Monday, August 29, 2011

Skin Deep!

India Fest 2011 - Portland, Oregon
(Photo by Kirk)

Without realizing it, I’ve always located my children in a crowd by first looking for their beautiful brown skin and secondly by the fluorescent colors they are most likely wearing; just as my husband says my hair is an asset to him - an aid for finding me amongst a sea of Caucasian people. I enjoy having a unique quality, but I am an adult and made this choice for myself. I wonder what my children feel knowing that in most situations they are different than everybody else in the most obvious of ways - the color of their skin? I say most situations, as this weekend brought a whole new set of circumstances, where suddenly I was the minority whose ability to track my own children failed me!

Imagine my surprise when scouring a swimming pool’s surface in search of my two brown beauties only to find my keen eyes darting from child to child in a literal sea of bobbing, smiling and laughing browned skinned kiddos? Thus was only one of the delightful scenes at the India fest we attended in Portland this past week.

Treya's reaction to her first road trip.
I love how she clasps her hands when she gets excited.

Devi meeting baby Tanaya for the first time.

The kitchen helpers - Shaili, Tanaya and Trey

Our first shift of eaters on the first night.

On Thursday, two adoptive families; the Mahar’s from Oregon and Werre’s from Idaho and ours converged on a 5 bedroom/2 bath rental home located pretty much smack dab in the middle of the heart of Portland - the perfect starting point for most of the week’s activities. Our nine children fell right into step scurrying about discovering the house while each family introduced their newest members, all home from India for less than six months. In addition, there were several local adoptive families and one family, the Hartley’s, who flew in from California that joined in the hectic schedule of fun.

Cheryl, a local, put her organizational talents to work, directing us to many of Portland’s parks and recreation areas. On Friday Blue Lake park was a huge hit sending the older kids off for paddle-boat rides while the younger set played on the sandy beach literally shutting the park down at night fall, but only after many pizzas were consumed to fuel their effort. The kids dug a huge hole - a hole to India, no doubt - that leaves me pondering if it is still there as I am still digging souvenir sand out of both girls' ears!

Ajay playing in the sand box at Washington Park.
(Photo by Cheryl)

Daya and Devi riding a cement Indian elephant Devi named Ganesh.

Some of our Indian princesses. Shaili, Daya, Treya, Devi and Adia

A scorcher Saturday afternoon found us at the home of Lisa and Russ and their 8 children for a bbq pool party. Nearly 50 in number, the pool was full and so were our bellies after a feast of shared dishes. I was thrilled to find the older Indian girls in love with the pea salad I brought to share (recipe courtesy of our neighbor Carol) because of the curry it calls for, which I doubled! Most of us had never met face to face, though have had long relationships via Internet and word of mouth. It was so great to place faces to names, and see these “friends” for the first time. The evening was full of so many stories sharing the miraculous journeys of how each of these wonderful families were joined. In spite of some pretty tragic beginnings, all of the children are loved and thriving now.

Devi resting and refueling with Henna and Adia.
(Photo by Cheryl)

Devi cooling off at Blue Lake park

Devi and Daya - good buddies
(photo by Cheryl)

Treya making friends with Alesha

Part of our group. From left; Pat, Devi, me, Treya, Kaylin, Eric, Adia, Cheryl, Brie, Tanaya, Kirk, Asha and Emily

The excitement began to mount on Sunday morning as we all prepared ourselves for the festival. One by one the children emerged in their traditional Indian attire, so proud of their fancy appearance. Before me knew it, the living room was alive with the sound of jingling bangles, the glint of bindis and the weave of gold threads.

Putting on bangles and bindis - the final touches

(Photo by Kirk)

(Photo by Kirk)

Asha home just a few months
(Photo by Kirk)

The girls in all their finery. From left, Metali, Devi, Daya, Shaili, Treya, Asha, Eli and Tanaya

Upon our arrival the festival was an explosion of color and music with the spicy aroma of Indian food telling our bellies it was time for lunch. I hoarded a fresh dosa with potato pea filling; not sharing a single bite. By mid afternoon in the 90 degree heat, our girls had drained their mango lassi drinks, and we were off to get mehndi tattoos on our hands. Treya’s face lit up when the artist drawing on her hand spoke to her in Marathi - a language she obviously still understands. I believe this was the highlight of Treya’s first India fest and the name tag with her names written in Hindi, which she absolutely refused to take off.

Devi and Ajay watching the dancing.

(Photo by Kirk)

Intent on watching the henna cone move over my skin, the girls and I were startled when the henna artist broke the concentration by commending me for my choice to adopt my girls. I thanked her and made a mental note that to that point, I was unaware that I, a fair skinned women, was noticeably not of Indian origin at this predominately Indian attended event. It is funny that unless I am looking in the mirror or it is pointed out, I never FEEL that I look any different than my girls. We are simply a family and I am their mother.

Nearly at the end of their rope, the girls get the giggles. Treya with her Hindi name tag, Devi and Alesha

Although India festival is held to celebrate India’s independence day, for us, stretching the festivities over a long weekend, allows our children to remain connected, as many of them lived together before joining their forever families; some were even crib mates. I looked forward to watching all of the kids play together, but also to sharing parenting trials and tribulations with other families built like ours. The result brought fast friendships - the kind that will last a lifetime. Our whole family is all ready looking forward to a repeat performance next year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mystic Rhythms

We sometimes catch a window, A glimpse of what's beyond.
Was it just imagination stringing us along?
More things than are dreamed about; unseen and unexplained.
We suspend our disbelief and we are entertained...mystic rhythms

Sister Sue and DeeDee enjoying the summer

At times it seems we tend to become so focused on just putting one foot in front of the other that we fail to notice small, but significant changes; or perhaps it is more a case of failing to see the big picture because we are living with the mantra of taking one day at a time. Either way, when I paused for a breath the other day, I noticed that our family is doing well. Heaving a sigh of relief I began to survey our current situation and I am pleased with the progress. We are all healthy, we are all good eaters and now sleepers, we have a roof over our heads with both parents gainfully employed and our children are loved and thriving. Yay! we are doing it. We are living life and enjoying summer.

Celebrating Treya's half birthday - her first candles ever!

Before putting my nose back down to the grindstone, there are a few pleasantries to share. First of all, daddy has taken a new job and we are so happy and proud of him. Just as a dog can smell fear, so can a child sense stress outside the home. As soon as daddy began his new job the whole household came down a notch or twelve on the stress-o-meter. With the new job, however, comes training...out of state. Florida was daddy’s home for a week, while I tended to the girls. Unfortunately, this same week was Treya’s daycare providers vacation too. Arranging all day care for a toddler is never easy, but thankfully Oma and Di Anna stepped up to the plate. With a little finagling, I managed to get Devi to preschool, Treya settled at home with one of the sitters without Devi knowing she was staying home, myself out the door to work 45 minutes away, working a slightly different set of hours and arranging for coverage of my early morning shift - all in a reasonable amount of time. Suffice to say I have a newly formed and solid appreciation for working single mothers!

Both girls were angels the whole time. There was no bickering or disagreements, no back talk or strong willed issues and although we all missed daddy immensely, we managed to squeeze in some pretty fun times at the splash park, a couple of nice picnics and even a girls spa night of bubbles in the jacuzzi tub - all three of us suddsing at the same time.

Hard to believe we experienced a day of 80 degree weather
and headed for the splash park.

Enjoyed Ethnic Fest with jumpy houses, yummy Indian food,
great music. Devi was determined to learn how to hoola hoop, but
never quite mastered it. DETERMINATION!

Wright Park, the sight of Ethnic Fest has a new
playground that Treya explored.

Just as I was beginning to plan for daddy’s second week away, we received a phone call that an opening had popped up at Devi’s preschool for Treya’s age group. Up to this point, Treya had been in a private home setting, which was perfect for her in the beginning. She grew so much under this grandma-type woman’s care and over came her severe shyness, began trying new foods and started to potty train. We loved the arrangement but, Treya seemed increasingly ready for more interaction with other children. So when this rare opening presented itself, (we anticipated having to wait a year on the waiting list) we knew we had to act and having the girls under one roof for daycare/preschool would again, prove to be a family stress reliever.

Treya's first day at Our Innspiration.

Devi saying the Pledge of Allegiance at her
preschool picnic. They also sang Surin' USA and
signed the whole alphabet.

The theme was surfin' USA. This is Devi's PURPLE surfboard.

Treya's second day at her new daycare. This is her artwork for the picnic.

Tomorrow marks a week with both girls attending the same daycare/preschool. All ready it has taken over a half hour off of my commute each day and although Treya had tears the first day, now everyone is settling in and loving it. Treya immediately fell back into her orphanage role as “helper” clearing dishes and sweeping the floor with the teachers in her room. One’s first instinct is to think this is cute, but I’ve let them know a bit about her tendency to be alone and have encouraged interactive play with the other children. Devi feels so protective of her sister and has taken on a nice solid role as big sister, which makes her feel so important. We hear during joint play time, they always seek each other out for hugs. On the drive home yesterday, I asked the girls about the best part of their days. Devi reported that she had a vegetable tray for lunch and ate a tomato that her class grew. Treya’s response to the same questions was SLIDE! On another day, Devi was thrilled that they got to play outside without coats on and Treya was beside herself with joy over mastering the making of a diamond shape with her index fingers and thumbs. While this may seem like a no brainer for some, for Treya’s little hands, missing parts of her digits, this was a MAJOR accomplishment. Now her “Twinkle Twinkle” song is complete!

Listening to music at Proctor Art Fest.
Devi is explaining that the band
is playing a Stevie Wonder of
mom's favorites.

Two styles of dancing...Devi goes mostly up and down Treya sort of sways and bobs her head.

More dancing with a friend.

Behind the scenes, we’ve had another post placement visit in preparation for finalizing Treya’s adoption, one of the final steps in making our family legal and binding forever on paper. The social worker was amazed by the changes in Treya, even forgetting her various physical challenges. Referring to her notes she said, “oh yes, her hands! I completely forgot she has issues, because she uses them so well!” She also scribbled a few notes about our loud child, who has gone from being nearly silent to one never at a loss for words. The nice part is that those words are slowly beginning to be recognized as part of the English language.

Popcicles with our neighbor Joaquin at our annual cul-de-sac block party.
The firetruck came and let the kids sit inside.
We had water balloons, good company and tons of food.

My hambones on a morning stroll on the pier.

Proof that she has learned to run!

It took 3 years, but Devi finally grew enough to
learn how to ride a big wheel. Treya took to the trike
pretty naturally and LOVES to wear a helmet. She just as soon never
take it off.

We are at the peak of our busy summer social calendar about now, but soon things with begin to slow. With fall comes the beginning of a new school year and Devi will say goodbye to ALL the little girls in her preschool class as they enter kindergarten. Devi has one more year in preschool and our hope is that the girls moving up to her room will all become fast friends. Treya has been scheduled for hand surgery; her last one we hope. She will be having her two middle fingers separated on September 6th. She also will begin PT on her feet and have her corrective shoes adjusted. We also hope to find out how long she will need to wear them.

When I compare and contrast our home life right now with what we were experiencing just a few short months ago, I am taken aback by the progress. Those were some dark days; we managed, but it was nothing like the normalcy we are living now. Life is fun - great even and our family brings us joy and a smile each and every day.

Devi teaching Papa how to ride a trike.

Papa and Gail with their grand daughters.