Well, on the 21st of this month we'll have been home 6 months! I can't even believe it. Like I said in a previous post, I've been pretty private about our adjustment. Now that we're at the six month mark, I feel like I can start saying more; not for any magical reason - it just seems like a natural turning point for us.
We've learned so much about Liam! In the last couple of months our biggest issue has been his strong-willed nature. I feel like I need to give a disclaimer: We do not considered being strong-willed a bad thing. We also do not want to create robots for children who sit and stare all the time. God creates children in MANY different combinations of personalities, likes and dislikes, and the list goes on. I just want to make it clear that we don't consider this a problem that we have to eliminate. However, every single person is born with a sin nature. It comes out in different ways and at different times. We believe that our job as parents is to channel Liam's strong will into the right things. It's also our job to teach him (and Evy, and all of our children!) what is acceptable behavior and what isn't.
I also want to add that we have talked to Liam's foster family and he did exhibit these behaviors with them as well. Of course we always take into consideration Liam's adoption history and the changes he's been through, but it does tell us a lot that he has been this way from the very beginning.
Liam truly has the sweetest little heart. His smile lights up a room, and he loves interacting with others. His strong personality doesn't come out with his little friends. His issues are more about authority and being told "no." We can just look at him and gently say "Liam, Son, don't do that please" and he will just LOSE IT. Not out of sadness that he disappointed us - it's out of total frustration that we would try to change his plans. Ha! Our biggest situation has lately been restaurants. I won't go into all the details, but it was just getting really bad.
Kurt and I decided to read some books together on the subject and come up with a plan. We decided that at the first sign of Liam losing control, we would immediately remove him from the situation and go somewhere private. His receptive language is at 100% (seriously, he understands EVERYTHING we say), so we've started looking him in the eyes and saying firmly, "Calm down." That will usually get his attention, but then we always add something like "When you calm down, we can go back and eat" (or whatever the case may be). In the last two weeks, he has stopped crying after this discussion and he will nod when we say "Are you ready to go eat?" Sometimes we have to remove him many times, but we've noticed it happens less and less. PLEASE understand me - every child is different and we have prayed over the best ways to handle Liam. No one knows the entire context of a family's situation unless you're in that family. I just think that's a really important thing to keep in mind.
Like I said, we are having more and more moments where we just marvel at how far Liam has come and how well he has settled into everything! We still love to rock, sing and pray before nap time and bedtime. We've developed this sweet little ritual where I lay him in his crib and cover him with his blanket. Then we both kiss our pointer fingers and touch them together. He smiles SO BIG every time we do this, and I know I'll be doing it until the night before his wedding! :)
As far as language, like I said before, he is PERFECT in his receptive language! It amazes us all that he understands. As far as the verbal side of things, he isn't saying very much at all. He has about 2-3 words that are used in the correct context, but mostly everything is "dis." He says that probably 4,000 times a day. :) We are working with him on trying to say different words (I identify EVERYTHING we see, do, etc.), and he knows we're trying to get him to say the word, but he can't/won't do it.
This has led us to get Liam evaluated for speech therapy. Our state has a wonderful First Steps program, which is an early intervention program. We found the therapist through mutual friends on Facebook and I can already tell she's SO sweet and perfect to work with Liam. Wednesday he'll be evaluated for the first time and we'll see if he qualifies for therapy. Our pediatrician wasn't worried about his speech when we saw him last, but everyone agrees that he has delays. Even if Liam doesn't qualify for therapy, at least we'll have a professional who can teach us better ways to work with him.
Here's something that's cute: Liam's foster family told us that he would call every member of the family "Omma" (Korean for "Mommy"), but he would just pronounce it a little differently for each person. Well guess what? He calls almost all of us in our family "Mama!!" Haha! We think it's hilarious that this little mannerism has carried over! :)
I think my absolute favorite thing about Liam right now is how much he adores worship. He knows all of the motions to the songs and he LOVES music! Also, he has started shutting his little eyes so tight when we pray. I don't think anything has melted my heart more. It's at moments like that when I think of Liam's foster family and how they prayed over him, that he would love God and be raised in a Christian home. It's such a privilege to raise Liam (and Evy of course) to know and love the Lord.
On Good Friday, we had a service that centered around Passover and what it means for us as Christians. We've had a new guitarist for a few weeks in church, and he's Asian. I had seen him play a few times before, but that night he did a solo intro to one of the songs. I looked up at him playing and chills came over me. I remembered Liam's foster father saying, when I asked what his dream was for Liam, "I want him to lead worship at church. With a guitar." And here was this unbelievably talented, Asian young man playing the most beautiful music on a guitar, worshipping at church. It was almost overwhelming, the emotions I felt.
I was later talking to my worship pastor about him, and he said that this young man comes from a country where there is no Christian music to speak of. If there is, it certainly isn't mainstream. This young man is here for a college exchange program, and he told my worship pastor, "I used to sit and listen to Christian music, and it became my dream to play the guitar in church. Now that I'm here, I'm living my dream." Is that not the most powerful, convicting thing you've ever heard? This guy's life dream was to simply express worship to God through music. Not be a rock star, not be in a mega church leading worship. . .just playing in a church of any kind, because he wasn't able to in his country. Amazing.
So as I was sitting there, I thought of Liam and our journey with him. It was a really deep time of reflection for me, and I was just so thankful in that moment for the gift of my son. I truly am thankful for him every day, but lately I feel like we've really turned a corner in the bonding process. I've referenced the feelings of caregiver vs. mother, but I feel less of a tug between those two things now. It just gradually happened, as I predicted it would. I'm his Mommy, and now my head and heart feel the same thing.
I've also been doing a lot of dwelling on what God wants our family to look like. Obviously it's not for me to decide; God has already decided it. But sometimes I have a lot of thoughts to sort through. As hard as the adoption adjustment (and general adjustment to change) has gone at certain times, I know in my gut we're not done adopting. I am also really looking forward to having our next child, because I can't wait to see Liam as a big brother. Seeing Evy be a big sister has been so sweet, and I am excited to see Liam in that role. :)
So the bottom line is, Liam is doing great, and we love him so, so much. He makes us laugh all the time! We are so thankful for these past six months. I think one of the best feelings is that he's now officially in our custody; he can't be taken away. For so long I was afraid something would fall through. Now he really is permanently here and it's a great feeling! October 9th will be such a special day when his adoption is made final.
We love you, Leeler!