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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

12 Months in the Books.

As I write this we are actually half-way through Month 14, crazy enough, but I am finally documenting Levi's 12th Month home. This inspired me to look back at our pictures from our trip to Ethiopia (February of last year in the archive) and I'm amazed how it already feels like a lifetime ago.  Yet it goes as quickly as everyone warns that it will.  It is incredibly difficult to remember life without our little man.  And the ups and downs during the process of bringing him home are all but forgotten, save as part of his story.  So, a year later we found ourselves as just another set of parents with an almost 2 year-old, and truly enjoying every minute of it.  

As I began the year with reflections, I suppose I have a few to wrap it up as well.  (And I'll understand if you don't feel like reading my rambling thoughts.....)  

One thing I notice daily is the feeling of responsibility to educate our little guy.  The fact that he started a bit behind in life, and is therefore constantly evaluated by professionals, makes our day to day feel like seriously important stuff.  I've begun to wonder how I missed the class on how to homeschool a baby/toddler.  Sheesh!  (Sometimes I'll hear a mom ask her child what, say, a peach is and I'll think, "Oh my gosh!  I haven't covered fruit!")  But we're starting to see it all pay off.  Though still somewhat behind verbally, his vocab grows every week.  And he has lots of fantastic firsts piling up as you'll see below.  Books are still a huge obsession.  He also understands EVERYTHING.  It is amazing to think that at 10 1/2 months he didn't even know what Mommy or Daddy meant and now I can give him (as the doctor says) multi-step instructions.  

We've had lots of wonderful play dates with friends, and you would never know looking at Levi play that he began life any differently than his little friends.  If I notice anything different overall, it may be his complete lack of attachment to objects.  He has some toys he prefers and truly enjoys, but if they were gone tomorrow I'm not sure he would care or perhaps even notice.  Certainly no "lovie" to comfort him.  If he has true attachment to anything, it would be to certain books, but even those are interchangeable.  I'm not sure if this is because he didn't have his own toys until he was 10 1/2 months old or if it's just his personality?  In a way it is refreshing, but I would certainly love for him to have a couple objects to cuddle at night when he's scared.  

12 months ago I would never have guessed how much we would grow to love Ethiopian culture.  Now it is everywhere I look in our house.  We have a large painting in the living room of an Ethiopian village, pictures of Ethiopian drinks above the bar, Ethiopian calendars on the fridge, Amharic scribbled in books and flash cards, and there is often an Ethiopian dish on the stove or in the freezer and Berbere spice mixed in the pantry.  I even begin almost every day with peanut butter on Ethiopian honey bread.  And my vocab has grown along with Levi's!  Brad often laughs as we, say, pass over a bridge and I throw out the Amharic word for bridge along with the English.  I know the most random words depending upon what Levi's interests.  Lion?  Check.  Train?  Check.  Body parts, clothing, colors, numbers?  Check, check, check, and check.  Can I order in a restaurant?  Hmmmm...just barely.  (But I sure know how to say the food was delicious!  "Konjon megeb no.")

I also must say that I am amazed by the acceptance we experience everywhere we go.  I feel not at all conspicuous in our day to day lives, and if anything we receive extremely positive attention from people of all races.  We were so prepared after our pre-adoption training to deal with negative reactions now and then.  It has been an extremely pleasant surprise to not experience that.  To date, we have not received one negative comment, but many, many positive well-wishes.  I'm sure there are people out there who have something hurtful to say, but when it happens I will at least know they are in the vast, vast minority.

So, how did the whole sleep drama end up after a year?  Well, with a pretty awful month of sleep (probably just reacting to all the travel and excitement of the holidays) BUT still some progress.  Levi decided he didn't need us to rock him anymore.  Actually, it makes him quite angry and I only do it if he just can't stop fidgeting.  Instead, he wants to just climb in his bed and be patted a bit while he falls asleep.  Baby steps.  (Very, very tiny, tiny, tiny baby steps, but still a step.)  

Finally, let me say it has just been such a wonderful, wonderful year.  Brad and I are so happy that God chose this path for us to grow our family.  Truly, with every single fiber of my being, I would not have it any other way.  The entire experience, from years of research and paperwork to the sleepless nights to the connection with amazing people in Ethiopia to the absolutely perfect little boy that says "Mama" and "A Dog!" all day long, it is exactly as we would have it. 

Here are Levi's firsts for the month.  Some of them may seem kind of silly, but since every doctor scours him for something wrong, each one feels huge to us.  He really couldn't be a happier, healthier, more wonderful little guy:  
Reaches all counters (oh boy); New plane obsession after our travel to Florida; Loves giving big hugs whenever he overhears the word; Says bump, plop, and more final consonants (up!); Loves finding letters everywhere and finding the letters for Levi; Carefully points to objects to "count"; Pretends to put on clothes; Loves to build suspense when turning to his favorite pages in books; Loves bumping into things; Sleeping in a toddler bed!

A wonderful play date at the Children's Museum with Becky and Hudson Bell, here sliding down the Yule Slide.  Hudson was so cute showing Levi how to do the big kid activities and Levi was enthralled.  

Do we not have the best boys?  Jason, Brad and Bill have begun a tradition of Saturday morning boys' breakfast once a month, or so.  Apparently, all the women that walked by were in amazement and even asked what the wives were doing with our free morning.  (I cleaned the house.  
Actually, a luxury with no one wrapped around my legs.)  

After hearing all the music to the point of obsession for months and months Brad was finally able to see what music class is all about. 

Christmas at the Todds!  We had a wonderful Christmas morning on New Year's Day with the Todds.  After present opening Levi sampled Grandpa's new Butler hat while watching some Wonder Pets.  

Riding on Grandpa is a favorite activity.  Poor Grandpa.

Worn out from all the fun.

After Levi's Big Boy Bed experience in Florida 
we decided it is time to go there at home too.  
This received rave reviews.

Levi has a big thing for what I like to call "Levi's Nooks".  Always finding a tight spot where he can squish in and feel cozy.  Unfortunately, sometimes he wants me to join.  I don't quite fit in them all. 

The following pictures, other than just being cute, probably don't seem like that big a deal, but this month Levi FINALLY started playing and loving on stuffed animals.  He had very little interest for the first 11 months other than the occasional passing toss or pat on the head.  Now he will really hug a teddy bear and pretend with it.  Hoping one catches on as a favorite and he has a "lovie" that will be comforting, say in the middle of the night?


Meeting Samson!  Our dear friends, Taryn and Steve, had a baby boy around Thanksgiving and we went to meet him recently.  He's a perfect, precious bundle, as you can sees.  

We had the year anniversary of bringing Levi home on January 23rd.  One of the things they suggest to help with creating roots for your international adoptee is taking something to measure your child the first time you meet them.  I used the brown piece of ribbon.  I thought it would be fun to keep the tradition going and used the blue to measure him after a year home.  No wonder we have all those bins of clothes that are now too small!  

Our 12th Chair picture!  Quite the handsome little man.  
(Thank you for the style-y shirt, Nana!  Great Christmas present.)

A week after returning home from Florida at Christmas I had two weekends of opera performances.  I've had the absolute most wonderful experience working with Intimate Opera.  The talent and preparation of the singers seriously impressed me, and the collaborative atmosphere is beyond refreshing.  Here's their website:
Looking forward to a concert in June and another opera performance in late August!

From Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters by Ned Rorem
(The music is crazy - I put some clips on my website,