30 November 2007

Rehabing the doll house

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Over the last few days, I refurbished Cheshire's old doll house for Julia. I made it about 15 years ago and it was in our basement for . . . oh, at least the last 5 or 7 years. When we were packing for Madison, I was thinking of getting rid of it and making a new one for Julia, but Julia wanted the old one (And Cheshire was not that crazy about giving it up either).

The house had been looking a little ratty for a long time. Pieces were coming off because the glue had dried up, it was very dusty, and much of the furniture we had was broken. Julia wanted to claim it; however, and she played while I packed up our Indy cellar.

She also insisted on having it in the sun room in Madison and she takes it out often to play with it. Sometimes dinosaurs live in the house, sometimes horses. Lately, more people have been moving in.

Santa is bringing some new furniture -- tee hee -- and so it was time to clean up, paint, and re-glue. (If only I could use the glue gun to re-do our real bathroom!). Julia loved the results and to celebrate we decorated the doll house for Christmas. I can see that there may be lights and giant blow up santas in our future. We have always gone with the tasteful candles and a wreath.
Julis put this little girl on a "stool" and into the window and told me that this girl is Julia.
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29 November 2007

A good day for Julia

A few things this week --

On the way home today, I asked Julia the questions that I ask every day. I started asking questions of Julia after school when school started. She had a hard time answering questions, at first answering to calls, or just answering in general. I found that general questions, like 'how was school,' or 'how was your day' were absolutely crazy to ask. Even, 'did you have a good day at school' was way too hard for her. Then I tried 'did you like your lunch,' and started asking that on days when I knew that she should have really liked the lunch that I pack. I could ask her about her soup, or the string cheese, or the apple sauce. This she could respond to. Usually, Julia just parroted back what I asked, but she answered.

These days, I ask about lunch in general, and Julia answers. I ask if she had a good day at school, and she tells me yes or no. I ask about reading and numbers and puzzles and the playground, and usually I don't get any answers. BUT today, today, Julia answer when I asked about reading. She said that she was reading today, a book and she was in a chair. I asked her about numbers, and Julia told me she was working on "8 and 62." Julia and her teacher are working on numbers 1 through 4, so her answer was a bit of fiction, but it was more than a mirror answer. And I feel like this was a big break through.

Christy, Julia's teacher, sent a note home today that Julia picked out the name of her friend, Cynthia, without being asked. Julia also asked Christy which name was Annie's. Julia also got a good report from the after-school people today. They told me that Julia was playing "very appropriately" (which means no teasing, no chasing, no hitting, and no being mean) with three boys.

Gross and Yucky

Now for a change of pace. Gross story day! Last week, we were traveling and were at the airport sitting waiting for boarding with lots of people. Julia is still picking her nose but not eating what comes out (picking our battles carefully, we decided on eating first. oh, yuck!). Yes, gross. So she pick a huge piece of snot out of her nose, and asks me to take it from her. Of course, I have no available klenex, but take it anyway, looking for something to do with it. Then Julia says in a loud but sweet voice, "Mommy, you eat it?" There were grimaces, muffled laughter and snickers from those around us while I explained that I do not eat snot, that she should not do it, and that even though I'd rather her give it to me than eat it, she could have asked for a klenex or ask to have her nose blown.

Gosh, I am so happy I don't embarrass easily any more!

28 November 2007

We gather together

We usually take a group shot of all of us and I have framed quite a few of them. This one, however, is just the best we've ever done. There is not one frown, silly face, or uncomfortable posture. We are beautiful and very, very thankful.
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Traditional Donut Breakfast?

Really, really, this is the first time we've had donuts for breakfast in a very, very long time. However, it is clear that we all rather liked the occasion, and a once a year donut breakfast is acceptable.
Jason and Sarah digging in.
Julia discovered chocolate donuts. She proceeded to eat the top and demand a second, but mean Mommy made her eat the entire donut before she could have another one. Some times you just have to discipline your kids!
And yes, we all had DONUTS!
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Brisk walks and pretty people

Julia was excited to see and spend time with Cheshire. Note that traditional Thanksgiving bunney ears on Julia's head.
Most of the crew out walking in Havre de Grace. We cut the walk short in case Julia was cold and getting tired, but you will notice that she has the best seat in the house . . . or outside the house
Sarah Grace studying the Blokus game board and looking incredibly grown up and beautiful. I think I won that game.
Jason and Cheshire just being their cute selves.
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Thanksgiving tasks

I did not get any pictures of serious turkey cooking. Why?? Well, I was busy turkey cooking. But I did snap a few on breaks and everyone doing what they were doing was much more exciting than what I was doing. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of Nick showing Jason how he smoked a turkey. Nick has been doing it for a few years now and this year's smoked turkey was exceptional!

Here we see David checking email and the news -- an old Thanksgiving tradition.

We all took turns washing up. The best way to get a bit of quiet time alone was to head for the sink and start washing.

Then there was the cooking and everyone had a project. Cheshire and Sarah Grace usually make the pumpkin pies, and this year Cheshire and Michael made scones for Thanksgiving breakfast. Who knows what Julia's task will be. Ditto for Jason, but he did his bit building that lego dinosaur!

And then there are the traditional Thanksgiving video games which Michael had no problem playing. Julia just hung around to see what he was doing and engage his attention whenever the game got a bit slow.
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Thanksgiving Games

We had a wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving!! David, Julia and I travelled to Maryland to be with Lisa, Nick, Sarah, and Michael. Marcia and Matthew joined us for two days. Jan came in on Wednesday. AND Cheshire and Jason came in from Connecticut and NYC, Jason crossing the pond to spend the week with Cheshire and with us.

Julia travelled well, fell in love with Michael, and found her way to feeling comfortable with every member of our party. No, her behavior was not perfect -- we slept in Sarah's room and I home that she has forgiven us for the mess and disarry that we left -- but way better than last year, and better even travelling a few months ago. We also had very good luck with our flights which we did not include in our blessings but probably should have.

We all enjoy playing games and we played quite a few during the weekend. This is a math game, much like scrabble, called Equate. I did not get a chance to play it, but I should probably practice for next year.
Julia played with a lego dinosaur, made by Jason after I whimped out, during some of our games. She doesn't play games yet, but maybe all that watching will rub off on her.
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19 November 2007

Thanksgiving baking

Julia and I spent part of last week baking biscotti for our Thanksgiving feast at our friends' house in Maryland. We will be there, Cheshire and Jason (from England!) will join us, Marcia and Matthew will also visit. Julia is a little upset that we left Latkah at the kennel today. This is kind of strange considering that Julia doesn't seem to like the dog and verbally "competes" with her for food and toys . . . and the place on daddy's lap.

Back to baking -- Julia loves to add ingredients, break eggs, hold the mixer, and stir. But what she really likes is to lick the paddles!
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17 November 2007

List making

How I love this face! I was blog surfacing the other day and I stumbled upon a blog written by a Korean adoptee who is probably about Cheshire's age. She posed the question whether parents love their adoptive parents as much or in the same way that they love their bio kids. She went on to explain how her parent treated her, but as they had no bio kids any comparison was purely academic. Other adoptees commented on the blog -- one described how she was abused by her adoptive father, and another told how he/she (?) was treated too carefully. I wonder about that Julia will think, how will she judge our raising. There is no way of treating any two children the same. There must be difference even between multiples, and there can be great differences in the way the children view how they were loved and cared for. It is love though, love. Treatment can vary, will never be equal, but love, abundant love can be -- not equal, but filling to each little soul.

How I love this face.

Julia had a first Occupational Therapy (OT) session on Monday. She used a body swing -- laying on a hammock-styled swing using her hands to steer and direct her body -- , made bubbles in a tub by blowing into a long narrow tube, drew lines and cut them, and picked out a key toy and opened little doors. Annie, the therapist provided Julia with a picture list of what they were going to do. As they did each thing, Julia and Annie checked off the activity. Julia liked the list and asked to take it home.

The purpose of the list is to provide some control, to give the person using it some stability. I had no idea whether using a list would help Julia but I tried it this morning. I wanted to do shopping -- stopping at 5 different places. At one place, Julia would get a chance to make an icepop stick snow flake, and at the last stop, we would buy a snack for Julia. Julia is not usually good at this sort of expedition and it was a good test of the list. We went to each place, and found and bought things we needed for our Thanksgiving travels. Julia decided no to make the snowflake but wanted to buy a small dinoasur instead. She found a muffin as her treat. Each time we completed a task, we crossed off that task on the list. And we arrived home about three hours later with a very well behaved little girl.

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13 November 2007

One of Julia's favorite activities at the Madison Children's Museum is doing dinosaur rubbings. After she rubbed each of the raised plates, Julia played with the dinosaur puppets.

Julia was very proud that we put her art work on the wall. Really, she has not brought home much to put on the wall until this last week. But if this makes her happy, I am ready to put pictures all over this house.
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Julia's doings

We have a teacher's conference followed by a "team" conference during which we will talk with the principal, ESL teacher, school psychologist, and teacher about planning for Julia's next semester. I trust these people so much because I see what they have been willing to do for Julia this semester. We will talk about whether to set up special ed testing for her. I think they are worried that Julia will not qualify for special ed services because of her language -- not speaking English is not a special need. Oh, I've written this before. Sorry.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the meeting.

Julia continues to amaze us. I am not writing often enough (and chide myself for that) to tell stories, so I'll do it bullet style.

*Julia is bringing home papers from school. Just like other kids!! The papers are not perfectly completed, but she is attempting (I am sure with help) to do what the other kids are doing. She signs her first name at the top of many of the pages and has followed some directions. Last weekend, I decided to hang some of her art-y pictures on the kitchen wall. Julia has finally begun to notice and appreciate some of our other pictures on the walls. She was so proud that I hung hers and showed them to David when he came home.

* Julia is a drawing machine! She uses markers to draw on the big white board that I have set up in the kitchen. She draws while I cook dinner. She even followed my direction yesterday to stop playing with clay in the living room and to come into the kitchen to draw.

Julia fills the white board more drawing – some of it recognizable. She doesn't just draw, she tells stories and her drawn people have adventures, feeling, and mishaps. The board gets very messy and very full as she draws over and over the people and things she draws. This is not the way that I've seen most kids draw but as Julia has discovered drawing so late, she is finding her own way. I know we are just beginning this phase. I can't wait to see how it evolves in the next few months.

*Julia continues to relax more. Hard to know when this will be finished because each time she does it, I think she looks so much better than she has before. Last week, we were at the tiny bathroom sink in our tiny bathroom, Julia on her stool and I next to her, both of us brushing our teeth. She threw one arm over my neck and we stood bent over and brushing. It was such a small, casual gesture, one that might have passed by unnoticed if it wasn't Julia's.

*Recently, I've been feeling like our bedroom has become a bears' den. Up until last week, the three of us slept in our bed bed with three different covers. Some nights I thought of it as the family yurt. Here, we have moved from our NYC days with 450 sq ft with 2-year-old Cheshire, to a nice sized house that has rooms we never enter! First Avenue would be fine with this Julia. I was putting away clothes the other day in Julia's real room and realized that besides darting in and out for clothes, we were spending no time at all in there. I don't want to force Julia to move back into her room. She is very happy right now and I think she is moving along pretty quickly these days. I hate to change that. BUT she also has a really nice room. I will figure something out and maybe we will play in there every day.

Julia loves the bed time ritual and sometimes announces that it is time for bed. We go up, change into pjs, brush and floss and rinse with Listerine (Julia does it because I do it. No matter the taste.), and then to bed to read. David and I take turns each night but I think she would prefer the Daddy do it every night.

We have both been working with Julia on her little books, some that she brings from school, others that I have taken from the library. We started by pointing to the single words in these book. When the books have a line or so on each page, I pointed to each word as Julia said it after me. Now, Julia is learning the books pretty quickly and yesterday for the first time she started point to the words by herself. To clarify, she is not reading or eve npointing to the right word, but it is making an impression.

In the morning, Julia wakes up in a good mood most of the time. This is pretty much pleasure for me. Sometimes when we wake up while David is showering, Julia plays with my hair. Making believe that she has a bottle of shampoo and scrubbing my head. Then she squeezes our some pretend "lotion" to make my hair beautiful. She love scrubbing and messing up my hair and also loves laughing and laughing at the results.

That's all for now. I have to get some pictures up next time.

10 November 2007

14 months home!

7-9 November 2007

Gosh, it’s been a week since I written. A quick week, a slow week, a week of nothing much unusual, and a week of discoveries. And now that it is longer than a week, more and more happens. Today, Julia is home for 14 months! We are listening to Chinese kid music and will probably have noodles for lunch and holupchi (stuffed cabbage) for dinner. Julia loves the holupchi, loved watching me make it, and was very interested in the cooking. She liked it right out of the oven and also fried the next day. I wonder if it reminds her of any Chinese dish she has had. Her enthusiasm suggests that. Or if she is just growing some Ukainian DNA, like we are growing some Chinese DNA. Is this what a blended family means?

Julia continues to do better and better with an occasional lapse. One was yesterday morning. David drove us to school and dropped us. He has done this before and I walk home after the morning bells ring, but yesterday Julia would have none off it. She had started talking about airplanes before her coat went on. We did not discourage the discussion and we said that we were leaving in two weeks for a Thanksgiving celebration at Lisa’s house. To get there, we’d take a plane. Julia continued with taking a plane now. I did not quite squelch the conversation but I didn’t know where it was going. By the time she got to school, and we are talking a 4 minute drive with traffic, she was going to get on a plane (figee, in her Chinese) today and was not getting out of the car for school. I had to carry her out since David needed to get to work, and then tried to coax her in as many ways as I could to give up on the plane and go to school. Nothing worked until two school folks physically took her into the school yard.

This was a repeat of last year, and frankly as it was going on, it scared me. I would find it hard to live with going back that far now – of course, I would like with it, but just flashing on it made me tired and very depressed. When I had time to think about it, later at home, I realized that this time Julia had a smile on her face every now and then as she was throwing her trantrum. And it wasn’t really a tantrum, there was some control there. As if she was testing, as if she was trying on her old behavior, as if she was checking out what kind of attention it would get her now. As an alternative, it is true that Julia and I usually use David’s car on the weekend, and we are usually going somewhere out of the ordinary. Were we giving her clues of a possible outing? And then again, there was a time when talking about an airplane, or going anywhere near the airport could set off an irrational stretch in her. Maybe some, maybe all.

I made some congee yesterday – a rice porridge that is enjoyed by most Chinese kids. So, not Julia. She called it conchoo, and seemed to know what it was. I think she said it was for babies and she did eat some when I spoon fed it to her, but there was no love there at all. Too bad, I sort of liked it. I could see it as a good winter feel good food. So, maybe I’ll make it for the non-Chinese people in our house.

Well, this entry is stretching out into days and day, so notations of yesterday and today mean very little. I’ll try to publish very soon.

Julia and I have our disagreements at time and Julia is beginning to act with a more open mind and heart during these arguments. This morning, I was trying to get Julia ready for riding – lots of warm clothes. I didn’t leave myself enough time for this and I was trying to rush. Julia is not one to rush. She was not being cooperative and I just fumed. I know it was mostly my fault, but I admit to the childish feelings of not wanting to always do things by Julia’s timing. (So maybe I will learn something from this kid!!) Anyway, we did get ready, I tried not to yell too much (and didn’t) but I was silently fuming and Julia knew I was angry. A few months ago, this sort of disagree would have caused Julia to yell and scream and then shut down. She would refuse to do anything, move or listen. She would become unmanageable. Today, she understood at some point that I was angry and started to do whatever I wanted her to do. As we rode to the riding barn, she flirted to me and tried to get me to stop being angry (I was not that angry, just testy.). And now, back home, she is using her white board to draw pictures of someone who is angry and what they are doing. And I am learning more patience and just how much my girl loves our family.

We got a note from her teacher at school that our parent-teacher meeting will be longer than usual and will include people who are relevant to doing an educational plan for her. Not quite the official meeting after an assessment and decision to give her special education, but a possible substitute for now. The PTB are worried that if they call for an assessment, the findings will be that there is no way to separate Julia’s language needs from her educational needs. And there is no special ed services for language – as if a kid really doesn’t need to know English to succeed in grammar school. I am hoping for school sponsored OT. We will see what they say.

I had interviewed for a job at the local fed court last week and felt the interview was a good one and that I had a decent chance. It was not a lawyer job but as I am not going to be admitted to the state bar anytime soon, I thought it was a good match. I was not counting chickens but I could have done it. Unfortunately, I got the ding letter and its back to the drawing board.

Searching for a job related to children/adoption/fostering and so far there is only bad news on the ground. If I had a social work degree, it would be better . . . this is what I hear but then I don’t see any social worker jobs in the field coming up on any of a dozen boards I am checking. I am writing and emailing anyone I can get an address of who might have some advice or openings. I hate doing cold calls but it may come to that.

I am definitely in a collage mood with the house. I’ve hung lots of art and now mirrors in the hall, and almost everything I am hanging is hung is groups. The pictures have been with us for a long time. They have hung in different rooms in two, three or four places that have been home. Looking at them together, seeing connections that only our family might recognize feels right. Lots of Jim Jones mixed with Cheshire and a few of my photos. Travel pictures are now all together and my many pictured frames full of children or doorways or lovely sights almost shout from the wall of the sounds and smells of where they are from. I have yet to frame pictures of Eurupena from this summer in Bolivia, but I have some incredible pictures taken by a friend of Cheshire that must go on the wall. I have to post some pictures to remember these first collages. I expect they will change in time.

01 November 2007

Halloween pictures

These are the only two pictures I took last night before the great candy looting. Julia was able to give out a little bit of candy before we went out ourselves. If I hadn't told her that we were going out she might have been satisfied staying home and giving out candy.

This is also Julia in makeup -- the makeup that she didn't let me wash off before bedtime. Imagine her with a full set of teeth and this kid is going to be a knock out. And Daddy is going to have to dust off the big stick that kept the wolves away from Jei Jei.
By the way, we left a big bowl of candy on our steps with our lit pumpkins. We left a note that invited kids to take candy but leave some for other kids. When we came home there were still a few pieces of candy left. Good kids, or at least, very nice parents.
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Just another kid

I almost feel like changing the name of this blog to A Really Regular American Kid. We still have lots of catching up to do and between school and OT, we may just do it.

Yesterday, as Julia and I walked home from school and she recited a simple verse that they have worked on in school. "Blue bird, blue bird, what do you see. I see a blue bird looking at me." She said the verse with lots of animals and colors, and ended with her teacher and children. Julia rarely really shares things going on in school – I am never sure if she doesn’t remember or think to remember or still doesn’t have the chatty words of conversation. I know that lots of kids don’t tell their parents what is going on at school, but I’ve always loved sharing at the end of the day, and I hope that we can get Julia to do it. This was a great first step.

When we got home, we have warm soup for an early dinner, and then got the house ready and ourselves ready to loot for candy. Julia was cooperative when I put her in 2 shirts, tights and long johns before putting on her Spanish Dress. She LOVED having make up put on her. So funny that she even knew what it was, really. I so rarely wear it, Cheshire not home to see much of it and even she doesn’t wear it all the time. But my girly girl Julia knew to close her eyes for eye make up and offer cheeks for some color and pucker lips for the stick. She was almost startling beautiful for a bit of color here and there. I sighed big time, not wanting her to grow up too fast, and realizing that I don’t know how to really put eye makeup on Asian eyes. I am sure I will notice and learn. Or I will not have to at all.

We did a few houses alone and then caught up with two of our neighbors with 6 boys between them. Julia happily joined in, going door to door, yelling trick or treat, saying thank you, and wishing everyone to "Have a good night." She also enjoyed keeping a few lollipops out and eating them during our journey. We were out for about an hour when she asked to go back to our house – no problem at all. I let her stay up a bit later than usual playing with the best treat of all – a little tub of pink play dough. Then we went upstairs, put on pjs and brushed teeth, but kept on the make up, and read stories and went to bed. She was a bit fidgety getting to sleep, but who wouldn’t be with a much higher sugar level than normal. She was just a regular kid.