Friday, December 23, 2011

The Ross Family’s Top Ten Holiday List.

Our household, now containing four pittery-pattery feet this holiday season is becoming more excited every day in anticipation of the arrival of Christmas, just like the static electricity that tends to build up in one’s hair and freshly washed socks exiting the dryer in these colder days. Busy as Santa’s elves, we’ve been funneling all this energy into fun holiday events to keep the kids from climbing the walls. From this comes our Top Ten Holiday List, or at least the things that bring this momma a smile.

1. We kicked off the season with a group Christmas card effort. From concept, to costume, to props, to art direction, photography and a little computer work, the girls were instrumental in pulling this one off. We gave them a few choices and this is what they came up with. We had a great time setting up and taking way more shots than were needed just because it was so much fun. We did struggle with natural smiles, as is typical of two and five year olds, so against my better judgement, I blurted “Poopy Pants!” right before I snapped THE photo...something I’m sure I will live to regret. Afterward, the girls didn’t want to stop the game so continued to play magic carpet ride in costume for the longest time.

2. On December 3rd, we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. Typically, Pat and I have a grown up evening out, but since we had just returned from our Mexico trip, we decided to fore go the fantasy suite and just enjoy a family evening with dinner together - all four of us. I lit our unity candle (as we do every year) as our centerpiece, put on some of our wedding music and while daddy and I sipped champagne from our wedding toasting glasses, the girls joined in “chinging” their juice cups. We told them our wedding story and they giggled when we told them that daddy carried mom in her fluffy dress across the threshold. Daddy and I got up to dance to our annual “first dance” together in the dining room and before long the girls had gotten down off of their chairs and had joined us, wrapping their arms around our legs as we swayed to my Stevie Wonder favorite, With Each Beat Of My Heart, whose words seem even more fitting for the four of us now.

“You are my first breath

My first smile

And my morning cup of tea

Yours is the love

That I pray for

Before I go to sleep

From the time I saw your face

I knew no other could erase

My loving you with each beat of my heart

Until the day I heard you speak

I didn’t know that sound was sweet

Me hearing you in each beat of my heart”

3. One day we were singing Christmas Caroles in the car and Devi stopped us asking, “Instead of Rudolph, mom, why didn’t Santa just carry a flashlight?” It is in those thoughtful moments that I love being a mom best, I think. On her own she reasoned that Santa’s batteries must have died.

4. Treya’s mastery of “Rudolph” shines through as one of her more prouder moments. The girl really can’t carry a tune, but she can BELT IT OUT! Nothing brings a smile quicker than hearing “DO-DOLL dah ed ozed ANN DARE....add a darey high knee OZE!” None of the words are right, but the sentiment is hard to miss. She knows “Twinkle, Twinkle” too and it is sung just as robustly :).

5. Dev can be a bit anal. We like to say she is detail oriented. One afternoon she was playing with her Playmobil nativity set and from the kitchen I could see that she kept darting from the family room to the foyer. Not once or twice, but to the point where my mom antenna went up, concerned that something was a miss. I caught her in mid dash and found that she was consulting the position of each of the pieces of my “do not touch” Lenex nativity in one room and setting hers up to match EXACTLY in the other room, wanting to get it just right! She was so proud of her display.

6. Good night night behavior is a collective effort because the girls share a room. It requires that Treya be quiet in bed and Devi stay in bed all night and that they work together to help each other accomplish this task. After the Mexico trip, the sleep schedule got a bit messed up, but using team work they earned a Gingerbread House Kit, which we spent one Sunday afternoon decorating. After a few arguments about who got to do what, we worked it out and they did a great job gluing candy (mom’s secret plot to rid the house of left over Halloween candy) all over the gingerbread house. I was really surprised how excited they got about planning the best use of the candy. I, on the other hand sounded like a broken record telling them don't eat it, stating we have no idea when it was manufactured and what was put into to it to keep it "fresh". Hansel and Gretel would be so jealous!

7. One night, just after I said, “Amen!” at the end of our night night prayer, Devi said, “Oh! and God, just one more thing. Please help all the orphan kids in India know that their forever familes are coming for them. Amen” Tear up? OH YES! I was a mess. For whatever reason, Devi has been obsessed asking if random people are/were orphans and playing Ayah - reenacting our union with Treya. Devi is the Ayah, we are the parents and Treya plays herself.

8. Treya’s daycare class made hot cocoa as a gift for their parents this year. They sent it home early so we could enjoy it through the holidays. Together, for our night time snack, we made four cups of simmering chocolaty goodness. She was so so proud of this gift. With a brown frothy mustache, she clung to her white mug and kept saying, “Mmmmm, ott toe-co, mommy! Ott toe-co!” It is really delicious...the best home-made mix I’ve ever had. Not that I am biased!

9. Last weekend we bundled the kids up, put them in the stroller and headed out to see Zoolights at our local zoo just three blocks away. I popped corn with cranberries and cashews, which Dev called “fancy festive”. Treya was so mesmerized that she barely ate hers; a first for her to give up food! The weather was crisp as we sang our way there and back, enjoying all the bright lights. The highlight at the end of the evening was riding the big carousel. Treya astride her “neigh-neigh” named Precious and Devi mounted on Destiny; two appropriately named ponies.

10. Our last lazy Sunday afternoon was spent making a big 3 foot by 4 foot green felt Christmas tree and a dozen felt ornaments, decorated with remnants of trim, rick-rack and lace. (I secretly gloated over this, as it justifies my pack rat tendencies to my husband - the reason why I hold onto even 3 inches of something :) The next couple of hours (yes, hours) the girls spent taking turns decorating and redecorating that felt tree. Treya would say, “Close eye” when it was her turn so we would be surprised with her result. We had a Christmas movie playing in the background and a fire in the fireplace. It just does not get much better than that!

There have been so many more magical moments in this first year all together, but for now I will stop at ten as there is still wrapping to be done and kids to corral. To all those who still blog stalk, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Smitten By Santa

With swaying fancy dresses on hangers filling the back seat windows, I sped from work to pick up the girls and meet Pat for our annual trip to visit Santa. I don’t know who would be more nervous - the girls or myself. For the past few weeks we’ve been trying to explain the big picture to Treya. Even Devi has been trying to help. I caught her one morning filling a holiday pillow case she had just received from one of our generous neighbors with her toys. With Treya totally engrossed, toddling behind, Dev unpacking her sack and neatly arranging the toys under our Christmas tree, all the while explaining to Treya that this is what Santa does for good boys and girls. Later DeeDee did the same, as she set up her play nativity, explaining where all the major players go and what their role was in His glorious birth. The Christmas story, the many nativities that adorn our house, the decorated hearth, Santa and his reindeer, shopping for a needy family, the lights, Advent calendars - the list goes on and on. For a newly transplanted two year old, it is a lot to grasp. All the while, Treya has been carrying the past framed photos of Devi and Santa around, fascinated by the pictures and trying so desperately to figure it all out. One day she brought a frame to me, pointed her finger to Devi’s spot on the jolly ole guys lap and exclaimed, “Me, me!” the signal that she was ready to take the next step.

Quickly changing clothes in the back of the van and primping their slightly disheveled nap time hair, the four of us were off to join the “good girl” line. A near disaster occurred when daddy threw Devi up on his hip to safely cross the parking lot of anxious shoppers behind the wheel. Devi’s shoe hit the bag of cookies especially chosen for Santa in daddy’s coat pocket. The word mutilation comes to mind as we all stared down at the bag of crumbs that once formed a pinwheel and gingerbread sweet treat. What followed was a teary small meltdown, as Devi was crushed (no pun intended) with disappointment. Quick thinking, I said, “No worries, Santa can’t have cookies while on duty anyway because his white gloves would get all dirty.”

Excitement mounted as we edged ever closer to the big green stuffed chair, recognized by Devi right off as the spot where the jolly guy sits. I kept a keen eye on Treya, who goes along with things pretty well, until her uncertainty gets the better of her and she retreats (refer to pig post when we visited the Puyallup fair). She was doing great, meeting other kids in line, twirling in her pretty dress and making her bouncy pony tails bounce. Devi was glued to the TV monitor set up to keep the kids in check, watching scenes of Christmas movies flash by and yelling out the characters she recognized.

Finally, with just one family ahead of us, it was game on for Dev, who stepped up to the edge of Santa’s carpet, smoothed her dress, pushed back the dainty wispy ringlets that have always naturally formed right at her temples and readied her list for a prompt, yet accurate display. Treya on the other hand was beginning to get that deer-in-the-headlights look - the look that is all too reminiscent of when she first came home and would hide under the furniture. Slowly, she began to inch back behind daddy’s legs to hide. About that time, Santa’s helper motioned for Devi to come forward. Dev proudly marched up and started making pleasantries with Santa. In a panic and fearing that Treya may bolt down the mall corridor to flee the situation, I reached my finger down for her to hold for security.

In that split second, Treya peered around daddy’s leg, saw that Devi was in mid-conversation with the large bearded man. Taking a deep breath of confidence or feeling suddenly extremely competitive, I don’t know which, she chicken winged her elbow around daddy’s knee to push him behind her, making way for a clear path toward that jolly old elf. Grabbing her own list from my hand she muscled her way, roller derby style, up to Santa, just in time to hear, “You princesses look so beautiful!” That is all it took. Treya was smitten. Her bravery brought tears to my eyes, such a change in her we’ve seen in eleven short months.

Both girls made the best of impressions, politely explaining their list and delivering their good behavior resumes. Expressed with superb articulation, Devi asked for a razor scooter and books...educational books that is. I thought it was kind of cute that she specified the educational part all on her own; our studious one. With a bit of translation required of me, Treya asked for an elephant. A live elephant. When we made the lists days earlier, we explained that we have no suitable enclosure for such a large pet and hygiene would be a major issue. Who would scoop the?...well you know. Mostly, however, Santa does not deliver live animals, as it is unsafe for them to make a journey like that in a sleigh. Thankfully, Santa’s rules did not change as he expressed his same concerns. Treya also asked for coffee...for her momma. Our sweet and thoughtful girl.

Sealing the deal, Santa gingerly granted each girl a Merry Christmas with a candy cane sucker. Turning to go, Treya put her tiny hand in his monstrous gloved one to say thank you. Her beautiful brown skin contrasting with his lilly white glove making her newly formed fingers that much more apparent. To this Santa gently kissed them and waved bye bye. Both girls blew kisses back which Santa caught on his rosy cheek with a grin.

As I escorted the girls away, Devi said, “He is so nice, momma.” and Treya confirmed that thought with “dood mah, momma...dood mah!” which means, “Good man, momma, good man!” Adorned with paper antlers that Treya would not take off until she landed in bed, we all heaved another sigh - Pat and I so relieved that this years Santa experience was so positive and showed so much growth in both our girls. For our sugarplums, dreamy sleep came easily, knowing that their wish list was finally safely in the hands of Kris Kringle himself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another One Under Our Belt

The Ross Family - first family vacation 2011

A Thanksgiving trip to Mexico, that is. Our first family trip as a family of four, plus a dozen or so other close friends and family members! We did it. Sigh. I am happy to report that both girls are excellent travelers. Airports and planes don't phase them in the slightest. This comes as a huge relief, as Treya sort of freaked out a bit when she saw the suitcases come up from the basement in preparation. Because Treya still has limited language, much of our time is spent trying to decipher what she is trying to convey. Through evaluation, we discovered this time that she was concerned that we were going away and leaving her. A perfectly reasonable deduction when you consider there was a mommy suitcase, a daddy suitcase and a Devi suitcase. Hold everything! Off we went to Target to get a Treya suitcase (which matches Devi’s, of course) which made Treya’s world round again. Phew!

Treya HATES the beach!

Devi LOVES the beach!

Both girls love the pool and swimming!

Palace Resorts welcomed us with open arms for our 6th annual Mexico trip. With a group of 18, they did a good job of trying to accommodate our request to sit together or at least close to each other at meals. Although the weather was overcast and windy, it was still warm and there is just something rejuvenating about the warmth of the sun. Perfect timing to refuel before the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday. Unfortunately, I caught a cold which I brought with me and which decided to enjoy the whole trip with me too. There is something completely wrong about wearing a bikini and carrying a kleenex, but I tried to not have it slow us down much. I did learn, however, that cold medicine and an adult beverage do not mix.

Dionna, Shawn & Kasey - friends from the YMCA

Papa and Gail

Roly & Chris - friends we met on a barefoot cruise years ago.

Uncle David & Aunt Obie

Kasey, Dev and Cousin Jordan hanging out.

Treya keeps her feet off the sand with the help of cousin Olivia

Devi was completely in her element. What a difference a year makes. Old enough to play with cousins and friends somewhat unsupervised, it was fun to watch as they disappeared into their imaginations. Mermaid island was born and the girls lived so many adventures as baby mermaids, or caring for their make believe dolphin and seal friends. Sand castles and tide pools became the kitchen for their wild life friends - cooking up all kinds of seaweed concoctions. Chasing birds, making footprints in the sand and discovering that she finally likes the spicy bubbles of a Shirley Temple and could order a Strawberry Daiquiri (with no adult part) all by herself were the highlights for Dev. Such the life, mom and dad even allow Froot Loops while on vacation - a morning ritual for both girls.

Such the polar opposite of Dev sometimes, Treya hates the sand, the ocean, seaweed, anything that sticks to her and anything that has to do with the beach, but she loves the pool and applying sunscreen to anyone who would hold still long enough to apply it. Though shivering most of the time she was wet, she never tired of the slide and other fun pool attractions in the kiddy pool and tried to keep up with the older girls. Treya is a salsa girl, and even with tears streaming down her face from the spice, would continue to spoon it in, facilitated by a bip (chip). This trip was an introduction to so many firsts for her including extended family and friends. Naturally, she glommed onto the men as her true charm continues to develop. Treya slept in the jacuzzi tub, the only space large enough to accommodate her corrective shoes and wallowed in her royal crib until experiencing a real bed at nap time. Looks like the new year may be bringing new sleeping arrangements at our house too.

Ladies spa day

Mens golf day.

The adults each enjoyed a day of indulgence. For me, it was a day at the spa with the other traveling ladies. Nothing says pampering like a fluffy robe, sipping rejuvenating teas and receiving a wonderful aromatherapy massage. Pat joined the other boys for a round of golf on an awarding winning Jack Nicklaus course, complete with moving hazards in the form of crocodiles! A huge golfing fan, I could see the glow of satisfaction on his face at the end of the day. Pat and I also enjoyed a romantic lobster dinner for two one night, thanks to the babysitting services of the other very capable 9 adults, plus Oma being instrumental in ensuring our grown up time while away. Minus my near need of the Heimlich, it was a wonderful meal spent hearing the crashing of waves and staring into the eyes of my loved one chatting....about the girls :)

Olivia, Jordan & Dev show how vacationing is done

All Rosses! Olivia, Oma, Aunt Shannon, Me, Uncle George
Devi, Treya and Jordan

Best buddies!

The lengths that Treya will go to so she does not have to touch the sand

As always it seems our plane just lands and it is time to go. We did have a chance to catch up with old friends, and reconnect with family that we had not seen in a long time. All in all, a true week of thankfulness as we begin to dream of next years trip only 12 short months away. For me that dream includes thoughts of sunshine, real creamery ice cream, the best darned guacamole I’ve ever had, and watching our girls grow up before our very eyes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Whole Hand!

My pumpkin pie turns 5!

Laying it on thick, I received many I Love You, Mommy's as DeeDee’s birthday approached. She is a master manipulator and I say that with both chuckles under my breath and concern. At 5 she can snow most of her friends and extended family, trick her sister into giving her pretty much whatever she wants and be the most persuasive child and the sweetest child I’ve ever known. No doubt this trait will be an asset at some point in life, but for now Pat and I try to be acutely aware of what is going on as much as we can. So far she has not sold us waterfront property in the desert...yet.

At first, she really was set on having another princess party, a basic reenactment of last years celebration, but with a bit of coaxing, together, we chose to host a “chef” party and have it at Devi’s Birthday Bistro...aka our kitchen. This decision did not come without a bit of bargaining. The negotiation eventually lead to her one requirement - a fairy cake. Easy enough...Done!

The budding chefs

With the theme decided and envisioning herself as the future hostess, Devi told me countless times how she would help her guests during the party, making sure they each had a flower on their piece of cake, explaining her willingness to share and that she would consult an adult if anyone needed assistance while cooking. The conversation was darling, though I doubted any of these things would actually happen when the time came. Devi is so consumed by doing everything the right way.

Both girls made a tour of the house on the morning of the party, mouth agape, to find bright crepe paper streamers and ginormous cut outs of sprinkled cupcakes decorating the walls of the two main celebration rooms that mysteriously arrived during the night. Our easeled chalkboard served as our sidewalk sign, positioned at the front door welcoming guests to Devi’s Birthday Bistro.

Chef hats were decorated while we awaited the arrival of all the guests. It was fun to see how creative the girls of this age group are starting to get as they added their names and drew pictures of themselves along with creative scribbling all produced in their favorite colored markers. I need not have to explain which colors those might be for most, except for Treya, whose favorite hue is black.

Spreading the dough into a 6 inch circle

With sufficiently clean hands, the eight epicureans, dressed in the pink cupcake aprons I made, found a spot around the table to make our first recipe - fresh fruit kabobs. Each chef skewered fruit of their choice onto coffee straws; one for themselves and one for their mothers. Devi just ate her fruit - her favorite food group - a craving she can not deny.

Entrees were next, as we created individual pizzas using Grand muffins for the crust. The table was a swirl of creativity as each girl patted and stretched their skin out to the edges of the circles I provided showing the correct size for our dough. Sauced and cheesy, eight very different topped pizzas, some heavily loaded and others sparse, were ready for baking in no time, which allowed us time to play a couple of games. Blind folded mini marshmallow scooping, proved to be frustrating for neat-nick Devi as she watched the guests play, upset that so many marshmallows were missing the appropriate bowl and landing on the floor. Treya just figured those were fair game and would grab them up and stuff them into her mouth. Her cheeks filled with sugary fluff was the signal that perhaps this game was beyond her comprehension. A poster sized Devi, holding an empty plate provided the task of our next game as each blindfolded girl taped a cupcake to, what they thought was an appropriate spot. The winner, was a friend who had a hard time not peaking!

The slightly bigger than life size "place the cupcake on the plate" results.

Amazing how much more lunch actually goes in the mouth when they make it themselves! Everyone raved about their own recipe and ate heartily, refueling the budding chefs to tackle our last task - decorating cake pops! Relatively easy to make, I had the doughy balls “sticked” and ready to be decorated. Each girl helped me twist the cake pop into the molten candy melt and gently tap off the excess drippings. Then they were free to decorate to their hearts content with various kinds of their favorite candy with gummy bears, chocolate covered raisins and Runts leading the way. Styrofoam served as our hardening rack and later the masterpieces were bagged in cellophane to take home.

We ended the party with a robust round of the Birthday song and encouraged Devi, the perfectionist, as she blew each candle out, one at a time, to ensure that they were sufficiently extinguished. To heck with the wish, she feels strongly that some tasks should be completed in a particular fashion - birthday candles being one of them. Completely out of breath, she invited the girls to help blow out the last candle, which brought an immediate gush of wind getting the job done and spurring shouts of celebratory hoorays.

Cake pops before decorations

Devi deep in concentration decorating her cake pop

The kids' creations

Sister chefs

The Old Spaghetti factory was Dev’s dinner of choice this year, celebrated on the 15th with just our family of four. At the ripe old age of 5, Dev decided that pokey blanket no longer needs to ride in the car, but rather can wait on her bed for use only at night time. Instead, she insisted on carrying a purse with the essentials (two fairy dolls) to dinner, which is really funny when you consider I never have carried a purse, but somehow she has decided that this is what grown up girls do.

Mysteriously, a real bicycle was found in our living room when we returned, the gift that she not so subtly had been hinting about for months, since growing big enough to practice on the one at preschool during recess. The nasty weather required an indoor test drive, as she skillfully maneuvered the “glitter” bike around the kitchen island several times, ringing her bell from Oma, several times to alert the rest of us to get out of the way.

I must admit that when the 15th came, her actual birthday, I found myself to be rather nostalgic, becoming teary eyed at the realization of her maturity and growth. When first united, she held up no fingers - now five! A whole hand! Where did that time go? She is most definitely not a baby any more, but rather a budding delightfully witty and smart child who willingly calls me momma. When one talks about gifts at birthday times, I am the one that was somehow received this prize. Devi, I love you so much. I love that you are not perfect and that we are learning together how to reveal your most wonderful qualities and understand and express those that need molding in other ways. You are a delight....a shining star...who brings joy and laughter, challenges and tenderness. Though I don’t want to rush through even a single minute, my mind can’t help but wander as I watch you mature into such a fine compassionate young lady. We love you, DeeDee!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life's Tricks and Treats

Treya's first trip to the pumpkin patch - The Double R Ranch

Much in the same way a weary traveler is jolted to attention on a moving sidewalk at the airport, so am I when ripping the September page from my desk calendar. Even “falling back” with daylight savings time does not slow the accelerated pace we seem to set in motion from October 1 to the end of the year. This is nothing new for Pat, Devi or myself as we coordinate and plan our way through our normal day by day obligations AND Diwali, Halloween, birthdays, Thanksgiving - usually spent in Mexico, and then preparing for Christmas. It is exhausting even to type it.

Poor Treya must be confused beyond belief as the house mysteriously changes during the night and she awakens to a different motif. I think this has literally happened three times in the course of the past week going from Diwali decor to Halloween decorations - including finding a big hairy spider hanging above the kids’ chairs at the kitchen island, to now Devi’s birthday, bright with crepe paper streamers. We are doing our best to bring Trey up to speed, but I've caught her singing the birthday song next to a pumpkin, and saying happy Diwali on Halloween. She looked at me like I had lost my marbles when I encouraged her to plunge her hand into the ooey gooey insides of a pumpkin. The pause and wrinkled brow she gave while trying to process the words had me in stitches, and it took much cajoling to get her to explore the inside of that pumpkin. In the end, she did, but had to have a towel in her lap at all times to continually wipe off her hands.

The King, The Queen, Rapunzel & Nymph

These new experiences and her responses give reason to stop and pause. What an incredible amount of trust she has put in me as her mother and Pat and Devi. Trey is constantly surveying every situation and trying to read our reactions through words, body language and facial expression, then respond in ways she deems appropriate. We take this trust so much for granted, I think in most instances our expectations of her are way too high, which leads to frustration on everyone’s part. I often just assume that Treya will accept things or experience them in the same way that Devi did at the same age, which couldn’t be farther from reality. Devi has always been much more outgoing and laid back about new situations while Treya to be more reserved and hesitant.

I forget that she has only been in this country for eleven months and so much of our daily lives are still filled with “firsts” for her. While Treya’s need to feel like a contributor is huge, her reluctance to try new things is equally as limiting, creating her two extremes. We have to be so careful, because Treya, in an effort to be helpful, will attempt to assist in ways that are not safe, especially in the kitchen. If I am cooking and she knows what utensil I will need next, she will silently attempt to bring it to me or complete the task herself, regardless if it is chopping with a knife, or retrieving a hot pan. Granted she handles the items correctly, having “worked” in the kitchen at the orphanage, her behavior is obviously not appropriate or her age. When corrected she becomes so confused, not realizing we are correcting for unsafe behavior, not that the way that she attempted to complete a task was incorrect.

With the evolution of trust also comes the opening of one’s heart–mine and Treya’s. Call it attachment or bonding, it is a connecting of souls, a gradual process uncontrolled by conscious thought. It is not saying the words I Love You, or blowing kisses or even going through the motions of seeking out cuddles when one needs TLC after a bump or bruise. Stealing a quote from Sleepless in Seattle, “ is a million little tiny things, that when you add them all up, they mean we are suppose to be together. I knew it the first time I saw her. It was like...magic. For the past eleven months, we’ve been peeling away the layers of onion skin protecting our hearts and slowly letting the other in. It is so hard to put into words what is happening or how it is happening, but our relationship becomes more and more natural every day. The process is not always easy to navigate, but the rewards are undeniable.

So on to Halloween. Back to the Double R Ranch we each selected our pumpkin, where the beginning stages of planning their jack-o-lantern faces began. Then we attended a Harvest Party at the YMCA where Pat and I won the adult costume contest a few days before the 31st. Whoot! (Amazing what one can make with an old discarded women's bathrobe). By that time, Trey had mastered the words trick-or-treat adding much enthusiasm when she realized that candy is doled out when you say it loud enough. Devi, the oldest of our group of kids, led the pack around the neighborhood in her "I am experienced and will take care of you" way, where once again our Rapunzel and Nymph were spoiled rotten by our gift bag giving neighbors. We ended our evening with delirious children wielding full buckets of sweets. Treya was announcing "night-night" as we rounded the corner to our home front. Now a week later, we've still not made even a small dent in the amount of candy in our house which seems to whisper to me "I'm here" in the middle of the night. So far I've managed to avoid the temptation!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali 2011

Our Family - Diwali 2011

For Treya, this past Saturday, brought a bit of familiarity to her ever changing world, as we celebrated Diwali - the festival of lights, one of the only holidays she knows. With a nod of confidence while saying Diwali, you knew she understood completely what we were discussing as the girls eagerly helped me prepare for our Indian feast. During the week preceding we busied ourselves discovering how to make home made paneer and pickled cucumbers and decorated our house for the big event.

We teach that the holiday is a day to symbolically open our hearts, removing all obstacles, so that good things and prosperity might come our way. We celebrate our friends and family and all the joys life has offered us, through the lighting of candles and lanterns throughout the house. Much in the same way that we leave cookies for Santa, we adorned our front door with rangoli, bells and lanterns and just on the table inside, we decorated a puja thali to help lure the luck of Lakshmi in. Our puja thali, or offering plate, is a brass plate with two painted peacocks in the middle that we purchased on our first trip to India to meet Devi. Placed on it was a bell, a bowl of rice to symbolize prosperity, a bowl of Indian coins to represent life’s riches, bright gold foil wrapped candy, incense, a small diya and the two mirrored katoris (tiny bowls) presented to us at Treya’s adoption ceremony, that were filled with flower petals. All were arranged by the girls (over and over again) until a design they thought looked pretty was agreed upon.

Devi was adamant that they wear their Rajastani dresses from Treya’s ceremony, which fit them both much better than 10 months ago when they received them and she requested one thick braid straight down the back, “like the Indian girls like me wear, mom.” Complete with bangles, bindi’s and the necklaces they received from Trey’s ayahs, they were ready to receive our guests. As each person arrived, they chose a light in our house to light and as the night grew darker, we found ourselves aglow in the flicker of candle light.

Once again trying my hand at Indian cooking, I chose a non-traditional Diwali feast, selecting dishes that I thought I could pull off, preparing a meal for our group, 14 people strong. We had spiced nuts, papadams and samosas with mint and mango chutneys to start, while sipping champagne topped with a splash of pomegranate juice; the kids with mango lassis. Manning the grill, oven, stove top and electric skillet, I frantically stirred simmered, roasted and unfortunately overcooked one dish, but for the most part I was pleased with the result. Our menu included tandoori prawns, chicken & paneer tikka masala, aloo gobi, a curried pea and almond salad, saffron rice, pickled cucumbers, raita, and naan bread. Pumpkin cakes and Kahlua Cardamon Kulfi with chai tea lattes made up the dessert. For anyone interested, most of the recipes were from Aarti Sequeira, the winner of season 6 of the Food Network Star and host of Aarti Party. They were easy to follow and fun to prepare.

I can’t put into words, the joy and gratitude that I have for my family and friends, who have so willingly accepted this culture that captivated Pat and I long algo, but which is all new to them. The unfamiliar foods, and the customs that we are making tradition for our girls, have been embraced from the start, making the hosting part extraordinarily fun for me. Devi proudly explained what everything was, what about the food she loves and why we do things a certain way, as if she has always lived in India and all this comes natural to her. Treya is a silly girl, but becomes more than serious when food is involved. I love the look of determination she gets as she trembles with the strain of her mouth, opened to it’s widest point, making way for a heaping spoon full of food to enter, then continuing to struggle to close her lips enough to begin chewing.

Last year at Diwali, we focused on moving our own major obstacle as we anxiously awaited our NOC and guardianship of dear Treya. This year we know of so many with that same or similar struggle that we decided to try to help move others’ obstacles in our festival of lights celebration. The girls and I wrote the names of all the Indian children who have been matched with a family but who are still in various stages of the court process and the names of all the families that have not yet been matched with a child, on a sky lantern. In all, 14 names were added: Indra, Bindu, Karuna, Baby C, Varsha, Urmilla, Neha, the Welsers, the Leschke’s, the Jacob’s, the Crook’s, the Cooper’s, the Baxter’s, the Brice Family and a heart for anyone I may have forgotten. We had all the guests assemble on our deck and we explained the significance of each name and our wish for them. The lantern was ignited, and when fully inflated was set adrift into the dark sky. Everyone cheered and clapped as the lantern was caught by a gust of wind and sailed over the Puget Sound. We silently watched it float away until it was completely out of sight. We ended the evening with a rousing explosion of snaps from pull-string poppers followed with hugs and Happy Diwali wishes.

Pull String Poppers!

When I put Devi to bed, she asked me, “Mommy, how will I know if Lakshmi comes to our house to bring us prosperity?” I explained that she really does not come into our house, but rather the idea of her exists in our hearts and minds to help remind us to have good behavior because good behavior always leads to good things.” Satisfied, she snuggled down to sleep. Ironically, the next day when we returned to our car after an outing, a pile of loose change was on the ground outside my car door. Devi said, “Mommy, mommy, Lakshmi brought you prosperity!” On that note, Happy Diwali everyone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Has It Run It's Course?

Initially, A Princess Born of India was started to help Pat and I connect with a child we had not yet met, but whom we longed to love. The soul purpose was to record the history of how our family was built; that my girls would have an accurate account of the details of their stories long after my memory begins to fail me. Over the years, the blog has evolved and has worn many hats. It became the place we could proudly show off the latest facial expressions of our two children before they joined our families. Blogging was the main source of information to our families and friends when we traveled abroad. It has been my source of serenity, realizing a love of writing through sharing emotional experiences I thought I would never feel in becoming a mother. And it has been a wonderful time capsule to reflect on how our lives have changed in the past several years since it’s conception.

Pleasantly, it became a connection to an unexpected group of readers; people who share similar parenting issues, or whom we share the bond of adoption or love of India. Many contacted me privately seeking help surviving the adoption gauntlet, looking for attachment ideas or simply to introduce the children that hold their hearts as they, too wait. Although I am no expert in these areas, I have sincerely enjoyed that connection. To think that a post about adoption delays may have helped ease the minds of another in a similar predicament, or that exposing ourselves through the details of a parenting disaster brought encouragement from readers makes blogging so worth the effort.

I know eventually the girls will no longer want their private lives displayed for all to see, at which point I will journal for them in private. I had thought that would be when they are considerably older, but now that our adoptions are final (and I don’t currently have another one planned...yet) the connections I had been making are beginning to become fewer in number. The blog receives less and less traffic and certainly even less comments, leading me to believe that I am reaching fewer readers through the topics that I post now, fogging the need to broadcast our story via the internet. When we were hip wading through the international bog of adoption I clung onto anyone’s success story I could find, so to return the favor, if there is a readership that is encouraged, or finds value in the words shared, I would love to hear from you. Please help me make the hard decision to become newly inspired to continue on or put A Princess Born of India to bed.

If you would like to email privately, I welcome that too. (

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Rarely is it ever quiet in our house. Though the children take responsibility for part of the ruckus, much of the serenity of silence is happily interrupted by the sound of music. The stereo in our house is flipped into it’s on position with speakers emitting anything from drum beats of Africa or unique sound of an Indian sitar to melodic notes sung by Michael Bublé or preschool jingles sung by children (a 4 CD set - Lord help us) about as often as one would turn on the lights. Thankfully, we all tend to be easily appeased and agreeable when loading the CD player.

Pat and I have enjoyed various musical styles throughout the years - yes, even heavy metal finding a place in our vast repertoire. Given my hair style and taste in clothing, I suppose it is not much of a stretch to imagine us listening to reggae either. If fact, it is one of my favorite genres to hear live. I challenge anyone to try and hold still once hearing the rhythms of this uplifting island music. You simply can’t keep yourself from swaying, nodding your head or moving your feet for long.

Recently, Pat surprised me with tickets to see Ziggy Marley at a small local venue. For those unaware, Ziggy is the son of Bob Marley who is known as the father of the reggae movement. We’ve been playing Bob’s hits for years, but Ziggy is a bit more of an untapped source, with the exception of his children’s album Family Time. Our whole family, including our newest member Trey rates this CD as one of our favorites. Devi shouts out which numbered track she would like to listen to next, Pat and I find ourselves listening to it - even when the children are not in the car, and Treya, with her limited language skills actually sings these songs while bobbing her head, of course. The music is light, sends a positive message, promotes family and the melodies are unique, holding even an adults attention.

Outside of Family Time, and a few of his hits, I was somewhat unfamiliar with Ziggy’s music, but figured the evening would be enjoyable all the same. What a surprise when Pat called the day before the show announcing we had been chosen to go backstage after the concert and meet him! The girls were so jealous. I decided to make this a fun moment for them too.

The concert was fantastic. We enjoyed it so much, but the excitement came afterwards when we got to meet Ziggy. Because he is so family oriented, I showed him pictures of our girls and explained how we became a family. Then I showed him the pictures that the girls had drawn for him which he happily autographed. Devi drew a picture of herself and Ziggy holding hands, he was complete with dreads and a tam. Then he looked at Treya’s picture, which brought a chuckle as he announced, “An abstract!” Touring to promote his latest musical works, he also laughed when we told him how much we love Family Time. Our few minutes together revealed what a kind and gentle soul this man is, and how much he believes in love, peace, unity and family. It was a great night.


Interesting conversation has come up in our day to day, also worth a mention. Recently, while driving in the car, water droplets were forming on the windshield. Suddenly Devi shouted from the back seat...

D: “Don’t turn on the windshield wipers!”

Me: “Why not?”

D: “Because a whole universe lives in each water drop.”

Me: “What kind of universe?”

D: “Parameciums! and Amoebas!”

Me: “What is a Paramecium?”

D: “They are these cute oblong thingys with little arms all around that help them swim and Amoebas split in two and in two and in two, mom. Don’t hurt them.”

End Result: To avoid driving off the road, we killed a bunch of universes.

One weekend morning Devi climbed into bed with me and announced...

D: “Mommy, I am a vegetarian.”

Me: “How do you know?”

D: “Because I love carrots and carrots are good for your eyes mom.”

Me: “Yes, but just loving carrots does not make you a vegetarian.”

D: “Well, Treya is a meat eater, and I am not a meat eater. But carrots make my eyes see really good. Even with my eyes closed, I can see Treya misbehaving while we are sleeping.”

Lastly, one Treya conversation from our sweet toothed kiddo.

T: “Tuotie peas.”

Me: Treya, you have all ready had a cookie.

T: “nah-ah”

Me: Yes, we each had one cookie. Where did you put yours?

T: Treya pulls up her shirt and pats her belly with a smile.

Me: See? You all ready put your cookie in your tummy. We don’t need anymore cookies.

T: “yah-a-dooooo”

(Her last comment is a phrase “Yes, I do” she uses all the time. We should really record her saying it because it is quite cute. I love the way she sustains the "oooo" at the end and forms her lips into a perfect circle.