Three thousand years ago, Solomon wrote a very simple and beautiful Hebrew poem. One of the lines says, “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Over the past three thousand years, the truth of his song has not changed. We have beheld, and we agree.
At this time last week, Cindi and Judah were getting off of their flight at LAX, and I was waiting in the Bradley Terminal. It’s been exactly one week since Judah came home. It’s probably easiest to summarize in categories.
- Fun: The best word to describe the last week with Judah would be fun. He’s happy and smily virtually all the time, and he’s very patient when it comes to eating, diaper-changing, and meeting new people. He has his rebellious moments, but I mainly say that because people would question the reality of how good it’s been if I didn’t. His silent stewings are few and far between. Cindi did a great job of training him in the weeks that she was in Uganda, so he already knows much of what we expect in terms of attitude and obedience. Still, we’re very glad that we’ve had this week to bond and play and adjust before family and students pour into town.
- Adjustment: The main reasons for the smooth and delightful adjustment (in increasing order of importance) seem to be (1) Judah’s age (19 months), (2) his easygoing personality, and (3) God’s grace in sending him to a wonderful Christian orphanage where he was loved, sheltered, fed, clothed, played with, and cared for throughout his first 19 months of life. Although you can tell that he loves having a Mama who pays him singular attention, he’s not love-starved. We are very grateful for this. It has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God’s grace flowing through a well-run orphanage. We refuse to take credit for God’s grace and the labor and care of others who’ve laid a strong foundation for us.
- Sleep: After the first couple nights when he slept well but woke up early, he now goes to bed between 7:00 and 8:00pm and wakes up around 6:30am. Our only real battle has been naptime, but yesterday Judah only cried for 5-10 minutes before going to sleep. Today he fell asleep immediately since we attended a birthday lunch and had to put him down much later than normal. We know there’s an adjustment period for him, and this is fine. It’s a blessing that we know his orphanage schedule and habits, because we know when we’re reproducing things that he’s used to and when we’re changing things.
- Orphanage Memories: There are certain things lodged in his memory from the orphanage. There are three or four songs that we learned during his singing time there, and he usually lights up when we start singing them. They prayed before every meal and every snacktime at the orphanage, so he’s used to that, too. Sometimes he “prays” all by himself. Yesterday he found a Cheerio on the floor. He picked it up, put his hands together for a moment, then shouted “Eh-men!”
- Talking: The words he’s said so far (not just since he’s arrived but overall): mama, dada, uncle, auntie, kaka, bye-bye, and amen. When Cindi lays him down to change his diaper, he gets this goofy grin on his face and says, ”Kaka!” The first name award goes to our good friend Siona Savini — Judah said “Ona” on Thursday, the first time he’d said someone’s name. He’s said it quite a bit since then, too. His second name was “Scott” (Scott Newman), though his verbal emendation led to something like “Got.” At a couple of dinnertimes I’ve tried to teach him some random words like antisupernaturalism, but he hasn’t picked up on them yet. That’s OK — I’ll keep trying. Not that I support antisupernaturalism, but he can’t be sheltered his whole life — you have to know about some of these things.
- Medical: God blessed us with an immediate medical appointment, and Cindi took him in on Tuesday morning. He has mild anemia, but that’s nothing significant or distinctly Ugandan. They’re running tests on some other things, and he has a follow-up appointment on Monday. We’ll find out more then. His long-lasting congestion didn’t seem to be a concern at the first appointment, so we’ll just wait and see on that.
- People: Judah’s gotten progressively less clingy when he’s around people he doesn’t know (which is everyone). Here’s how it works: his comfort zones are Mom and home. Less comfortable is Dad, and least comfortable are new places and new people. If you do the math: Mom + home = Judah the ham. Mom + new place + new people = reserved but happy. Dad + new place + new people = sedate and straight-faced. Dad + Mom + home + new people = fun and silliness with a minimally-cautious eye toward the strangers. All in all, he’s doing really well with all the new faces and places.
Toys: He doesn’t really have any favorite toys yet. He plays with blocks and balls every now and then, but he really likes the wood Ugandan coasters, the Tums container, and a small spool of thin ribbon. Go figure. This is why I’ve often thought that kids don’t need as many toys as we normally give them — they’re creative enough on their own.
Outside: We go outside a few times every day, and Judah seems to enjoy walking up the two sets of stairs in the courtyard. He always wants one of us to go with him and hold his hand, so we’re thankful for that. Neighborhood walks and trips to the park will become a staple over time. It will be fun when our 80 guys come back to school and he starts learning their faces and rooms. It’s a blessing to live in such close quarters with a bunch of energetic young guys who are trustworthy because they love the Lord. They’ve already been very kind to our family, and we look forward to having them back for the start of another semester.
Bubbles: Grandma Heck bought Judah a sweet bubble-making blower that pumps out hundreds of bubbles in a few seconds, so we took him outside in the courtyard on Thursday morning and tried it out. He absolutely flipped out the first time I blew bubbles towards him and would scrunch up his face in a smile/grimace when they touched his head and popped. I think I actually had more fun than he did with the bubble-making, but his facial expressions are better.
- Bonding: Judah is bonding very well with us. He absolutely adores Cindi, and spends every waking moment with her. He’s quickly getting more comfortable walking around on his own, but for the most part he wants her to be holding him. He laughs and plays and basically acts like a big goof when he’s with her. If she’s doing something around the house, he follows her around wherever she goes and just stands next to her while she works (preparing food in the kitchen or folding laundry on the bed or doing her email on the computer). It’s pretty great to watch. He’s getting more comfortable with me, too, wanting me to pick him up sometimes and playing and laughing a lot when we’re playing. It’s pretty amazing considering that he’s only been here for one week, and he’s had very little experience with men. We know that a full adjustment will take time — that’s just common sense — and we’re enjoying every step of the way.
- How we feel: Judah is a blessing from the Lord, and we pray that we will be a blessing from the Lord to him. We didn’t adopt him just to get a kid, so that’s not what I mean when I say that he’s a blessing. I just mean that he’s a blessing. We don’t feel exhausted or overwhelmed or emotional. We feel fairly normal, yet still grateful that he’s here and continually reminding ourselves of how the Lord brought him here. We know that adjusting to a 19-month-old is far different than adjusting to a newborn, and Judah’s personality, age, and positive experience at the orphanage are combining to make the transition feel like anything but a transition. It’s more like a natural step.
- Lessons: There are a few, but I’ll just share one. Judah loves to imitate me. I say this not because it’s surprising but because it’s sobering. When he knows I’m doing or saying something for him to copy, he studies me and tries his best to do what I’m doing. This is a sign of the responsibility that we have as parents. We know that when it’s all said and done, he will do what we did more than he will do what we said. And in many ways, that’s only fair and sensible.
- SCVTalk (Santa Clarita Valley) found this blog somehow and asked if they could do a story on Judah’s adoption. It’s a joy to relate the story to others because it’s so full of God’s grace and providence and blessing, so I’m glad that Jeff Wilson asked. The story is well-done, too. My only hesitation is that these kinds of articles are usually written with a bit of a local-hero emphasis, as though we’ve done something special. I don’t believe that we have. This is simply Christianity, and Christianity means being reconciled to God through Christ and beginning the process of transformation into the people that God created mankind to be in the first place — those who joyfully and obediently reflect His image in all that they do. You might pray that ”Welcome home, Judah” would stir people’s hearts in the ways that matter to God, and that people might see that helping others is not special but normal for those whom God has redeemed.
For the finale, here are the obligatory pictures and videos from the first week. We have more than these, of course, but you have to stop somewhere.
On Monday morning I’ll post something that picks up on a topic that I left off a few months ago (hint: not the adoption). I wonder if anyone can guess what that would be.
Family Picture at LAX (Friday July 13, 2007)
GOT JUDAH (Friday July 13, 2007)
Helping Mama in the Kitchen (Wednesday July 18, 2007)
Our Little Man – Judah on the Balcony (Wednesday July 18, 2007)
Judah Enjoys the Mirror (Thursday July 19, 2007)
Happy at Bath Time (Friday July 20, 2007)
Judah’s First Dinner – Playing with Mama (Friday July 13, 2007)
Judah Goes to School (Thursday July 19, 2007)
Judah Walking Up the Stairs (Thursday July 19, 2007)
Judah Playing at Bath Time (Friday July 20, 2007)