Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Bit Of India Found In Tulsa, OK

 ISRC girls who once lived together

For the first time in my life, I walked into a large auditorium filled with people I’ve never met expecting to feel uncomfortable, only to look around and recognize most of the children and a large portion of the adults even though we’ve never actually met. Several people even walked right up and addressed me by name. Wow! near celebrity status. When does this ever happen? Why, at India camp!

 Mom's  and daughters who traveled around the same time.
Us, Karen & Jenya, Anya Rashi & Nancy

For the last five years, I’ve emailed, blogged and Facebooked with a major portion of the people in that room. So even though we’ve never met in person, I feel connected - related to these people. I have happy danced with them from miles away, celebrated their milestones over my own flute of bubbly champagne, had endless conversations explaining who everyone is to my poor husband who can’t seem to keep the players straight, and have stared straight into the lives of others through my computer monitor crying tears of both joy and sadness experiencing the harsh realities of their adoption journeys. Together we have shared the tumultuous road of forming our families through International adoption. They are my Dillon family.

At five years of age, Devi was finally old enough to attend camp this year, so I accompanied her to Tulsa for the 3 day experience, while daddy took on concentrated one-on-one time with Treya at home. We shared a room with crib mate Jenya and her mom Karen, a holiday all in itself for us. This was Devi and Jenya’s second meeting and purely by coincidence (with a little motherly guidance), managed to be on the same flight, sitting together, from Chicago to our final destination, each with a set of headphones attached by a splitter, shared Angelia Ballerina, children’s music and snacks together. 

Ready for camp with one of their counselors

Tagged elephants, the girls were united with several other children in their age group, who lived at ISRC as infants just like them. For the next two days, they took half hour instruction in Indian dance, cooking, yoga, language, crafts, henna, dress up, story time and bouncy house. When asked during breaks which area of study was their favorite, we heard a resounding unanimous vote for dance! Further proof was watching the girls in those undetected moments while waiting for an elevator or studying their reflection in a window, unconsciously break into a bit of the routine they were learning for the final performance day.  Near lunchtime on one of the days, I arrived to find Devi adorned with makeup, bindi and what looked like full Indian wedding attire. Stunned by the false sense of maturity she had suddenly acquired, I could indeed see glimpses of the woman within, and was left wondering if she might choose this sort of traditon as part of her own nuptials someday.

Late afternoons were spent at Leapin’ Louie’s Lagoon, a small water park adjoining the hotel. Renamed “Hawaii” by the girls, the pool was a huge hit. They splashed and went down the slide countless times until with blue lips and trembling bodies, the exhaustion in their eyes from the long and busy day was apparent. For Devi and Jenya; however, it did not stop the incessant whispers at bedtime, with chatter of princesses and castles and friendships filling the silence of the night-night darkness, echoed by the shushes of mothers urging their much needed sleep.

Anna, Devi, Jenya, Anya Rashi
Mihika with Devi below

By now Devi and Jenya, Anya Rashi, Anna Dola, Mihika, Wren Pryashi, Tess, and many others had become buddies all hanging out as if they had known each other for years. Many of the parents (because our children were so close as babies, especially Nancy, Peter, Karen and I)  shared the same sort of camaraderie, some of us dining out for lunches and dinners, taking in Indian food, and exchanging life experiences through voice rather than email. It was so great to finally connect accents of voices and personality traites to these peoples faces and finding that though we are separated by miles and geography we are very much like minded.

Walking into the conference center the final day was reminiscent of stepping off a plane onto Indian soil. The warmth of the  96 degree day, our beautiful brown skinned children running around hugging and laughing in their bright and glittery Indian attire, and the unmistakeable aroma of an India Palace lunch buffet that soon followed, and I was there. Once full to the brim, the parents settled in for the grand finale performances. Each age group had prepared a skit, song or poem to illustrate what they had learned at camp. The elephants performed a fable using the animal masks they had made, about how long ago, mice and elephants learned to share the jungle peacefully. At last the dance! The near 50 campers found their spot on the dance floor and with the assistance of the dance instructors, entertained us with an energetic bollywood dance that we had only witnessed bits and pieces of until today. It was fabulous - hard to believe they had only had a couple hours of practice. 

 Now home a few days with only our photos and the remains of our fading mehndi left, I still hear Devi singing Naani Teri Morni Lo Mor Le Gaye, (a nursery rhyme in Hindi about thieves stealing a granny's peacocks) throughout the house and she is still recalling fun memories made with her new friends. Her camp crafts are proudly displayed and she hasn’t stopped asking me to set up Skype since we touched down. We had such a positive and enriching experience and plan to attend in future years, though we both agree leaving daddy and Treya was so hard too. Daddy and Treya also had a marvelous time discovering the trinkets in the numbered bags I had left for them to keep track of the number of sleeps until we were home, loudly chattering with just as much enthusiasm about their days while we were away. No doubt we all missed each other and grew emmensly from our time away from each other. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Show Time!

The months leading up to recital were nothing short of painful for the whole family as Devi struggled to keep her inner class clown in check during her third year of dance class, often leading to phone calls of apology to the dance instructor, time spent in the “thinking” spot at home and threats of hanging up her dancin’ shoes all together. Though I doubted it was possible at times, she did manage to discipline herself toward the end of the season, earning two arm stamps for the final two classes, just days before the performance.

Treya, on the other hand, LIVED for dance class on Thursdays, receiving two stamps every single week. One stamp earned for having good listening ears, and one earned for class participation. Since September, she has proudly rolled up her sleeves after class to reveal the two shapes, slightly smeared by movement, that decorate her beautiful brown forearms. She also declared “Dance Day” as the best part of her day every week.

To Devi, recital has become old hat, but this would be our first attempt of seeing Treya center stage, contemplating stage fright or becoming star struck. In both situations, the girls were giddy with excitement on performance day, and in truth, I too, found myself a tad excited with a swell of proud momma as well. Giving them each my final words of encouragement with a dash of fairy dust applied to each cheek and a swipe of princess lip gloss across their tender lips, we were ready to go.

Wedging Treya’s twinkle toes into her size 9-1/2 tap shoes, she was costumed and ready for her first number with a grin spread wide from ear to ear. Marching in, the troupe, 10 dancers long,  ended with Treya on the far end, positioned in front of a small bottle fed baby in a carrier right at her eye level in the audience. Teacher Cat said, “Little dancers, starting position please and hide your hands!” Obediently, all the kids jumped separating their feet nice and wide and put their hands behind their backs awaiting the cue of the music. Three or four notes into the song, Treya’s attention drifted from Teacher Cat, positioned at the back of the room, to her favorite thing on earth....a baby! Captivated, she continued to dance in slow motion and we could make out an occasional TAP, but she was gone, mesmerized by this small child suckling away on it’s bottle. Hilarious. 

Next she performed a ballet in the same costume that Devi wore on her first recital. Equally as darling in the pink tutu and foam crown, Treya flitted about, obviously dancing to her own music, her eyes as wide as saucers with her pudgy cheeked smile revealing every last one of her pearly white teeth. Performance for Trey is definitely not about the precision of the step, but rather it is all about taking in every inch of her frame costumed in finery.

Receiving a high-five from me during each of the costume changes, you could just see her swell with pride. This became ever more obvious as she was transformed into a cowgirl, complete with cowgirl hat, red fringe and silver sequins for her western styled jazz number and finally swinging neon pink scarves for the finale. Teacher Cat commented at the end, “Treya, did you eat jumping beans for breakfast?” as the fast paced Alvin and the chipmunk music brought out the JUMP in our girl. Jump she did....many many times. To this, I just smile, recalling that last year at this time, her legs were just out of casts and running and jumping were just two of the many goals she was striving for. 

Devi the oldest in her group, has become a leader amongst her peers. Booming with confidence she took the stage for her tap dance with a bright smile ready to wow the audience, but with everyone of her performances to date, she has suffered a costume malfunction. This time knocking a giant sequined silver bow off of the top of head and down across her eyes. She was determined to not miss a beat continuing to dance blind, so I came to the rescue, pushing it back up....hardly noticeable-front and center-in the middle of everyone’s home videos I’m sure! 

A twirly orange skirt was worn for the ballet dance. Evidence of three years of classes came through as she gracefully commanded the school room stage with her delicate footwork. Bits of “I’m Cool” have been sung around the house for the past couple of months, making it nice to see the jazz dance in it’s entirety performed live with cute pink fringe skirts and with ribbon and flower head bands for accent. The show concluded with another Alvin and Chipmunks rendition of a popular rock and roll song full of movement and fanfare. Precision is key for this girl, sporting the smile, finding the tape mark on the floor and this year performing with rhythm and grace, while singing no less.

Naturally, the parents and today Oma too supplied tons of flowers to recognize our girls' accomplishments. Both girls were so proud and chatted about the details of each dance long after the final curtain. It was so fun to hear the older girls congratulate each other on their jobs well done as they changed and headed out into the great room for cookies and to join their smiling parents who awaited them with praise. The smile I had smeared across my face lasted for hours recalling all of the Hollywood moments witnessed on this monumental day for the Ross household.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Lessons Learned While Playing F-word Bingo

We spend a fair amount of time playing F-word bingo, marking our spaces with mini jelly beans, as well as going F-word fishing and sometimes just practicing our F-words all by themselves. No, this is not an R-rated post filled with vulgarity, but rather part of Treya’s recent speech therapy homework. Weekly, we’ve visited Ms. Jennifer for instruction, most recently with Treya’s “F” sound. After a couple of half hour sessions, Treya was able to finally put her top teeth on her bottom lip and blow air through to form that incredibly difficult sound. Up to that point all F words were pronounced with a D sound making frog...drog, family...damily and fishy...dishy. After six sessions Treya is now capable of breaking the word into parts - saying fff-ishy or fff-amily, but we are still working hard at grasping the concept of putting it all together as one word when speaking in sentences, which for her still come out as fDamily, fDarm, and fDlower. 

To date, this has been the hardest sound to grasp. S came fairly quickly, as did T. What I can atest to, is changing a speech pattern after learning it another way is very hard to do. Can you imagine in every day conversation having to concentrate on where to put your teeth, your tongue, when to articulate and where to the blow air through your mouth for every word you utter? Sort of like how one starts to hyperventilate when they start to “think” about breathing. Sometimes, with the excitement of the activity at hand-for instance-trying to point out a passing butterfly before it flies out of sight, you can watch Treya’s face go from determination to defeat. You can just imagine in her head she is just saying, “Oh, to hell with it!” and she blurts out what she has to say her old way as her concentration breaks.  Other times, she just sits silent, avoiding saying any of the words that contain sounds that we are working with trying to answer with a nod or shake of the head, all responses that require no sound. She is trying so incredibly hard at this, often times with success slow to come. 

As Treya is attacking this most difficult task, so am I - the momma bear - who has had to go toe to toe with the insurance company, whom to this point is refusing to cover speech therapy for Treya unless it is the result of an injury and can be considered part of restoring speech or if the child was born with an abnormality or deformity directly related to speech. Everything was fine until our first statement finally arrived in the mail. Imagine our surprise when found we were being charged $760 an hour for this therapy rather than the $45 a half hour that I was quoted by the insurance companies online service estimator. Granted, the fine print said the fee may be slightly higher dependent on your actual policy. But $760 an hour?  That is more than the hourly charge of her hand specialist and foot specialist combined. Yowza! With 6 sessions all ready under our belt that fee had mounted to a pretty hefty debt, that left unchecked could bankrupt us. It was the first time that I was faced with the cold reality that I could not continue to provide something for my child that professionals agreed was necessary. That hurt.

Six weeks of research later I can tell you that our health care system has failed my child. People are people, each with a specific set of circumstances that make us unique. We don’t fit into neat blocks of set criteria, labeled with a diagnosis code to “explain” our needs. For instance, Treya is a 315.31, which mean she has developmental delays in speech and language, but that label does not take into consideration the reasons for her delay. There is no code that takes into account that she had limited verbal stimulation as an infant, or that she was born with ABS and club feet, both conditions that over 90% of the time lead to speech delay, but to this point, have never been proven by an accredited scientific study. According to the insurance policy Treya’s code, because it includes the word “developmental” translates to “she will get better over time with treatment or without treatment”, wherein reality, the word “developmental” in her diagnosis code refers to the fact they are talking about a child rather than an adult. The specialists who have treated Treya have stated in her evaluation that her speech pattern is not indicative of the kinds of speech patterns they typically see in the English language, furthermore stating that by three years of age sound replacement begins to dissipate, but they have seen no evidence of this in Treya. Improving her speech without intervention, in their opinion is not likely. The kicker? These evaluations are NOT sent to the insurance company because they would require that someone read them and then dissect the information. The long and short of the situation is that the specialists know about my child and her needs, but the insurance company still considers her a 315.31 because the other speech related codes refer to neurological disorders, which we know she does not have. 

Where do we go from here? Another kind of evaluation. Why? Because if we prove that she has a deficit in a total of two areas, (speech and something else) she will qualify for FREE speech therapy through the school system, even though she is only going into preschool - a fact that was never disclosed until now. With the end of the school year next week, the bad news is we have to wait to get this started until the beginning of the next school year, losing valuable time where speech is concerned. The good news, Treya’s speech therapist Ms. Jennifer is a kind and caring human being who has supplied us with a folder of homework, games, and activities to further Treyas study at home through the summer. You can bet that we will also be following up with the insurance commissioner. 

In the end, Treya is Treya. My Treya. She is our lovable, funny, bossy, feisty, tender and sweet...nothing short of unique...jelly bean. She is definitely NOT your average 315.31!