What a Difference 10 Months Makes

I just had to contrast the photo of mine and Hannah’s last hug this past August with a picture we took yesterday upon arriving home from picking up Hannah at the airport (when we finally had a decent camera). Ah, what a difference ten months makes. And, in the end, it did go fast. And now that she is here, it hardly seems like she was gone. Except when she was sitting on the floor playing with Josh last night, chattering to him in a constant stream of Japanese. She so sounds Japanese. The capacity of the young for absorbing languages. It really is amazing and gives me great hope for Josh and his ability to develop communication skills, even with decreased hearing abilities. Before Hannah left for Japan, we both had to attend three days of Rotary training. In one, a linguistics professor from the University of Minnesota spoke to us. Apparently, everyone’s capacity to learn languages is at its best prior to age 18. It actually gets harder the closer you get to 18 and is at its best from 0-5 (hence, early intervention for hearing loss) but some sort of hard wire system in our brain turns off towards language development after that point. Anyway, Hannah will turn 18 this fall, so I guess she benefited from going to Japan as a junior (rather than doing a gap year after her last year of high school, as so many others do). Her Japanese language skills are truly impressive. Here is the sad and happy photo contrast.

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Looking out, 1 month . . . 2 months

Once again, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been quite busy with grading briefs, hearing oral arguments, and doing final grades over the past few weeks and weekends. Now, however, my class is pretty much wrapped up, other than getting in a few recommendation letters for some of my students. Yeah!

Last week, Josh failed a hearing screen (OAE–for those of you that are keeping track) in both ears. At that point, his tubes were clear so this was a true failure. It was very disappointing because we had been hoping for a passing test in at least the right ear. On May 13th, Josh will undergo a CT scan of his temporal bones and an ABR. These will both be administered while sedated. So I guess Josh will have his first IV one month from today. I am really dreading the procedure but eager to get a better picture of what is going on with Josh’s hearing (or lack thereof).

On June 13th, Hannah comes home. Yeah!

This is sort of the inverse of last fall when I was dreading Hannah’s departure (one month before Josh was born) and at the same time, eagerly awaiting Josh’s birth.

I will write more soon (I really will) to catch you all up on Josh. He is moving all around now and is quite the busy boy, making it more difficult to write in my blog, since I am running around after Josh, saving him from near disaster at every moment it seems. But I will find the time, alas.

Blessings and Peace–Heidi

P.S. Here is a picture of the Easter Joshy

Last Day of February Thoughts

Yeah Ethan!! He was the level 10 all-around champion at the Mini-hops Invitational Gymanstic’s meet last night at Hamline University in St. Paul. He is always at his best at the evening meets (not a morning person). He obviously did well in all six events, to have come out on top in the all-around. Way to go Ethan!

Hannah is doing okay. For any of you who might be wondering, as I was when I went to bed last night, while the tsunami warning did impact her area of Japan, it was predicted to be much stronger on the other side of the country. In the end, it didn’t cause as much damage as feared. My heart goes out to all of the Rotary parents who have children in Chile this year (which was, incidentally, Hannah’s top choice for her exchange year, but she didn’t get this top choice). I know how scared I was just to learn of the tsunami warning for Japan. I also learned that there was an earthquake (6.9) in Okinawa, Japan on Saturday. This earthquake also triggered a tsunami warning for Japan. Never before have I so appreciated the term “global community.” Natural disasters do not happen in isolation, they impact all of us.

Christmas Eve Milk Production

It is the wee morning on Christmas Eve. I am the only one awake. All life beyond my window is suspended in a wordless quiet under a heavy blanket of snow. As I made my cup of green jasmine tea this morning, I stared out at the dark trees behind our house–only illuminated by the sparse bits of light reflected off the pristine snow pile. I thought of my baby–my first baby–who is half way around the world and likely preparing to go to sleep on this Christmas Eve away from her family. While I allowed only one tear to escape my eye, my breasts’ let down their milk and began to drip all over the kitchen. I thought it very interesting that not only would thoughts of my tiny baby, upstairs asleep in his crib, evoke such a reaction–but also thoughts of a 17-year old daughter in Japan. Incidentally, I have been thinking much this week about the process of weaning her 15 years ago, while I was pregnant with her brother Ethan. I have always had some regret about her weaning. She really wasn’t ready. Given the events of this past week, I understand why I have been thinking so much about her weaning.

As it turns out, this past week both Hannah and I have realized that we have been too connected, via email and Skype, over her first 4.5 months in Japan. This has not helped her, but has actually hindered her immersion into that culture and her feelings of belongingness with her Japanese host family. She and I have both committed to disconnecting from one another so that she can remove the foot she still has firmly placed here at home and fully enter her experience in Japan. Although this is an incredibly hard step for Hannah to take, especially over the holidays, I am so proud of her. She has made the decision to stay. She has realized what it will take for her to stay. She is growing up.

It is funny, I’ve been meaning to take a picture of the two books I am reading right now, because they capture the strange polarity of this year so nicely. One is a small book with advice on babies, since I have forgotten some of this information through the years and required a refresher. The other is a book on colleges, Looking Beyond the Ivy League I believe is the name. Ironically, it was the book on babies that proved most instructive to me with respect to Hannah over the past few days. While preparing for Josh to start some limited daycare hours with my Aunt and Uncle this upcoming month, I was reading about separation anxiety and read this passage:

Parents walk a fine line. On the one hand, you need to offer love and empathy. On the other hand, you need to show confidence in your child’s ability to get along while you’re away. So don’t discourage tears or pooh-pooh sad feelings, but equally, don’t allow tears to change your mind about leaving. Often a child’s feelings about separating are directly connected with the parent’s ability to let go.

Faull, Jan. Darn Good Advice–Baby, p. 101

Me with my beautiful girl last February

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I realize now that my own inability to properly let go of Hannah has been actually harming her and chipping away at her own self-confidence. I wish I had realized this sooner; better late than never though. It has been a process; it is still a process. All of life is a process.

I love that daughter of mine so much. Her strength and courage have amazed me all of her life. I trust her abilities and her good sense to navigate the road ahead. I am grateful for our love that will always bind us so close and is strong enough to allow this space between us for growth and change.

Working Through and With Difficulties

When I started this blog in July, I thought that this blog would be about the absence of one child and the welcoming of another; perhaps, finding and defining the tension that emerged between the two extremes of sending my oldest child off to Japan for a year as an exchange student and giving birth to a brand new baby in the same year. I think I envisioned posting interesting reports from Hannah in Japan, as well as posting pictures and updates for her of her new baby brother Josh.

While there certainly has been “tension” in this situation, it has not been the type of tension I would have envisioned. As with most things, life has its own special way. I have not written much about Hannah’s experiences in Japan, at least not as much as I had expected. For one, I realize that these are her experiences, not mine. Indeed, she has her own blog and can relay these experiences far better in the first person. Also, she has had more difficulties and hardships than I would have expected. Yes, while we were schooled on culture shock and homesickness before she left, I did not anticipate the depths she would experience these two phenomenon or how long-lasting they would be. I also could never have imagined the degree of growth she would experience. We have these email discussions that have been very raw at times. Hannah has been stripped of all pretense and has found herself in ways that she never could have possibly done at home. It has surprised me to find, at times, how grown up her thinking has become. These email discussions, as well as her difficulties and struggles have just been too private for me to ever reveal on this blog. Suffice it to say, I am very proud of her and what she continues to do. I don’t think that either of us can really even envision yet what the rest of the year in Japan will bring.

I also thought that I would spend this blog dealing with my own grief in having Hannah apart from us this year. I soon realized how wrong that would be. Given that Hannah may look at this site from time to time, I will not engage in this pattern of writing. In fact, I do not often allow myself to engage in this manner of thinking. Chris and I decided that we would down play the holidays this year–as much for Hannah’s sake, as for our own. We don’t want to allow ourselves what Hannah is missing out on, and we don’t need the stress of the holidays this year either. Besides, Josh is too little to care. Ethan is also in agreement. He doesn’t like receiving gifts anyway–just money. He is a saver. We are not going to buy presents this year for one another or fill stockings. Because of the fluid that still may be in Josh’s ears, we have decided that it is best to put off our trip to Texas until later in the spring (or late winter). These decisions feel right and have eased some of the pressure on us.

Although Hannah has had to work through many difficulties in Japan, I believe that the growth and inner resilience that she is gaining will prove extremely valuable in her future. Difficulties are not always just difficult. Difficulties are also opportunities. And so it is with Josh. His hearing issues might resolve and they might not. If not, he will be taught by us to value and work with his disability. We can already see a strong, focused, intelligent little boy in his baby self. He will have the support of two very loving parents, some very loving older siblings and a wonderful, full, strong supportive net of extended family and friends. He is a very blessed little boy. This difficulty too will come with opportunity.

I rarely speak of the middle child on this blog. Fourteen year old Ethan is alive and well in this house. He just completed his first trimester of high school. He has an extremely full schedule with gymnastics, now a level 10 gymnast. I think he is fortunate to have discovered something he is so passionate about so early in life. He has never in his life once dreaded a practice, even when he goes with big open rips in his hands, sometimes layers deep. He loves gymnastics that much. Ethan is a very private person and would not look kindly on me discussing him much on this blog (he doesn’t even like to be photographed). Not long ago, I had a dream that I made Ethan small enough to fit into a test tube, with an interior much like the padded surroundings in “I Dream of Jennie.” I then left him in the car so that I could run errands. I finally ended up in The Walker (Art Institute). I realized that Ethan should be with me, given his love of the visual arts. I called him on the cell phone and asked him to make himself full-sized again, saying that I would come get him in the parking lot. I exited the art museum to find it was dusk outside. I walked and walked but couldn’t find the parking lot where I left Ethan. I no longer had my cell phone and couldn’t call him to tell him I had been delayed. It was very dark and I began to panic. I ran into Ethan’s gymnastics coaches at this time. They too tried to help me find him. I finally realized it was a bad dream and forced myself to wake up. In the dark, I stayed awake thinking about the dream. I realized that I didn’t want Ethan to be the lost child, in between the baby who has issues and the sister who has issues–but that is sort of what has happened this year.

I thank God for Chris, who has picks up where I leave off. He parents Ethan so wonderfully–he has known exactly how not to push, but to just be available and to allow Ethan to come to him. He and Ethan now have deep conversations on the way home from gymnastics. At last, Ethan has someone to discuss his fascination with astronomy and physics; he has someone to watch action movies with; and he has someone who likes to eat red meat as much as he does. Ethan asks for very little, and so when he does ask, I try to give it–if at all possible. I love how he has always looked to his own inner self as guide, rather than relying on the views of others. Somehow, he has shown himself to be a resilient child.

Update on Hearing

Josh failed his hearing test again today. At this point, they would usually sedate him for more detailed tests. We’ve asked, instead, to have him retested one more time, in mid-November. Part of the reason is I just don’t like the thought of putting him under when he is so little (how do they know he isn’t allergic to the anesthesia or something like that?). The audiologist has also given us a small hope that fluid remains in his ears, throwing the test results.

On the Hannah front, she has a new host family now and seems to be doing much better with the new family. They seem to be very kindhearted and generous.

We learn through our children, in so many ways . . . this is a time of learning.

Hannah at new host families house.
Hannah at new host families house.