Princess T


T loves to look at pictures. We start with recent pictures, then pictures of Ethiopia, then move on to pictures of me from before we were a family. I think she enjoys seeing me with different hairstyles, to be honest :). Anyway, today she was looking at pictures of me from a few years ago. She picked up one photo, pointed to a man standing next to me, and said, “Daddy?”

“Um, no, T, no daddy. Only mommy.” Brilliant comeback, Liz. So eloquent.

Later this afternoon, while at the grocery store, it was point, point point. “Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?”

She can barely talk, and yet she says the D-word clear as a bell.

The guilt, oh my God. I wasn’t expecting this yet.

 

I just joined Facebook! Yes, I am the last person on earth to join, but that’s how I roll, so…Please be my friend! I’m Liz S*i*r*o*i*s – see you there!

It’s still Wednesday (barely) so it totally counts.

 

Also, hello blog! Miss me? Isn’t she getting so big?

It’s awfully easy to judge other people’s parenting skills before you become a parent. You shake your head with haughty condescension when witnessing a flailing preschooler being dragged from the playground by a frazzled-looking mom.  When you have children, you might think to yourself, this will never happen to you. Furthermore, your future child will never leave the house wearing an outfit consisting of nothing more than a tiara, a Hello Kitty bathing suit, and neon pink rain boots.  Your child will turn up her nose at refined sugar, adhere to a 7:30 bedtime without complaint – and most notably, your child will never, ever act out in public. I know what’s running through your mind, because I had the same thoughts myself once.

My daughter was nearly two years old on the day I met her, sitting quietly in her ancient wooden crib in an Ethiopian orphanage. After staring at her photo for months, I was finally given clearance to travel halfway around the world to spend a few days bonding with my new child. Timid and quiet, she had eyes as large as dinner plates and a charming, crooked smile. “She’s such a good little girl,” the nannies told me, “very well behaved. Such an angel, everyone’s favorite. “ 

If only they could see her now, I think to myself 5 months later as I squat on my heels in a supermarket parking lot, attempting to coax my sobbing child into a grocery cart by convincing her that sitting in said cart is not a punishment but, in fact, a fun-filled adventure. “Sweetie, come on, just get in the cart for mommy. It will be lots of fun, I promise! Honey, please, it will only take a minute, I swear. If you’re a good girl and get in the cart, I’ll get you some candy, okay?”

At the mention of candy, my daughter, stiff and still as a statue a moment before, suddenly perks up, turns around, and walks through the automatic doors into the market. She heads straight for the candy display located conveniently a few steps from the front entrance and selects a bag of peanut M&Ms. “M&Ms, sure, okay, I can deal with that.” I gingerly take the bag from her and rip it open, handing her a green candy-coated chocolate peanut. She watches me suspiciously, never breaking eye contact as she slowly chews the treat. I step backwards a few yards and hold out another candy, blue this time, urging her forward. Still on the verge of tears, she comes close enough to take the candy from my fingers, quickly understanding the parameters of our new game. Like the Pied Piper, I continue to walk backwards and simultaneously reach into the package for another M&M.

It takes half a bag of candy to reach the items I need to purchase – milk and diapers – and the other half to make our way to the checkout. By the time we get through the line and pay for our items, my daughter is clutching an empty M&M bag and threatening to burst into tears again. “Just one more minute,” I mutter under my breath, not caring if people think I’m unhinged.  “Just wait until we get in the car, then you can cry all you want.”

“Well hey there, sweetie! What’s a pretty little girl like you doing looking so sad?”

Great, just great. An older man, standing at the bakery display located conveniently near the registers, has noticed my daughter. And my daughter, for her part, has now noticed the bakery display. Ignoring the sympathetic senior citizen, my toddler’s attention is entirely focused on the rows of crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside French style baguettes.

“No, no, no, honey, no.” But I’m too late. By the time I reach her, she’s clutching a baguette to her chest like it’s her lifeline. Once again, I find myself squatting so that I’m at her level, just like the parenting manuals tell you to do.

“Honey, put that down, put it, just put it down, okay? We have bread at home, nice bread, much better than this bread, this bread is yucky, blech! Are you hungry, kiddo, is that why? We can have dinner as soon as we get home, but first we have to leave the store, okay? Hey, guess what! I have fruit snacks in the car. You like those, don’t you, sweetheart? Come on, let’s go, please?”

I glance behind me at the checkout lines, which are now teeming with customers guarding overloaded grocery carts. No way am I going through that line again, not for a two dollar loaf of bread. I debate whether to leave a few bucks on the display shelf, but a quick search reminds me that I’m not carrying any cash today. Panic starts to rise in my throat as I gently slide the baguette from her tight grasp.

“No, Mommy!  Mine, mine, MINE!”  As her screams increase in intensity and volume, I throw her over my shoulder fireman-style, ignoring the sharp kicks to my sternum and the small hands pulling my hair. I lob the crushed baguette in the general direction of the bakery display and refuse to make eye contact with the customers now openly staring at us as I make our way to my vehicle as quickly as I can.

“Where’s my stupid car? Why on earth did I park so far away, anyway?”

“Mommy, NO! NO CAR, NO!”

“Just get in the car seat, stop squirming!” Once she’s buckled in, I reach blindly into the glove compartment and grab the emergency package of fruit snacks.  I figure this qualifies as an emergency. “Here, take this, please be quiet!”

A few minutes later, I glance in my rear view mirror to see that my daughter is happily munching on the candy and singing along to the radio. When I catch her eye, she shoots me one of her patented crooked smiles, her big brown eyes scrunching up charmingly. I turn my head to return her smile and she blows me a kiss, which I pretend to catch and put in my pocket.  This never fails to make her laugh, and this time is no exception.

“I love you, silly girl.”

“Me no silly! YOU silly!”

I thought I knew everything about parenting before I became a mother. I can admit when I’m wrong, however, and I have fully conceded that I haven’t got a clue. So go ahead and judge me all you like; I happen to think that my daughter and I make a pretty good team.

Has it really been 3 months? I feel like I’ve been in a daze for the past 12 weeks, I can scarcely believe it’s been that long. It’s been a tough time, but so rewarding and worth it. I am honored to have the privilege of caring for this little girl. She’s the light of my life.

Overall, I would say that T’s adjusting pretty well, 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. The first few weeks were very tough on her, though. She tends to shut down when she’s under stress – she gets very still and quiet, and her little face gets so serious. She would play quietly, she would smile with a little coaxing, and she always let me kiss and hug her – but she was pretty clearly freaking out on the inside.

I don’t want to make it sound worse than it was, though. There were lots of wonderful, happy moments, but she was struggling the first few weeks. Especially compared to her demeanor now, where she is a singing-dancing-laughing-mischievious little cuddlebug.

Sleep

The toughest thing on both of us, was that she had a lot of trouble sleeping at first. [Who am I kidding? She still doesn’t sleep.] Hours-long meltdowns would occur whenever I tried to put her down, even though she was exhausted. It was so heartbreaking and I felt so helpless. I would get as close to her as she’d let me while lay curled up on the floor, her body shaking, sobbing her little heart out – all the grief and fear and stress that were keeping her from getting good rest – until she would finally, finally collapse in my arms and close her eyes.  I still cry whenever I think about that time. My poor kid, she has been through so much in her short little life. She still struggles to fall asleep, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was the first month home.

Food

She was a picky eater at first. Here’s a list of the foods she liked when she first came home:

1. pasta with tomato sauce

2. scrambled eggs

3. Cheerios

 

After 2 months home, she liked all of the above, plus:

4. boiled potatoes

5. boiled carrots

6. saltine flavored Goldfish crackers

7. chicken drumsticks, but only if I fed her from my plate

No fruit, no oatmeal, no other vegetables unless I sneaked them in her pasta, not even sweets. I was convinced she was going to get scurvy or something.

 

Suddenly, approximately 10 days ago, she started to show more willingness to try new foods. It was like a light came on in her head: hey, there are lots and lots of foods in the world, and some of them are pretty tasty! Applesauce, oranges, meatloaf, green beans, vegetable soup. She’s developed a sweet tooth, especially for ice cream. And she would eat ketchup plain with a spoon if I let her.  Such an American girl, already!

 

Language

She still says quite a few Ethiopian words, and is starting to say a few English words. I’m compiling a list of the words she says and I’ll create a separate blog to talk more in depth about her language. I’m hoping that being in day care will speed up her language acquisition. I feel like she understands almost everything I say to her, but I’m worried that she’s a little delayed.  I’m hoping that being in day care will help her to catch up quickly.

Day Care

T started day care last week in preparation for when I go back to work. Her HH training certainly helped her to settle in easily – her teacher said she’s the most well-behaved child in the room already. Well, that’s certainly nice to hear! Especially since she’s been super defiant at home this week. She’s also been a little more clingy and needy. This is normal transition stuff and I hope that we get it all out of the way before I go back to work full time.

Me

This has been such an overwhelming time. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not depressed or anything like that. It’s all good things, really. I’m so happy to be a mom and I feel so blessed that T is my daughter. She’s bright and sweet and funny and affectionate. She’s also stubborn and a little mischievious and needs me to be 100% focused on her 100% of the time.

As a single mom, well, you never get a break.  Enough said. I’ve been exhausted and I’m dropping balls all over the place. If I owe you a phone call or an email or a visit, please accept my apologies if I have been remiss. I guess T isn’t the only one who’s had an adjustment period; I’ve had to find my own new routine. I’m getting there, slowly. My resilient, tough little cookie of a daughter is my role model in this regard.

 

I’m not abandoning this blog, just so you know! New-mom-exhaustion and computer troubles have sidetracked me, but I’m back now!

 

I’ll be back later this week to catch up on what’s been going on since the last time I wrote. In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to somebody special.

Meet Princess T

The thing that struck me most the first time I met T was how still she was – stoic, really – sitting in her crib, watching the farenji who had just wandered into Room 2. She just looked at me with those eyes of hers – as big as dinner plates, no lie – and a Mona Lisa smile on her face; letting me stroke her little cheek and pat her little head, just watching me. She let me pick her up without a fight – but without any enthusiasm, either. Her entire demeanor screamed “I’m not sure what’s going on right now but I’ll just roll with it.” The nanny explained to her, “T, this is your mommy” – I swear, the kid didn’t even bat an eyelash.

 

That’s when I realized that she was going to make me work for it. The other kids might have been climbing all over each other to get my attention, but not T. T was too busy playing Queen bee – making sure that all the children had fun toys to play with, comforting the crying toddlers, and pretending not to notice the Mommy in the room. If it weren’t for the fact that I was watching her like a hawk, I might have missed her glancing over at me whenever she thought I wasn’t looking. I might not have caught her giggling whenever the nanny reminded her just whose Mommy I was. Eventually she came close enough for me to snatch her up and engage her in a tickle fight/kissing game, which she loved. Happily, this broke the ice, and set the stage for her becoming more comfortable with me over the next couple of days. It was slow going, though.

 

The next major breakthrough was on day 3 of my 6 day stay. But before I talk about that, let’s talk about Room 2. Meg called it the party room in her recent blog about her trip to HH. That, my friends, is an understatement. These toddlers are cray cray in the best way. If Room 2 was a song, it would be Rebecca Black’s Friday as performed by the cast of Glee.

 

Or Pink’s Raise Your Glass, also as performed by the cast of Glee.*

 

 

 

Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail in order to protect the kids’ privacy, but suffice it to say, there were shenanigans. There were also bubbles.

What? You want to know more? Let me put it this way: if you happen to spend any time Room 2, you will be utilized as a human jungle gym; you will be enlisted into the hilarious game of swatting imaginary flies, much to the amusement of your 2 year old audience; and you will find yourself falling in love with every single one of those kids and their crazy antics.

If you’re adopting a toddler who is at HH right now and you happen to read this blog, send me an email at bole2concord @ gmail dot com. Chances are I have some great stories to tell you about your kid. Honestly, these kids are amazing. Smart, funny, happy, healthy…and I’m pretty sure they’re plotting to take over the world. Just saying.

 *Don’t judge me, m’kay? That’s my show.

Next time: Day 3 and the Vapomonster