.

      And then....little by little.....Caleb would want to make sure Levi got a snack too.  Or, he just knew he heard him wake up from his nap so we should go and get him......while he was clearly still sleeping.  And he'd say, "Levi, wanna crawl with me?!.....and get down on the floor and crawl-chase him.

       Meanwhile Levi was gaining confidence.....he wasn't just a spectator anymore, he wanted to participate in everything!  And learned he has a voice, and wasn't afraid to use it!  Caleb still had his moments, but now Levi had something to say about it....or do about it!  And while Caleb's "moments" became fewer, Levi decided to take over.  Knocking down Caleb's towers, taking his toys....hitting when he didn't get his way, whining.....whining....and more whining!  Typical two year old behavior!  Of course Caleb wasn't too enthusiastic about this, but I started to see him be more understanding.  When he'd pick a toy for himself, he'd grab one for Levi too.  Or if Levi really wanted something, he'd willingly hand it over.  Then I'd hear him trying to console Levi....."oh honey, it's okay," when the whining came.


       I don't really know when it happened.....it's been such a gradual, slow but steady change......but maybe in the past couple of months, they seem to have become best friends.  They understand each other now.  And they LOVE being together.  Caleb constantly asks Levi to play with him and much giggling typically follows.  They each have their own distinct interests too, but even in those moments when they're playing with different toys, Levi will usually bring his nearby.  I've found that I have a lot of pictures of them separately for the first several months...unless I placed them together....but now, it's quite the opposite.  Such a blessing to watch them grow as brothers and friends.....they've both learned so very much from each other.  While it may have seemed that Levi would benefit most in learning from a sibling just a bit older, Caleb has learned so much about sharing, compassion, understanding and so much more.  God knew the timing was perfect for these two, and I know each one of us cannot imagine life without the other.    
     

















                                                                       
            Just a few days after picking up our son, we were finally home and altogether as a family.


It seems like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time.....
I'm so thankful for this journey, for this past year and all the changes, challenges and joy!







                             

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