Tuesday, January 29, 2013

All Girls Momma...Again!

 Princess Treya turns 4!

Through eyes glued shut from cold season goop, our birthday girl struggled to see the house that had undergone a royal transformation in the night. Peering down over the second floor railing into our family room, she spied the Ross castle with turrets, flag and flowers forever in bloom, and in pj's, with her head still perched on my shoulder said, “Cool!”

For the weeks preceding the party, Treya had been reciting the guest list trying to remember all of her little princess friends who were coming. It was so cute to watch her count each child on her fingers, so tense and serious about just who would be arriving. True to form, she reminded me “...all girls momma, no boys” just as her sister did 2 short years ago. She even told Aunt Joan, that Uncle Bill was not allowed because HE was a boy too.

Dressed in princess finery, Treya managed to sit still long enough for me to complete her first up-do. A huge bun of curls, held in place with lots of pins and about 6 pounds of hairspray, was encircled with a crown right on top of her head. She beamed. 

One by one the guests, each wearing gowns full of sparkles, glitter and poofs, arrived and were escorted into the craft area for wand making and princess coloring. Once they were all warmed up we began our party, learning the attributes required to be a real princess.


First they showed “friendship” by holding hands for a large group picture. This feat earned each girl a gold foil wrapped coin to put into their monogrammed wristlet bag. Next they showed “bravery” by tossing apples into the hands of a hungry dragon who sat a few feet away, earning another gold coin to add to their bags. “Grace” was demonstrated as the nine little princesses flitted about, dancing to princess music with scarves, who were incredibly light on their feet, earning their third coin. I even got the mother’s involved in this one. There were no wall flowers allowed at this party!



Next, the girls learned “Hope” as each blindfolded princess taped a paper set of sticky lips on our frog, in the hopes that one lucky princess would turn him into a prince, but there was no such luck. So collectively we closed our eyes and waved the wands we had made and said, “Bibbity boppity boo!” Low and behold, when we opened our eyes the frog had vanished and in his place sat royalty. Our Prince daddy sat on the throne, which brought gasps and giggles from our surprised guests. He passed out the next coin.

Prince daddy read Princess Bess Gets Dressed to our guests while lunch was prepared. The girls used “Manners” and discussed those special words we use at the table while dining on castle shaped PB&Js, magic wand fruit kabobs, Ritzy crackers, veggies and dip and Treya’s favorite....chicken nuggets. This attribute earned them their last coin to add to their bags. 

With a me-me-mes, all voices were warmed up as we sang a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday to Treya, who in her excitement covered her open mouth of surprise with both hands. We first saw this trait of Trey’s a few days after meeting her in India. Knocking down towers of stacking blocks brought on this reaction, which were the first real smiles we ever witnessed from her. Knowing exactly what to do this year, it took her three great breaths to blow out all four candles on the cupcakes that surrounded the purple princess doll cake. It was beautiful, just like Treya herself,but unfortunately the front had been sampled by the dog before the party began. Luckily, it only took a spatula and few extra sprinkles and some curly ribbon to make the repair. The dog was banished to the dungeon!

While gifts were opened, all of Treya’s friends played in the table top castle with the puppets. Somehow our whole play kitchen full of gadgetry managed to end up in there as well. Treya would open a gift and then go find which child to thank, by sticking her big hair head into the windows of the castle. It was so cute. As the party ended, each girl showed me their wrist bag of coins, proving they had completed all the princess tasks, which earned them a happily ever after bag of goodies to take home with them.

The party was the icing on the cake of a nearly full week of celebration. Treya’s birthday actually fell on Monday the 21st. By coincidence, Treya’s VIP week at preschool fell on the same week as her birthday, so she got to bring treats to school and a poster of pictures that told all about her. She also got to do show and tell every day of the week bringing in something special to show to the class, every single day. And as always, Uncle Tim (a family friend) brought his annual bouquet of flowers! She got the royal treatment all week long!

Typically we let the girls choose the restaurant for their birthday dinner, which really is about which restaurant sings to you and has the best dessert, but this year we chose the RAM for Treya. Two weeks prior to the big day, I had received a phone call that her name had been chosen as the winner of a summer drawing she had entered. Pat, Devi and I were the only ones in the know when we took our seats right in the middle of the restaurant so everyone could see us. Near the end of our meal, the manager came asking for Treya. Treya played right into the woman’s plan holding up four fingers and announcing it was her birthday. Donna said, “Treya, I think I have something that belongs to you.” A few moments later, out she came stopping in front of our table. Treya looked completely baffled, so I leaned over to her and said, “I think this is for you. It is all yours!” There in front of her, practically glowing, was a brand new pink princess bike, with heart shaped pedals and balloons tied to the handle bars. Treya’s eyes got as big as saucers, she gasped and completely lost all breath. She leaped up and hugged the manager around the legs and then climbed aboard her new bike. Then she jumped off and went and hugged the woman’s legs again. It took her awhile to realize that this bike was all hers, as she kept thinking it was for her and Devi to share.  It was priceless.

So with new bike in the garage, a pile of presents still to be discovered, and a kitchen table castle still filling my family room, our Treya has successfully had her second birthday party and has turned 4. We love you princess Treya! Happy Birthday!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Child Within A Child

2nd Forever Family Day - 2013

 1st Forever Family Day - 2012

 The day we became a family - January 21st, 2011

Like many adoptive mother’s, I try to keep my fingers on the pulse of the adoption world, as it is one of my favorite subjects with which to bend one’s ear. For most of the past year; however, the news has been less than positive as the stories of families joined have been few and far between, with nothing but longer wait times in sight for friends in progress. Recently, a few friends have taken steps forward, with one or two even seeing the first glimpses of the children that will one day join their own families and another one or two families who have actually traveled to their children. This warms my heart and sends me back to that day for us two years ago when our Treya joined our family forever.

I can hardly remember that timid girl we first met. The one who would run from us wearing clumsy leg braces that clearly did nothing but slow her down. She was adorable with a cute little pot belly that pushed out, arching her back and tucking her square chin. Her skin was so powdered, her complexion was more fair than mine. How I longed to just pick her up and snuggle her, but quite clearly, we had entered her perfectly happy and content world all ready in progress and her needs were all ready being met. She was stoic, hardly spoke and interacted with no other children. Her time was spent with the ayahs that cared deeply for her. I vividly remember the sadness that overcame me when I asked who shared a crib with Sonalika at night. The response was “With anyone. She has no connection to anyone else.” Sonalika got pleasure from the order of things, putting things away, showing where she slept, or the organization in how a meal was served. Her spot was beside whomever was hand feeding the finger fulls of rice.When she was full, unlike the others who kept seated at the table, she would get up and walk away. It was evident that she didn’t see the point in playing, because working in the kitchen or folding clothes in the back room was far more resourceful - this being one of the only personality traits she has kept from her young life.

Comparing that with the changes and growth we have seen in Treya in two short years is astounding. When I stare into her forever smiling face, I can hardly believe she is the same child. Occasionally, I find myself staring at this beautiful little girl and see so little that is reminiscent of the child we met. Even her cute Indian head bobble is gone. This reminds me of something I read in an adoption book that said to expect to see the biggest jumps in growth when a child has been with their family longer than they lived in an orphanage. Today, we cross that milestone, as Treya turns 4 and has now spent half of her life with us. In this first month of the new year alone we have watched our pudgy baby blossom into a lanky little girl.

Treya decided she is too old for Pull-Ups. We’ve left her in them because she does have an occasional accident, and can not get up out of bed at night due to the corrective shoes she wears to bed. “I a big gurwl, momma!” Yes, sweetie you are, so away they went. The bed rails? Gone. This one was frightening because she is a prize fighter in bed typically, but to date has not fallen out once. Treya has nearly mastered hopping on one foot, a true accomplishment, when you consider that two years ago she fell often and could not run or jump. She has moved from her baby car seat to a toddler car seat with a cup holder (a very grown up accessory) and she can clip some of the restraints herself. Once silent, now she LOVES to sing and has taken to singing her own lullaby to herself at night while we listen. The words are a jumbled mess with a contagious giggle breaking through from time to time, but the tune is recognizable. You know that when she is singing, she truly adores herself. She has gone from being a righty to becoming a lefty, due to surgery and yesterday, beaming with pride, wrote her name for the first time unassisted! Her lefty scissors are a prized possession by the way.

Though speech proves to still be difficult, she manages to get her message across eventually. Once a woman of few words, she now has a lot to say, often starting over again and again to make sure she is telling the entire story in order. She has two favorite phrases. One is “Here's the deal...” then she starts her speech, but because she is a bit of a copycat, often times she will repeat what you’ve just said, truly believing it was her independent thought, making it difficult not to chuckle under one’s breath. Easily confused by sarcasm and how quickly we all change from subject to subject she also gives small summaries to ensure she is keeping up with what is said. Ninety percent of her sentences begin with “SO” (she says Dough) her second favorite phrase. Treya always addresses the person she is speaking with by saying their name after each sentence. If you don’t acknowledge her, she will continue to say your name until she is certain she has your full attention before moving on with what she wanted to share. This alone can make conversations go sideways or she will forget what she was going to say while she waits for your acknowledgement. In her flustered state she will just say “I love you”. I guess that is way better answer than I forgot what I was going to say!

Jam packed with celebration this week, we’ve tested poor Treya’s limits of comprehension. Not only does her Forever Family Day and Birthday fall on the same day, but she is also coincidentally the VIP at preschool this week AND her princess party with friends is this coming Sunday. Because of this, we celebrated her forever family day on the day we first met (the 19th), rather than when she left the orphanage with us on her birthday.

I cooked an Indian feast of some of Treya’s favorite dishes. Pickles!!! She loves Indian pickles. Paneer!!! Yes, I made and served Indian cheese. Rice!!! True since the day we met, the girl adores her basmati rice. I will never forget watching her stand and cry at the room service cart after dinner one night while we were still in India, trying desperately to see what she wanted. It was the rice. She cleaned up every last grain on the plate every time. And the reason for the multiple exclamation points on those words? Our once silent child is actually very very loud! Both Pat and I are constantly reminding her she only needs to speak loudly enough for the person she is talking with to hear. The neighbors down the street don’t care to know what she is talking about. 

Channa Masala

Muttar Paneer
In addition to the our savory meal, we lit a special candle in Treya’s honor and we snuggled up on the couch to peer through the pages of her Life book together. Laughing at her tiny and crooked foot prints, a photo of her wrinkly face at 6 days old, and the lock of hair collected from her first hair cut, we marveled at the changes in everything about her.  Our once emotionless girl, now boils over with compassion for others, she is quick to say she is sorry and to comfort anyone who is in need. Those sink-into-me snuggles I longed for so desperately two years ago, though she made me work for it, are freely given and were so worth the wait. I will never tire of her weight in my lap, our arms around each other with her fingers intertwined with mine. I love to breathe in the scent of her hair and dot her broad forehead with kisses,  which are usually met with her protests and giggles. That forehead is simply irresistible.

Though the day started out very confusing for her, by it’s end, I think she finally understood why we were celebrating. Treya Marie Sonalika Ross, you are our miracle. A child within a child, that just needed a little coaxing to come out. Happy Second Forever Family Day. We love you jelly bean!!! This I hope the neighbors down the street DO hear!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness

About a week before Christmas, I was sitting on the couch, busy addressing envelopes, watching a Christmas hallmark television program. Devi, still sleepy-eyed and warm from napping, quietly made her way down the stairs, her pokey wrapped thumb still stuck in her mouth, and curled up next to me as I worked.

A St. Jude commercial came on with Jennifer Aniston talking to two young girls. The girls were bald from the side effects of the chemotherapy they were receiving. They talked about how nice it would be to get well and not have cancer anymore and to have hair again. Not new to the word cancer, it never occurred to Devi that this disease could effect young people just like her. This sparked a conversation between Dev and I about their illness and hair loss and she decided she would like to help them. 

So, the day after Christmas I took her to her first salon and she explained to Cherlym, the stylist, that she hoped to donate her hair to Locks of Love for these sick young girls. After a quick washing her beautiful wavy black hair was combed straight. Cherlym, pulled Devi’s hair into a ponytail and measured it to ensure she had the required 10+ inches to takes for donation. Devi had hoped that her hair would still be over her shoulders but, we found that in order to have the length required, it would have to be shorter than she’d hoped. A big decision - she decided that she would much rather donate it then to keep it for herself.

With that, the stylist took her scissors and began to cut through the thick rope-like ponytail, over two inches in diameter. At this point I was not sure what was going to happen. Devi can be a bit of a drama queen so I could really envision this scenario going one of two ways; complete breakdown with tears was what I was hoping to avoid. Rising to the occasion, a broad grin filled her face as she watched the reflection in the mirror she faced as the last few strands were cut through releasing the pony tail from the nape of her neck.  After blow drying, Devi was admiring herself in a hand held mirror and I asked if she liked her new look. She replied, “Nope, I don’t like it....I LOVE it!”  Now days later, her chopped ponytail is finally dry and we can send it off.


After Christmas the four of us decided it was time to go through the playroom and donate some of the toys that we no longer play with. Typically, I have total support until I pick up the first item for inspection and then find that no one can manage to part with a thing. Everything seems to be special, or came from someone special, or reminds them of a special time (I type this while rolling my eyes). This time; however, Treya, in “matching donation” style decided if she couldn’t donate her hair, she would donate toys.

I soon realized that she did not quite understand the whole concept that once something is put in the donation box, it does not come back out. At the rate she was going her room would be empty with not so much as a bed left in it, but at the time she was feeling really good about these decisions. So we back pedaled a bit, and together made some better choices, filling more than one box of items to be loved on by someone else AND we packed a few things away as keepsakes. 

With the last of the "TREES" eaten, I have one final RAOK. It is a secret. I received a phone call yesterday that Treya’s name was chosen in a drawing and she has won a bicycle! They called to chat with me about her favorite color and character so they can choose just the right one for her. I know she will be thrilled beyond words about this, especially since her birthday is in two short weeks!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Counting our Blessings on Christmas 2012

 The Ross Family  - Christmas 2012

With one eye slit open, I spied my bedside clock...4:48am! “Momma, Santa came. He really came!”

That is how Christmas morning 2012 began - though it seemed more like the middle of the night! Recounting the message given at church the night before, I truly wanted to count my blessings, but at that very moment I was having difficulty recognizing the positive point about having a early rising small child. In truth, Devi really only needed Santa’s reassurance and then gladly went back to bed until 5:48 am. At that point, we pulled her into bed with us, with the pitter patter of Treya’s feet soon to follow. For the next hour,  GET UP negotiations ensued amongst the four of us, five counting Bengal who whined here and there to be included, until Pat and I finally relented, opening our tired eyes at 7.

On our way to church Christmas Eve

Nearly as dear and robust as their tear jerker rendition of Hark the Herald Angel’s sing the night before at church, the girls sang a hearty round of the happy birthday song to Jesus at the nativity and then Devi bounded down the hall toward the illuminated tree that sparkled in the early morning darkness. Treya, always with food on her mind, headed for the kitchen, certain that we would start making breakfast first. Corrected, she doubled back to the tree where the girls found the butterfly and lady bug Dream Lites that they had asked Santa for. Needing no encouragement, Treya dumped her stocking squealing with glee as an assortment of treasures, including many pairs of socks,  came pouring out. Devi, on the other hand, very neatly took one item at a time out of her stocking, savoring every last detail of the event. 

Wearing new crowns from our friend Cat

A weary eyed Papa and Gail arrived at 8am, bearing yet even more gifts and the champagne was corked for mimosas. The rest of the morning was spent opening a gift and then playing with it a bit before continuing on. All the adrenalin of that loaded tree skirt, had our stomachs growling in no time, so we paused the unwrapping frenzy to refuel with monkey bread, fruit and a scrambled egg, sausage and hash brown breakfast. 

 Treya in her new princess dress  from 
Uncle David and Aunt Obie

The highlight of the morning for the girls was the nylon and PVC pipe Espresso stand/tent and set of sleeping bags from Pat and I. Once set up, the girls were off in their own world of imagination. As the hours passed, we could hear their storyline change from coffee shop, to school, to hospital, to camp out, to beauty salon as more and more props were brought into the tent. At one point, even Bengal, our dog was in there with them adding to their charade.

Both girls fell back into bed with their Dream Lites in the early afternoon for naps, awakening to the sound of our extended family arriving for dinner. For the third year in a row, I attempted beef tenderloin for our table of 15 guests. Pat, our amateur inventor, constructed a vented plastic pipe extension that attached to our vacuum to control the smoke from the searing butter and beef at 500 degrees. The other skeptical men took bets on whether the piped contraption would work. It made for some good laughs and hearty slaps on the back congratulating Pat on his sweet success in stifling the smoke. No fanning with towels this year!

The inventor revealing his latest work

Our white elephant gift exchange took a turn this year as well. I took playful, but deliberate attacks at stealing one’s gift out of the equation by implementing a poem that gave direction to each recipient as to whose gift they could snag. In the end, there is always one masculine person stuck with an array of scented soap, a female with a crowbar and rather deliberately, the person who left early got stuck with a holiday karaoke microphone. All in fun, we ended our evening with far too many desserts, bloated stomachs, and thanks to Aunt Joan, our girls are now the owners of two aquariums that each house two African dwarf frogs! Though their names change daily, today they are known as Clara and Clarise and Toot and Puddle.

Devi's concert

Baking with Oma!

The Finished Product!

A well rounded holiday season, we are still hearing both girls singing “Maw maw, bake that Johnny Cake, Christmas comin” , a catchy West Indie tune that Dev sung in her kindergarten  Christmas Around The World concert earlier in the month. Though Oma traveled to visit other family members this year, she did manage to squeeze in a day of cookie baking with the girls, which is always one of the highlights of the holiday season. We have just a few straggler partially dried out cookies left to devour, we weathered the cold and wet weather to experience Zoolights, and are still laughing every time we retell our “Looking at Christmas Lights” annual drive story. This time, Pat and I realized we were the only ones Ooo-ing and Aww-ing as both girls, snugly in new PJs, and with a cup of cocoa in their laps, promptly fell asleep in the car, a meer 15 minutes into the search for the perfect display!


Yes, as I consider the birth that gives us reason to celebrate, I am truly counting my blessings this year.