One Year

Today is a special day for our family, exactly ONE YEAR ago today we met our second child for the first time. Nov.28th, 2011 we became parents to Lucas Rogers Akandwanaho Bell! The past year has been challenging, but brought us more joy than we could have imagined. We are so blessed to have two beautiful boys, and have “Aiden’s Hope” filled with the joy of Lucas. We love you Lucas!!

Happy “Gotcha Day”!!! 🙂

Can’t believe it’s been a year already!!

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

One year ago, here is our sick little Lucas in the orphanage in Uganda:

This is Lucas (below) shortly before we arrived in Uganda to meet him, this is the first time he’d been outside the orphanage, and everything (including car rides) were new and terrifying for him.  Only the Lord knew all that was in store for little Lucas and our family, and what a difference a year would make.

This is Lucas now:


As you can see, he is healthy now, free of sickness and worms.  Over the course of a year he has changed so much not only emotionally but physically, he has gained muscle structure, can climb stairs and run now, he can do so much more now than he could a year ago.  His little body is now healthy and he is an ACTIVE as can be!  He is the average typical BOY!!   🙂

Here are Lucas’s pre-school pictures taken about a month ago, hard to believe that our sweet boy was sitting in an orphanage one year ago:






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First Day of Preschool

Lucas has started Preschool!!!  This is a big deal for him, and for us.  It’s been quite the journey to get where he is now, and for being in an orphanage less than one year ago to now being in an American school, well, it’s a BIG deal!!  🙂  We are so proud of him!  He’s jumped through some major hurdles to be where he is now!

This all started when Aiden began first grade this year a few months ago. Lucas and I would walk Aiden to school and pick him up, everyday.  When we would get back to the house after dropping Aiden off, Lucas missed his brother, and wondered what he did at that place called school all day.  I read Lucas a few books about what school is about, and showed him some pictures of some of the things you do in school.  Lucas began to understand that school is a fun place, where you learn and have fun.  He wanted to go with his big brother to school everyday.  Lucas became very very interested in this school thing.  Everyday about the time Lucas was done napping, it would be about time to go pick up Aiden from school.  It never fails, after every nap the first thing Lucas says is, “eeee-den mommy?  Pik ut eee-den, mommy???”  I answer, “Yes, we’re going to pick up Aiden!”

This is how Lucas would wait for his brother after school, everyday:

Once Lucas spotted his brother, he would start yelling for him, “Eeeee-Den!!!!!!!!”  jumping up and down with excitement!  He just made me laugh.  After that, Lucas would want to see all his papers and sit intently listening to all the details of Aiden’s day.  I could see his face fill with excitement when Aiden would start explaining the things he was doing each day in school.  Lucas didn’t understand everything, but he was still excited to hear about it!  I began thinking that maybe Lucas is ready for school, to be around other kids.  This made me nervous.  For many reasons.

I just didn’t think Lucas would be ready for any type of school setting because I wasn’t sure he would know enough english yet to communicate well with teachers if I wasn’t around to help decipher what he is trying to say.   I was also concerned because this would also be the first type of interaction with other kids where he isn’t in an institutionalized environment, and let’s face it, survival in an orphanage in the middle of Africa is VERY different than an American school.  I was also concerned that he would feel different than the other kids, not only because he is a very dark African, but because he couldn’t speak english very well.  I just had all these fears for him.  We have to learn to help him cope in his environments outside of the home, and it was time.  It was time for this.

So we found a wonderful part time preschool (only a few days a week for 3 hours) and a few other boys in his class who looked like him, which I could tell made him feel more comfortable right away.  We are thankful for this preschool, and it’s staff.  They really took the time to listen to our concerns, hear Lucas’s journey, and help us with everything as we transitioned into this new experience for Lucas.

He was ready, eager, and excited to start school!!!!!!  He was just so so excited, he lead my hand all the way to the door, knowing right where to go!

He let go of my hand, and started walking in front of me, so excited.  My heart sank just a teensy bit at how quickly my little boy is growing up.  Too fast.  Just like his older brother.  They just grow up too fast.  At that moment, I knew we were making the right move starting him in preschool.  He was ready.

Or so I thought!  We go all the way in his classroom and he puts his bookbag up on his hook, and at that moment he realizes…mommy is about to LEAVE!  Panic strikes his face.  Oh no.  This isn’t good.  I was prepared for this, before all the “I’m so excited…ready to leave and go to school…I’m letting go of your hand now and walking into school by myself” business!!  What?!  Now I don’t know how to handle this…he starts crying.  Like shear pain crying.  Ok, we’re leaving, mommy can’t do this, and I can’t let you cry, we don’t HAVE to do this, my poor baby, as I start to leave with him, he realizes that he now doesn’t want to go, and I’m so confused.  I just don’t want to hinder our attachment and bonding by leaving him crying telling myself “he’ll just get used to it” like I would have done with our biological child…well…Lucas is different than a biological child, with attachment issues, neglect, abuse, trust issues, etc.  I can’t let him cry, and be scared, and just “get used to it”, so now what do I do!?  I just tell him that I’m not leaving, if he wants to stay and play then he can and I’ll sit in the corner and I won’t leave.  I did this for about 30 min. and he walked over to me, and securely said to me, “Mommy, bye bye, Lucas ok”. Heart. Melted.  Wow.  He did it.  We did it.  He conquered this fear.  He overcame something so scary for him, and felt secure enough to tell me he was ok now and I could go, because he knew none of the other mommies stayed.  He is so smart, so brave, and such a blessing to us.  I just had to share his First Day of Preschool.


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We have a U.S. Citizen over here!! Whoop Whoop!!

After filling out paperwork, and more paperwork, to get Lucas a U.S. Passport, oh, and sending in more paperwork, we FINALLY got it in the mail!!  Hallelujah!!  So we marched that sucker down to the Social Security office in town, waited in an hour long line, and handed over the crisp new passport which is now proof in hand that he is now a U.S. Citizen and then they forever and irrevocably changed his status in their system from permanent resident to U.S. Citizen!!!!!  Big day in the Bell household!!  🙂

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Do you see “color”? You should.

People look at our family, even young children, and stare at us trying to “figure” us out…they think things like: “how do they fit together?  Is she babysitting a black child?  Did they adopt?  Is that really her child?”  I see those questions roll in their heads almost every time we go out in public, and sometimes we’re actually asked those questions.

I love it (insert: sarcasm) when people come up to our family and immediately go straight to Lucas and ooh and awww over how cute he is…yes I know, he is cute, he is adorable, but I know the real reason they do this…it’s their way of saying, “Oh he’s so adorable!! (insert: see…I’m ok with black people!) and aww, he is just sooooo cute!! (insert: if I keep telling you how cute he is will you tell me how he fits in your family??) and hey, hello?!  Did you even notice that  I have another son who is just as adorable and cute…oh no you didn’t because he is white looking (although he is of mixed race).

Let’s be honest here…none of us are “colorblind”.  To really start to get it you have to first be honest with yourself about that.  Being colorblind is nonexistent, it’s truly impossible.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t see color”, or “I am colorblind, I don’t notice if a person is black, white, asian, etc.”  These naive comments are a way to tell you that they are pretending they have no issues with other races and because they really do they want to cover up issues they have with other races by saying quite the opposite of how they feel, which is in fact they do “see color” and they may or may not be comfortable with people of other races.

As a white person, I know this because I used to say things like that, that “I don’t see color”, when in reality of course I did, and I never felt completely comfortable with people of other races, I’d like to think that I was at the time, and I would have denied otherwise if you told me at the time, but truth be told, I didn’t have a “problem” per say with people of other races, it was just different from mine, and I was uncomfortable with it.  Let me give some examples, like when I would go to a black baptist church with my black friend, where the pastor was yelling and sweating, people dancing and jumping up and down, wearing big colorful hats, people wildly clapping & singing at the top of their lungs…I was uncomfortable.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I enjoyed it, it was just different than those white people churches where a pastor is standing in one place behind a pulpit, and people hardly singing, and quietly sitting in their seats, hardly ever whispering an Amen to anything, so anything different was uncomfortable, and something new and not of the “norm” for me.

Another example, my black friend inviting me over to her house for a sleepover, and what do girls do at sleepovers?  They do each other’s hair.  Yep, if you haven’t admitted it to yourself already or not, black hair is completely and utterly different than white hair.  Most white people are scared of black hair, they have no idea what to do with it.  My black friends didn’t know what to do with my hair either, they slathered in some pink conditioning cream as they would with their hair and it was like glue in mine, and we all quickly figured out this was not working for my hair.  I was uncomfortable with doing their hair and they were uncomfortable doing my hair.  Hair is a whole other topic and subject with both cultures.  I won’t get into it big time here, but let me repeat…hair is a huge deal to black people.  It’s even a more big deal if you’re a white mother raising a black child-in particular if that child is a girl.  Girl, you better know how to do your daughter’s hair or else some black woman will have something to say about that!  The other caveat to that is that most black women relax their hair (meaning they chemically straighten it) and they think that is what is most beautiful to them.  If you haven’t seen “Good Hair” by Chris Rock, it’s worth the watch.  So when I see black women who actually leave their hair natural (meaning not straightening it, just leaving it curly) I think it is so beautiful, and I’ve seen the struggles white mom’s of black girls have when they decide to leave their daughters hair natural.  They get comments all the time from black women who think the white mother has no idea what she is doing, when she really does, she just goes against the norm of having her daughters hair relaxed, and especially if her daughter wants her hair left natural, then I don’t see why all the pressure to get it relaxed anyway.  Getting off subject here, but basically, yes, there is a huge difference with black hair and white people hair if you don’t know that already.

There’s another difference between black skin and white skin too, black skin is much dryer than white skin, therefore chocolate skin needs to be moisturized every single day, sometimes multiple times a day, or else it becomes ashy (skin so dry it looks grey, like ashes)-a HUGE no no in the black culture.  So being a white mother of a black child, you best put some shea butter on that child or else be prepared for even more scrutinized looks and comments, as well as your child being itchy from excessive dryness.  You can’t treat your white child’s skin the same as your black child’s skin, it just isn’t gonna work.  You can’t treat their hair or their skin the same as white hair or skin, and realizing this and getting knowledge and info on what works for chocolate skin is just the beginning of really understanding the difference.  This is the whole reason I started making my own organic whipped shea butter, it works on my sons skin, and it’s what he needed.

White people are not the same as black people, and black people are not the same as white people, black culture is completely different than white culture.  It just is.  Ask any black person. Ask any white person.  If they’re honest, they’ll tell you that it is.

Another issue here is as a white person when some people hear me say “black people” instead of the politically correct “African American” they automatically have their hair raised as if to decipher whether I’m racist or not.  Let me tell you this, if you’re black, and you’ve been born and raised in America, never stepped foot in Africa, and all your relatives and grandparents, etc. are all American, then why are you “African American”?  You’re every bit as American as I am, why would I need to throw in what race you are in front of being an American?  We don’t say “Caucasian American” for white people.  I think it’s more respectful to say “black” instead.  For instance, my son, actually being born in Africa, then becoming American later, is truly the essence of African-American.  Oprah even said herself, “I would rather be called black, because I am an American, I’m not African.  My roots are from Africa, but I am through and through American, just as you are, and I prefer to be called black”.   Here’s another article by a black man who prefers everyone call him black instead:

My whole point is this, you’re lying to yourself and everyone around you to say that you “don’t see color”.  You do.  You should.  You should because it makes you more aware of that race, that culture, and what they go through as a race & culture.  We tend to fear what we don’t understand, this can spread hate and distrust.  When we only know our way, we tend to think other ways are wrong.  This is why allowing yourself to see the difference, allowing yourself to admit there is a difference makes you more aware so you are able to learn more and educate yourself about the culture of black people, and other cultures as well, so you won’t fear them, or be uncomfortable around them, where it truly promotes cultural diversity in a way that you actually “get it”.  But by saying there is no difference, that you are “colorblind” and that you don’t see other races only says that you aren’t willing to learn or accept those of different races and cultures, and that you think your own race is superior to anyone else’s.  Let me explain even more:

We, as white people are privileged, and we don’t even think twice about it.  We should.  A black man walking into a store, high end or not, will get more looks, will be watched more closely than if a white man walking into that same store would.  If you don’t believe me, then look up the topic “White Privilege” on google.  Statistics prove this point to be true.  If you turn on the TV, the white race is widely represented.

Here are more examples:

White people receive all kinds of perks as a function of their skin privilege. Consider the following:
• When I cut my finger and go to my school or office’s first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone.
• When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair.
• When I run to the store to buy pantyhose at the last minute, the ‘nude’ color generally appears nude on my legs.
• When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products.’
• I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.

Certainly, white privilege is not limited to perks like band aids and hair care products. The second function of white skin privilege is that it creates significant advantages for white people. There are scores of things that I, as a white person, generally do not encounter, have to deal with or even recognize. For example:
• My skin color does not work against me in terms of how people perceive my financial responsibility, style of dress, public speaking skills, or job performance.
• People do not assume that I got where I am professionally because of my race (or because of affirmative action programs).
• Store security personnel or law enforcement officers do not harass me, pull me over or follow me because of my race.

What about black barbie dolls?  Black baby dolls?  Black Santa Claus?  These things are hard to find and the overwhelmingly majority of them are all…you guessed it…white.

I also love this blog:

Being aware of these things, and especially as a white mother to a black child, only helps me know what types of things my black son will endure just because of the color of his skin.  If I’m not aware, I can’t relate, I don’t understand, and although I may not fully anyway, I at least will be able to teach him there is a difference, and how to handle himself in this very unfair world.

Another thing I learned from the black community, and in particularly from Rhonda Roorda (a black woman raised in a white family who helps raise awareness to transracial families about this very topic) is that if you don’t make an effort to expose these black children to other people who look like him, whether it’s in school, churches, communities, etc. that they grow up afraid of people who look like him because he has never had experience with the black culture because the white family he was raised in stayed in their “comfort zone” of staying in their comfortable white communities, well rated almost all white schools, and safe all white neighborhoods, and comfortable all white churches where people are well mannered and sit quietly in service.  You can find these things in a culturally rich diverse schools, neighborhoods, communities and churches as well!  Just go out of the comfort zone of your own race and look for them.  We have to realize as adoptive parents to black children that this is essential for our children!  How will they learn to love themselves and embrace who they are if they are scared or uncomfortable with people who look like them!?

Being aware, and understanding my white privileges makes me a better mother to my black child.  As white mothers to black children especially, and for family, for friends, it is important to get it, to get the difference, to embrace the difference, not turn a “colorblind” eye to the difference.

When we know better, we do better.  🙂


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4th (First) Birthday

Lucas just had a birthday!!  We just celebrated his 4th (not really 4-please see previous post, lol) which was also his FIRST birthday that had ever been celebrated!!  Hence, Happy 4th FIRST Birthday!!  🙂

We had a “Cookie Monster” theme birthday party!  It was so fun!  It was also a special theme for him.  The first day we ever met Lucas, a little stuffed Cookie Monster was the first thing that we had ever given to him and the first thing that was “his”.

This was Cookie in Uganda, Lucas carried Cookie everywhere, and always and still sleeps with him.

See, Cookie is important in our household.  Lucas loves Cookie Monster!  They have one major thing in common ya know:  they love to EAT!!!!!!    🙂

We have a tradition with the kids, every FIRST birthday (and others, but particularly the first): Momma makes the cake!  This cookie monster cake was a task, but one I was proud of in the end, tasted delicious, and better yet, that Lucas LOVED!

Balloon Birthday wreath on the Door

Cookies Galore!

Blueberry Cookie Monster face, Homemade chocolate chip cookies, and wrapped cookie silverware in the background

and what's a cookie party without milk?!

We had a "Guess How Many?" Cookie jar game...(for kids and adults) Prizes for the winners!

"Cookies & Milk" toss game for the kiddos

"Hot Cookie" like Hot Potato, made a "giant cookie" out of brown and black felt

"What's this song?!...They're singing to ME?!"

Mommy Kisses

Friends watching Lucas open presents

Goodie Bags

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Internationally adopted child & the Age issue

We celebrated Lucas 4th Birthday last weekend!!  We don’t think he was really turning 4 though.  His birth certificate, which we can’t change, says he turns four April 2nd.  We think he is really going to be four in about 8-10 months, so that would make him almost 3 1/2 right now-which seems much more appropriate to his physical and mental ability right now, but there isn’t too much we can do about it.  We could be wrong about his age because it could just be delays we are seeing, which are very typical and should be expected in internationally adopted kiddos, and we do see those things in him regardless of how old he is, and we still feel he is not really turning 4.

Well, when I say we “can’t” change his date of birth, I take that back, there IS something we can do about it, but we chose not to.  It was a difficult decision to make, a personal decision each adoptive family has to make who are in that situation, and although we don’t owe anyone an explanation of why we chose to do what we did in NOT changing it, for those who are in the same situation as us, or just interested-let me explain.

Basically, when your child is born internationally they are issued a birth certificate (just like in the U.S.) but when your child is abandoned (like Lucas) there was no birth certificate issued, he had to have one made up for him when it was known we were going to adopt him.  His name, date of birth, and place of birth was just “made up” from someone who *thought* he might have been born at a certain time, but because she didn’t know anything about him, or when he was actually born, and he was emaciated when he was found so it was even harder to tell how old he was, this “date of birth” was completely made up.  We’re lucky it was something other than Jan.1st (a very typical abandoned child’s date of birth) and she chose April 2nd for whatever reason.  We will celebrate his birth that day then!

As far as the changing of his birth date, which some people opt to do, we-however did not.  Here’s where the age issue & adoption process gets complicated, so try your best to follow along, and I’ll try to explain it as best I can.  There is one thing that NEVER changes with the birth date issue, and it is the birth date on the original birth certificate that he immigrated (through Homeland Security) to the United States with (the one we had for Lucas from Uganda), and then Homeland Security keeps that on file about him permanently, and it can never ever change with them.  There is one caveat to this, it can’t ever change UNLESS: we go back to Uganda and go through their legal and court process of changing it (which may or may not happen, and may or may not take months/years to complete-which would all have to be done in country-not from afar and THEN you go through the same processes in the U.S. with the updated birth certificate to submit and change with Homeland Security.

Sooo…all that being said, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it won’t ever get changed with Homeland Security.  The reason why Homeland Security is so important is because it is a connected task force with the Federal Bureau where all our credit/student loans/government type applications, drivers license, military, taxes, etc. are all in connection with that, and your original birth date on file with them needs to match up with the birth date you put on your application forms, etc. and must match up with your U.S. Birth Certificate.  See, when you are adopted internationally and you finalize here in the U.S. you are actually issued a U.S. Birth Certificate (as Lucas was), which when you are finalizing the adoption you can actually chose to at that point CHANGE your child’s date of birth if you wish (with medical proof) and get a U.S. Birth Certificate with the corrected birth date.  It’s a task in itself to get that U.S. Birth Certificate changed, but it CAN be done.  What the problem of that change happening is that it WILL NOT change with Homeland Security or the Federal Bureau, even if they receive notification it has been changed, they won’t change it unless they get the amended original birth certificate (the whole process in country I was talking about earlier that is a long shot in the dark of actually happening-but COULD be done).

It’s a complicated, personal choice on whether to change your child’s birth date or not when they’re in this type of situation.  I can’t say I “like” the decision we’ve made, but I didn’t feel like we had much option to stay safe for Lucas in the future.  Our lawyer in the U.S. just told us of a case of a 16 year old boy who was adopted internationally and his parents changed his birth date (because it was wrong by 7 months) and because it was never changed with Homeland Security/Federal Bureau when he applied for his drivers license he was flagged because his birth dates didn’t match up and he was actually arrested for fraud.  Crazy!  Our lawyer and many others have reported the same things happening to kids all over the U.S. in this situation.  The boy who was arrested sat in juvenile jail for days before his parents could prove what really happened to right officials.  It’s so sad this happens!  But it does, and it’s just not worth it for us to change it for a few months difference and possibly cause Lucas problems in the future.  It is a big issue however, but if we change it, it could become an even bigger issue for him in the future, and cause him worse problems than changing it could have.  We will just hold him back in preschool, and start him a year later in Kindergarten and it will help with the age difference.  We will also get a bone scan done again when he is 5 (we took him once but they couldn’t get an accurate reading until he turns 5 and his bones matured more) so then we will really and truly know how much of an age difference there is in him and his “made up” birth date.  If it is different, like we suspect, then we will have medical proof of that, and hopefully that will be enough for places like his school, etc. where we would need a birth certificate to work with us on keeping him with his appropriate age groups, if not, then we will bear the burden of the decision not to change it officially, which hopefully really won’t be a big issue.  But in all honesty, in 20 years, it truly won’t make a bit of a difference to Lucas.  We will just have to be sensitive to his needs and try our best to fit him into appropriate age groups the best we can without his birth date effecting anything, in some cases it will and we’ll just cross those hurdles when we need to.  We are trying our best to consider all of his needs regarding his birth date issue now and for the future, and we feel we made the best decision for him.

BUT I will say, IF my child (which I know people who have actually had this happen to) was like 3 years off from his/her original birth date, I probably would say it is cost & time effective and totally worth it to go through ALL the processes to get it changed, even if I had to hunt down people and go back to Uganda for months to change it.  But with Lucas being less than a year off, it was not worth it for us.

Sooo….he is 4 officially, but really 3.  Oh welcome to confusion people…so when people ask me why…I’ll refer them to this blog post!  lol

Lucas with his UNITED STATES Birth Certificate!!!

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Lucas & Food

“eeeeeee-ting”….is by far Lucas’s FAVORITE word, because it means he is going to EAT!  We have BIG issues with Lucas and food, lol!  Understandably so, Lucas in general had and has big BIG issues with food.  Basically, but not so basically, because he didn’t get enough food and he was previously malnourished, and found emaciated when he was abandoned, he developed an issue with food, because he just didn’t get enough of it.  In the orphanage, he would eat as much as he possibly could, and was actually one of the “bigger” kids, but still didn’t get proper nutrients he needed.  They do their best in the orphanage to take care of the kids, but sometimes the very best you can do isn’t enough.  The workers in Lucas’s orphanage had a heart and passion for what they do to take care of Uganda’s orphans, and they are sweet spirited people, but they are broken, hard working and sometimes starved people.  The meal that was commonly given to the kids was called “Maize”, also known as porridge.

These are ladies in the orphanage feeding the infants, sometimes only once a day is all they can do

woman cooking typical orphanage meal, called maize

this is a pot of maize, which is a corn like paste porridge

Upon further treatment here in the U.S. we were told that Lucas’s tissues were expanded and swollen due to malnourishment which made him appear bigger than he was, and a swollen like appearance, the gasses would go straight to his tissues because he didn’t have muscle tone (due to malnourishment he had endured his entire life) to hold in the gasses in his body properly.

When we got him, he would actually gorge himself on food, and eat until he was sick, literally.  It was so hard to watch.  We chose not to make this an issue for him even further by taking away his food, even if it did make him sick.  We wanted him to discover on his own what that “full” feeling was like, and by taking away his food when “we” knew he had enough wasn’t going to help him.  So as hard as it was we had to let him discover what having food three times a day with snacks in between, and as much to drink as he wants, and what that “full” feeling felt like, we knew we had to let “him” figure it out.  He has, for the most part.  He has actually lost weight, but gained it back in muscle, I’m not exactly sure what his body is doing there, but it is regulating itself somehow now with all that proper food and nutrition.  It’s neat to see his body change, to see him develop muscles, and to watch him put those muscles to use, like climbing on the couch now (where he couldn’t before), and playing on the playground, walking up stairs, and running and walking without waddling!  He isn’t doing these things perfectly yet, but he has improved drastically!!

For the longest time, I thought that because of not getting proper nourishment and because he sat in a basin for months that his bones never grew and developed properly because he had this bad “waddle” and didn’t walk right, so we swore he was going to have to have surgery and get his legs/spine/hips possibly fixed, but when I took him to see a specialist, and got x-rays, to our surprise, it was ALL just a malnourishment and weakened muscle issue, specifically more core issue, and that overtime it would correct itself just by gaining muscle tone correctly!  Yahoo!  This was GREAT news!

However, food, we are still working on with Lucas.  He will eat and eat and eat and eat, and now that he is getting enough proper nutrition, and gaining muscle the way he is supposed to, we are starting to help him realize that he can’t have as much as he wants whenever he wants, it’s a sensitive issue that we have to be careful about.  By the suggestion of some specialists and people who have been there done that, we have been keeping a “snack bag” of healthy snacks that is left for him to chose from whenever he wants it, that way he doesn’t hear “no” when he wants to eat (which is important for them), and knows that the bag is always there, so we aren’t taking anything away and he isn’t developing adverse issues with food.  He is now eating 3 times a day with a snack maybe once, not gorging himself, actually getting picky, and sometimes won’t even finish everything on his plate!  Big difference from a few months ago!  🙂

although, see that in his hand? It's all that's left from the apple he was eating! :/

First time doing the "here comes the airplane" food game! Games & Food: Lucas's ultimate idea of fun!

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Being in an orphanage…

Being in an orphanage has had a lot of effects on Lucas, ways that I recognized right away in his behavior when we first met him in Uganda, and other ways that took a while to realize the way he acted at certain times or with certain things was because he was institutionalized, and it took me a while to realize that.

I thought I would take some time to write a blog post about it, I know I’ve mentioned previously in a few blog postings ago about some of these things, and I’m no expert or anything, I just know what I know from Lucas and his behavior, and other adoptive parents who’ve experienced similar things.  I haven’t really dug in and researched tremendously about institutionalized children, or read all the studies, I have read a few books, one being “The Connected Child” (a recommended reading for anyone adopting-for sure!) and for whatever reason, probably just the way God designed our mothering hearts-that gut instinct to know what’s best for your child.  Somehow, I knew what Lucas needed.  It was just an instinct of what to do to help him move past that point of trauma, or help him trust us and learn how to move past a certain behavior.  I am grateful that the Lord gives us those mothering (and fathering) instincts, all the way from giving birth to your child to adopting your child-those instincts were there, it’s incredible!

When the Lord knits your hearts together-the instincts are there (for the most part anyway) to know how to care for your child and what your child needs to keep continuing to grow emotionally, physically and mentally.  It was an instinct I felt with our biological son the minute he was born; and to be honest, I didn’t expect to have that same feeling with our adopted child.  I was surprised when that same mothering instinct to know what Lucas needed was there, right away, just as it had been when our bio son was born.  It is incredible how that happens and works.  It has shown me all the more that God designed adoption.

After being home with Lucas for 4 months now, we are starting to see those effects from being institutionalized diminish month by month.

Well, for starters, clothing & shoes.  That was new for Lucas, in Uganda at the orphanage, he wore no clothes to wearing an over-sized t-shirt maybe, no other clothing, diapers, or shoes.  Kids just wore whatever the orphanage had, blue on girls, pink on boys, it did not matter.  I was guilty of thinking that the little kids wearing the over-sized shirts with holes and stains all over them that were pink were girls, when in fact they were boys.  They just wear what they have and color was truly the least of their concern.  I don’t even think they realize how much a role American’s place on gender specific colors-which we tend to get a little over zealous about anyway, they just wear what they have.  Anyway, getting off track here…so when we put Lucas in full clothing-shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, he was so uncomfortable.  He wasn’t sure what all of this stuff on him was!?  When we put a jacket on him, the first time he had ever seen one and wore one, he looked like Ralphie’s brother from a Christmas story when his mother bundled him all up in his winter gear, and he didn’t move his arms…

yeah, that was Lucas…only with just a thin lightweight jacket!  HAHA!  It was so funny!  He just didn’t have any idea what the heck we were putting on him.  See, in Uganda, it’s HOT, and humid ALL the time, so they don’t really wear jackets, and it’s a luxury anyway, so kids in orphanages especially don’t ever wear or see them.  The material, the things covering your arms, all of it was so foreign to Lucas and he wouldn’t move his arms, lol…oh memories….but now, he’s totally fine and used to wearing jackets!  He still gets amused by socks though, he likes all the different shapes, colors, long socks, short socks, he likes to take them off and on all the time…it drives me a little nuts sometimes, but he is discovering and it’s cute none the less!

While we were in Uganda, and even after we were home for about a month or so he would keep calling us “Auntie and Uncle”, not “Mommy and Daddy”.  He had never had a mommy and daddy, so he didn’t know the difference between that and an orphanage worker (which are called aunt and/or uncle) so it took him awhile to discover the difference, and to call us mommy and daddy all the time.  Now, he knows and feels the difference between parents/family who love him and orphanage workers.  He only calls us mommy and daddy now, which is so nice!!  I can’t tell you how nuts that drove us to hear him call us aunt and uncle, but to see him “get it” and switch to calling us only mommy and daddy was worth the wait.  We knew, understandably, that it would take time.

Other ways that he was effected from being in an orphanage were not having experience riding in cars, or things that move.  Although now, he is used to riding in cars, but he still to this day won’t get on anything that moves, like a pony (at Aiden’s school carnival), or those little rides that go back and forth by the doors of ToysRus, or the little rides at Chuck e Cheese…no way Jose!   He will however, finally, ride in a stroller-which took TONS of convincing and exposure to and MONTHS before he would sit in it, lol) and he JUST started riding in the wagon and a little ride my dad bought him that looks like a motorcycle that he can push with his own legs.  Forget about a tricycle or a little bike his size with training wheels…it moves too much!  lol  He loves his little “motorcycle” and enjoys having as much control as possible when it comes to things that move!

Getting braver!! Maybe he will want to ride his tricycle in a few weeks!

At first, even when we were in Uganda, when he would spill something he would look at us with terror, waiting for a consequence.  He would also clean up any spills or any drop of anything very quickly.  For a child his age it’s incredible how clean he stays when he eats, every single drop of food goes from the bowl to his mouth, he is careful, purposefully.  I have never witnessed a child stay as clean as he does when he eats; Although, he does get messier as the months go by!  lol  He also wasn’t used to eating with utensils, and getting used to eating with a fork and figuring out what it’s used for was new for him.  He caught on to that pretty quick.  Food, in general was a BIG issue for him, I’m actually going to do a blog post about it next!  It is in itself worthy of a whole blog post!  :/  His muscle tone and structure due to not having proper nutrition his whole life was obviously effected, and he “waddled” and couldn’t climb or do things that other kids his age could do because his muscle tone wasn’t built from lack of playing, lack of exercise, and lack of proper nutrition.  Like I said, I’ll post more about that in my next blog post!  There’s too much to write about that one issue here!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about Lucas and the dogs, he was horribly scared of them, and animals in general were new for him, and he wasn’t too thrilled about them.  As time goes by he gets more and more used to them.   Monkeys were kind of an issue for him, we were told when he was abandoned in the jungle, found alone, deep in the woods, sitting in a basin, there were monkeys around, and when we went to the Ugandan zoo, and when we got home and saw monkeys on TV, or the stuffed animal monkey we had in his room, he didn’t want anything to do with them.  That’s better now, but animals in general took him a while to get used to.

Others, as a result of institutionalism and abuse he endured, he would have night terrors.  He would wake up in the middle of the night absolutely terrified-screaming and whaling.  Once, it was the middle of the night, and he suddenly woke up and started screaming with terror, I walked in to comfort him and he didn’t recognize me, he just kept screaming.  He was in this strange state of mind, and it went on the longest I’ve ever experienced with him.  Poor baby, he has just had such a horrible past, things we will never know.  This went on for about two hours.  The best way I can describe those moments (which have happened before) is like a “robotic” like state, where he has this glazed over look in his eyes, where he isn’t “there” and just either screams (like he is having a memory of abuse/torture) and others where he is like a limp robot-glazed over look but won’t move or do anything, and just stares off in space.  It’s very strange.  All of this has gotten drastically better each month that goes by since he has been home to where it has been quite a few weeks since his last episode.  Another side note of sleeping that was an issue for him, effected by being institutionalized was getting used to sleeping alone, in his “own room”, that took him a while, and for the longest time I would sleep on the floor next to his bed until he fell asleep and when he would wake up in the middle of the night.  Now, he is totally used to sleeping alone in his room, and it’s his “safe” spot when everything else is overwhelming (which is getting to be less and less).  We always put music on for him as he was sleeping which I think helped a ton!

He would most often do the “robotic” like state around strangers, wouldn’t move, make any expressions, or do anything at all, just stare off in space, motionless, robotic like.  The minute that person would leave and he was comfortable again he would just “snap” out of it and be totally fine again.  I think it was his defense mechanism when he is uncomfortable and unsure of what’s happening.  Where now, he is TOTALLY fine with strangers (almost too fine!) and is completely comfortable and I haven’t seen that “robotic” like state in a long time!  I think he finally feels secure, comfortable, and unconditionally loved enough where he knows we will protect and take care of him.  I’ve had so many people say that when they first saw/met him he was like my little shadow, attached to my legs, and they just can’t believe the difference in that little boy that they see now, he is a typical little boy I’m chasing around now begging to listen to me to stay close!  LOL

Hygiene was also different for him from being in an orphanage.  In the babies home, they would take showers-no baths, no warm water showers, only cold COLD showers.  (He STILL likes the COLD water!)  I am not sure how often they would take these showers, but I think it was only once a week or so, maybe more maybe less, but not that often I know that.  During these “showers” they would stand in a row, with little shower heads above, and take a rag (like a washcloth) and scrub their bodies.  Lucas didn’t seem to know a whole lot about soap, so they probably did this without soap, but I’m not sure, and they would scrub each other, and then scrub their teeth (as a way of attempting to brush them).  Brushing teeth with a toothbrush was a first for Lucas, and he actually really enjoyed it, and still does!!  That’s a bonus!

There are more unmentioned ways he has been effected by being in an orphanage, but these are some of the highlights that we thought we would share, and I’ll leave you with one more, and one we are STILL working on!  Sharing!  :/  Oh, isn’t that all little kids problems…sharing!  It’s SO HARD to share!  It’s even harder to share when you come from an orphanage where there aren’t many toys, and you fight till you get it-kind of like “survival of the fittest on who will play with the one toy 50 other kids are trying to play with”!  Lucas is stubborn…he *we think* has learned a lot of that trait by being in the orphanage, and having to fight to get what he wants, whether it’s a toy, or food, he had to be independent to survive, and stubborn to keep it and he learned quickly no one was going to be his advocate or help him, so sharing did not come naturally to him, he still has big issues with sharing, but he is learning and doing better everyday, the more he learns that he can trust us, the more he is learning to trust others and sharing is one of those works in progress.

Overall, Lucas is doing EXCELLENT for just having come out of an orphanage 6 months ago, and home for 4 months.  He is doing great, and changing, learning, and growing so much!!  I thought this would be a helpful post to those of you going where we have gone, and those of you interested in what we are going through.

Thanks for reading!  🙂

Posted in Adoption, Firsts, International, orphanage, Uganda | 2 Comments


So lately I’ve been asked a lot how Lucas is doing in his language, and if he is learning English.  I thought I’d write a little blog about where he was and where he is at now!  It’s been such a neat process to see his language progress, and change from the day we met him until now.  He is such a smart little boy, and is learning so much, so fast!!

Lucas’s language before he came to us was very minimal, he didn’t say much or talk much at all; because he was abandoned when he was a baby, and spent most of his life in an orphanage, he never had anyone to teach him what words are, or what things are called, or even how to talk and pronunciate words, so he would just grunt a lot when we first got him. He would say things, but most of it wasn’t understandable (not even in his language), he knew a few words in his language, enough to communicate what he was trying to say, and thankfully we learned those words and more of his language (Ankloe) when we were in Uganda.  He was trying to tell us things, but you could tell he just didn’t know how.  From day one, he was overwhelmed by language.  First, we are completely new people to him, and giving him more attention he has ever had in his entire life; Second, we were speaking a new language; and Third, we were speaking more to him and about things than he had ever been exposed to.  All of this was overwhelming, and as a coping strategy (although we tried our best not to overwhelm him) he became more observatory.  We showed him that everything has a name, we had to teach him what the grass is called, what a tree is called, what a dog is called, what everything is…I knew he was getting it when he started pointing at things, looking at us, non-verbally asking us to tell him what that is called.  It was a lot of non-verbal communication at first, which turned quickly into sign language (that he caught on quickly to) and so the transition was from non-verbal to eventually verbal.

Right now he is mesmerized that everything has a name, that names of things have classifications, like for example: his blocks, he learned a few months ago that these are his “blocks”, but now he is learning that each block has a different color and that different colors all have different names. It’s interesting to watch his progression of intelligence increase just by simple things like this, things that we teach our children even when they’re infants, but that he missed out on.  It’s amazing to watch him process this, and really let it soak in, just learning about the world he is in.  It’s incredible to witness.
He is able to understand most everything we say to him now, where before we were using a lot of sign language and big non-verbal cues to get through the communication barriers. For example, we would say, “Do you want some milk?” then I’d sign the sign for milk, and then point to the milk, and give it to him.  Then I’d make him sign “milk” in order for him to get more, and he would sign “more milk”, where eventually he would come up to me with no prompting and sign & ask for “Milk please”, and I’d give him milk.  He was getting it!  It also went along with him communicating a “need” and us meeting his need, he was developing trust, and once trust was really established, language really took off for him. Where now, he verbalizes it along with signing it (although the signing is wearing off and he is just verbalizing more and more) and he’ll say “Mommy, milk, please?”

He is learning very fast, and very well. We are trying to work on pronunciation with him right now, where they’re not just sounds, but verbalized pronunciated words. Like, “la la” isn’t just “ah ah”…tongue placement is hard for him because our language is so different from his, and he never had anyone to teach him proper language skills. Although he is verbalizing more now, and I understand what he is trying to say, we are trying to teach him proper tongue placement so he can learn more words.  We also still speak some of his language to him though, which helps with the transition too!!  They’re so much of our daily talk now, I’m guessing they just always will be.  Like, “Weybac” which means sleep in his language, “N’coko” (Chicken) and “Enyonyi” (Airplane), and words like that.

Some of the very first English words he learned to say were:

Daddy, Mommy, Aiden (which he pronounces “E-Din”-so cute), Papa, Ko-ee and Bow-dee (Kloey and Brody-our dogs), Peese (please), Tank woo (Thank you), Dow-ga (Dog), Eat, dweenk (drink), owside (outside), hello and bye bye.

He’s really doing well, learning more each day, and we are so happy with his progress!!  🙂

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Dogs.  He was absolutely TERRIFIED of them.  I really have never seen a child more terrified of something than Lucas was of our two dogs (a beagle and yorkie).  See, in Uganda, they don’t have dogs as pets, they’re actually taught to stay away from them, not touch them, don’t go near them, they’re rabid wild animals there.  Most can’t afford to feed themselves, let alone a pet.  To have a dog in the house, unheard of!  Plus, in the orphanage Lucas was in, it was on a compound, which is means there is a gate all the way around the building and land with barbed wire at the top (for protection from groups such as the child murdering, rebel group the L.R.A, etc.) so dogs don’t just wander in there.  I’m highly suspecting that Lucas has never seen a dog by the way he reacted to seeing our dogs.  We knew this would be an adjustment for Lucas, we just didn’t know HOW MUCH of an “adjustment” it would be for him…and us.

Literally Lucas couldn’t be in the same room as the dogs even if they were in their cage.  If they were outside and came up to the glass door, Lucas would run the other way in the house and not go near that part of the house, even when they were outside!  He was just absolutely terrified.  He would scream, cry, and shake and climb to the top of my head with pure terror if they were free in the house and not in their cage or outside.  We felt so horrible for Lucas, we felt bad for the dogs too…it was just an incredibly difficult situation.  Here we are wanting Lucas to feel as comfortable as possible, bond with us, enjoy his new home, feel comfortable in his home, and yet the dogs….and then we wanted the dogs to not be upset with Lucas, to feel comfortable around him too, Kloey & Brody are part of our family too.  It was a mess for about 2 weeks.  After 2 weeks, and SLOW introduction, Lucas understood they weren’t going to hurt him, but he still didn’t trust them, and wouldn’t be in the same room as them.  We transitioned Lucas and the dogs by putting up a gate from the rest of the house to Lucas room.  We stayed in Lucas room (his safe place when everything else is overwhelming) and shut the gate, and our sweet dogs would sit outside the gate, lay down and let Lucas poke them with toys long enough to reach them and poke through the gate.  Believe it or not, this was very helpful for Lucas, by an extension of the toy he was touching them, and they would just lay there.  We taught him “nice touches” through this and “nice doggie”…we did this for about a week (3 weeks into being home mind you…SLOW process I tell ya).  Then, for the first time, Lucas was able to be in the same room as the dogs.  He wouldn’t let them near him, and was glued to my leg, but he was IN the SAME room as them.  lol.  Progress.

Then, when Lucas would eat at the table, the dogs would (of course) surround the table begging for scraps of food or droppings of food from the kids, and Lucas thought this was funny!  Better than being terrified!  Progress!

Then…later that week….LOOK at THIS:

Lucas is knowingly and comfortably letting Kloey sit next to him!!!!!!

PROGRESS!!!!  🙂  We just kept letting Lucas get comfortable on his own terms, and one day, I caught him in the kitchen:



nice to meet you...

Heart melts!!

I can’t even tell you in this moment how it felt after WEEKS of trying to get to this moment how this felt…incredible.  It’s more than just Lucas and Kloey here…it’s Lucas letting go of his fears, able to trust, able to realize that he can overcome what was terrifying for him at first to learning to move past it and embrace what’s new and scary for him, ready for new experiences, and to take on more of the world…this is HUGE.


*UPDATE*  Lucas is completely and totally A-OK with the dogs, and any dog for that matter!  He LOVES “doggas” as he calls them!!  lol  He now has no fear of dogs, and thinks they are the coolest animal!  He completely amazes me everday with his heart to move past trauma.  We love this little boy so incredibly much and are so proud of him.

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