Sunday, May 9, 2010

And They Lived Happily Ever After . . .

I can still see the three of them walking down the corridor of Lambert International Airport.
Scott had Alia in the Baby Bjorn with his mom walking next to them. After spending a month in Kazakhstan and taking three flights to get home, they both looked thinner and tired, but were smiling. It seemed like it took them an eternity to get to us. When they did, Scott stooped down for Luca to finally see and meet Alia. Luca said something wonderful and perfect, but I don’t remember what it was. I was filming them, but later found out the camera was not recording. Scott handed Alia to me and she promptly fell asleep. She slept in the car as we drove two hours home through the night and continued to sleep until the next morning when she woke up and we all climbed into our bed together.

Alia was finally home.

I wore
my red beaded Mary Janes for the occasion because, for some reason I felt like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. It was the end of a journey in so many ways, but it was also the beginning of one. My subconscious rightly told me that I would encounter dark places with cackling green witches and flying monkeys on this new journey, but I would also have the help of friends who began as strangers along the way. And, it did get dark. Part of it was the post-adoption let-down . . . all the decisions, the paperwork, the waiting, the planning, the anticipation, the travel, the uncertainty, the excitement. And, then, screech, it is done. Another part was the transition from one child to two. And, the realities of taking care of a baby again. How soon one forgets the responsibilities! Is she eating? Is she eating the right things? And, the napping? Is the napping going okay? Is she getting enough mental stimulation? Is she socializing enough? Is she OKAY? But, this stuff . . . this stuff is dark “lite.”

What caused me so much anxiety and shame was the bonding and attachment process.
Before Alia came home, I read and heard these words so often . . . in discussion groups, on blogs, in books, from the social worker. They seemed so abstract and I often thought, “What do these words really mean?” I have come to believe that they are adoption code words for learning to love and care deeply for each other. In all honesty, I wish people would use “love” instead of bonding and attachment. I know it would sound strange if someone asked an adoptive parent “how is the loving going?”, but it is so much more to the point that way.

Another significant word here is “process.”
As a person, I am impatient with that word and believe I don’t need a “process” for anything. The irony is this belief is so much the opposite of what I actually need to accomplish anything. It takes me forever to do things . . . forever. So, I am all about process, but at the same time believe it is a weakness somehow.

So how did the learning to love and care deeply process go with Alia?
S-L-O-W-L-Y. And, that was no reflection on her. I want to be clear about this. This is my fear about writing this . . . is that anyone reading this would think that there was something wrong with her, that I didn’t want her. This is not the case . . . in no uncertain terms, this is not the case.

The “slowly” part was tortuous for me.
I hammered at myself mentally for months. I fretted. I was angry. I am the first one to tell someone else to go easy on herself - to forget about trying to attain unattainable perfection - but, I have difficulty letting up on myself. I wondered if we would ever see each other as mother and daughter. Oh my god. What if we never do?! was one of the refrains in my busy little mind.

Well, we have . . . we do. It took a lot more than clicking the heels of the red beaded shoes. Quite frankly, it took time most of all. The day in and day out living together, being there was the foundation to the strong relationship I have with my daughter today. It also took support from the most amazing friends (my own army of Tin Men, Lions and Scarecrows) I have in the adoption community who were kind enough to share their own experiences through blogs, emails and real life conversations as well Scott and Luca and the promise of a complete, loving and peaceful family.

When I come home from work or somewhere else, Alia runs to me, then to Scott excitedly saying, "Guy Guy - it's Mom. It's Mom Mom. It's Mommy!"

Yes, it is Alia . . . yes it is.
Mother's Day 2010

A recent random photo of our lovely Alia

Here ends this blog . . . we are living happily ever after. Alia has been sought. What next? Seeking a nicely renovated mid-century home? Seeking the Buddha? Stay tuned. Thanks to every one of you who has read, commented and provided other invaluable moral support on this journey in particular and the general life one as well. As Susan Serra would say, "You ROCK!"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Monkey Spoon: A Tale of Why Scott Is Such a Great Dad

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Luca who, like his parents, liked to have things just so. This particular summer, he went to day camp at a place called Touch of Nature. He hiked and canoed and made things like bird feeders & bug jars. Every day he took his lunch of pasta or pizza, Diego yogurt, mango fruit leather and carrots (and sometimes celery he dipped in olive oil . . . odd, I know). He ate his yogurt with a very special plastic spoon. It was brown and the handle was in the shape of a monkey. One day, Luca was in a hurry to move on to the activity after lunch. In his haste, he left his special spoon behind and no one could find it.

The next morning, Luca cried to his mother about losing his special monkey spoon. "I can't find it! I will never get it back!" he sobbed. "I don't want that green plastic snake spoon!" he yelled. "I want the monkey spoon." Well, Luca's mother does not do morning all that well. She told him through clenched teeth to forget it. It was just a plastic spoon. Couldn't he ask the counselors at camp to look for it again? Until then he would have to use the snake or the whale spoon. This was no good for Luca-who-liked-everything-to-be-the-same. He cried real tears as he brushed his teeth and got dressed. His mother who does not do morning well tried to convince him to get over it again and again. It is a plastic spoon for god's sake.

In walked his father who remains calm and empathetic and does morning much better than his mother. His mother looked at his father and said, "I'm having a hard time being sympathetic. It's a plastic spoon." Luca continued to cry and protest. His father knelt down on the floor in front of the unhappy boy and said, "I'm sorry you lost your spoon. It's okay to be sad. You loved your brown monkey spoon. You miss it." Luca stopped crying and nodded his head. His father explained that when he was a boy he had a favorite dump truck that he took to the pool with him. And, one day he left the dump truck at the pool. Luca asked, "Did you get it back?" And the father who remains calm and empathetic and does morning much better than the mother said, "No. No one found it. But, you know what? I had other toys. I missed the dump truck. I was sad, but I felt better after a while." By this time the boy wasn't crying any more.

And, by this time the grouchy mother had torn apart the cabinets and found another brown plastic monkey spoon and everyone lived happily ever after thanks to the great father (and grouchy yet determined mother).

The end.

Happy Father's Day to one awesome Dad!

Monday, June 8, 2009

If My Kids Were Charts . . .

. . . this is what they would look like. I realize that Alia and Luca are going to be different. Of course, they are. But, we are constantly amazed at exactly how different they are. Up until a few months ago, Luca was our only point of reference as far as children are concerned . . . nice, slow, methodical, even-keeled Luca. The boy who wakes up with a smile and goes to bed with a bigger smile. The boy who I could park on a nice soft quilt to play for, oh an hour or more, while I emptied out the dishwasher, paid a few bills and wrote a lecture. He is also the boy who at almost 6 has no interest in riding a bike or playing baseball or walking down the street unless begged.

Then we have our little brown-eyed, silky-haired whirling dervish. Alia's whole being pulsates with energy. Her main form of communication these days is screeching . . . brain-emptying screeching like I haven't heard . . . ever. She'll do it at Steak and Shake, the grocery store, the dinner table - any time the mood strikes her and for no discernible reason. And, once she gets going it takes her a while to stop. She sits on her soft little quilt for all of 2 seconds. She is soon rifling through every drawer and cabinet she can open - pulling out stray pairs of scissors, full containers of fish food with lids ajar, and sequins that she sticks in her mouth by the dozens. Alia will look at me with joy and glee one second then scrunch up her face in a fit of anger the next. The other night, Luca didn't want her to shred one of his drawings she had gotten a hold of. I took it away and she crawled her little 15 month-old butt over to Luca sitting on the couch and HIT him.

Scott and I regularly exchange looks of pure joy and utter fear over our sweet little, moxie-filled Alia.

Summer is in full swing around here. Luca completed kindergarten this past Friday. He has done an amazing job this year. We celebrated with a "do-whatever-you-want" day. It mostly entailed early snacks and TV and a little Dairy Queen for dessert. He is already in camp this week. I think it will be a lot harder to keep him entertained at home now that he has been in kindergarten all day. I want to spend some lazy summer days with him, but I also want to keep that mind of his occupied. I hope we can strike a balance this summer.

As most of you know, the life of a baby/toddler changes very little. I am still trying to figure out why life seems so crazy with such a predictable routine. Oh, yeah . . . see above. Alia is really thriving. At her 15 month check-up, we found out that she grew 3 inches in 3 months. She is 31 1/2" tall & really close to 23 lbs. She started walking last month. Crawling is still quicker and more convenient for her, but she chooses to walk more & more. She makes lots of noises . . . some words which seem to come and go. She really wants to be in on conversations and in close proximity to whoever happens to be around however, she is still generally guarded in new situations and around lots of people.

Alia continues to sleep and eat really well. She definitely does have preferences for certain foods on certain days . . . like one day she will inhale zucchini pasta and the next she will yell for something else. She is a huge fan of any kind of tropical fruit . . . pineapple, mangoes, bananas . . . which makes me smile because Kazakhstan could not be any less tropical.
Her latest project is growing all 8 of her back teeth at once! I guess once they are all in, we will be done for a while . . . thankfully.

Outside of the occasional physical violence, Luca and Alia get along really well. My heart really couldn't feel any fuller when I come across them playing on the floor of Luca's room. Alia's face lights up when Luca comes home from school and Luca is a kind and gentle big brother. I really could not ask for anything more.

A few random photos that I am including just because I like them.

A moment of repose

Luca has been taking LOTS of really interesting photos.

A snippet of Easter

Luca after our big storm (topic for another post)

This weekend Alia started grabbing a book and climbing into the chair and rocking. She also slides down the slide at the park on her own - at FIFTEEN months.

I am going to try to make a little time each week to read blogs and update our own. So, if you are still out there, I am making a commitment to this again! I appreciate all the reminders to update from Susan, Kim, Jen M. and Eileen.

We're back!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Same Time Last Year

Hello, dear friends! I am afraid I have been cheating on you a bit. You see, there is this other online community that provides quick connections & instant gratification without a lot of thinking. Yes, blogging has been replaced by Facebook. FB fits in with my new harried, ADD lifestyle - a quick skim of the status reports . . . a few comments and an update of my own, then done! I do prefer blogging and reading blogs, but school has been kicking my butt this semester. I have a completely new prep (Art Criticism!) and another class that I had to do some work on at the beginning. And, we do have two children now you know . . .

And, they are why you are here right?

This morning I was thinking about what we were doing this time last year. Scrambling to get a new copy of Scott's doctor's license that's what. Alia was not even born yet. So many people have coincidences with the timing of their adoptions. For example, our housemates in Kokshetau - the little girl they adopted shares their oldest son's birthday. The only coincidence we have is our dossier was probably resubmitted to the Consulate around the day Alia was born.

This is the earliest photo we have of Alia - she may be around 2 months. The intense gaze has not changed.

Alia taking in the weather this past weekend.

What a year it has been! Alia has now been home for about 3 1/2 months. In fact we had our first post-placement visit last week. The social worker seemed surprised at where Alia is developmentally. I think she is right on track with most everything now. She is crawling on all fours instead of the "military crawl." She goes from crawling to sitting with no problem and is standing really well - even picking stuff up when she is standing. Alia has taken a few steps while she had one hand on the couch and the other on the coffee table. We had an early intervention evaluation done last month. I think now Alia is doing everything the physical therapist said she should be. Yesterday I was reading a book to her and I think she tried to say cat! She has also been saying, "Mama" and "Dada" pretty regularly although I am not sure if she is using those words to describe us.

Alia continues to eat and sleep really well. We are really so grateful for this because it seems like if they are doing these things they are content and then able to focus on the emotional attachment. There is no doubt that Alia is attached to us. She remains very reserved and wary of everyone but Scott, Luca and me.

I don't think I can call Alia a princess - maybe a "spunk-cess"? She is headstrong and tenacious and lets you know when she is unhappy that she is not getting her way. For example she loves to try to turn over on the changing table which is a few feet high. When we stop her and say "No" she yowls and cries in frustration and continues to try over and over. She also has this habit of swatting at the spoon while being fed and reacts the same way when told "no."

Hey! Wake Up!

My mom visited at the end of January. As you can see Alia is starting to get to know Grandma.

Hanging out playing with her basket of toys this morning.

So, what's going on? Everything and nothing!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's All in the Hands

Alia has been home for a little over 2 months now. I have written many a blog posts in my head over the last 2 months, but clearly have rarely sat down to actually write them. I am kind of an all or nothing type person. Even now, my thoughts are incredibly scattered . . . and I don't like scattered posts.

Life at home after the great Kazakhstan adventure is ruled by the little things . . . like Alia's hand resting on my arm. This seems REALLY minor I know. I mean of course she rests her hand on my arm, right? Well, not really - not until Christmas day. Until then, she generally kept her fists clenched. That's how we met her in the hospital - fists balled up near her ears almost perpetually (unless she was on her stomach where she used her hands to push up). And, it wasn't just her hands - it was her body. It was often "rigid" - I can't think of another word to describe her demeanor. She was not usually relaxed when I held her. She was like a little island all to herself.

I am sure her hands were stuck like that due to inactivity. I see photos of other kids from the Children's Hospital in Kokshetau and see the same thing. The balled fists became symbolic to me. Their opening - when she gently rested her hands on my shoulder and relaxed in my arms as I walked her down the stairs on Christmas morning - symbolized her opening up and trusting and understanding we are her family.

I also felt myself opening up more to Alia because I saw that she trusted me and has begun to understand that I am her mother. I feel less and less like her babysitter and more and more like her mother. I love going into her room when I hear that she is awake from her nap, picking her up and giving her kisses which she loves. I feel particularly bonded to her then.

And, so it goes. We all continue to get acquainted with our new lives.

Here are a few random photos:

Luca in the midst of present opening Christmas morning

Scott and Alia on Christmas morning.

Alia sporting some of those teeth she has been working on.

All this past year, Scott would say "There's going to be a baby in that chair with us soon" when we were having dinner. Here she is!

I love the earnest look on Alia's face in this one.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas with Grandma Jean & Grandan


I wanted to post, but don't have the time to write a proper one (too much time on Facebook . . . oh, and the holidays of course). Scott's mom came into town a few nights ago to give Christmas presents to us. I made this "movie" using Picasa - pretty cool, but I had problems uploading it to YouTube. I spent a few hours messing with that last night. I also love Picasa's touch-up tool . . . eliminate wrinkles and pimples in a flash!

There aren't a lot of photos of Alia because Luca was doing most of the gift opening while Alia looked on intently. It was pretty cute. Alia has had a very rough day or so. We think she has a tooth coming in that is really hurting her. Today, I thought I would take her for a long walk to the post office (it is 60 here). She cried the entire 50 minutes. It was like the night we went out to eat, but without the puking. There was gagging but no puking. I felt pretty inept. When Luca was that age and got upset, I nursed him . . . not an option now. Anyway, I hope that tooth comes through soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thoughts for Thursday

Are You a Non-Mom?: I realize Teleflora corrected itself, but I can't believe they called adoptive mothers "non-Moms" to begin with!

Thoughts on becoming a mother through adoption: Poignant commentary on the complexities of adoption.

Maybe the 2nd link explains the 1st link. What do you think?