It's been a little over two weeks since we arrived home with our new daughter, and I know many people are wondering how it is going. The short answer is...it is going very, very well. Alina is doing so well with such a huge life change - I am in awe of her strength. She has had just a few brief moments of homesickness, but she gives her total heart and energy to learning to live this new life with us, and for her commitment we are beyond thankful.
Alina is a joy! She has her moments as the boys do, but she is still just a joy. Jude and Calvin simply adore her - they like having a big sister, and she is usually really great with them. One of the smallest but sweetest blessings of this whole journey is when I hear the three of them laughing together. The boys are starting to need a little more reassurance and one on one time...it is a big life change for them as well, but they wouldn't trade Alina for anything. They have loved her from the first moment they hugged her at the airport, and I fear for the future boyfriends who may try to date her someday.
I am learning the value of presence. Alina and the boys don't always need my attention, but they all benefit from my presence. They each seem to gain reassurance and peace from just being near Mark and I. Quality time is important, but I am learning how valuable quantity time is too. Moments of meaning happen in the strangest circumstances and in the most unexpected times, and sometimes all I have to do is show up. It takes hard work and a great deal of faith to make it through this adoption journey, but right now I realize sometimes I just have to be there.
As for the practical aspects of life these days, some things have changed and there are adjustments. Probably the most obvious change in our daily routine is that we now have a child who goes to bed later! Mark and I were used to spending a few hours together after the boys went to bed, but Alina goes to bed just about an hour before we do. I don't think either of us realized how much we used that time to decompress. I laughed the other day at the grocery store when I had to circle back to buy a second pack of pork chops because the store sells them in four packs! :) And then there is the mystery of living with a girl! Mark spent some time the other night playing Barbies (for the first time in his life!), and he was mystified by the experience. He asked me later, "What exactly is the point of that?" All I could think was now he understands how confused I've been all these years by robots, Star Wars, and superheroes! Alina is a girly girl, and while I have never sat around wishing I had a daughter as some women do, I have really enjoyed doing hair, painting nails, and even a shopping trip now and again! I thoroughly enjoy her company, and I find myself loving having a daughter as much as I have loved having sons!
She has been teaching me some more Latvian! I would love more than anything to become fluent in Latvian, and while I am still a long (loooooong) way from achieving that goal, she is a great teacher with lots of patience! She is doing GREAT with her "schoolwork" we are doing at home. We bought some Phonics and Reading and Math books, and she has absolutely blown me away with what she already knows. She works very hard, and is making so much progress with her language. Today we went to a museum exhibit about King Tut's tomb and ancient Egypt, which gave us a chance to work on some words (and motions!) outside of the realm of daily life. We've made potato pancakes and cold beet soup together. I love learning more about life in Latvia, and she is a great teacher and loves sharing what she knows.
I am tired! :) It is interesting to me how perfectly "normal" our life probably seems from the outside looking in, but right now we all are sort of operating on a wavelength that requires much more continuous energy. It is hard to explain... Many of the little things we take for granted in a "normal" family are just different right now for us. Little things like developing a morning routine that works well for three kids who share a bathroom, making sure Alina understands what the day holds so she isn't constantly wondering what's next, balancing cultural differences with that all too human desire to "fit in" with your surroundings, knowing what to share and with whom, constantly gauging what she may be needing (a hug, a snack, a smile, some quiet time) as well as reading the boys cues on those same things, planning meals that five different people will all eat, building and maintaining connections between each of us, trying not to neglect anyone (including the dog!), and well... it can be tiring! Life as a mom never ever comes with a "well rested" guarantee, but I am definitely finding this new phase requires more of me physically, emotionally, and spiritually than life pre-adoption did. I know we will find our groove, and while it can be exhausting at times, it has always been a joy. I would not for a minute have our life any other way.