Monday, July 30, 2012

Backpack Backpack

If you sang the title of this post, then you understand my current world. ;-)

I've been meaning to write this post for some time. Because traveling with a small child is no small feat.

Traveling with a small child who is dealing with all kinds of emotional volcanoes and doesn't speak the same language as you?

Is downright crazy.

But getting Marvel home was non-negotiable so I wanted to be as *prepared* as possible for entertainment, food, and the overall welfare of our little guy!

The first thing I will tell you is that we had Marvel for 5 full days in Africa before we flew home. That's a LOT of downtime for a 4 year old so it was important to have plenty of activities for the Guest Home.

Because of this, I actually packed two different "sets" of entertainment packs for him. 

One for the GH and one for the trip home. 

Guest home stuff included bubbles, cars and a road-mat for the floor, Amharic children's dvds for watching downstairs, and....(contrary to our original plan) we pulled out the tablet and let him watch movies some (we were sick sick SICK for a couple of days so unfortunately we needed a babysitter--enter tablet with BuzzWoody. And done.)

For the trip home I wanted to be methodical on what we packed.

No mess.

No noise.


Note: we got a bigger backpack before leaving: It was AMAZING!
For the actual plane rides, Marvel had an assortment of activities to choose from (all of which--except the tablet--were completely new to him!):

Color wonder coloring books and markers
* Trace-n-lace animals for lacing (he STILL loves these)
* Pipe cleaners and collapsible colander 

for sticking pipe cleaners in and making shapes
* Tablet stocked with movies. 
We bought an OLD used tablet on ebay before we left for less than $50. Its certainly not fancy but we wanted something he could use without us worrying
* Mini-playdoh and shape-cutters (sort of messy business)
* 15 legos (enough to build a car) ;-)
* Pull-n-go car

What we found as far as necessities go-- in the snacks department-- is protein is key! We learned at an Empowered to Connect conference that in times of "neuro-imbalance" (i.e. meltdowns, frustration, flight, fight or freeze etc...) 3 to 4 oz of protein and some water can do wonders for a child's neuro-chemistry and help restore their ability to self-regulate.  We have found this to be 100 million% accurate with Marvel! 

Snacks that proved invaluable on the plane:
* Beef jerky

* Go-Go squeeze applesauces (also TSA compliant!)
* Trail mix
* Protein bars

We also had suckers (he was asleep for every take-off so we ended up not needing them) and water flavors (also didn't need) and dried fruit (he just hated this, haha!)  

We wanted to make sure he could carry a large majority of the items we listed above so they had to be extremely light. Usually I opened packages and put smaller amounts in ziploc baggies for him to keep in his backpack and kept the rest in my carry-on!

We also chose to bring Melatonine and Dramamine on the flights with us in case of motion sickness or inability to sleep! Our flight was late at night, so we had kept Marvel busy all day so that he would be exhausted for the flight. We gave him one children's Dramamine and he was asleep before take-off and got about 8 hours of solid sleep! Definitely a good thing considering our first flight was 17 hours long!!

For layovers, I --again-- wanted NEW things to entertain him, especially since we had two semi-lengthy layovers (more than 3 hours each)! 

We were given a Leapfrog "leaptop" at a celebration shower before we traveled and I was truly surprised by how much he LOVED this thing!!!! He still gets it out daily to play with it and learned his abc's and several animals just playing with it on the layovers!
Be warned, it can be kind of noisy but we figured that sitting in airports 
was MUCH less of a noise issue than sitting on a plane!
Another fab-find were these foam faces and features from Hobby Lobby! Not only did Marvel enjoy pealing off the "stickers" and making funny faces, we actually had some other kids join in on the fun!  Good thing I brought more than enough to make friends!

I wanted a Mr. Potato Head type activity but these were FAR more popular because they were stickers!!! Marvel will do ANYTHING for a sticker! =)

All in all, Marvel was an incredible traveler and we couldn't have been more proud of how bravely he handled everything! Of course, Now? If you ask him if he wants to go on an airplane, you'll get a resounding "Marvel Aeroplawn NO!!

Alright then! ;-)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rainbows and Roses

Here's the funny thing about that saying....

We assume it means all is beautiful and lovely and wonderful.

But rainbows?   Don't exist without at least a little rain. and often times a LOT of rain.

And roses? Well the rule of thumb is that most roses have thorns. An old German Proverb says "Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thornbush has roses." 

So to say that life has been full of rainbows and roses since bringing Marvel home is probably completely accurate.....

We just also aren't lacking in rain and thorns.

Our great moments have been documented well in photos. Swimming with his old friend (they lived together in the orphanage). Baking a cake. Snow cones on a hot day.

But our rainy moments? Have mainly only been documented by a lack of sleep (please no newborn me, it's not the same as working through fear with a child from a hard place), referring often to the Adoption Bible, a plethera of hard boiled eggs, and leaving places-- that (by chance) became over-stimulators-- before a meltdown was imminent.

One thing that has become overwhelmingly evident to us. Fear is a powerful motivator. It can bully our children into poor behavior.  And it often throws our children into fight, flight, or freeze mode (most of the time our child lands in "freeze" mode")

But in the midst of the thorns are a few roses.  While it breaks my heart that fear of abandonment causes my child to panic at night, I am thankful that he feels safe with us.  While I hate "freeze mode" with an eternal passion, the rainbow is that he is getting better and better at self-regulating and getting through those moments.  He's learning to accept that small displeasures don't mean he ONLY deals with displeasure. He's learning to accept "No" better because it's surrounded by a thousand yeses. And we're learning that he's a brave, Brave boy. Making us confident that he'll be able to get through this with our help and that nighttime won't be scary and uncertain but a place of rest and peace. For everyone.

So, yes, Adoption is full of rainbows and roses...but don't let that fool you into thinking we don't deal with our share of storms and thorns.  And don't let the rain and thorns blind your eyes to beauty of redemption and love and adoption.

Because, while it's true, we grow weary of  storms and thorns?

We often also, end up thanking God that rainbows are so awe-inspiring and roses, so beautiful and fragrant.

Rest, Beloved One.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

We're Home!

We're finally home as a family of three!

Everyone is doing really well, minus the sickness recovery (me) and system overload (Marvel)!

But overall it's been a beautiful week (in ET) together and we're excited to finally be home!

Here's what Marvel the Genius is up to now:

He is currently about 36 lbs and 41" tall

So far, consistently he says "Mommy", "Daddy", "Yes", and "No" but he'll repeat just about anything and has enjoyed mimicking his new "Leaptop" toy and Dora the Explorer.

Side-note: Yes, I know I have joined the masses of parents that use t.v. to babysit their children but please know all I have eaten in the last 3 days is rice. givemeabreakplease. =)

He's slept pretty well and even wanted to sleep in his own room last night (he slept either in our room or in our bed the whole time in ET) but ended up in our bed at about 4:30am. Not too shabby  I'd say!

He's not terribly fond of American food but here's what we know he likes now:

* Grapes
* Canteloupe
* Rice
* Bread
* Bananas
* Applesauce

Notice what's missing? Yeah. We haven't found a protein that he will eat yet (except beef jerky) but we're trying steak tonight, so hopefully that will change today! =)

He's been really energetic today so even though I had originally planned for a couple days of recoup, I think we'll end up on a walk or at the swingsets tomorrow to help shed some of that energy off!

Thank you all for your prayers! We are feeling so blessed right now and are just enjoying getting to know our sweet Marvel!

Coming soon, a post on how we entertained a 4 1/2 year old during one week in Ethiopia and 22 hours of travel and the words we love to use around the house now! =)

Love to you all!