Ever since our Congolese-born son came home to America almost 5 months ago, we frequently hear the same question from friends and family: “How is Ezra doing?” Depending on the situation, sometimes our answers are brief and sometimes we have time to go into more detail. The following is me going into more detail:
He wakes up every day around 6:15 and tiptoes into our room. (At first our mornings were punctuated with the sound of him throwing doors open and slamming doors shut. Fortunately, we’ve communicated the importance of a quiet house when most of its occupants are still asleep.) If my husband and I are both already up, then he goes with us to the kitchen to start his breakfast. If one of us is still in bed, he’ll snuggle in for a few minutes.
For breakfast, it’s not unusual for him to eat a bowl of cereal (Alphabet cereal is his favorite. He calls it “A-B-C-D”), a couple of ham rolls, and a fried egg. Often he’ll wash it all down with a cup of hot tea. This kid can put the food away! It always makes me think of a page in the Richard Scarry book Best Word Book Ever. There’s a bear who eats a whole page full of breakfast foods: waffles, pancakes, toast, cereal, etc. That’s our boy.
He’s not necessarily a picky eater but he doesn’t like everything I make for him to eat, especially my attempts at cooking Congolese cuisine. If I offer him something he likes he’ll say, “Mama, I love-ee dis!” and if he doesn’t like it he’ll frown and say, “Mama, I no love-ee dis.”
After the big brother and big sisters are off to school and Daddy (which, by the way, is what he’s now calling Brent instead of Papa and it’s possibly the sweetest thing ever) is off to work, then Ezra and I are ready for some Mommy-Ezra time.
I’m pretty sure I never played with my older three kids as much as I play with him. Partly it’s because the others were close enough in age that they always had each other as playmates. And partly it’s because I feel a lot of guilt saying no to that face when he says, “Mama play ball-ee?” We usually spend a good half an hour or so playing some kind of ball in the basement: soccer, football (mainly an excuse to say “hike” and to tackle each other), basketball (with laundry baskets on opposite walls). He gets frustrated with me because I don’t play the same way as Knox and Brent so I can eventually steer him toward some other activity. Am I throwing the games to get out of playing ball? No! How dare you insinuate that!
My particular favorite activities involve drawing roads on the driveway with sidewalk chalk for his Matchbox cars and making houses out of cardboard boxes and other things we find in the recycling bin for his grab-bag shoebox full of Little People, plastic animals, and Lego characters. He has an extraordinary imagination. He can take any object and make it come alive in his hands. One day he spent more than an hour making two refrigerator magnets—one of Mickey Mouse and one of Winnie-the-Pooh—have some sort of epic battle on the kitchen table. I had no idea how much animosity existed between those two characters!
After he’s had a big lunch and played a little bit longer, we start the process of the afternoon nap. It involves some mandatory bathroom time, no less than three picture books, and an acoustic guitar CD I used to play for my kindergarten class when I was a teacher.
After naptime, the rest of the day is a blur of activity. There’s pickup lines and supper preparation and team practice drop-off. When he hears the screech of the garage door opening signaling Brent’s imminent arrival, Ezra hides behind the kitchen island or just inside the door so that he can jump out and scare him. Like any sweet daddy, Brent pretends to be scared by this daily phenomenon.
He goes to sleep quickly after a shower, three more books, “The Lord’s Army” song, and some prayers. Our social worker told us that bedtime is especially important for kids like our son who, though happy, healthy, and connecting with his new family, need a release from the stress of trying to figure out what’s going on around him—What’s she saying? What’s that smell? What is expected of me? Am I doing this right?
Ezra seems to understand a lot of what we tell him. He’s always asking for me to explain pictures in a book, or the storyline in a movie, or the conversations of his siblings. But other than food-related words, he doesn’t say a lot of English words to communicate what he needs. Still, his limited English vocabulary is increasing slow but sure.
We’re already to the point where life with Ezra is routine. It’s not a life without its challenges but it doesn’t surprise me to see his face every morning peeking around the corner or hear his voice in my head before I go to bed. This person who we tried for almost four years to bring into our family is here. It’s like finally meeting your favorite celebrity and then going grocery shopping together. No big deal. Whatever. This is totally normal.
But of course it is a big deal. I love-ee dis.