Monday, December 28, 2009

Mortimer Moves In

Christmas 2009

On tiptoe, peering through the sea of pews and rows of heads, she spotted us – her parents – and waved with her beautiful brown hand in a flurry of excitement. In fact, in the span of about 15 minutes she checked several times to see that we were still watching, each time casting small glittery reflections in the chapel as the sparkle of her holiday dress caught the light of the alter candles. This was our Devi during the children’s sermon, where all the little ones were called to the pulpit to receive a Christmas Eve message at the candlelight service. I have witnessed that waving cliche a number of times in my life, but had never allowed myself to think that one day a child might search the crowd for my proud face. Each time we experience one of these precious moments, it is a treasure. Amongst the giggles of those sitting near us, we witnessed this gentle and innocent reminder that we are a solidified family. A unit. We wonder, on that Christmas Eve, as we sat and prayed in the sanctuary, if our family might be blessed one more time in the coming year. This is our Christmas wish.

At the holiday party we hosted

Later in the service, after one small wiggly attitude adjustment in the foyer, Devi proudly held her own lit candle and belted out Away in a Manger and after extinguishing it's flame in a single breath, sang Joy to the World, both hymns that she has recently mastered. After a full day of anticipation, our traditional clam chowder dinner, gift exchange and church with Oma, Devi, twitching in exhaustion, gave up the day home bound and bundled in her car seat. In a deep sleep, with not so much as a sigh, we transitioned her from car to crib.

Santa's cookie tray

Discovering Mortimer

Awakening on Christmas morning, I could hear daddy and Devi having their good morning conversation. First out of her mouth was, “Where is mommy?” and second came, “Did Santa come and fill our stockings?” It was nice to know I still got top billing! As in previous years, she paused at the nativity to sing happy birthday to baby Jesus and then galloped out to the living room to witness a bit of Christmas morning magic. With a breathy Wwwoooowwwww!!!!! she found the empty plate where cookies for Santa once lay and her stocking overflowing with treasures. Sticking right out of the top was the little white mouse she had wished for. Devi quickly pulled him out, hugged him, kissed him on the nose and uttered, “Awwww, cute little guy!” Promptly pronouncing his name to be Mortimer, she wrapped him in Pokey, her security blanket, and for her, Christmas had come.

We both got slippers!

Our budding photographer telling us to say "cheese"!

Wallowing in our jammies until the very last second, we exchanged gifts, played games, cuddled, listened to music and ate a wonderful breakfast made complete by our neighbor Carol’s freshly baked coffee cake. She alone is personally responsible for adding a few pounds to each of our waistlines this year. Then after Devi’s nap we headed to Papa and Gail’s, their house full of extended family, for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. This is the first year, since my mom passed away December 8th, four years ago, that my dad felt comfortable putting up a Christmas tree in his home and it felt good to renew this old tradition. Most of the family is now grown, but with Devi, her cousin Jake AND Aunt Obie’s newly adopted kitten present, the excitement was kept at an ear splitting level all evening as they chased that poor animal from room to room.

Throughout the holidays, I am loving the selfLESSness and selfISHness of being three. Tenderly Devi watched others open gifts with as much excitement to know what was inside, as when she opened one tagged for herself; an innocence that I hope sticks with her as she ages. Discovering the wonderful feeling that comes with giving and receiving for the first time, I enjoyed watching as she eagerly blurted that she had made the recipient a bar of soap, before they could even make their way through the mound of tape enclosing the home made gift she had wrapped herself. Her genuine thank yous and you're welcomes came without prodding, making Pat and I feel like some of our parenting has rubbed off. It was a wonderful four days of celebration, preparing us to say our final good byes to this year and welcome the next 365 days of parenting adventure.

Devi's first time making Christmas
cookies with Oma.

This year's Christmas funnies.

1. Mommy, if we get up and Santa has not come, do we have to go back to bed?

2. For Halloween next year, I can go as baby Jesus and you can go as Mary. Daddy can be Joseph.

3. For Halloween next year, you can be Eve, Daddy can be Adam and I can be the apple because I don't like the snake.

4. Mommy, when I grow up, I'm going to be a dentist. (After watching Rudolph about 100 times)

5. I'm Hermie, daddy, you are Klondike Cornelius and mommy is the bomb-able snowman.

6. Her favorite game is to have us sing the wrong words to songs and try to trick her. IE: Harvey the green nosed lemur, had a very sticky tongue. She corrects the words and then says, "Mommy, you are silly".

7. Mommy are you a ma'am? Daddy are you a surw? Mommy are you a gurw? Daddy are you a boy?

8. If I had a nickel for every time she asks, "Why was there no rooms in the inn?"

9. She calls the grinch the grump

10. We still shout "Christmas Lights" whenever we see them and to her that still includes fast food signs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Candy Cane = Magic

After last years trip to sit on Santa’s lap, a near disaster, I had been carefully orchestrating this years attempt, in an effort to avoid any drama. Stopping to interview the photo takers over a week ago, I drilled them on Santa’s break time, length of lines in relation to time of day and got what a sleuther would call the “low down” on the situation. With my facts collected, we planned to go see Santa on Wednesday after work, before the dinner hour and before school lets out for the holidays, however Devi has had a cold and was all stuffed up with puffy eyes and red nose and we didn’t want anyone mistaking our beautiful angel for Rudolph :) We decided to see what Wednesday would bring.

Wednesday, after work, found me holding my slightly wilted sweet pea as she told me that she did not feel very well. I tested her by reminding her that we had planned to see Santa, but if she was not feeling well, we could go tomorrow. “Oh no, mommy. I’m feeling much better now”, was her reply which was the signal to pull the trigger on our plan.

She and I dashed home, brushed hair, changed clothes and grabbed a snack to eat along the way. Meanwhile daddy drove from work to Santa’s to hold us a spot in line. In route, Devi and I belted out Christmas carols to ensure that she stayed awake because driving in the dark is like a drug to her and with daylight savings time comes winter darkness at about 3pm here. Along the way the excitement grew and with it came a litany of questions for Santa now that Dev is old enough to comprehend this whole Santa business.

1. Where is Misses Claus?

2. Will Rudolph be guiding the sleigh this year?

3. Is our house the first stop?

4. What are the elves doing?

5. Is our chimney big enough for him?

She was determined to ask them all.

Joining daddy second in line, we were all set with cookies for Santa in hand. It appeared that the stage fright she suffered from last year had completely matured into steadfast confidence and determination. With no more than 5 minutes of waiting time, the red velvet rope was drawn back to clear our path to Santa. It was her turn!

Devi, with a spring of excitement in her step, marched right up, her arm extended revealing the cookies. She promptly and politely handed them to Santa, pivoted in her shiny black patent leathers and with all four of her extremities put a death grip around Pat’s knees. Oh boy! Here we go. Pat and I went into pleading parenting mode trying our darnedest to get her to acknowledge the big jolly guy who was extremely patient and kind. Devi was not budging...UNTIL Santa reached into his wonderfully magic bag and offered a tiny candy cane.

Now I don’t know what special ingredients might be used in making candy canes at the North pole, but they must possess some Christmas magic because our daughter transformed in an instant simply by being offered one. Releasing her tourniquet grip at Pat’s knees, she stood, smoothed her dress and carefully walked up to Santa and asked to sit on his lap! Once taking possession of the sweet treat, our boisterous daughter back into the chatterbox we know and love. The two of them ended up having a very nice re pore as she very clearly explained that her behavior has been excellent and that she was hoping for a white mouse on Christmas morning. I think Santa has it covered as he gave me one of his all knowing winks and a smile. I was relieved when he brilliantly ended the detailed questioning before she could specify whether she was referring to a LIVE mouse!

She managed to ask about Misses Claus to which Santa told her that she is the head honcho at the castle when he is away on business. She makes sure the elves make toys, because they would really like to just eat candy canes too. Devi gave Santa two giant hugs, shook his white gloved hand, said Merry Christmas and told him to “fly safe”!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

There is nothing like the sound of little bare feet slapping the moist sand of a tropical beach as they charge the surf. Throwing her arms in the air, she chants the words Puerto Vallarta numerous times; the announcement that we have once again arrived!

Another Thanksgiving spent in the warmth of the Mexican sun was so therapeutic. A nice break from the prelude of the holidays and a time to reflect on our many blessings, one of which was the opportunity to spend this week of R&R with Pat's brother's family and his mom. Devi was ecstatic to have two of her young cousins to play with for a whole week along with her Oma, aunt and uncle, whom she named the Big Silly on this trip.

She chased this poor bird up and down the beach.

Chopsticks in the dark!

Beyond daily fresh guacamole, and chilled champagne, better than Verde sauce on scrambled eggs in the morning and desserts every night; even surpassing the unbelievable massage and gorgeous nightly sunsets, was the snorkeling experience I had with my three year old. Her first time!

Tearful over the realization that fins and mouthpieces were not available in her size, we managed to get her goggles on and tackle the internal struggle she was trying so desperately to overcome; whether to stay in the boat or brave the open ocean. In the end, her adventurous spirit came shining through and into the water we went to join our boat full of bobbing counterparts. I convinced her to put her face into the water long enough to see a glimpse of the colorful tropical fish that were lively and abundant. That was all it took. She was hooked and loving this adventure.

With no body fat to speak of, she quickly began to shiver, but our outing yielded several "whoo-hoo, fish!" shouts from her before we turned and swam back to the boat. All the adrenalin and energy burned blooping exhausted my little monkey and with life jacket still in place and her towel wrapped burrito style around her little body, she quickly fell asleep. In fact, she never stirred once from my arms to the captains to make the transfer from catamaran to dingy, then back to me for the short ride to shore and then from my arms to the captain's again as he waded her from thigh deep water to shore and into the comfort of a lounging chair. I wish I possessed the ability to nap like that!

The glorious sun was very generous, but we did encounter one nasty day of rain. Not a mist or refreshing shower - we experienced a true downpour in every sense of the word. In a place not used to this sort of deluge, the gutterless grounds were quickly overcome with water and swamped. We happened to be eating at a Japanese restaurant at the time; the only one on the premises that is not open air. About half way through the meal, Dev announced she had to use the rest room. I took her. While assisting in the stall, the restaurant lost power leaving us in complete blackness in the ladies room. We were both very quiet for a few seconds and then out of the darkness, the tiniest of voices said, "Mommy, why did you turn out the lights ?" When I said we lost power, something she has never experienced before, she very calmly said, "Oh" as if she understood the idea of electricity. That is my roll with the punches kid. We managed to feel our way out of the rest room where emergency generators had kicked in to help light our way past the dripping light fixtures to our table. All three little girls managed with chop sticks pretty well as we finished our meal in candle light which was really quite nice.

Over way to fast, the trip was a huge success. The children were good buddies the whole time becoming water logged with raisined skin to last a lifetime by weeks end. Olivia, the oldest asked if we could live there all the time! I guess that says it all. We all got along so well and enjoyed our time in the sun, only to return to temperatures in the teens at home. That has been an huge adjustment. Our skin, bronzed by the sun's rays, is covered in layers for warmth, with just a tiny bit of it's intensity lingering deep in our soul's. We are all hoping to hold onto it through the winter, until our next trip to paradise!

Once again we say farewell..sniff

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Three Is A Magic Number

What am I thankful for at this time of Thanksgiving? No words necessary. Here is a glimpse of the girl who fills our days as she turned three years old. Never at a loss for words, witty, charming, and caring with a sprinkle of feisty, and strong will to give balance.

Today she asked daddy, "Daddy, when I grow up to be a big girl will you be my husband?" Which was quickly followed up with, "Mommy, I'm gonna be your daughter forever, okay?" You got a deal got a deal!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Goin' On A Lion Hunt!

A Safari through the Ross Jungle began at 10am last Saturday, when 15 of Devi’s closest three year old friends embarked on an animal hunt that with any luck would lead them to a lion sighting. To ensure everyone knew what sort of lion we were hunting for we began with a craft, constructing lion heads out of yellow paper plates. A little glue, paper circles and triangles, googlie eyes and lengths of furry string to make the lion’s mane and each kid was set to begin. It was pretty much instant mayhem as the adults tried to guide and direct the tots to make the lion head just like the sample I had made, when clearly the children were far more artistic and could “see” their own lions in their heads. They did a great job producing a whole pride of wonderful lion faces, each one unique and expressive.

With pith helmets atop their heads and binoculars drawn up to their eyes, we began our animal search. The kids were so cute carefully listening to the clues I was giving to help them know which animal to search for. “This animal begins with the letter M. He eats bananas and lives in trees!” Monkey was screamed aloud before I could even get out the last sentence. Rather than let the children run willy nilly through the house looking for animals, we opted to show Devi where they all were ahead of time so that she might help guide and direct. It worked perfectly as she shouted, “Come on guys, follow me...I know where the monkey is!” And so went our search upstairs for frogs, the main level for giraffes and the basement for elephants.

Finally it was time to find our last animal. The lion. King of the jungle. Devi didn’t know where this animal was, but she was aware that for the past week or so all three of us and Oma had been painting a jungle mural in our garage. I asked her if we had a jungle at our house, she nodded and took off running for the garage with all her little friends trailing behind.

There asleep on the floor in our “jungle” was daddy in a furry lion suit. All the kids began to cautiously enter the jungle. I thought a sleeping lion was not that scary, but daddy got so “into” character that when Devi gently woke him up he roared and scared the children half to death, a few even broke out into tears. No doubt we are now responsible for the years of therapy required to counsel these poor petrified children! Okay, so a bit over exaggerated, but a few kids were a little upset, including Devi - not because she was afraid of daddy, but rather that she was sad for her frightened friends. All was quickly remedied when we began the singing games. We used scarves as tails and sang about them, sang about animal sounds and danced to the “Ziggy Says” song. All the kids then nestled in close to Patrick the “friendly” Lion, and king of the Ross jungle, while he read them a jungle story. It was darling to see him in his lion costume reading to all these little kiddos with our birthday girl center stage in his lap.

Aunt Joan and Oma were our jungle helpers who were instrumental in keeping us organized. Together we served pizza lunch and then had our lion head cake and cupcakes. Lastly Devi opened birthday presents among the jungle vines and all of her little friends, politely thanking each guest. Devi passed out the goody bags that she decorated herself with her hand print as the legs and tail of a lion and paper lion heads glued at the palm. Overall our two hour trip through the jungle went really well. I think Devi really enjoyed the whole day...minus the roar. It was another of those motherly visions that I have thought about for years that has now finally come true.

The following day was her actual birthday and she asked to go to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. Devi has always been very easy to take to restaurants but on this day she was such a little lady. She wore her birthday crown throughout the meal, put her napkin in her lap without prompting, used her utensils nicely and was polite to ask for things. She told anyone who would listen that today was her birthday and would hold up three fingers. She was delighted when our waiter came to sing the birthday song to her, but was baffled that there was only one candle in her spumoni ice cream when she had clearly told him she was turning three! Very sweet.

It is hard to believe that my baby girl has turned three. I don’t know where the past two years and two months since our meeting have gone, but the child who now sleeps in the room adjacent to ours, for all intensive purposes, is convinced that she is all grown up. Perhaps it is her strong will and independent streak that gives this illusion, which brings me to wonder about the personality traits of her birth mother, Jhuma. I know she must be wondering about what became of her Bhargabi. Does Devi look like her? What traits do they have in common? On the eve of the celebration of Devi’s birth we say a silent prayer for Jhuma, who gave from her heart the greatest gift. We truly hope that somehow she is aware that the baby she gave life to is loved, well cared for, knows of her birthmother and today has turned three wonderful years old.
Decorating cookies to take to school for her birthday.

Trying on one of the outfits in the "goodwill" dress up kit mommy and daddy made for her birthday.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lots of Tricks and Treats!

Devi: "Mom, on Halloween can I eat Ivy?"
Mom: "Why would you want to eat ivy?"
Devi "Because, bears eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy!"

We've blown out the candles in our jack-o-lanterns, put our little lamb to bed, picked up the remains of several treats, turned back our clocks and are huddled in front of the fireplace trying to once again feel our frozen toes. It has been a long couple of weeks preparing for the big event and tonight, even after Dev was done going trick or treating for herself (all of a half a dozen houses), she shrieked with delight each time someone rang our door bell yelling out the magic phrase. Handing out treats was just as fun as going door to door for her.

I am not too keen on the whole idea of bringing home 10 pounds of candy, but was glad to find that Devi still has no idea what most of it is. She finds it much more exciting to take it out of the pumpkin and count it, sort it by shape, then color, stack it and then put in all back into the pumpkin, only to start the whole process over again, without ever considering eating any of it. Our dear neighbors always manage to tuck extra special little toys into her pumpkin too...spoiled rotton by them, she is.

Months ago, we somehow arrived on the lamb costume idea which the three of us constructed by gluing cotton balls to a sweatshirt Add ears, a tail and a big pink bow and viola she became a lamb. No matter the age, once a costume goes on, one naturally falls into character. Devi was Baa-baaing all night and Pat and I uttered an occasional "howdy partner" as we were her farmer side kicks.
We had several Halloween activities planned this year, but it all got kicked off by the annual pumpkin selection. We headed out to the Double R ranch this year singing over and over, "I saw a little ghost, and he saw me. I waved at him and he said Boo." Once there, we found a wonderful supply of fresh pumpkins, in spite of the fact that a shortage of them has been reported this year. We also managed to arrive in between rain showers, which was an extra added bonus.

At a carving party, where Devi decided she
wanted a surprised look on her jack-o-lantern this year,
similar to these faces.

Reaching in to touch pumpkin guts.

Dad and I, with our little lamb's help, carved ours at home and
they all made a "pumpkin family" as Devi would call them on our front stoop.

Nothing like a couple of jack-o-lantern pancakes to fuel a girl who will be
trick -or-treating in a matter of hours.

Dad and Dev being goofy with a couple of the masks she made this year.

She is a lion...hear her roar!

Although she really wanted me to go as mommy-bo-peep, and daddy to
go as daddy-bo-peep, we managed to convince her that every lamb
needs a couple of farmer's to feed them.

As her third birthday is just around the corner, we once again see how much she is changing and maturing. These are a few of her latest Tricks and Treats!

Tricking mom and dad is one of her latest fun things to do. She laughs herself silly by singing, "Baa, baa YELLOW sheep..." We play along by saying "Nah...that's not it. Are you sure?" So she'll sing it again with another color inserted . This can go on for hours while she cracks herself up.

We drove by a field of soccer players and birds on our way to music class last weekend and Devi said, "Look they let those crows play on their team!"

Today at coffee time and story time, daddy was reading an animal book to her. Daddy pointed to a picture of a baby horse and called it a colt. Devi corrected him, " Daddy that is incorrect, it is a foal!" A know it all at three...should I be worrying?

The funny that take the cake occurred during bath time last week. She asked if I would soak my feet while she took her bath. I rolled up my pant legs and put my feet in. This is the conversation that followed.
Devi: "Mommy, why did God give me beautiful brown skin and make you polka-dotted?
(My skin has lots of moles).
Mommy: " I don't know"
Devi: " Scrubbing might help", She began to try and scrub off a mole on my knee with her fish shaped sponge and shook her head when she said " I guess He just painted you that way."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Feeling the Fullness of Diwali

Although the thick aroma of spice still permeates the house, the guests have all left, our Indian princess has been sound asleep for a couple of hours and the dishwasher is washing it's second load of the night. Moments ago, I was soaping up my wrists to remove the glass bangles, purchased in India, that barely make it over the bones of my hand. Each time I wear them, I can vividly recall the girl who sold them to me in Jaipur after teaching Karen and I how to fold in the fatty part of our palm to make them fit. My bhindi has been removed, and the salmar kameez I was wearing has hit the dirty clothes bin after a full afternoon of preparing our Diwali feast. Inside, I am filled with pride and joy; not over any of the little events of the day or my ability to follow recipes in an Indian cookbook. My swell of emotion stems from teaching my child about some of her Indian heritage, the pride she feels in learning and celebrating Diwali and how excepting my family is in learning about this part of Devi that is so important to the three of us. How lucky we are to have been given the opportunity and responsibility to relate this to our child in a way that bolsters her self confidence while broadening our own knowledge. This is a true blessing.

Our Diwali celebration actually started on Friday as we discussed our grocery list over dinner and did our Diwali feast shopping together, picking up the ingredients needed for our six course Indian meal.

As Devi drifted off into nap time today, daddy and I went into high gear to clean, prepare the meal and decorate the house for our guests. When Devi awoke a few hours later, she was ready and eager to put on her Indian clothes, bhindi and bangles and tackle the rangoli on our front stoop. The rain stoped just long enough for us to rush outside and scribble a few designs with our sidewalk chalk that due to our changing weather, will most likely be packed away now until next spring.

Soon our house was aglow as each of the guests, Papa and Gail, Oma, Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill arrived and were asked to light candles throughout our home as a symbol of how they bring light to our lives. The three candles in our center piece represented those no longer with us. Our menu started with cocktails and samosas with mango chutney, bhel puri and a few cashews. Dinner consisted of Chicken Makhani prepared crock pot style; recipe courtesy of Nancy, another adoptive mom. We also prepared a few of our other favorites; Muttar Paneer, Channa Masala, Tandoori Jhinga, and Cabbage Raita, followed with a little naan to scoop it all up!

I wonder if I like this holiday so much because it stresses the eating of sweet treats? That we did! After dinner, we continued our feast with mini pumpkin cakes that Devi and I made, mango ice cream and a box of assorted burfi and jammen treats I purchased from Punjabi Sweets. Throughout the meal we chatted about new beginnings, good health and prosperity all things promoted through this holiday that we hope will come to those loved ones who entered our home to celebrate with us tonight.

With a full head, heart and stomach...Happy Diwali and Namaste!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shuffle, Shuffle, Arabesque, Neigh

So proud to be in real dance clothes!

Stating the obvious, Devi has started dance class! The one hour class is offered every Thursday at her preschool and so far the hardest task for both of us has been locating a leotard in XXXS. Although wild in her attempts to accomplish specific steps she is able to pronounce what they are called, but when dad and I try to mimic her, we are always doing it wrong. So far, dancing is not necessarily her forte, but her heart is definitely in the right place as we catch her quietly practicing from time to time and every movement is done with such gusto.

I believe this is an arabesque!

The face given when I tell her it is time to take off our dance clothes.

Busy and stressful seems to sum up the last few weeks for us. What gets us through these times are the thoughts of a toddler that is never at a loss for words

Mommy, when I grow up can
I wear glass slippers?

Mommy, when I have a baby sister can
I brush her teeth and tuck her in?

When I asked what she would like
to bring to school for
Show and Share
day, she replied, "You!"

Devi riding Snickers, the horse all by herself at the Farmer's market.

One of our last nice days I picked Devi up from preschool and we headed to the water park at the zoo. She had great fun trying to figure out that squirting water. I loved the mommy/daughter afternoon and trip out for pizza afterwards.

We took Oma with us to the annual Puyallup Fair in September. Devi talked about riding the carousel for weeks before we went. She was adamant that her horse would have pink on it. Such a brave soul, I was only allowed to stand beside her horse, but not touch it. I tried to get her to wave to daddy, but she told me she couldn't because she needed to hold the pole with two hands. That's my first! We did our usual....looked at the animals, pet sheep in the petting zoo, held a baby pig, ate a crusty pup and guessed the weight of this year largest squash....over 1000 pounds!

Daddy and Devi making crunchy pumpkin bars. Crunchy...because Devi got to crack the eggs. Tap, tap on the side of the bowl is no problem, but then when you have to put your fingers into the cracked area to open it, she just squishes them. She does know all the names of the ingredients and is great at helping to measure things. Aprons are a must when working in the kitchen, even for daddy.

Arriving home from a classmates birthday party.
Asleep, but still clutching her goody bag.