Monday, March 21, 2011

More Than Horses and Princesses!

With the white noise of the vacuum cleaner giving my mind that much needed opportunity to wander, I began thinking about four years ago, which now seems like a past lifetime. We've changed so much in those 1,460 days. This Wednesday, March 23rd marks the 4th anniversary of the day that we first laid eyes on our Devi and those sweet rosebud lips of hers. It marks the day that we first realized that we would actually become parents, responsible for far more than just our own two careers, livelihood and happiness. It was the day that our minds gave permission to our hearts to fully open to give love and receive the love of another life; a life we had longed for for a very long time.

We were so consumed by "if" there would be a child back then that we never dreamed beyond that. What sort of personality would she have? Would she be smart or struggle in school? Would she be shy or outgoing? Who knew that with the passing of time, our whole world would change in such delightful, difficult
and demanding ways? Reminiscing, I thought about how every aspect of our daily living has been altered to encompass the needs of this child - our Devi Rose.

Watching her candidly still takes my breath away. She is a beautiful child. From the corner of my eye, I love to watch her shiny dark flowing hair sway as she flits about our living room, practicing ballet steps, over emphasizing her desire to be graceful and nymph-like, an impossible task at her young age despite her concerted effort. By the
serious look on her face, I am certain she imagines herself a fairy princess ballerina and in her mind she is weightless, poised and possesses a tiny bit of magic.

She continues to have an insatiable appetite for books and surprised us last week
during story time and coffee time at Starbucks, reading her first book from cover to cover out loud to us all by herself! We were completely shocked and had no idea she was able to sound out all those words, let alone read them. HOP on POP!! who knew? She is also a wiz at numbers, and our calculator is forever missing, as it has become one of her new favorite toys.

Recently at a child's birthday party, one woman introduced herself as the mother of a new boy at Devi's preschool. When she found out I was Devi's mom she just had to tell me that her son has been non-stop chatter about Dev since his first day. Evidently, she elected herself the welcoming committee and immediately approached him, showing him where to hang his coat, where to wash his hands, and she invited him to come play with her. I can't tell you how proud of her I was in that moment.

There are those quiet moments too, where I see the innocent infant still inside of her. Sucking her thumb and clinging onto to her pokey blanket square in just the right way to bring comfort in those sleepy moments before going bed or in times where she is feeling sad or uncertain. Always a cuddle bug, if there is an empty lap, she will find it.

Devi also has a feisty side, where she can show just enough naughtiness to get herself into trouble. She knows better, but sometimes the urge to push buttons or break rules
is just too tempting to deny. She herself will tell you that the batteries in her listening ears have lost their juice!

This morning, I awoke to the sound of her footy pajama covered feet pattering across the hall to our room. As she typically does, she climbed into bed with Pat and I for a few extra minutes of cuddling before it was time to start our day. She loves to lay nose to nose to me, or give my cheeks and nose butterfly kisses. Today she whispered, "Mom, I love you more than horses and princesses. I even love you more than rainbows." Honestly, does it get any better than that? Taking into consideration the
limited ability of a 4 year old to understand and verbalize their emotions, what she said was huge. It warmed my heart.

Could I have ever imagined this child four years ago? Nope. It's the gift of parenthood that just keeps evolving. Everything is unexpected, most of it is wonderful, a bit of it is a tad shocking - even the surprise at the end of my task. Opening the lint trap of the vacuum expecting to find nothing but an accumulation of lint and dirt, I found yet another surprise - glitter, boa feathers, a tiny plastic doll shoe and even a small cluster of loose princess dress sequins too.

Feasting and Frolicking!

Happy Holi 2011!

The first day preceding the full spring moon marks the Indian holiday Holi. In celebration of the coming of spring everyone merrily shakes off their winter coats and welcomes a new season with a bit of rebellious frivolity and loudness. We are so ready for a little springtime weather. I've lost count of how many straight days of rain we have had keeping us cooped up inside. A reason to celebrate vibrant colors through food and merriment, although still inside due to in climate weather, was more than welcomed at our house.

Right after nap time we all dressed in our Indian outfits - both girls requesting their newly acquired
Rasjastani dresses that they wore for our adoption ceremony. Accessorizing with bangles, necklaces, bindis and any other jewelry that jingled or jangled completed our ensemble.

Let the frolicking begin! We danced and played our musical instruments while listening
to Indian music for nearly an hour while the feast simmered along in the kitchen just steps away. The house smelled and sounded great - very gay indeed! Devi tried to teach us some dance steps from her classes and Treya showed us how she could play her shaker on her shoulder, toe and gently on her head, all the while we spinned and paraded around the island and marched around the coffee table. All that exertion left this family of four famished.

Our Indian feast consisted of
Murgh Tikka, Aloo Gobi, Channa Dal, Saffron Rice, Samosas with Spicy Mango Chutney and a healthy supply of garlic naan. The girls had
mango lassi for dessert. My love of cooking is only heightened by the opportunity to prepare Indian food for my family, a meal where no one complains and everyone leaves the table with aching sides.

True to form, everyone ate heartily and I got the two thumbs up from everyone except
Treya who was shoveling it in so fast I don't know as she was able to even taste it, other than to know that the smells and textures were definitely familiar to her. Devi, although
possessing a fairly inexperienced palate, said that I make the best Indian food she has ever tasted, a compliment that I lovingly accept. In her mind, because she was born in India, she is an expert on these matters, and she is proud to have a pale momma who can prepare HER food.

gulal powder is not something one can readily pick up at the local grocer, and the throwing of it is not exactly age appropriate for the 2 year old , we once again resorted to body painting with soap paint in the tub. Even this was a stretch this year
with Treya in a cast covered in plastic and an incision in her gut that is not supposed to be submerged in water. None the less, we manged to have a "wild" time in the bathtub, with lots of bubbly color applied with tricky and underhanded swipes, that brought ear splitting squeals from both girls, leaving Pat and I near deaf.

All that rebellion, gluttony and frolicking can tucker a couple of girls out. We had to wake them today at 7:15...a first at our household. We begin another day of rain today, but know that our celebration must have done some good, awakening the blossoms of spring, as I see bright yellow
forsythia peeking through the fence boards of our neighbor's yard. Happy Holi!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

The braces Treya came home with that she no longer has to wear.

Sporting her cast, covered by a sock to protect her face, the furniture etc.

Well, toes mostly. Thanks to the tip from my cousin Kris, yesterday Treya met Doctor Mosca, one of the best children's foot guys in the country. It was a big day, as it was the first time that Trey has been back to the site where her hand surgery took place. She was unfazed and the hand continues to be healing nicely—beneath a cast now for nearly a week.

Jovial as all get out, we find it interesting that while Treya tends to be tremendously shy around most people, she seems to go out of her way to be outgoing around doctors and nurses. I don't know where this comes from, but is smart on her part, I suppose.

In any case, Dr. Mosca, raising his voice to be heard (have I mentioned our child can be loud?) explained what is going on with Treya's delicious toes and feet. Meanwhile, she RAMBLED ON making her way around the examining room, with hunched shoulders, pumping her tucked little arms and shuffling her feet as fast as they could go creating the cutest bouncy gait —her attempt at a run. This vision of jiggling black curls and the unmistakable sound of diaper rustling against the inside of her knit pants is one that I hope I never forget.

In layman's terms, the tendon on the left club foot was released when Treya was only a month old and the repair has healed well. However, Dr. Mosca feels that the correction was not completed all the way. Although Treya walks just fine now, if left the way it is, the foot bones will continue to "harden" with calcium in this position and will not be able to comfortably support her weight as she grows leading to sore feet and problems walking as an older child or adult. This problem is intensified by the week muscles she has supporting the outside of the foot, which were compromised by an amniotic band in utero, which now can not be altered.

With feet, we learned that altering their position after the age of 4 is less successful as the bones are not as easily molded. If fact, Dr. Mosca even referred to Treya as "old" in our conversations. So with time wasting away, on April 18th, Treya will begin to wear a series of casts to complete the Ponsetti method of club foot correction. Yes, I said casts! Poor baby could quite possibly be sporting one on her right arm and left leg at the same time. Each week for six weeks they will slightly change the position of her foot and recast it to help complete the turning of her foot to a more normal position. She went through this procedure once before as an infant, and it proved successful then, so we have every hope that this time will prove the same.

After the six weeks of reforming her foot position, Dr. Mosca will be able to determine how to proceed. Our hope is that the final step can be completed by wearing corrective shoes held together by a center brace, that would be worn at night until Treya is 4 years old. The alternative is to surgically move the tendon on the side of her foot and attach it to the top of her foot, to permanently prevent her foot from rolling and turning inward. There is no need to share which solution we are praying for.

Pat and I were surprised to hear all of this, but we resolve in the fact that when you get the help of the best, you get the best result. So we are in this for the long haul and trust that Treya understands this too. Meanwhile in the back of Pat's mind, I know he has swirling thoughts of people like Mia Hamm who was born with club feet, and has accomplished so much in the world of women's soccer despite this adversity. Treya is a child with just that kind of tenacity.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Good News and The Bad News

Both Pat and I had a sense of eerie calm as we headed out on the hour drive to the hospital at 5:15am this morning. Upon arrival, we were issued badges and took our place in line at the all ready booming hospital, still feeling calm and collected.

Escorted back to the
pre-op room, we were handed a package of sterile wipes and a gown and slippers that were about 4 sizes too big. It is then that the suspicious thought occurred to me, if this is a Children's Hospital, then why do they not have properly fitting hospital garb.? It was a fleeting thought, as about 4 nurses came in and showed us the highest level of care and concern for our Treya, who by this time seemed to be realizing that something was going on.

Once the nurses and
anesthesiologist learned of our story and concern for having known Treya only a little over a month before having to submit her to this, a true betrayal in our trust, they took over in ways that made our stay today the best experience ever. To begin with, Treya turned on the charm, winning them over with blown kisses and bowing with the sign of namaste to them all. Then they had me give her a tasty medicine that instantly relaxed her, eventually moving through a happy state of drunk to near sleeping. They typically don't give this as they try to avoid extra medications and this particular one can make waking up in recovery take longer. We were also faced with a bit more risk, as we have no medical history to know how Treya responds to medications. In the end, they claim it erases her memory from the time she started to relax until we were joined after the procedure, which was worth the extra time and effort.

Handing over our precious bundle brought the first welling of tears from both Pat and I. Every fiber of my being is saying that we're doing the right thing, but still the emotional upheaval was about more than we could bare. Our last glimpse of her as the walked toward the operating room, reminded us of that stare we saw at our first meeting and in most of the photos we have accumulated during our wait - a cute child, yes, but wearing that look of lifelessness with empty eyes and a stressed brow, which is so different than the child we have come to know in the last month.

We found our place in a peaceful area for the two hour wait, spending our time playing Scrabble on the
ipad. Concentration being less than par, we could only come up with words like "God" and "Hope", while appropriate, they do not score very high toward one's overall score. Soon the BZZZZ of our hospital pager was sounding letting us know that the procedure was over and we could talk with the doctor.

Body language telling the whole story, Dr.
Freidrick arrived 20 minutes later wearing a smile and looking rather fresh, not even a drop of perspiration on his scrubs. That is when he gave us the good news and the bad news. The good news is that when releasing her pinky he found way more finger there than expected. The two middle fingers had pulled that pinky inward making it impossible to know how long it would be. To our surprise, her new finger is nearly as long as her index finger. With the length comes a need for more skin grafting, making the separation of the two inner fingers too risky at this time...the bad news. Dr. Freidrick felt that the blood supply to the inner two fingers would be compromised had he released them today, but is hopeful that they too, will become significant digits for her when we complete this procedure, hopefully in a couple of months. For now, she has her 'border" digits, which is a huge improvement.

Soon thereafter, we spotted our tiny jelly bean, snoozing away on the rolling baby gurney in her folded body position, sporting a cast from fingertip to armpit - green for St. Patrick's Day and a patch on her belly where the skin to cover her new finger was harvested. They encouraged her to open her eyes and once she saw me standing there she reached out her arms, heavy with sleep and called for momma!

At two, she has never been a huge cuddle bug, so I drank in the weight of her heavily drugged and groggy body into my chest, synchronizing the rise and fall of our breaths. We were
draped with a warm blanket and although the nursing staff encouraged us to slowly wake her, I could have stayed right there all day, again becoming overwhelmed with emotion. Eventually, she managed to drink in a cup of water and sucked down her first Popsicle, staining her dry lips dark purple from the sweet juices enhancing it's grape flavor.

Once somewhat alert, we began to get
Treya dressed. It is then that we realized the size of her cast would not fit into any of the outfits I had hoped would work. I am still at a loss as to how we are going to clothe her, but we manged to send her home partially dressed, which was of no concern to her in her sluggish state. At home, the couch was home to Trey for the next several hours as she snoozed away - the most still I've ever seen her for any length of time.

Now with a full belly, an outfit that fits and pain
meds on board, she is sleeping soundly again, hopefully for the night. This came, not without much complaining (screaming) because we would not take the cast off, and a rare opportunity to rock-me-until-I-fall-asleep. As I held her in the darkness of my bedroom tonight, awaiting slumber to take over, I could see how much this girl has given into her fate, receiving us as her parents. It is an amazing feeling. Today that little girl gained a finger, and that is pretty darned cool! Thanks, Children's Hospital.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Treya's Top Ten List!

Today I have the phone attached to my hip, anticipating a call from the hospital to give us the exact time of Treya's hand surgery tomorrow, while she naps soundly upstairs. It is hard to realize that her sweet little hand, after tomorrow, will be forever different and it is our responsibility to have made the right decision for her, to see that she is well taken care of and to pray for the best possible outcome. Because she can not verbalize, we have to also assume that she is okay with our decisions. If you knew someone for only a little over a month, would you let them make those decisions for you? That is heavy heavy stuff.

To say that Treya is moody child is an understatement, but with her much improved ability to communicate, the cutest of personalities is beginning to emerge. So on the eve of this life altering day for her, these are Treya's Top Ten Favorite Things.

10. Eating more than mommy and daddy...combined! Treya has gained 3 pounds in a month and seems to love to eat pretty much everything. MEAT be it shrimp, beef, chicken, or fish is her favorite, which is hilarious when you consider she was a vegetarian since birth.

9. Helping...she is a helper. You can always find her at your side handing you the next thing you may need...a tooth brush, a comb, a towel, a sock or a shoe. She also loves to "help" fold clothes, empty the dishwasher even when the dishes are still dirty and make the bed.

8. Learning new words. Her ability to speak has just exploded. Now, we can actually understand what she is trying to say as she masters the different sounds of the English language, adding a few new words each day, like puppy, egg, and pee pee to her vocabulary list. Today she put two words together for the first time..."naked peas" which of course meant "napkin please".

7. She loves to scream M-M-M while on the toilet. We reward with mini m&ms. Treya is a master at letting out one or two drops, signing all done, receiving THE reward and before you can get the diaper back on, mysteriously announcing that she has to go again. She also sits on the toilet with her legs foot up on her knee!

6. She refuses to say Thank you, instead giving the Indian head swagger followed by "you". We are a signing family, so I guess that counts.

5. Trickery is a favorite. She loves to hide from us so we have to come find her or tell us that her box of raisins, for instance is empty. When we look inside there are still some left and she giggles hysterically with a smile so big it squishes her nose, all because she made you look.

4. She calls everyone who cuddles her, momma. So that means, I am momma, daddy in momma, uncle Bill is momma...she knows this is not true because she calls us by our names too. I think it has just become a game where we continually correct her so she continually plays it.

3. She loves to put on her own socks. Yes, it can take forever, but she will not let you help her. She holds one chubby leg up in the air and tries over and over until the elastic encompasses her toes. When the sock is totally pulled up, her big feet fully fill out the knit foot part, but her little calves are so tiny that the rest of the sock hangs loosely on her leg. I will admit, it is pretty cute.

2. Music! The girl loves music and will bop her head to just about anything rhythmic. She tries to sing too, but with no words until recently, she blares out these off key sounds where she thinks the words should go. She always sings the two special lullabies we sing to her and Devi and you can tell by the look on her face that she is trying her hardest to be sincere.

1. Treya's #1 thing is glow worm. It was Devi's toy, but she never paid it any mind. Treya, on the other hand, LOVES it. It accompanies her wherever we go. I find this interesting that she could care less about the soft blankets and squishy stuffed animals and likes THIS toy. It is a rather hard toy with dull colors and a plastic face, albeit it the face lights up and when you push it's belly, it does play music. It is not unusual for Treya to lay on it in her crib, so the music will continually play over and over and over. Poor Devi....they share a room :)

The new double stroller works like a dream....or rather
sends them to dream land!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Parenting A Bengali Babe & A Pune Princess

Today was our first post placement visit. This is when your social worker comes to your house and asks questions about how things are going. Is your child eating well; sleeping well; adjusting to her new life; getting acquainted with other family members, and generally how the attachment and bonding process is going. She also observes your interaction with your newest family member. Then the information is accumulated in a report which is sent back to India to let them know how your adoption in progressing.

Where was our child during almost all of our post placement visit? Well...she was....hiding under the coffee table - covering her face when anyone tried to engage her. I'm not certain how one could put a positive spin on that in a report, but in a months time I am beginning to figure out how to outsmart this little whipper snapper. What was the ace in this momma's back pocket? Homemade banana bread!

At precisely the right moment I brought out the wafting plate of several evenly spaced bites of sweet treat that instantly got our lethargic and lifeless jelly bean's attention. Funny how her personality can do this sort of one eighty from introvert to extrovert for sweets.

Once the aroma reached her nose, Treya toddled over and found her seat right next to the social worker and happily babbled away while we continued our interview. Just as we finished, Treya reached her arms up to me saying "up please" and promptly fell asleep in my arms, only waking long enough to say "bye bye" and to give the cutest half fingered wave as we shut the door.

While it may seem like I pulled that off like a breast plated wonder woman, I must admit that my parenting has left a lot to be desired this week. There have been lots of raised voices, not much patience, and although there have been some pleasant moments, the tension has been high. At one point Devi even asked me why I had lost my smile. Ouch! That one hurt.

Bath time makes us all go a bit looney

Perhaps it had something to do with our McDonald's outing. We had met a friend for a play date and lunch. At one point, the father of another child came to me and said that Devi had stated that she did not want to play with his daughter and told her to get away from her. Okay, that is a pretty serious situation, so I made Devi apologize to the little girl and I thanked the father for bringing it to my attention. Not more than 3 minutes later, I overheard her saying the same sort of thing to another little girl. For that, she stood in the thinking spot and again had to apologize. Later, I heard her calling another little boy "poopy head" (not a positive comment). Our play date was instantly over, we gathered our things and had to leave!

Even though I know why she is having some behavioral issues right now, I was so disappointed in her. This was just the last straw. She has been repeatedly bopping her sister on the head with toys and dragging her across the floor by one arm, even after our disciplinary actions. On the short drive home I must admit that the words military school, grounded for life and yes, even the threat of no visit from Santa Claus came out of my mouth...most likely all in one run on sentence.

Budding artists....I hope!

The finished product in window frames that stay closed
with a magnet so changing artwork can be done without ever taking the frames down.
Simply open, change are, and swing closed. Genius!

Treya's issues are all about yelling "NEIN" at me (No in Marathi) when she does not want to do what I am asking of her, which lead to a topple off our kitchen bench, putting her tooth through her lower lip. Although Devi was fascinated by the sight of blood and we did learn that with Treya's hand and foot issues she lacks that instinctual reflex to catch one's self during a fall, the whole situation could of been avoided by following the rules or use of her listening ears after one of many times I removed her from the bench, rather than yelling NEIN at me. If I ask her to eat the last bite of something on her plate before getting another helping of the thing she prefers, she will put that bite into her mouth and when I begin to spoon seconds (or in her case 3rds or 4ths), she will sneakily spit that last bite onto the floor, trying to hide it from my view. When I remove her from the table, naturally she cries. She gets mad because she got busted, but will still come stand beside me and point to the tears as they run down her cheeks, in case I missed noticing. I tell her to come say she is sorry to momma for spitting food on the floor, and the command she instantly stops crying, the tears immediately dry and she says sorry (always while covering her ears and doing the Indian head swagger...I don't know what that is all about). She also has taken off her pjs and diaper in the middle of the night and then pee peed all over her mattress. Once cold, she cried out, which blared like a fire alarm over the monitor and I came running. Arriving bedside with sleepy blurred vision, I made out pieces and parts strewn about and then searching out a dry spot, I found her naked and shivering body all balled up in the corner of the crib. It was quite a sight. A piece of work, that girl.

Replaying these events of the week over and over in my head, it dawned on me that in our efforts to become unified as a family, we also have to keep our own identities too. Since arriving home, Treya and Devi eat together, play together, bathe together, sleep together and sometimes gulp...yes, even wear matching clothes. Everything is totally controlled and done together. With this revelation I decided to conduct an experiment.

That night each took a bath by themselves while the other had alone time with daddy. Each parent took one child to a separate room to read a bedtime story of their choice. The tension was gone, each girl appeased with a little time to themselves and some one on one time with each of us. They played together happily and yelled out extra "I Love Yous" as we left their room. After lights out, we could hear Devi teaching Treya the alphabet over the monitor. Devi would instruct her to say the next letter and Treya would utter basically the same sound for every letter, but Devi would over-the-top praise her for her efforts. It was darling. How easy was that?

Just when you are ready to throw in the towel, when you can think of no positive reinforcement to offer these children and their behavior anymore, Devi came home with a letter from her dance teacher. All I could think was count to ten...possibly 30, because Pat and I are going to have to come up with another consequence for another misguided choice. To my surprise the loopy pink ink handwritten letter was a glowing report about how hard Devi is working in dance class. She has been encouraging to others and is doing great! Hallelujah! Plodding along, this ends another week of parenting our Bengali babe and Pune princess.