This has been an interesting week with regard to Henry and adoption in general. First of all, Henry is having his best week since he's been home with us. Very few screaming fits, more verbal expression and communication, more of an interest in reaching out and initiating positive communication with Jenn, Lincoln and Lydia, and less of a, "What have you done for me lately?" attitude. It's just really neat to see him mature and develop as a 2-year-old ought.
Don't get me wrong, he's still a 2-year-old, and we've got a good, double-dose of that going on right now at our house, but there have been a myriad of little things lately that show us that he's taking life very well, and better in some respects than he was even doing just a month or so ago. He takes correction much better now than he used to, and even when he gets upset and throws a fit, it doesn't last nearly as long as it used to. We've recently found that "time outs" are *very* effective for discipline. He doesn't like to be separated from us and a "time out" gets his attention very well. He's just come to the stage of development where he knows what a "time out" means; that understanding wasn't available to us just a few weeks ago based on his development.
If three weeks ago marked the first of his defiant, "NO!" then the last week-and-a-half marked the arrival of, "*I* do it!" He wants to turn the light off himself, brush his teeth himself, carry his dishes over to the sink himself, carry the dogs' dishes himself, wipe himself, climb in the car himself, etc., etc. It's good for him to show initiative and want to be independent. It's also funny when he says, "*I* do it," and then he tries really hard, say, to climb in the car, and then realizes he can't quite do it, and then stops, looks up at me, and says, "Daddy do it." Or like the other day, when I wanted to give him a job to do and said, "Henry, go downstairs and get the dogs' dishes." He didn't miss a beat showing a degree of laziness, saying, "Daddy do it."
We're also seeing that his personality is not unlike Lincoln's (God help us if we'd had had 2 Lydias!) in that he wants everything to be just so. For instance, both the closet door and the bathroom door have to be shut before he'll relax and take a nap. We'll see if this is a phase or if it's foreshadowing.
On a tangent, a little over a year ago, Jenn and I made friends with a couple in the area through our mutual connection, Chinese Children Adoption International. It was one of the "small world" things, because Megan, the wife/mother, had also done her student teaching with my aunt at Chapel Hill Christian School. At the time, we'd known about Henry but still not been able to bring him home, and they were waiting for a referral of a little girl, so they knew their process was going to take a bit longer than ours for Henry.
Well, their day came recently when they received their travel approval, and unlike with Jenn and I, where we had about 2 weeks to plan, they had about 6 days. Yikes! We're friends on Facebook, and see their updates. In the midst of daily living at our house over the past 10+ months, I'd forgotten just how much of an adventure our travel to China really was.
I've lived a pretty vanilla American life, with some spice sprinkled in from my DR trip in 1996 to some fun vacations here and there. But nothing prepares you for walking down a hutong in the middle of the night with a several thousands of dollars in cash, technology and clothes attached to you. Hiking on the Great Wall with almost no other travelers within miles... that doesn't happen for just any Westerner. And there's something really special about being in a room full of Americans waiting for vans from surrounding orphanages to arrive with little toddlers who don't yet know that their lives are going to change in unfathomable ways forever.
I'm quite blessed that I not only got to take in these and many other outrageous, unbelievable experiences in just a short period of time, but that I also got to experience all of them with Jenn, my best friend... it's just really cool. And it's neat that this flood of really, really cool memories comes back when friends set off on their own adventure.
Because this post has more of an adoption theme than many of my recent posts, I want to make special mention of my Adoption Packing List post, as well as draw your attention to a couple of the blogs that have been maintained to some extent since our return from China... you can find them linked in the right-hand column.
Henry doesn't have direct memory of Lucy or Ethan (Kansas) or Ethan (Indiana) or Nicholas or Laikyn, but recently, as he's been able to verbally express himself in better ways and been able to show an understanding of what he's seeing, he and I have been reviewing photos from our time in China. I point out the kids, and talk about how they were sad at first on their Gotcha! Day, but that their mommies and daddies love them and they're happy in their homes just like Henry is happy in his home. Henry smiles. He points at the kids and enthusiastically says, "Look!" I'm curious to see how these moments between us unfold over the months and years.
I started writing Henry's Life Book the other day. It's a big challenge. Seeing the world through his eyes is a tough exercise. Also, knowing just how much of his first 18 months are an unknown, and will never be known, is both sad and somewhat frustrating. I think about myself, and of course I don't remember the first 18+ months of my life, but somebody knows about them. I can hear stories from my parents, my extended family, family friends, clients who still come to the clinic, etc. I may not know, but somebody does. And this just isn't so for Henry. It makes me sad for him, and it helps to frame for me just how much security we need to provide in other areas of his life. Life Books for children born in other countries can involve photos and memories from birth-parents and other connections, but this is an impossiblity for Chinese orphans, where there is literally no history available to be had. I'm sure there's a spiritual lesson in here somewhere, and I'll spend some time working through that at some point in time.
Speaking of that, my buddies, Manny and Andy, are helping me formulate our 4th Annual Men's Retreat. This year's title is "FOUND" (following FOCUS , FOOD  & FREQUENCY ), and the underlying message will be how the adoption story that we see play out in families around us is an illustration of how God has adopted us, and taken us into His family. There are so many illustrative angles that I can't spend the time here to cover them, but suffice it to say, we're looking forward to our event this August.
If you've stuck with the post this long, you're quite the trooper. And you're probably feeling cheated that there are no photos. Next time. The rest of today will be taken up with Jenn and I taking Lydia and Henry to Aurora Farms to do some warm-weather-clothes shopping. Lincoln is with Grandpa at Leesville Lake, so he'll come home tired.