|Rob holding Yuli when we arrived at the airport in Nashville|
Yuli at Rob's office working on being a medical coder like Daddy
I have to admit that the first four weeks at home were difficult, but not for the reasons that we had prepared long and hard for after our first visit to Bulgaria. When we had shown video of Yuli to several adoption specialists after our first trip in December, the specialists were all in agreement that Yuli had great potential, but that it was going to be a difficult road because of his developmental delays, the orphanage behaviors that he had acquired, his inability to give any eye contact, and the way he did not want Rob and I to touch him.
Well, what we brought home was a child who gives more and more eye contact every day, who loves to be hugged and kissed, who loves to give hugs and kisses, and a child who does not like Mommy to put him down some days. So, how was this difficult? He also did not want Mommy more than an inch away from him for the first four weeks and would sometimes wrap his arms around my leg if I were to put him down for a minute. As you can imagine, this would cause difficulty if Mommy wanted a shower or needed to be alone in the bathroom for other reasons. Yuli would also want to be halfway in my my lap and halfway in his chair while eating a meal or a snack. He would wolf down his food and then would either start grabbing my food or pointing and touching all of my food to let me know that he wanted to eat it as well.
Food was also an issue if we had visitors in our home, if we were at a restaurant, or if we decided to visit family or friends. Yuli would finish his food and then go to the nearest person who was still eating and start pointing or grabbing their food. Keep in mind, that this would happen even if Yuli had eaten three meals that day and three snacks. When visiting my sister or Rob's parents, he would also try and open all of their cabinets and the fridge immediately upon arrival to determine where the food was and if he could have it. If I so much as entered the kitchen for any reason, he wanted something to eat.
I realized that our son's behavior in regard to food was typical for many children who had lived a significant portion of their lives in an orphanage. I also knew that I needed to help Yuli to understand that food was always going to be available to him while at the same time trying to help him understand what a full tummy feels like. We were told by our translator in Bulgaria that the food was rationed at Yuli's orphanage to make sure that there was enough to go around. Because of this, Yuli would literally eat until he was sick if Rob and I let him since he felt as if he did not know when his next meal was coming nor did he understand the concept of a full belly.
I am happy to report that our little boy now is beginning to understand that there will always be food at our house and that he will never go hungry. I keep healthy snacks such as bananas and other fruit on the kitchen counter and readily available to him throughout the day. He also gets to look inside the fridge and the pantry several times a day to see the food that is stored there. I have also tried to make his meals with fiber dense foods so that he will begin to understand the concept of satiety. At most meals, he still cleans his plate, but several times recently he has decided that he had enough and pushed his plate away after declaring to me "all done." In the beginning, he would also eat anything. This is no longer true as well. Green beans and broccoli are on his "I don't like that" list as well as carrots. It's funny how progress looks sometimes isn't it? Who would have ever thought that disliking a food was a good thing?
When we are eating dinner at home or elsewhere, he will usually eat his own food and not worry about anyone else's food. If he wants more of a food, he will get my attention and say "more." If I feel he has had more than enough, I might say "no" to his request or offer him a healthier option like fruit if he is asking for something not as healthy such as more mac'n cheese. If he declines the fruit, then I have a pretty good idea that he is no longer hungry. So, what is the little man's favorite food? I would have to say bananas. He eats at least two a day on most days and would eat three if I would let him.
Besides food, another issue that we have had to deal with in regards to Yuli has been the way he reacts to strangers. When our adoption agency coordinator came to our home for our first post-placement visit, Yuli immediately ran to her and threw his arms around her leg trying to hug and kiss her. He had never met her before. She was a complete stranger to him, yet he was trying to be affectionate with her in a way that was only appropriate for Mommy and Daddy. Our coordinator took his hand and pulled him away from her and then led him over to me. As she did this, she told Yuli that she was not his momma and that I was his momma. She then told me that this was an issue that I would be working on with him for the next several months, which I had already determined.
Since that time, when Yuli meets a person that is a stranger to him, I ask him to shake hands with the person and to say "hello." We also talk about how hugs are for Mommy, Daddy and Julia and not strangers. Sometimes, I can tell when a visitor is over to our house that he is wanting to get in their lap and snatch a hug. He will begin to stand very close to them and then begin inching ever closer. When he does this, I simply pick him up and put him in my lap for a hug and kiss from Mommy. At that moment, he gets what he needs from me, begins smiling and goes on his merry way.
The innapropriate contact with a stranger situation is definitely much easier to control in one's own home than when the family is out and about. Two weeks ago, I took both kids to the local Stride Rite store to get them fitted for new shoes. The sales associate at the store was bent down on one knee measuring Julia's foot. At this moment, Yuli jumped off of his seat and before I knew what was happening had his arms wrapped around the sales associate giving her a hug and patting her chest with his hand. After picking up my jaw and being slightly mortified, I pulled Yuli away and sat him on my lap to hug him and again go through our discussion about hugging strangers. This is a difficult lesson to teach a four year old who acts like a two year old and who has a limited English vocabulary, but I am doing my best.
I think my father-in-law described it best when he told my mother-in-law that Yuli knows that hugs and kisses feel good to him. Therefore, when Yuli decides he wants to feel that feeling again, he will try to get it from the closest available human to him, even if it is a perfect stranger. My father-in-law is right. Yuli has a need to be held and touched. He was very deprived of touch at the orphanage. However, he now has a Mommy and Daddy, as well as a sister, to fill up his love bucket anytime he wants to be hugged or kissed. Hugs are for Mommy, Daddy and Julia!
The stranger situation is improving, day by day and week by week. The more stranger practice we get to have with Yuli the better the situation gets. Also, as he becomes more attached to me and Rob, he does not seek out others to fulfill his need for love. When we go to church now, he will give someone a high five or shake their hand, but he does not try to jump in their arms for a hug. Gotta love progress!
Other things that have changed have to do with water. Remember how Yuli hated to take a bath while we were in Bulgaria and usually stood up and cried in the bath water for the whole event? Well, now he loves taking a bath, sit downs while in the tub, and even enjoys splashing in the water. Sometimes, he will still cry and whine a little when is hair is getting washed, but what young child enjoys having their hair washed! He has also discovered that taking a shower with Daddy can be fun. The biggest surprise, however, is that he loves the pool! Rob and Julia take Yuli to our neighborhood pool several times a week, and sometimes, he will go get his swimming trunks and wait by the door to let them know that he wants to go to the pool.
Julia and Yuli ready to swimming in the pool
Julia and Yuli playing in the fountain outside the mall
Well folks, that is all that I have time for right now as my little man just woke up from his afternoon nap and wants to proudly show me where his belly button is on his little tummy. He is too funny!
Yuli sitting in my lap watching as I type up the latest blog post (still a little sleepy from his nap)