Monday, September 30, 2013

A Day Among Days

 Forever Family Day 2013 - Gateway to India

Doing the “day to day”, takes all day every day. So much so, that it often takes an anniversary or major milestone, to cause me to pause long enough to survey our current situation. Casting a glance this way and that to look for a bit of wood to knock, I am happy to report that we are doing okay, more than okay really. Today, instead of diligently putting my head down and trudging forward, I am going to wallow a bit in this happy place.

On September 18th, we celebrated two major milestones -Treya’s anniversary of becoming a Ross in the courts here in the USA, and Devi’s 6th anniversary of her forever family day.  A quick glance at what that looks like finds us parenting a 4 and a half year old tall tough nut. Treya has sprouted about 3 and half inches since June. She is our bossy bear, who considers herself second in command to mom and dad, often landing herself in trouble for mimicking our correction of Devi. Purely trying to help, I'm sure...this personality trait has never waned since she joined our family. She is our ballet dancing t-shirt and jeans tomboy, who currently lives for soccer and swimming. Most days she vacillates from being a kitty, a puppy or a pony, but never a little girl. The longer this animal phase goes on the more it tries my patience with the child who licks my hand, or answers my questions with panting, neighs, or puppy whines. She has turned into our little comedian though, occasionally struggling to know when a laugh is appropriate and when it is not. Treya delights in showing just how tight she can hug, or how many times, she can kiss your lips in quick succession before you crack a smile. She loves to surprise us in the mornings, having made her own bed, dressed herself for the day and combed her own hair. Her volume continues to be loud and louder and she still copies Devi’s every move. We are bracing ourselves for a new phase that has begun to appear as our very competitive girl discovers that the world is not always fair and by golly she is determined to tell you all about that in a very loud voice where ever we might be. Most recently I found myself wildly shushing her voice as she spoke, “Mommy, dat woman took our spot in cuts...dats not fair!” Yikers. 

Devi is a 6 3/4 year old toothless, tall and lean dress wearing girl, and unlike the  behavioral struggles she faced in kindergarten, has taken the first grade by storm. This year her biggest struggle is taking time to eat her lunch, which comes home, more often than not, uneaten even when we remind her that Treya is just 2 and a half inches shorter than she and gaining on her.  She forever has her nose in a book, often reading sections of her favorites over and over, preferring to read her favorite numbered chapters first, rather than the whole book from cover to cover. She still enjoys princess dress up, building blanket forts, animals of any kind and for some unknown reason talks with a British accent much of the time. Our daughter who once would decline Oreos for carrot sticks, now has announced she only likes sugar. In fact, recently when I asked her to describe what heaven would be like, she said it was just like walking through Candyland for real, where you could eat as much of it as you wanted anytime you wanted, and then quickly added that her Grandma DeeDee, Opa, and our dogs Konrad and Cayenne would be there to eat it with her. She has taken the stance that being the only girl at her daycare with dark skin and dark hair makes her unique and special and she beams when we talk about it and would prefer to stay clear of the kids who “don’t try their hardest” in school.

Sharing Cotton Candy at the Puyallup Fair

As I’ve come to realize; however, parenting is a non-stop job with little solid ground to stand upon on most days. There seems to be a lot of second guessing going on, as Pat and I discuss the days events before our eyes close at the end of each day. Were we too soft, too harsh, not sympathetic enough, not understanding of their opinions, were we just manipulated and just figuring it out now, or favoring one child’s side over another?  Much of the time I feel like a goalie facing the free kicks of the opposing team in the last seconds of a tied game, with little time to analyze the ball in flight or anticipate in which direction it may fly. It just seems that the kids have an uncanny way of painting us into a disciplining corner, where to be consistent and fair, while not blowing one’s top or acting irrational can sometimes be difficult or painful. How many times have I drawn a disciplinary line and as soon as the words leave my lips, I start praying that the kids don’t call my bluff for there is no possible way on God’s green earth I could ever “never let them have family movie night again in their lives”,  or “just take them to school naked”, or “just let the brush and comb stay in their hair forever”. One could pretty much inject any absurd phrase, and no doubt either Pat or I have succumb to saying something close to it and cringing after. Thankfully, the kids, at this point still take us seriously, but I fear we’ve got about one more year, before these kinds of threats will cause our children to fall on the floor in an all out belly laugh. Right now we are both relieved that the girls love to spend time with us, forever asking us to tell them stories about when we were young and especially the stories where we got into mischief.

One would think maneuvering through our days listening to a British child and petting the extra dog we’ve acquired, otherwise known as our Indian born children, that there would be no extra time to think of much else for fear of losing one's mind. But there are still times like these, these milestones, were I still find it hard to fathom that we have been entrusted to guide and direct these beautiful gifts to adulthood. To say that I love them, are not words enough to express how deeply they are rooted to my soul. My heart soars with their triumphs, and aches with their struggles, in ways that celebrating a milestone or counting an anniversary could never fully express. Though the story we tell them is that we filled out human sized stacks of papers and forms, waited for the mercy of a judge, and traveled on a plane, a taxi, a bus, a train, a boat, on an elephant, in an auto rickshaw and made the final journey on foot to get to the place where they lived until we could come for them, the truth is much more simple. God had a plan and it began the moment they were simply placed into my arms. With that transfer of body weight, we took on an unbelievable privilege and a monumental sense of responsibility, and raising our girls became far more than just about love. This job, the most important one of my life, I hope and pray that I will lend it justice, but for now I love that they teach far more than they are taught and I am so willing to learn. Happy Adoption Day Treya, my rutabaga and Happy Forever Family day to Devi, my little turnip! We love you so much!

Monday, September 09, 2013

Another First Day

 First day of first grade!

 First day of her last year of preschool!

Anticipating September 4th, our district’s official first day of school, had the whole Ross household a bit keyed up that last week of summer. Pat kept asking “When is the first day of school again?”, which exasperates me to no end having to repeat myself to non-listening ears.  Devi was in a tug of war with her thoughts weighing the benefits of free time versus organized learning; wearing uniforms again versus just throwing on her coveted favorite flowy dress; and having free use of the school library versus making a selection from our limited home bookshelf of titles. Secretly wishing it were true, Treya was adamantly telling everyone that she was starting kindergarten, though every one who knows her is aware that she has one more year of preschool preparation ahead. I was calm as a cucumber, smugly feeling well prepared UNTIL...I decided to re-check the fit of some of Devi’s uniforms. Dresses and jumpers that fit perfectly less than a month ago, now had hems measuring well above mid-thigh, sinfully breaking every dress code known to man! With no time to debate a sudden growth spurt, I quickly moved these items to the “no longer fits” pile that also held about 15 pair of Treya’s pants!

Now, just days before the “first day” when purchasing online was no longer an option,  I was physically out shopping (so not like me!) for pants and one of the hardest items to locate - a short sleeve navy blue polo dress, with no logos, or pockets. This event alone would normally cause our family to become all ruffled up, but thankfully my sister, an avid shopper came along for moral support. In the end, we were successful, bringing my stress level down to a defcon 3 again and Devi was overjoyed at finally having found a belt that actually fits her tiny waist. I am still searching for tights in red and yellow, but certainly a “first day” can occur without all the accessories.


As a final quick hooray to say goodbye to summer, we accomplished an overnight camping trip complete with hiking, pond fishing and campfire smores. The girls slept comfortably in a trailer, while Pat and I wrestled with an air mattress, two sleeping bags and the four skewer-like legs of our dog Bengal in the back of our sloping downhill minivan. And just like that, before we knew it, the “first day” was upon us.

This year I honed in on boosting brain power, making blueberry pancakes for a hearty breakfast. We discussed their aspirations for the coming year. Devi decided she wants to be a mom, a prima ballerina and a gymnast when she grows up. Her favorite subject is science and she feels as though with maturity has come the desire to change her favorite colors from the typical favorites of pink and purple to red and blue, though you could not fool me. Treya would like to be a mom and asked if she could also be something else (I love the way her brain works) so expanded her dream to include becoming a professional soccer player and a teacher. She still loves purple and nap time is her favorite subject in preschool. The girls appeared dressed and ready soon after our enlightening breakfast, looking  spit polished and ready to go. We paused for the ceremonial front porch Kodak moment and then headed up to the preschool/daycare to drop Treya off first. She was thrilled to find out that now that school age kids won’t be at the daycare during the day, her class has now become a group of “older” kids. Beaming, she kissed us goodbye as I reminded her to be a helper and good role model.

Next we arrived at Sherman just as a few kids started to enter the school yard. Though we were a tad early, Devi was antsy to get going and perhaps a little nervous too. She had located her room, found her desk, and met her teacher and a few classmates the day before at the ice cream social making today seem a whole lot more familiar.

Lined up outside the building waiting in anticipation for the bell to ring, it was nice to look around and see friendly faces from last year. We are not newbies any more. It an introspective moment, it felt good to realize that we sort of know what is going on AND we have a fresh new start to the year beginning in minutes. I actually felt excited for Devi and hoped that would help to keep my emotions in check this year.

Marching into the building the air was filled with the sound of slamming lockers and hellos shouted from one friend to another over the sea of bobbing heads of students and parents making their way into classrooms. Devi was several feet ahead of us in line waiting to enter room 101. She caught our gaze through the corner of her excited wide eyes. Looking back at us, flashing that huge new toothless smile she mouthed  “Will you take a picture of me at my desk?” It is in these rare and fleeting moments that I know she still thinks it is cool to have us around and I love that.

Once every one was seated, daddy snapped off a few photos while I passed out the kids’ first assignment for the teacher - a coloring sheet. The students eagerly dug into their boxes of supplies held within their desks and opened fresh boxes of crayolas. It brought back such wonderful childhood memories of my own first days of school watching them begin their first school day. From afar I observed Devi chatting with her friend about the possible color choices held within the box of crayons and realized that she could no longer see me, I had evaporated into the scenery, and she had become totally captivated by the musings of first grade. Sigh.

Hearing our cue, Pat and I waved goodbye and exited the building with the other parents. Once outside he clasped my hand as we headed toward the parking lot lightly chatting about how excited we were for Devi’s school year and about how she is growing up before our very eyes. Then there was a pause and silence.  “Another “first day” down”,  he finally said as we walked hand in hand, both just a bit misty eyed.

 Good bye summer, Hello School year!
Camping in the Mt. Rainier foothills.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

We Rolled Out Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer!

Tonight the house is quiet. Both kids fell into bed after the completion of the first day of school. Where did our summer go? I can see by the nearly complete summer fun list attached to the pantry doors that we did, indeed, have a summer and apparently were rather busy, but it still feels as though the doors of Sherman elementary school just flew open revealing a gaggle of screaming kids eager to enjoy their nearly three months of summer free time. In an effort to bring us back up to date, here is how we passed the time.

India Camp
India camp is fun, loud, exhausting and a host of other things, but the most remarkable thing about camp is not planned, organized or expected. It is magical. For three days our children, most of whom were born in India, gather together to learn about Indian culture. Most of them are aware that they lived in the same orphanage at one point or another, some had bassinets side by side, and others, perhaps, even shared a crib as infants. Past the age of about one year, most of the kids have never seen each other again until camp. Once together; however, the magic begins as the kids unite revealing this undeniable bond with one another. Instant close friendships are evident.
Performance day!

Friends, Jenya and Devi before celebrating Holi

4th of July
Our small town hosts a bike parade each year. This year, both girls were able to actually ride their own bikes. First they had the idea of dressing like fireworks...all in tie dye! Then they decorated their rides with red, white and blue. 

Random fun things
The largest part of our summer was spent doing random fun things. Treya enjoyed crazy week. One day was crazy hair day. She chose 10 braids!! Daddy treated all his girls to spa nights throughout the summer, painting our toenails all sorts of fun colors...even the Sounders' colors. We performed random acts of kindness AND paid it forward on one of our coffee time and story time outings. The stunned man who was the recipient of a drink on us was dumb founded. Devi completed 178 books in the summer reading club and Treya managed to open 72 books. We attended story time in our PJs at the library every week.

Ocean Shores
One misty morning I got the bright idea to go to the ocean. Trey desperately wanted us to drive our car on the sand and let Bengal see the water. Check! We did it. Though the weather was not very warm that day, the girls spend hours running into the water, letting the waves chase them out. So did Bengal. We flew kites and had a picnic beside the van...which was parked on the sand!

Cousins visit
Our Colorado relatives came for a visit, which prompted Oma to host a backyard party. The kids had a grand time and we finally took the time to take some much needed updated family photos.

Papa and Gail with their grand kids

A Wedding!
A good friend asked the girls to be the flower girls in her wedding. It was a beautiful outdoor event. Treya dropped flower pedals followed by Devi who pulled a wagon which held the bride and grooms two week old baby girl. Precious! 

We also managed to hit several Farmer's markets, went camping, fishing, tried a new flavor if ice cream, sent both girls to zoo camp, ate from our garden, took the girls to see Monsters' University - their first movie in a movie theater, and a multitude of other fun summer things. is all coming back to me now. We did do summer and now I guess it is time for the leaves to begin to start turning and for another season to grace us with it's presence. Bye summer time...see you next year!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A Seasoned Veteran

Receiving our full attention this year, Treya marched us into the daycare/preschool to find our seats for our fifth dance recital, under the tutelage
of teacher Cat. Devi, now too old for this dance program,sat with us in the audience for the first time, ready to celebrate Treya’s accomplishments with a large bouquet of fresh farmer’s market flowers.

 A true creature of habit, Treya took her spot in the appropriate name tagged chair in the dressing room, just as in past years, ready to be dressed for her first number. Blooming with confidence, there was no need to offer encouragement or bolster bravery as stage fright was no where in sight.  Trey was prepared and ready to go with her signature gigantic smile plastered all the way across her face. 

As each of the ten pink tutu clad dancers took the stage, curtsied and found their starting pose on their knees, eyes closed with their head leaning on hands, it became evident that I had seen this dance before. Yes, it was the same “Dreaming of Being a Real Ballerina” performance that Devi danced in her second year as well (also documented in this blog). True to form, Treya also showed so much more maturity and precision in her movements with a whole year of practice under her belt. Recital for her went from being silly in front of a willing audience to serious business showing what she had learned.

A tap dance to the inch worm song followed. When single taps took place you could really hear the children were somewhat in unison, but as soon as multiple tapping steps took place in a row, you’d swear we had just been over taken by a cloud of chirping cicadas! Clickity clickity click! The kids were darling none the less and full of enthusiasm, concluding the dance as one long inch worm with their hands on the shoulders of the child in front of them, singing, dancing and smiling out to the audience. 

The week preceding the recital, Treya kept trying to tell me that a big secret would be revealed during the show. I would always follow this with a finger on my lips...shhhh...don’t tell me, I want to be surprised response. Finally, the grand finale was upon us. In walked each of the 10 children with a different animal mask covering their face. They danced to the song I like to move it, move it! It was hilarious with lion roars, and clawing paws and giant elephant steps - obviously the kids’ favorite! When Treya removed her mask she was beaming at us - knowing she had surprised us with a job well done. 

It is amazing to think that not so long ago our jelly bean could not hop or run and could barely jump. Today we saw such coordination, determination and pure joy on her face as she flitted around the stage. She smiled from ear to ear when Devi laid the flowers in her arms and kissed her on the cheek. Good job my little Trey. You are gem and we love you so much!   

Monday, July 29, 2013

School Daze...and more!

Adjusting to Kindergarten was a long process for Devi. Though academics came pretty easily to her, focusing on schoolwork in a classroom setting with all the rules that apply were a bit harder to master. So it was a year of trial and error for her, finding her place, managing her time, controlling her behavior and figuring out how to get the attention of one teacher for all the RIGHT reasons. A flashback to instincts honed during orphanage living? All the children vying for the positive or negative attention of one? Perhaps, but we will never know for sure. What I do know and will never forget, is the proud look on Devi’s face and ours when Mr. Stanley announced her name at a school assembly selecting her for “Outstanding Student Achievement in Academics”, (with good behavior) recognition she had worked hard all year to achieve.

So eager to be going to a big school like sissy, Treya has been working hard as well, accomplishing her name. She can spell it out loud and now has mastered the shapes of the drawn letters as well. Treya has made huge strides in her speech therapy sessions too, successfully pronouncing several sets of sounds (f, v, s, sh, l)  that until recently had proved difficult for her. She is delighted that people outside of our family can finally begin to understand her, which has improved her conversational speech dramatically. 

And while we are on the subject of challenges, I took on one myself, learning to use fondant on a cake for the first time. This cake was an "I spy" cake that I donated to Devi's school's cake walk carnival night. It was really fun to do, though both girls were disappointed that at the end of the evening it was not coming home with us!
That about wrapped up our school year, so now to bring the blog a bit more up to date...a photo montage of the events that followed.

In those few minutes between spring and summer comes our annual Jr. Daffodil parade. With the weather still questionable at this time of year, we managed a somewhat sunny day to enjoy the floats and yes...princesses! who so graciously posed with our girls again this year, reminding them to do their best in school to one day be a daffodil princess too.

Who wouldn't gladly accept some extra loving on Mother's day? Certainly not me!

Thrilled to have Devi request my presence as a chaperone on her first field trip, and realizing that I am still cool in her book for a little longer, I gladly took the day off from work to join the fun. I have sort of dreamed of accompanying my kids on trips like these, and it was everything I had ever hoped for. Pouring rain during the mostly outdoor excursion to the zoo corralling 23 kindergarteners, each trying to display their best behavior, but bursting with excitement to tell "Mrs. Devi's mom" about touching sting rays, seeing a baby spotted leopard, and enjoying a sack lunch packed with special things just for this long awaited trip. Devi was enthralled with feeding the Budgies!

What do you do on a rainy day? We play pirates!

Daddy enjoyed his extra loving on Father's day too!

The girls were ecstatic when they found out their cousin Lina was coming to Washington! The two high-lights were a really sleep over where Devi gave up her bed to her cousin and all three girls slept in the same room. A first for our two girly girls, I thought for sure, I would be breaking it up after an hour or so. I was amazed that they actually went to sleep....almost on time. 

Days before Lina's arrival, Dee and Trey decided they needed a tea party, busying themselves making place cards for the seating arrangement and selecting the menu. Mini cupcakes, fruit, goldfish and pretzels were served with strawberry lemonade the perfect pairing. Lina was a very gracious guest of honor playing along with the girls, which totally made their day. grown ups were allowed!

And, if I haven't mentioned Bengal in awhile, well he is doing great, but now that he has grown to where his head can comfortably lay on the kitchen counter, he has become the counter surfer who is both clever and cunning. To date he has consumed bags of fresh made cookies from our neighbor, a whole loaf of french bread, muffins, countless leftover sausages, 6 raw chicken breasts and a half of a pizza...twice! Somehow, he does manage some self control, leaving the fruit bowl untouched. Such a good boy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Refueling...on Spring Break!

 Spring Break in Mexico!

After a bit of a hiatus, I am back. The reason? Well, it was really a series of unfortunate events that lead to the break and not the lack of things to share. Close friends can attest to the fact that I am rarely at a loss for words. The problem began when my iphoto library went kaput on my mac.  What is a post without photos? My own fault really, because when talking about memory, it is an intangible thing that seems vast and plentiful, unlike an open refrigerator, where one glance reveals an obvious trip to the grocery is in order to replenish something.  When the machine’s memory is gone, so are all things you’ve asked it to remember.  Lesson learned...never ignore the polite messages reminding you that your start up disk is getting full (said while slapping the back of my own hand).

Secondly, I never realized how difficult (read time consuming) it would be to make it through kindergarten! Gone is nap time, finger painting and eating a two peanut snack at a snail’s pace. All of those memories from my childhood have been replaced with Devi’s full day classes, book club, writing homework, science experiments, not to mention all the extra curricular activities that take place after school. After recovering from the shock of this first-child-in-school adjustment - just when I thought I had hit my stride - these events: teacher appreciation WEEK, carnival, auction, jog-a-thon, crazy week, field day, book fair...and the list goes on, began to accelerate right up to the end of the year. 

Devi, our most seasoned traveler, had a few “firsts” she wanted to accomplish this trip, while Treya our little echo, was game for whatever big sister wanted. That makes things easy for mom and dad, until Treya realized what big sister was getting her into! First on Dee’s list? The signature hair style of corn-row braids with beads, which Devi thought was the perfect souvenir to wear into the classroom to show her friends at the end of break. For Treya, this meant sitting still for a long time, while someone fiddled with her hair - two of her least favorite things. Though she had an anxious look on her face the entire time, she was a trooper, tag teamed by two women to get the job done quickly. Both girls were delighted with the results, their new “dos” putting a spring in their step. 

Daddy surprised us girls with a trip to the spa for pedicures, while he....ahem....guarded our loungers by the pool! Another first, the girls were fascinated by the whole idea of being pampered in this way, carefully selecting two colors of polish - silver and orange - and requesting polka-dots! Another test in patience for Treya, her feet were soaked, nails were trimmed and her three toenails were painted and dry in a jiffy. Devi was delighted as well, thrilled that her open-toed sandals showed off her freshly decorated tootsies. 

 Treya masters chopsticks at Zen restaurant

 Devi tries the filet at Ipanema restaurant

Slated as my early 50th birthday get-away, (good heavens, can I really be THAT old?) I indulged in a wonderful massage, we managed to dine at all the restaurants on the resort and saw a number of the nightly shows. Michael Jackson night - was the highlight for the girls as they munched popcorn and continually asked me if the guy dancing around the stage was really him? Because we traveled on Easter, I  had craftily hidden plastic treasured-filled eggs in my luggage for an egg hunt that Pat and I managed to arrange for the girls. A very confused French couple watched from afar, our language barrier making it too difficult to explain why we were encouraging our girls to traipse through the bushes of the immaculate gardens. As always we met lovely people, two couples we befriended were from Canada. One of the gentleman was nick named Mr. Piggy and actually requested our girls to call him by that name. For two young girls how fun is that?

Our little dancers!

Shock of the trip? Treya will now let her feet touch sand.

 Treya had a fever for two days of the trip, but
it didn't seem to slow her down one bit!

As always our week flies by in an instant it seems, much like my absence from the blog. If you’ve managed to read all the way to the bottom of this, let me just say thanks. So many of you mentioned that you were tired of opening  “A Princess...” to find Treya still holding up those shoes! Others said they have missed watching the girls grow and change. I’ve missed sharing our story and it warms my heart to know that so many are still interested.  Isn’t it true, though?  Watching a child blossom can be so captivating! Now, playing catch up, on to the next post and preparing for first grade! HOLA!