Thanks to everyone who reached out in different ways after my last post. Your emails, messages and thoughts are greatly appreciated and helped during difficult moments. I know I am not the only one to have experienced losing a sibling and hope everyone who has been through it has as much support as I have had. I feel very thankful.
In the few weeks since we've been home following my sister's memorial we've all been doing OK. We have our ups and downs, but over all, I have to say the boys have been amazing.
Little Brother has really made big strides. While we were with family, he was fussy and sensitive. He'd cry when strangers entered the house. Wasn't sleeping well. And we had several hard-core grieving sessions, including one on the plane. (Be glad you weren't on that flight.)
He wasn't his normal happy self but that was understandable since we were in a new place. I chalked it up to being tired from travel, in unfamiliar territory and being a toddler. A lot of the time though, he was playful and smiling, so I had no idea how strongly impacted he was by the trip. Until we returned home and walked into our house.
His eyes lit up and he started jumping up and down in his daddy's arms. He couldn't quit smiling and ran from place to place. It really became obvious that he didn't think we would return. Ever. Totally heartbreaking to think that he was dealing with that fear during the trip. Now, he's back to his happy self and making we are seeing some signs that he's settling in.
The biggest change is in his communication skills. He's started speaking more. Mostly it's Korean, but there are a few English words mixed in. I find this incredible because we use a lot of Korean words, but none of the Korean that we say to him are the words that he is speaking! We don't refer to ourselves in Korean because that's what he called his foster parents. We thought it would be confusing to him. We speak Korean for commands (don't throw, don't hit, go to sleep, take a bath, let's eat, etc.), objects & animals. Those kind of things.
So it's a surprise that he started to refer to us as 엄마 (Omma) which means 'Mommy' and 아빠 (Appa) or "Daddy". He screams 엄마 (Omma) all the time. It's his go to word. He wakes up yelling it. He says it when he cries. He walks around babbling it. He also loves to say 마마 (mama) which means food.
He's developing some strong communication skills by combining the few words he knows (usually Omma), and insistently pointing with his chubby pointer finger. When he wants something he will be persistent, and he lets you know if you are successful in giving him what he wants by enthusiastically clapping and laughing. If you choose the wrong thing, he swiftly turns his face away from you, or swipes his arms in a "get that away from me" gesture. His messages are very clear!
This is a great thing for all of us. We are learning more about what he likes to do (he often runs to the radio/iPod player and points when he wants music), what he likes to drink and eat.
He is spending more time very close to us. If I'm working on dinner or at the computer, he brings his toys to play at my feet. If he goes a distance away from one of us, he frequently turns back to make sure we are around. He wants to be held A LOT which is tough, but I try to comply as often as he wishes.
When he gets hurt, he turns to us for comfort. THIS IS A BIG CHANGE!! He also wants comfort from us when he's been wronged (even if we are the ones who told him no) and when Little Man has taken his toys. He also brings things to us when he needs help or is frustrated. These are all very big signs that he knows we are dependable.
Now that he's feeling more secure in our home, he's begun working on typical toddler developmental tasks. When he first came home he wasn't feeding himself or walking. Now, he's practically running, loves to dance, and can feed himself. We still do a good share of feeding for attachment benefits, but he's fully capable of doing it himself now and starting to want to do everything himself! His pincher grasp has improved dramatically (he was just using a raking grasp to pick things up). He's fascinated with putting things in/taking things out of containers. This means we have to go through the garbage frequently, and that interesting items keep ending up in the toilet.
In fact, I think we are entering that typical toddler "I'm going to do it" attitude. He carefully studies what we are doing (or more often Little Man is doing) and then attempts. With that development comes the typical toddler tantrums. Little Brother can throw a dramatic one! He walks a few steps away, throws himself on the ground and then proceeds with full arm and leg flails. He'll turn to see if you are watching, and if you are, return to his demonstration. It's hard not to smile because they are so over the top! I'm sort of happy to see him doing this though, because it's normal development.
As for Little Man....he's struggling more than he was previously. He's still very sweet and loving with Little Brother, but seems to be missing his place as the baby of the house. He's actually wanted us to feed him, wants to be in the crib, etc. We've just continued to praise him for the big boy things he does and give him special big boy activities.