Lots to update on so I will just get started. Pictures will be edited into this post as I find time the next couple days. If I wait for pictures this might never get posted until it is time for the 3 or 4 month home update, haha.
In BG, nay means no and they nod their head for no. Da means yes and they shake their head. Obviously we are opposite here. Ben understands no and nay mean the same thing and he will shake his head for our no but still nods when we say nay. And vice-versa for yes. It is humorous and confusing.
Benjamin no longer sucks his thumb during the day! It was such a constant thing at the beginning and I know he needed that for comfort at first but it was not long at all before he no longer needed it for that. Took some distraction and some car band aids for about a week. He will still do it at night but it is not a requirement to get him to sleep, more just a habit when tired. One thing I have noticed is that he has a poor pincer grasp. It's like he can't use his thumbs from sucking them so much. So I'll be looking for activities to work with him on that.
(Right after returning from the dentist and waking up from anesthesia-lots of pain)
Ben's file said he was excessively drooling (soaking multiple bibs per day) for years and the psych drs in B couldn't seem to figure out the cause. Hmm...Last month, we had Ben's teeth fixed under anesthesia because they were in awful condition. He ended up needing all 8 molars removed as they were rotted and worn to the gum line and all infected plus he had cavities filled on the remaining ones. I can imagine the pain from it that he has been in for years. Turns out that once we got that taken care of and it healed, the drooling slowed down a ton. Now it is a normal amount of saliva in his mouth and he is learning to swallow like we do second nature. He is a mouth breather so his mouth is always open and part of his poor mouth muscle control seems to be from being a late talker and never learning to chew food. Some reminders throughout the day to swallow the spit and close his mouth seem to be enough to encourage him to swallow the excess and he no longer needs the bibs!! He still chews on his tongue (expecially when spinning the wheels on cars) and I imagine that will take a while to unlearn as he has been doing it for so long. I'm guessing it started with the tooth problems.
When Ben first came home, he cried when he had to go to the bathroom, specifically #2. We realized he was used to drinking very little water and we think the constant reflux hurt his throat and made it difficult to swallow as he would cry when offered drinks. I had to teach him to drink and at first require him to swallow between bites of food. Food was a motivation and he would do it willingly as long as he thought there was more food in the bowl. That last bite was a struggle for a while. He figured out how he could trick me into thinking he was taking a drink by just keeping it in his mouth or making a swallow sound but mama is too smart to fall for that, lol, which he quickly figured out. Sorry buddy, mama learned a thing or two from the siblings ahead of him. Now he asks for water willingly in between meals whenever thirsty, drinks water between bites on his own and the reflux/bile smell had completely stopped. He shows no pain at all from swallowing. He no longer stores food in his mouth. He has normal diapers and is no longer in pain from that. We realize at the orphanage the less they give the kids to drink, the less diapers need to be changed.
I bought some Chew Tubes to teach him to use to get his gums used to mashing as it will be a while until his adult teeth come in. I showed him by example how and where to use it and he willingly copies anything which makes it much easier to teach him things. Now I just use the same words and touch each cheek to remind him to bite and chew the food. Sounds simple but he does not enjoy it. Sometimes he will swallow and then pretend to chew, little stinker! If anyone reading this has experience teaching an older child to chew and eat (for the first time in their life) without any molors, I am all ears! We know that therapy is an option but for attachment sake, we'd like to hold off on rushing into that and doing what we can at home for the next few months. He willingly lets me brush his teeth and I am not seeing sensory issues.
In the almost 2 months since gotcha day, Ben has been such a sponge. He learned all the colors, shapes and most of the letters in English by sight after only being told what they were twice. We are working on naming animals and the sounds they make now at his leading. He loves to sing and knows Jesus Loves Me, the alphabet, twinkle twinkle, happy birthday, ring around the rosie, etc. He can't help but move to the music when it is on. He learned everyone's names quickly and loves telling who is who in all the pictures on the wall. He repeats everything we say and names things or points at it until we tell him what it is called. I am expecting an explosion of speech any time. He can be loud and silly and all boy and also calm and observing all that is going on around him.
The other day we had finished breakfast and he was sitting at the table waiting for me to be done (all the other kids had already gone to get dressed) and he turned around and pointed at the piano (he calls it a 'do-re-me-fa') because he wanted to play it. I told him no, not right now. Sitting on the piano was a toy car and he pointed at that and I told him to wait. Next thing I know he starts saying this clear as day: 'Mama, may I have the car please?' I had had him repeat that after me for the first time the day before when I got tired of him just pointing and me having to play guessing games of what he was wanting and he remembered the entire thing and correctly used it! I was so proud :) So, of course he got to go play on the piano with the toy car in his hand! Now that I know he understands how to use his words to ask for things, I am walking him through that each time in different scenarios and it is making it so much easier to communicate with him. He sounds like such a polite little boy saying 'may I' and 'please'. I taught him to say 'mmm, yummy' when eating so now there is at least one child who likes every meal I make, haha.
He is picking up words quickly but I still have no idea what is going on in his head. Most conversations go like this one that occured while he was sitting on the potty. You'll notice my grammar going downhill quickly with the conversation in an attempt to simplify the point and trying to get an answer before he gets distracted.
Me: (Coming to check on him) Are you all done going potty?
Ben: Are you all done?
Me: Do you have to go more potty?
Ben: More potty?
Me: All done stink? Do you have to go more stink?
Ben: More Stink? (he does know what this means)
Ben: Shower (pointing at the showerhead above him)
Me: Yes, that is a shower.
(repeat the above two lines 5x, or he'll start naming colors on his shirt, the shower curtain, the toothbrushes, etc)
Ben: (Starts singing Jesus Loves Me)
Me: (I sing along for one round and then repeat the beginning of the above conversation)
I've learned to not say anything when I come into the bathroom and wait for him to initiate "Are you all done?" while signing 'All-done'. If he does that, I have my answer and he hops down and pulls up his pants or waits for me to wipe him depending on the need. Of course 5-10 minutes later he has to go potty again.
Ben came to us in diapers and is now potty training. He was time trained previously to go whenever they took him but was in diapers at all times and peed whenever he had to go. As a result of a huge increase in liquids, he has to pee constantly but he never seems to empty his bladder. Makes me wonder if they were required to sit until they went every break or if it is just going to take him a while to learn to hold it for longer periods of time. He understands what accidents are and that we are trying to avoid those, and he is doing great with that, though his bladder is very small and he can not hold it long (suggestions??). I have not changed a dirty diaper from him in 2 weeks and he is in underwear now completely during the day, telling me when he has to go. At night, once I got him to start drinking, he wet a lot and we had to go with with special nighttime diapers that hold more and I was even considering extra liners but they ended up not being necessary.
A funny...he is wearing Gerber training underwear right now so everytime he pulls his underwear up, he has to point out that there is a baby on the tag and says 'Hi baby, hi Joe-Joe", lol!
Ben has never been aggressive with any of his siblings. The worst we've had to deal with in that area is pushing when brushing past someone to get somewhere. He's always in a hurry to get where he is going and he walks/runs with his hands always partly up as if to catch his fall or block himself. He cries and tries to comfort his siblings when they get in trouble and joins in when they are chasing or playing music games. Makes it difficult trying to walk the 2yo through apologizing and hugging him when Ben says the sorry and hug for him. He follows directions well, is obedient and at the same time, like any 6yo boy, has a hard time just sitting still and being quiet. As he has opened up, he always has to be making a noise.
After those first couple weeks we had him, we've had no raging or major fits. He will whine and cry like a child not getting their way but there is no anger in it like there was at first. We have not since then had to hold him close to protect himself or us, he does not do the auto agression that he did before. Discipline that works for him is simple as taking his toy car away, or a time in sitting quietly next to mom or dad. He is a very easy kid to parent so far. Like any child, he does test me and knows just when my hands are tied and I can't deal with a situation as is needed or immediately (at the drs office or on the phone). But really, there has been nothing out of the ordinary of normal kids stuff learning the boundaries and what mom and dad's words and looks and tones of voice mean...all things the others have been learning since they were babies.
He is loving and asks for 'hoogs' (hugs) often (especially when tired) and likes to be held or to just be near me at all times. He loves being outside but often comes up to the window to see where I am. He'll play 'keek-a-boo' around the window sill and thinks that it is hilarious when I scare him with a boo. He has learned that potty breaks get him inside to check on where I am and when meal times are coming, so I have noticed those increasing. He seeks comfort when hurt. He responds appropriately to correction (not in fear or humor like before). Often he will start giggling as if he has a private joke that we can't figure out. Sometimes it's a funny sound on a toy that he will carry around for us all to listen to or something that happened in a movie to make him laugh but more often I can't for the life of me figure out what he is laughing at.
(He lined up all those cars himself...all my kids have done that at some point)
He is happy, smiley, relaxed and interacts with the other kids, though we are still teaching him how to play. When going outside he prefers to spend most of the time swinging on the swings on his belly. It takes intentionally effort to involve him in whatever the other kids are doing. inside or outside. He will follow them through the woods and push the cars or pull the wagon around but mainly prefers to play alone still, so much like his older brother. Big brother was expecting more of a playmate but Ben is much closer to his 2yo brother's level when it comes to playing. With time and example, I hope he will develop an imagination and enjoy doing more things. Our 2yo has had the biggest adjustment and shown the most jealousy and acting up with all the changes of the past couple months. But they seem like they will be the best of friends in time.
He loves anything with wheels and the big board books that are full of pictures to name. He has an excellent throwing arm, loves to be chased and tickled, and rough house play with daddy. He loves going for drives in the van but still gets very nervous anytime we go inside any buildings, or if I take him someplace on my own (bad memories of me taking him to the dentist and coming home in major pain!). He used to whine/cry at the CVS pharmacy drivethrough, but 4 trips later he no longer does that there so I guess just time and exposure will teach him that it is okay, we are not leaving him and we will always come home. He prefers being home most of all but I'm thankful he is such a good rider in the van. He gets into his seat, puts the straps on and does the top part on his own. He enjoys looking out the window and singing while we drive down the road-no worries of carsickness!
We have only had visitors briefly once so far and noticed he likes to give hugs to anyone who plays or interacts with him so we are going to have to work on teaching him who and when is appropriate for hugging. He does not go up to strangers at stores, or wander out of our yard, which I am thankful for. I know that some of that can be a concern with attachment. I'm not quite sure what to look for as signs that he is not attaching...
At first Ben had no interest in tv. He would kinda chide at the tv whenever Cars was on and say 'die' when he saw a car on the screen he wanted us to give to him'. Now he will sit for any of the Leapfrog videos and recognizes that the puppy in the movie is the same as his stuffed puppy. He also loves anything music and the Cedarmont Kids videos are a favorite. One day that was on and he recognized one of the songs playing and went and got his puppy and pushed the paw until the same song was playing as what was on the tv.
Ben has stopped saying his birth name. He refers to himself as Ben, Benjamin or Benji, and transitioned to that very easily and quickly. He has stopped referring to me as "Layla" (Meaning auntie in BG). At first it was always layla, or layla mama and I was sure he thought mama was just another name like "Aunt Sue" or "Aunt Jane". Then one day he copied the little kids calling me 'mommy' and since then he went back to mama and dropped the layla. Now I hear a repetitive 'mama, mama, mama' out of him trying to get my attention like my 4yo does!
He loves to help...he follows direction well and will get me the diapers or wipes or put dirty clothes into the laundry when I ask him. If I say "pick up the books' when cleaning the family room he knows to go all over the room finding the board books and putting them on the shelf where they belong (and he is thorough). The vacuum was a source of fear at first but he learned there is a button you can stand on that auto winds up the cord so as soon as I am done he runs to push that and then he will move the vacuum to the corner it belongs in. He loves standing at the gate looking into the laundry room while the washer and dryer are running. And ceiling fans are a favorite to point out everywhere we go. He is still scared of loud noises.
We've been working on teaching him to respect personal space. Not to just climb all over someone (those elbows and knees hurt!) and get right in people's faces. He has learned to ask before just climbing up onto your lap.
I've been trying to find the balance of treating him like the 6yo he is and keeping my expectations lower to match up with his dev level while he is learning so much right now. At first he was in a high chair during meals but the past couple weeks he has been sitting at the table and much more prefers that. He had to ride in the stroller whenever we went grocery shopping or to the drs at first to have a 'safe spot' as it was overwhelming to him but now we are working on him walking and hanging onto the side of the cart (without wandering off or touching everything). Everytime he puts his coat on he always puts one arm in and then somehow gets his elbow into the other sleeve and gets stuck. So we have been doing a lot of 'Benjamin do it' to encourage him to figure it out on his own instead of us doing everything for him, and it never takes long until he does. Clothes that are inside out are very confusing for him to turn ride side out. He does manage to put his clothes and shoes on correctly everytime, though. He seems more delayed emotionally than he does mentally. He's very smart and catches onto things quickly but his responses to being scared or nervous or hurt or wronged are like a younger child.
(This picture is from today-the ONLY nap he has ever taken since I picked him up...it lasted 10 minutes before children slammed the door. Today his Certificate of Citizenship came!!)
Shortly after 7pm every night he starts asking for his diaper and pjs. He is very ready for bed and is asleep without fail in less than 5 minutes from the time his head hits the pillow. I am so thankful that he is a great sleeper.
We are a quiet, calm, goofy family and were afraid a child we adopted would have a totally different personality and we were surprised to see he is a perfect fit. God knew what He was doing! We are so thankful that He gave us the gift of Benjamin to love and raise as our own son!