Friday, September 05, 2008

Our Mischief Man, Ethan Frederick Zhiqing

Tonight, I finally come to the subject of the last but certainly not the least of my three children, Ethan Frederick Zhiqing.

In late 2006, Marc and I decided to adopt one more child and complete our family. We knew that we were open to a child with certain special needs. The series of events that turned out to be our red thread to Ethan is documented here. After referral, we waited for 10 long months, all the while seeing his sad little face just waiting for a family to see as his own. Ethan had the most beautiful face with huge soulful eyes that always had at least one tear in every picture. I was so worried about our son. I feared many things. How was he doing since his heart surgery, how was his development and how was he being treated?

Most of my worst fears were realized when we met and adopted our son on October 29, 2007. Shock was the real word for what we felt. It was obvious our son had been severely neglected and his actions mimicked autism due to his experience in an institution where he suffered neglect, lack of exposure to the most basic developmental experiences and lack of any real stimulation. That truly was the scariest time of my life and quite honestly it was hard to see what the future might hold for all of us.

Now here we are over ten months later; the fear was soon replaced by resolve to help Ethan which then evolved into a plan of action that involved lots of therapy and a great deal of time each day for many months and is still ongoing. Ethan has evolved into a happy and healthy boy well on his way to the type of life that we hope all of our children will have.

Here are a few fun facts about our Mischief Man ~

  • I will start with his nick names and the reason that we call him "Mr. Mischief" or the "Mischief Man" a great deal. With all of the problems that Ethan had, he still managed to come to us with a glint of mischief in his eyes. My mom was the first person to see it that first day in the hotel room in Nanchang. She quietly said to me "Lori, he is going to be just fine; just look at that look of mischief in his eyes." I still remember so vividly how that statement felt to me; like a life raft that I was able to lift myself upon in the sea of uncertainty and fear. She was absolutely right. Within a day or two he was finding ways to tease his sister and wreak havoc upon our hotel room whenever we turned our back. Even better, he would love to find a way to look at us just as he was about to commit some act of boyhood fun. He still loves to find a way to stir it up and he always does it with the same glint in his eye. I love that quality; it is adorable and so full of life.

  • Ethan came to us with a terrible oral aversion and sensory processing disorder. At 2 years 4 months he was only drinking from a bottle and eating teething cookies. The first several weeks into months were sooo frustrating but with lots of perseverance and therapy we have our little guy beefed up from just under 19 lbs with a diagnosis of "failure to thrive" to a whopping 27.5 lbs. Let me tell you, I count the ounces with this child as each portion of a pound has been a victory. His eating can still be an issue but mostly we are out of the woods and I am so thankful for that.

  • Our son is VERY adventurous. He loves to try new things and is very social. In addition to his immediate family he adores his grandparents, aunts (family and friends) and his cousin Sam. He Loves his friend Mia whom we call Mimi and he asks for her all of the time. Her brother, Ryan is also a fav. He plays really well with his friends and has no problem socializing. He has to in this house with the amount of parties that go on here.

  • Ethan loves to help. In fact, I have never met anyone as helpful as he is. He is happiest if he is putting away clothing for me or cooking with daddy or his real passion; helping daddy fix something. He is so cute when he is trying to help as he tells us "help me" which means that he want to help us.

  • Ethan has a fixation for his shoes and socks. The wrong shoe or color sock in his eyes is grounds for a full meltdown. We have another nickname for Ethan due to all of the liquid drama (another name for constant crying). That nickname is "fishman" The story of why we call him that can be read here. It is getting better SLOWLY. It used to be so bad that we could not get his shoes off without crying, let alone his socks. At the occupational therapists urging, we slowly were able to have him "go shoeless" more frequently as it was important for his sensory issues. Ethan's favorite color sock is dark blue and that is the one he will move heaven and earth to wear. Not quite the fashion statement I was going for and it just about drives his godmother, Shannon over the bend at the sight of that "fashion don't." All I can say is we are working on it.

  • Our son is an amazing sleeper. A bullet train could pass through his bedroom and he would not awaken. OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but honestly, his sister could wake up and scream for us or cry and it never wakes him. He does not wake up for thunderstorms or really any household noise. Once in a while a bad dream will make him scream out. It is actually a quasi night terror type of behavior that he experiences and it is usually after an experience where he became over stimulated. It does not happen often so I do not consider it much of an issue. When he wakes up every morning the first person he looks for is his daddy. He is a huge daddy's boy; he looks up to him so much and in turn his daddy adores him. Marc once told me that one of his fears before adopting Ethan was whether he would be able to be as affectionate to his son as he is with his daughter. He was relieved to find that it was exactly the same experience for him and he literally could eat him up he loves him so much. Actually, truth be told, Marc gets a look on his face when he looks at his children that I have never seen before. It brings tears to my eyes when I see it.

  • Ethan has been very loving since day one. Attachment was the least of my worries with him and through the months of constant attention, therapy and love it evolved naturally. This was a much different experience that I had with Katie Starr who had initial attachment issues. Thankfully, both are very attached children now.

  • Ethan is a terrible flirt. He loves women and I am quite sure that they are gonna love him too someday :) He is very affectionate and hates when you are upset with him. When he is put into time out he keeps looking over at us and says "Hi Mom or Hi Dad" He just wants assurance that you are still talking to him. It is hard to resist him but I still manage to do what I need to do to keep him in line. Believe me when I say that he is the child that pushes every boundary. He is pretty up front about it though. There is nothing sneaky about him

  • Ethan is a smart and sweet child. He has great compassion. I am not sure what the future holds for him as the therapists tell me that there may be learning issues in the future due to his poor start in life but one thing that I know for sure. Whatever Ethan faces, he will face it with the help of all of us that love him and he WILL beat the odds. He beat the odds when someone left him at six months old at the orphanage in order that he could have the chance at life. His cardiologist told me that he beat the odds when he lived to have his heart surgery and then survived it. He then beat the odds by having the orphanage send his file up to the CCAA to give him the chance to be internationally adopted, and now he is beating the odds every day as he works with true joy to catch up developmentally and to have his voice heard.

    Ethan has taught all of us great lessons in courage. I know that I was less of a person before he came into my life. I was afraid of what having a child with such issues would mean to my comfortable life. What I learned is that your love, patience, endurance and limits are stretched and then they expand to accommodate your new reality. When patience wears thin I remember that these moments are precious whether they are easy or not. Having Justin taught me that, having Katie taught me that and having Ethan reinforced it all over again in a tremendous way.

    Our children are simply gifts on loan to us temporarily. I understand that lesson now and I so appreciate Justin, Katie Starr and Ethan, our amazing gifts.


    Candy said...

    I don't know where to begin. You are amazing in your writings, not only about your children, but with everything that you do. Ethan is a beautiful child and I know he will go places in life. Nothing is going to hold this guy back. Those eyes say it all.

    Dawn said...

    At this point I am so glad that you only have 3 children becasue I am crying for the 3rd time and let me tell you it is the ugly cry!

    You made a comment in Katies post that she is your only daughter....maybe you should even out those numbers!!! But please don't announce the decision yet cos I am running out of tissues.

    Love to you

    Tammie said...

    I once told you that Ethan had no idea of what he was in for. Those words were so true. He had no idea of the force behind the love of his family. You have done anything & everything possible to bring Ethan along so very quickly.

    When I sit back & think how truly recently he came home, I'm blown away by his progress. I believe it was your first visit with Ethan to Dr Liang's when David, Erin & I ran into you guys. David was so touched by Ethan, & you know nothing moves my man. We left the office, & once outside he told me that Ethan was fighter. Well, Ethan never stood a chance with you standing beside him. You weren't going to accept anything less than a full life for this amazing little boy. And I'd say that you are succeeding.

    Vivian M said...

    First and foremost, as much as our children are survivors and fighters, I think they are where they are today because they had loving, caring parents who advocated for them and ensured they got the therapy they needed to overcome whatever setbacks they had at adoption. You and Marc and the love and support of your family and friends play a very big role. You should not only be proud of your kids, but of yourselves, because you are obviously doing something right! (And as a Jewish guilt ridden first time Mom I am always worrying if I am doing the right thing!).
    Secondly, you have the most amazing kids and they are each special in their own way. I have two siblings too, and am still amazed we are all so different from each other (and we are bio kids). It is just fabulous to see how much they have bonded and it makes my heart sing every time I see Katie feeding Ethan or Ethan wearing Katie's princess shoes!
    Lastly, I think you are an inspiration to adopting parents out there who may be on the fence about adopting a special needs child.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful, loving posts about your children. I think it speaks volumes about their parents!

    Gail said...

    I am so moved by your little Ethan(love his entire name BTW!) and his story. I'm equally as moved by you both, Lori and Marc, you are everything parents should be...loving, caring, nurturing, advocates and mentors to us all. Ethan WILL go very far in life I'm sure of it!

    Diana said...

    This was a amazing 3 part post that I soo enjoyed reading. Your kids are VERY lucky to have you and your husband as parents as you are a amazing mom and your husband is a amazing dad!! Ethan does have that "gleam" in his eye that I see in my youngest..It is the gleam that keeps us on our toes and laughing ALL the time.
    Thanks for sharing this with us:)

    Candy said...

    I forgot to post what a wonderful picture of Ethan. I just love it. Is this a professional picture or one that you've taken? What a stunning boy he is.

    Michelle said...

    First he looks like a little man sitting in that chair...he just needs a pipe, a leather bound book and maybe some scotch!

    Ethan is just a love. He is just so stinking cute and I agree with your mom, I always saw that twinkle of mischief in his eyes.

    Thanks for this fabulous post. In all three posts of your children I can totally 'feel' the love, the pride, the joy. You are a lucky momma!

    Minouche said...

    I love how you can write about the raw truth, and be so gentle and sweet at the same time! :o) You described Ethan in such a loving way, that there is no doubt that you were meant to be together..:O) You're a wonderful mom, and I am so lucky to be able to learn from your experience! :O) Huge hugs! :o)