Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Good Kind of Heat

You sometimes hear people talk about the “good kind of heat” versus the “bad kind of heat”.  The “good kind of heat” is a dry feels good on your skin. It’s the kind of heat that makes you want to lay on the beach.  The “bad kind of heat” is high humidity and makes you sweat buckets when you set foot in it.  

Eleven years ago we landed in Guangzhou, China.  We were there to adopt our first child, Abby.  The particular flight that we were able to get had us land in Guangzhou and then take a connecting flight to Beijing.  We got off the plane and found out that we would need to take a shuttle over to the terminal where we would be catching our second flight.  About fourteen hours earlier we had left O’Hare airport in Chicago and the weather was typical early fall weather with mild temperatures. So when we exited the airport to take the shuttle we were unprepared for the air that hit us. It was only 5 in the morning and it was still dark out, but the air was so humid.  Immediately we started to drip and we couldn’t move without feeling like hot, wet towels were being wrapped around us.  It was even hard to breath.  If you were thinking the shuttle would be air-conditioned, think again.  For all intensive purposes it would be put in the “bad kind of heat” category.  

But...whenever I feel that icky, muggy type of weather, which most summers we have many days of (this summer is abnormal)...I am taken back to that day.  That day when we first landed in China and were just days away from being parents!  A dream that we had had for several years by that point. We had made it through our home study, getting fingerprinted (more than once), getting our passports, answering completely hard questions for non- parents to answer on the Parenting Questionnaire (i.e. What will you do if your teenage daughter tells you she is pregnant?), answering embarrassing questions on the Marriage Questionnaire (i.e. What do you fight about?), writing about our growing up years, etc. We had put together our whole dossier (fancy word for a ton of paperwork) and gotten things notarized and then certified.  We also had survived the delay during the SARS outbreak in China that happened right about when we were expecting to get our match.  It turned out the delay was only about a month, but at the time we didn’t know how long the delay would be: days??? weeks??? months??? years???... it was the uncertainty that was so hard.  

We had survived all of that and we were HERE!  We made it to Beijing, where it was not as hot and humid as it had been in Guangzhou.  As part of the adoption process they had us spend several days in Beijing to learn more about the country and have an appreciation for the culture.  Finally on September 2nd we flew to Changsha.  We got to our hotel and were told that we would be meeting our child later that afternoon.  Our stomachs were tied in knots!  Several hours later they had us come to a meeting room in the hotel.  Due to the SARS delay, they were trying to catch up on adoption cases so our adoption group was HUGE...17 families! Representatives from our adoption agency were trying to have us fill out paperwork.  All of us were so distracted by the fact that the babies might be in the hotel that we were not very good listeners and had to have them repeat the directions a lot.   Imagine our surprise when our names were called first to get Abby.  I nervously went up to the orphanage workers and gave them a gift for caring for her these past 9 months.  The gift was really more of a token, because how do you truly thank someone for caring for your child during those critical first months?  I remember holding her and she was snuggled into me and it was the best feeling in the world.  And I will never forget (nor will Rob) when Abby put her hands out to him, asking for him to take her.  In that single moment, she had won him over!

So, I think you’ll understand now why even though the weather that day was brutal and sticky...I will always think of it as the “good kind of heat”.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

While we have taken a few vacations since getting Matthew almost six years ago, last week we attempted our first trip that involved an airplane ride and four nights in a hotel. We had a lot of fun and I'm sure we would do it again, but there was some good, some bad and some we go...

The Good

Technically Matthew has been on a plane before, when we brought him back from China, but he was only 21 months old.  In my gut, I believed that he would love the plane ride, because he loves motion.  Both bus and train rides have been successful.  Thank goodness, he did love the plane ride. He was patient about waiting to board the plane and waiting for take off.  Right before take off he signed and said "go" (it's his best word!). The other part I was a little worried about was the airport and running, especially on the way back when it would be just me and the kids.  But luckily, he stayed right by us while we had to go through security and when we had to wait to board. Maybe it was his backpack that I weighted down with rocks!  No rocks...but he did carry his backpack the whole time.

Matthew didn't have any interest in the monuments or museums we visited, but he never cried or whined.  He chose to sit on a bench with me at most of the museums.  He did a lot of signing for "drive", but I don't blame him because we put in a lot of walking miles!  He also signed "swimming" throughout the day. On the second day we visited the Capitol.  The security guard was listing off the things that we had to put in a tray to go on the conveyor belt.  "Phones, wallets, purses, belts, and tree leaves."  I looked at him like, "What?" and then I looked at Matthew and he had a leaf in each hand! On the way out a different security guard interacted with Matthew by repeating the taps Matthew did on his table and gave him a US Capitol Police badge sticker.  I would say Matthew's highlights were the swimming pool at the hotel (although it drove him a little nuts to not be able to go in the hot tub - you had to be 16 or older and they had a life guard who was strict about that rule), riding on top of double decker bus, and the carousel on the National Mall.  (Oh and maybe watching the sofa sleeper be put up and down each night and morning. Fun times.)

The Bad

We did have three incidents of running.  Three might not sound like a lot (and I guess there could have been more), but because it's so scary when it happens, anything more than zero is too many times.  The first time happened when we were leaving a grocery store near our hotel and walking through the parking lot towards the sidewalk.  Even though I was holding his hand he managed to break free and run towards a parked car. He attempted to open the door, but luckily it was locked and we caught up to him quickly. The second time happened when we were in front of our hotel, waiting to take the shuttle to the metro station.  A car drove up and a family was unloading their suitcases.  He made a beeline for the car and was about to get in when Rob caught up to him.  As I mentioned in Message to Snarky Woman at the Park, when Matthew is attracted to something he will run with blinders on and without regard for danger. He does NOT stop no matter how loud you are yelling for him to stop.

The third incident still kind of freaks me out because it just reinforces for me how fast things can happen. Matthew and I were heading out for just a short while and I turned to put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.  Matthew was right behind me, but when I turned around he wasn't there.  We were at the end of a long hallway, so even if he had run, I would at least still be able to see him.  It was almost as if he had vanished into thin air! Just then an elderly man across the hall opened his door and said something to the effect of "Hey buddy..." and sure enough there was Matthew...inside someone else's room! It took awhile for my heart rate to go back to normal.

The Ugly

I don't like to be a pessimist, but I kind of already knew that sleeping through the night was going to be a problem.  In I Love You...Bye Bye, I was pleasantly surprised when he slept through three out of four nights at my sister's cabin.  At my sister's cabin we had our own separate area and sleeplessness would only effect Matthew and me.  But when you are staying in a hotel and Matthew can't can wake everyone up! And there is always the fear that we will wake up people in other rooms.  Maybe not from Matthew, but rather Abby's loud insistence, "MATTHEW, BE QUIET!!!!!!!!!"

He slept through the night two out of the four nights.  The first night he woke up at about 3:30 am and he never went back to sleep.  Matthew and Abby were sharing the pull out sofa sleeper, but we had him join us in our bed when it was apparent he wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon.  Our bed was not the best choice, because he couldn't resist tapping the headboard.  Finally, I gave up hopes of him sleeping, but I still had hopes for the rest of us.  I gave him my phone to watch YouTube videos of bouncy houses.  We did not have free wifi in our rooms (I know, crazy right?), so in these wee morning hours of video watching he ran through all my data streaming.  We got two text notifications that they would add 1 GB of of data for $10, but of course we didn't see the notifications because he was using the phone.

The third night we were there, he was so tired and he asked to go to sleep.  I was a little worried, because it seemed early for him to go to bed at 7:30 pm even though that would be a normal bedtime for him at home. I guess I was right to worry as he was awake at 11:30pm!  I ended up switching places with Abby so that maybe she would get some sleep.  Things that might not sound loud in the light and noise of the day, can be super loud in the quiet of the night (i.e. clapping, fiddling with the metal part of the sleeper sofa, and tapping on the top of a Starbucks cup).  It defies logic, but the two nights that he slept through the night were also the two days that he took a late afternoon nap.  You would think that taking a late nap like that would screw up his sleep pattern, but I guess the naps were just making up for the lost sleep from the nights before.

Despite there being some bad and some ugly, we will take another family vacation. Maybe we could find a museum that Matthew would like...I hear they have a vacuum museum in North Canton, Ohio!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Footwear Fascination

Tennis Shoes. Boots. Slippers. Flip Flops. Sandals. Crocs.  If feet go in them, they are fair game.  As I mentioned in Mr. Bossypants, slippers are things that Matthew likes to be bossy about and in  Message to Snarky Women at the Park,  I talked about how Matthew has lots of objects that he is attracted to (items that he is drawn to or will cause him to perseverate on).  Footwear is a big one! Knowing that Matthew is a sensory seeker (needs to touch and smell things to make sense of his world) helps put his love of footwear into perspective. Let's just take a little look in the closet:

Tennis Shoes
Why He Likes Them:  The rubber bottom part smells good to Matthew.  Most tennis shoes have a pattern on the bottom that helps with traction, but for Matthew that provides just the right surface for tapping and scratching.
When it Causes a Problem: When people are wearing the shoes.  People like their personal space. Sometimes Matthew gets fixated on a specific pair of shoes, such as a little boy who goes to our church. When they are in Sunday School or up for the Children's Sermon he tends to try and sit next to this boy so he can tap the bottoms of his shoes.

Flip Flops
Why He Likes Them: We've got the rubber smell going on just like the tennis shoes. Plus the extra bonus of them being easy to slip on.  Have you noticed they make a great smacking sound when you walk too?
When it Causes a Problem:  When Abby can't find her flip flops, she immediately blames Matthew (sometimes rightfully so, but not always).  When Abby's friends come over, we usually have to find their flip flops when it is time to go.

Why He Likes Them:  Rubber... (got that part now, don't you?).  Just like flip flops, they are easy to slip on.  The bottom usually has some lines that are good for scratching.
When it Causes a Problem:  At places like bouncy houses and trampolines where everyone just throws off their shoes.  When he's done jumping and is supposed to be putting on his own shoes, he just might spend a little time with someone else's crocs. Last week we were at the beach and some kids had left their crocs in plain sight (what were they thinking?) and he made several sneaky attempts to get some up close time with them.

Why He Likes Them: First of all, there are so many different kinds of boots!  If we start with winter boots...we still have rubber to smell.  And they are chunky and have textures to scratch on the bottom.  But most of all it is extra fun to walk in boots that are too Daddy's!  Although the stairs are a little bit of a challenge.  Then of course there are fashion boots.  He likes to wear these because they have fun zippers on the sides. Smelling the leather is a novelty after all that rubber.  The boots go up way past his knees and they make a squeaky leather sound when he walks.
When It Causes a Problem:  In the morning rush to get to school in the winter, chances are we might have to take a trip up to Matthew's bedroom to find a missing boot.  If you read Teddybear...bwhahaha, you will know that boots are one of the things that Matthew likes to sleep with.  His school never said it was a problem, but I can only imagine that there must have been some attraction issues when all the boots were lined up outside the classroom to dry!

Slippers (otherwise known as the Footwear from Hell)
Why He Likes Them: They can be fuzzy, but still have somewhat scratchy bottoms for tapping and scratching.  They make a cool shuffling sound when people walk in them.  Both Grandmas have a pair of slippers and he knows right where they are in their houses.   The FIRST thing he does when he goes into their houses is bring out the slippers.  When Grandma Sieling comes, she sometimes stays overnight, so he always checks her bag to see if she brought her slippers.  Sometimes he will wear them, but more often than not he makes me put them on.
When It Causes a Problem:  He truly can become quite obsessed with the Grandmas' slippers and having them in his possession.  He has tried to sneak them into the car when we go places.  He tries to sneak them out of Grandma's bag when it is time for her to go home.  Last Friday night he woke up at 3:30 in the morning and in a frenzy he raced down to where Grandma was spending the night and busted into her room to get the slippers.  After that, he was so wound up that he couldn't go back to sleep, which means we didn't get much sleep either!

With all this fascination with footwear you might be surprised to find out that when it comes to his own two feet...he actually likes to be barefoot!  (Which can bring some problems of its own!)


Thursday, August 7, 2014

I Love You...Bye Bye

What if you wanted to be alone?  What if you wanted someone to go away?  How would you tell them without hurting their feelings or making them feel bad? People might not want to admit it, but a lot of us feel that way sometimes.  More often than not we probably don't say anything because we don't know how to tell someone that gently.  Maybe we find an activity, such as reading a book or exercising that gives us that "alone" time. When we choose not to say anything and just ride out the feeling, chances are there will be feelings of resentment or irritation, which can lead to fights that seem to come out of nowhere.

Interestingly enough, I think Matthew (who for those of you who haven't read Mr. Bossypants, is non-verbal) has found a way to soften the blow.  It used to be that when Grandma Buettner would come to the house he would start to cry.  Now, Matthew loves Grandma Buettner (she always brings him special treats and scratches his back).  But Grandma coming to our house = Mama leaving!!!  It's an undeniable fact that Matthew is a Mama's boy.  He wasn't crying because Grandma was there, but he was crying because I was leaving.  But a few months ago, he tried something new.  When Grandma came to the door he signed "I love you", immediately followed with "bye bye".  He now does this pretty much every time Grandma comes over.  Obviously Grandma can't leave just because he tells her bye bye, but she can reaffirm that she heard what he said by saying "I love you too, but I'm staying.  We are going to play and have fun."  He then watches out the front window and we blow kisses to each other.

He now does those same two signs when Grandma Sieling comes or when one of his therapists comes.  I noticed he did this sign only when one of his therapists would come to our house.  He has known this therapist for years and has never had a problem with her so I knew that there had to be more to the story.  I can't leave during therapy so I knew that he wasn't trying to tell me not to leave.  He does often sign for me to "sit down", so that I stay in the same room.  His lead therapist always brings this special sand that he loves, but the other therapist doesn't bring sand with her.  The more I thought about it, I think he was trying to say in his own way that he wanted the sand.

Last weekend, we were up at my sister's cabin and Matthew and I shared a bed in the basement so that if he woke up in the middle of the night it wouldn't affect everybody else. His track record for sleeping through the night on the road is not stellar.  This trip he surprised me by sleeping through three out of the four nights...I guess it was all that fresh air!  The night that he did wake up (at 3 am, mind you) his response to my repeated requests for him to "LAY DOWN" was "I love you" "bye bye"!

Matthew has two other interesting ways that he came up with to let you know that he wants you to go away or that he wants more time to do something. When both of our kids were little, we would let them push the snooze button (our nose) to say they needed a little more time to wake up.  Being an avid user of the snooze button myself, it seemed only fair to give them time to wake up versus jumping right out of bed.   Matthew took that little signal of pushing our nose and transferred it to other situations (Damn, he's smart!).
For example, if it's time to clean up his blocks for dinner he might try to push my nose = I want more time. Honestly, the first time he pushed my nose, I had no idea what he was doing.  Then the realization..."he's trying to snooze me!"  The second signal he uses is to smack his lips at me (like he's blowing a kiss...muah). This signal doesn't get him too far though, because I have noticed that he tends to use this when he is doing something that he is not supposed to (i.e. standing in the toilet, filling the sink with water, sitting on his dresser, etc.)  and he's been caught mid-act.  Muah translates to "Go away, lady, I want to keep doing THIS..."  

Well, I'm feeling the need to enjoy a little chocolate fix in peace so...MUAH...