Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blue Hair and Boxing

I was at a loss about what title to give this post. I guess blue hair and boxing are as good as any.

I've had a lot on my mind lately. It has been almost 3 months since we picked Maya up in Dong Nai. We are still all adjusting to each other. Maya seems to be doing very well. We still struggle with sleep and eating issues. She doesn't like to go to bed and she is a very picky eater. Sometimes I worry about how she doesn't seem to get hungry. Part of it is the texture issue, but I think a big part of it is a control issue. While I struggle to understand how she did not develop the neuromotor coordination needed to eat solid foods because she laid on her back with a bottle propped on her chest for the first year of life, then was fed only pureed food the second year, it still amazes me that my other children seemed to learn this without much coaching on my part.

We take it for granted that our children will move from breast or bottle to strained and pureed foods and eventually eat table foods by 12 months. It is very frustrating to watch her reject several things I offer her, gag on her rice porridge, spit out her tuna fish or banana, then munch happily on Doritos. Or stand by the fridge pointing a finger at her open mouth for whipped cream, by the freezer for ice cream, or the pantry for marshmallows. I have an appointment with the speech and feeding therapists at Birth 2 Three to help me work on this some more. The feeding difficulties go hand in hand with the speech delay. Although we have not completed the speech portion of her developmental evaluation, I estimate her speech to be at about the level of a 12 month old.

Although she is slowly learning new words, about one per week, she will not usually say them unless she is prodded. She often resorts to whining or screeching, my two least favorite sounds in the world. She calls both Matt and I "MOM". She will sometimes yell "Maya!" to get anyone's attention.

On the potty training front, she is a champ. She usually tells me when she has to go "poopoo" and we run to the bathroom to see if we can make it in time. She thinks this is great fun. She insists on sitting on the big potty. Her cute little potty that we bought in Vietnam sits and collects dust. She even puts her dolls and stuffed animals on the potty. Many toddlers choose potty training as the arena in which to exert control over their bodies or their parents. Perhaps Maya has already chosen mealtime as her arena. Perhaps eating (or not) has been the only thing she felt she had control over in the orphanage. Of course, we still have to rule out other possible causes.

Her energy level is limitless. Her curiosity is insatiable. While our living room is littered with toddler toys of all kinds, she runs from computer to TV to telephone to stereo to microwave and oven. She leaves no drawer unopened, no cupboard unexplored, no button unpushed. I find electrical outlet plugs laying around on the floor. I found a sponge in the oven, a Star Wars DVD in the trash can, a bag of cheese puffs in a cooking pot. She does not take our word for it that something is hot, she has to experience everything for herself (I cringe to think of her teen years). I gave away my waffle iron this weekend because 1) no one in my family actually eats the waffles I make and 2) I do not trust myselft to be hypervigilant enought to keep Maya from burning her hand on the waffle iron. She pushes our step stool around to get what she wants. Her favorite toy this week is the ice dispenser in the refridgerator door. If I remove the step stool, she will push a chair around. I cannot remove all the chairs from our house. I have to remind myself that she went from an empty room with a tiled floor, screens on the windows and almost no toys whatsoever, to our big house full of electronic gadgets.

When we first got home I took her swimming in the community pool. She screamed and cried because the water was too cold and we were out within 2 minutes. I took her swimming in a heated pool the other day. She absolutely loved it. She kicked and made doggie paddle motions while I held her waist. She even jumped in off the side while I caught her. She resisted the arm floaties until the last 5 minutes of our swim. Then she stood perfectly still in the water, suspended by the floats, marveling at her weightlessness.

She loves to be outdoors. Even on cold and rainy days. She is still a little scared of the loud airplanes that fly over our house, especially the float planes. She is finally used to our dog and cat as well as my mom's dogs. She wants to pet our neighboor's horses.

I've been back to work for a couple of weeks now, just two afternoons per week. Next week I go to two full days. She does not cry when I take her to Grandma's. When I pick her up she is happily playing and looks like she's been going to Grandma's her whole life. I think it helps that the boys are there. She wants to go everywhere the boys go. She runs after them, calling them "guy". She does not say the s at the end. The boys think she is a pesty little sister. I think that's fairly normal. They also protect her from getting in harm's way.

Yesterday was the first sunny day we have had in weeks. I can count on one hand how many sunny days we have had this summer. Today might be the sixth day of sun. It has been a hard couple of months for me. In Vietnam there was 2 of us to one of Maya. Matt returned to work 3 days after we got home. I struggle to manage the house and 3 kids. I have not been as diligent with Birth 2 Three as I should have been (Those 32 salmon really set me back a whole week, not to mention friends visiting from out of town, Little League, and church potlucks).

When I think back to the two weeks we had to get ready for our trip to Vientam, I wish I had done things a little differently. It was a crazy time. We waited 16 months for travel authorization to pick up Maya. We experienced almost every emotion possible, Matt mostly anger and me mostly depression. We did not take family vacations in anticipation of "the big trip". But there were a lot of home improvement projects that we felt we needed to do. We never really recovered from some of the projects. For example, I painted the family room last summer and never hung the pictures back up. We moved the boys into Sarah's room, moved Sarah's things into the guest room. But many things are still in boxes. There were boxes of clothes I packed to take to Vietnam for the orphanage children but didn't because of the weight limit. Last week my best friend Alana came over and made me go through every box in the guest room, sorted them into Salvation Army, the dump and a few to be dealt with later. She was a tour de force, nay, a locomotive. That's what it took to overcome the inertia engendered by months of procrastination and the resulting state of being constantly overwhelmed.

I have been thinking about the families waiting to travel to pick up their children. I have been in contact with some of them, dispensing advice on hotels, travel immunizations and gifts for the orphanage staff. But now there are a few other things I feel compelled to share, things I wish I had known or done.

First, I wish I had taken the time to declutter my home instead of buying more things. If I had simplified the environment more, I would be spending less time chasing after Maya and taking things away from her. I thought my house was fairly childproof until I brought Maya home. If you have older children in the home, invite a very active two year old over to see how many things you need to put away.

Second, I wish I was more realistic about what I could accomplish both before and after I left. I bought tomato and basil plants the week before I left and then made my poor mother in law plant them because I ran out of time. What made me think I needed to have tomato and basil plants this summer? My kids do not even like pesto or tomatoes. I can buy basil and tomatoes from the store when I want them. I can't even remember to water them so they are constantly on the verge of death. I bought 6 bags of bare root plants from Costco in April, I have only planted two bags. The other four remain in the garage while my flower beds and vegetable garden are losing their battle with the weeds.

Third, I wish I had read up on toddler adoption. When we received the referral for Maya, she was 11 months old. By the time we received travel authorization, she was 2 1/2 years old. It is a very complicated thing, trying to bond with a child at an age when her task is to establish her independence. Then there are the layers of issues added on top by long term institutional life. It took me 7 weeks before she would let me hold her while she drank her bottle. When I insisted on holding her bottle, she refused to drink her formula. She would just hold the bottle in her mouth without sucking or let the milk dribble out the side of her mouth. If your child is residing with a foster family, your issues may be different. Their environment will not be as impoverished so they will not be as overstimulated by their new environment. On the other hand, they may be more attached to a particular caregiver, making their grieving stage more dramatic.

I know this is a lot to lay on you all at once, Blogger friends. Like I said, I had a lot on my mind. I have had a heavy heart at times. I have felt a lot of things I didn't know how to express on a blog. Things have also been wonderful. Just like the rest of life. Take a look at these photos:

Riley brought this blue wig home from his friend Bradley's house.

Going fishing with Aunt Kathleen.

She'll kill me for posting this picture on the blog.

Steve says he is not the captain, he is everything but the captain.

I was trying to take one of those artsy pictures like my friend Alana always does.

Chris displaying his best restaurant manners.

Riley gets fishing pointers from Captain Kathleen.

Maya checking her text messages on the the cell phone.
I go a couple rounds with Maya, who proves she is a force to be reckoned with.

1 comment:

StaceynCorey said...

We just had our 3 month visit and it's amazing how far our little Autumn has come. I hope you make some great progress soon on Maya's speech, feeding and sleeping. I know Autumn started with the one word at a time and then suddenly started saying EVERYTHING! She's such a parrot now, LOL. Today she pointed to her basket with crayons and said "color" with such an attitude and athority. Little sassy pants! Too cute.

BTW, we just bought new webcams (the first one we bought didn't work well). We should be able to test drive them this week and I'll let you know when we're up and running. I'd so love to see the look in the girls' faces when they see one another.