We are just a few days shy of 4 months since our Family Day with Elliott! In part because I like having concrete reminders of growth, this is where we are:
Elliott is a JOYFUL kid. He has literally the best laugh ever. He thinks that snow is crunchy and amazing. He thinks that black olives on your finger tips are HILARIOUS and amazing and should be enjoyed as often as possible. He loves rhythm and music, and even the rhythmic bouncing of a basketball is fantastic. He has a semi-hilarious game where he purposefully bonks his knee and will crinkle his face into a fake cry until I pat his knee and say, “Oh you poor sweet man!” – then he laughs and repeats. He loves Play-Doh and play food and a snack cup full of Cheerios.
He is a great sleeper – he’ll typically sleep 11-12 hours at night, maybe waking up once for a quick booty pat. With sleep, he also has transitioned in the last month from 45 minutes of wiggly snuggles and him eventually passing out on me before night sleep, to a quick snuggle with his bottle followed by me laying him in his crib and holding his hand while he falls asleep. (That is a beautiful thing – I am not a super touch person, so to not have nightly wrestle-snuggling for 45 minutes is fantastic!) He naps anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours (but typically on the shorter end).
Elliott is totally entertained by Matson – he thinks that big brother is the bomb and basks in the glow when he has his attention. He’s still a little iffy on Maisie, probably because she wants to carry and hold him like a baby, and he is indignantly a toddler. He generally is much more drawn to big kids, like age 6+. Our friend Makinley is almost 10 and is one of his favorite people, and our 6 year old neighbor Riley gets enormous hugs around the waist whenever he sees her. Had he been adopted by a family with older kids, I think he would have been delighted! Fellow two year olds, lots of skepticism. (And honestly, in this I’m greatly reminded of Maisie – as a toddler, she loved big kids but felt competitive with other toddlers.)
His immune system is working on catching up with North American bugs, so we’ve had several bad colds and stomach bugs – sigh. We’re rocking the multi-vitamins, the elderberry gummies, the sauerkraut juice for probiotics. I’m just praying each time he gets sick that it is building his immune system and helping him to stay healthy in the future! And, I’m intensely thankful that he has not had anything super serious. He had mild eczema when we first got him, but allergy skin tests all came back negative and Vanicream twice a day keeps the eczema at bay.
He definitely recognizes that I am his person, and he wants me all the time. He enjoys Scott (certainly much more than anyone else outside of me!), but gets worried if I hand him to Scott so that I can do something like go to the bathroom alone. Truly, though, while a month or two ago I would have said that I wasn’t able to get stuff done around the house because of his clinginess, that’s not true most days anymore. He actually played out in the backyard by himself for 10 minutes twice this week! And he’ll often wander around happily while I clean the kitchen. Chores at home that require me walking around the house (like putting away laundry or picking up clutter) are a little more iffy – he finds it worrisome that I could get away without him realizing it – but we’re getting there. But that happily playing in a different room while I stay put is a) life giving to me, and b) such a beautiful sign that he is attaching and feeling safe here at home and with us.
Elliott is not yet really an animal person. He was initially terrified even of our guinea pigs but now finds them amazingly entertaining and delightful! Dogs are kind of up in the air for him – he likes a calm dog on his terms, but if the dog is excited to see you (which is, you know, one of the nicest features of dogs!), he’s not a fan. I’m guessing getting more comfortable here + hearing + growing taller will all help. And thankfully, the only pets we have at home are guinea pigs! So it’s more an issue at friends’ and familys’ homes than day-to-day at our home.
He loves all the foods. We are so thankful that he doesn’t seem to have any sensory aversions with foods, and for the most part he’s not a picky eater. He definitely prefers rice and noodle based dishes over bready carbs, and consequently bafflingly doesn’t love pizza, but that’s pretty easy to work around. Funnily enough, he insisted on feeding himself everything for the first 2-3 months he was with us, but now is requesting that we feed him his meals! So funny. I assume that is another good attachment sign, that he trusts us enough to trust that we will get the food into his belly … and the act of feeding him is certainly good for growing attachment, so most of the time I don’t begrudge it. It’s possible I eat my breakfast standing at the kitchen counter rather than sitting next to him at the table so that I can wake up and eat in peace, though. (#notamorningperson)
I’m still curious what our story will be on food in the long run. He is doing a much better job of regulating his intake these days – he used to gorge himself constantly, and now he will actually leave food on his plate at meals. But if he sees food around during the day, he wants it, and if he gets hungry and doesn’t have a snack immediately available, watch out – we had a 40 minute tantrum this morning at the Littleton Museum where you are supposed to leave snacks in the car. Food insecurity is a very common trauma response, and while he mostly had great care in China, it was still very different from here. I have no idea what his first two months of life looked like – he was in a state-run orphanage with an open lip and palate, and feeding kids with unrepaired lip and palate can be tricky even for bio moms here in America with all the bottles and specialists available. Even after his lip and palate repairs at his foster home, he ate on a regimented schedule – breakfast at 6am, lunch at 10:45, dinner at 5pm. I know he got good nutrition there, but snacks probably weren’t a thing I’m guessing.
Fellow toddlers are not Elliott’s favorite, and consequently things like group childcare for church and the gym are not happening yet. But adults who encounter him (like the Child Find team and the cleft clinic professionals) almost universally comment on how engaged and expressive and observant he is. He watches everything you do, loves to imitate, soaks in the eye contact. His facial expressions are just hilarious, and he loves getting a laugh! Yesterday at cleft clinic, we were sitting in the waiting room playing between appointments and he asked me to help him put his backpack on. It was loaded with diapers and toys and snacks for the day, and as I put it on him I commented that I wasn’t even sure if he could carry it. He happily toddled a few steps away, staggering under the load, and then tipped like a little turtle – he was startled but okay, and the entire waiting room burst out in laughter at the cuteness of it. He thought that was delightful, so he loaded up again and would purposefully stagger and tip, aiming for more laughs.
And honestly, seeing him at the clinic yesterday felt like such a night and day contrast to our time in China with him. It was Scott’s and my first time alone with him without M+m since getting home in November, and being in a contained space with a lot of other families and chaos drew a lot of mental parallels. In China, he wouldn’t play more than a foot from us if at all, wouldn’t engage other kids or adults at all, wouldn’t play at all on the small play structure at the hotel in GZ if there were other kids present. But yesterday, he was playfully engaging other kids, exploring the toys across the waiting room from us quite happily, didn’t freak out when a 3 year old would intercept his toy train, chattering away and charming the doctors. It was just so good to recognize that difference. I had heard that you don’t necessarily see your kid’s true personality until you’ve been home six months to a year, and in those early days I had such a hard time believing it … but I see the truth in that now, and I am excited to see him continue to grow!
We love this kid, and I am thankful that he is in our family.