30 August 2008
Julia and I went swimming in the afternoon. The pool closes tomorrow and it was a lovely day to be in the water. Actually I think we got more sun yesterday and today than we got during our entire east coast journey. The hot sun felt good, the water was great -- water never gets that warm in Wisconsin. Julia went down the slide with me twice. In the beginning of the summer she went down the slide, got flipped around while going down, got scared and decided never to go on the slide again. Doing it today brought her summer full circle.
At the pool, we met some of the kids who Julia went to camp with. Thalia & her dad who owned this house before us, and Julia V. and her mom with another kid. The girls are all 6 and 7 and going into first grade like Julia, and Julia was very excited to see them. Unfortunately, the girls were into talking and Julia is not. It breaks my heart to see Julia try so hard and just not get it. She is so plucky though. She teased Thalia and the others for a bit and then went in the pool and looked for someone else to play with. Last year, Julia wanted me to play with her all the time. Right now, she will play with me now and then, but prefers to go in alone and trol for friends. Today, she met with some luck. She found a little girl who wanted to play with the ball the Julia had brought. They threw the ball and swam to get it. At one point, there three little boys started splashing them and they "fought" back. This is the kind of play that Julia can engage in.
Nick and Thalia left with the other neighbor and her kids. They were all going to Nick's house where the kids were going to play on a trampoline. Nick asked us to join them, but I demured. I could see that Thalia was not interested in having Julia come over and I didn't want to push Julia on her. They might be friends at some point in the future.
For supper, we went to Taste of Madison. Another event! Lots of restaurants put up stands around the square and serve food for under $4 a plate. Julia had a great little steak or nu-nu from a steak house stand; we also had Thia food, great onion rings, and some Indian. Julia had Superman Ice Cream for desert.
We had two baloon incidents today. LOL. Both on the square. There is a baloon man on the square during the farmers' market. He made Julia a red snake was scary green eyes. Okay, this was not a complicated baloon animal, but Julia liked it. As we walked around the square, David took control of the snake let it touch, just touch, the cement and boom, it was gone. Julia was sad and pouted a bit was a pretty good sport about her snake. Then, at supper Julia was given a red baloon that we tied onto her wrist. Of course, she wanted to take it off her wrist and she did and it floated up and away. We watched it go until we couldn't see it anymore. Julia wanted it to come back to her and strangely enough, as we were getting out ice cream, two women were trying to blow up another red baloon and let it go. It landed at Julia's feet and she was sure it was her baloon come back to her. The women told her to keep it and Julia was thrilled. So much for teaching her that a released baloon never comes back. Then again, maybe she was discovering the magic of a baloon.
29 August 2008
Today, Julia and I had a lovely end of summer day. We watched Sesame Street over breakfast, finished cleaning up and sorting all of her little toys into new and/or different plastic boxes, then went to our community pool where we ate our packed lunch and swam for most of the afternoon. We came home before David arrived home from work, and Julia played with her toys. Once he was home we decided to go to a Dance. Yes, indeedy, there are Dane (County) Dances in August. This was the first one that we went to. It was on the roof at our Ovature Center, a concert venue that sits on one of the lakes. The view was great, the weather perfect. There were food venders for our supper and a great band with lots of people around for dancing. Julia wanted to dance close to the band, but close to the band was close to the speakers and that was too loud for her. We went to the back of the dance space and had a great time. I swung her around, had her doing circles under my arm, and jumped around with her. Julia insisted that she dance with me and with David and then insisted that David and I dance.
This wonderful child, full of challenges and full of surprises. This child who molds our days and who has changed our family in many way. This child is ours and we are hers. How glorious that is.
Other Julia happenings:
Julia was not particularly excited to visit her school yesterday, but she hugged Christy when she saw her and talked and talked to her. She went around the familiar classroom (Julia's teacher, Christy, is teaching a K-1 class this year and we are sooo pleased that Julia is in this class), touching, playing, saying hi to kids she knew and new kids. There is another adopted Chinese girl in her class. I've spoken with her father at the beginning of the summer. Julia went up to the little girl and welcomed her into the class. By the time it was ready to go into the playground for popcicles, Julia was having fun. This morning she asked me when I was going to let her go to school again. This is not wild enthusiam, but it is definite interest. Yahoo!
Julia and I played a short matching game today. I put out 8 cards at a time and when we got down to 2 cards I put out six more. Julia was able to turn over two at a time, remember where certain matches sometimes, and took pleasure in piling up her matching cards.
Our speech therapist, Carol, is retiring at the end of September. I am thrilled for her. She has been great with Julia and has compared notes with our OT therapist which has been wonderful. She will be so missed.
We visited a family therapist, Lance Woods, who has worked with adopted kids, kids who have experienced trauma, and kids on the spectrum. I am hoping to do attachment therapy with him and to understand more of Julia. We told him that our concerns were Julia's anger, especially towards me, and her inability really relax or nap. I am feeling like that second concern is about hypervilence. I don't know how feeling about this therapist. I did not immediately connect with him. He told us that kids with attachment issues never really recover and that we may never have the same relationship with Julia that we have with Cheshire. This may be the truth. I don't know. Possibility this is a reality that he feels he needs to tell new clients. To me, it is needlessly pessimistic. And I believe that our relationship with Julia is pretty good, not perfect, and we have work to do to make it truly and fully loving, but we have come so far.
On another front: I still have a laptop with a virus. I am giving up trying to do something about it myself and surrender it to the official geeks to be cleaned and serviced. I am not writing emails and not using any of my other programs. I hope to be up to speed again before long.
26 August 2008
Since we have started using the second CD for expressiveness, Julia has been much more particular about the words of songs, although she still makes up lyrics all the time.
This morning, Julia was making up for not eating much yesterday. Two eggs, two waffles, and lots of blue berries. She had finished most of her waffles when she was left with a rather big piece that was uncut. Instead of shoving it all inside her mouth, like she usually does, she asked me to cut it up, please. Table manners??
Yesterday's failure at "moving" and "standing still", was preceeded by her ability to tell me what she ate for lunch about two hours after we had it. She also answered the question of what was her favorite animal at the zoo yesterday.
25 August 2008
Julia and I were out of sorts today. Getting back to real life? I am not sure. I didn't get much done in the house apart from food shopping and picking up the dog from the kennel. Julia managed to spread all of the toys she plays with regularly all around the house making walking a challenge. Tonight, we took a walk and tried to enforce safe crossing of the street. Oh, it was a total failure. I don't think that Julia really understands the difference between moving cars and cars standing still. Her problem seems to be a lack of focus -- ants, shadow and dinosaurs, the focus is great. Daily life -- she repeats what I say without understanding a thing. I have to talk to someone about this.
Listening to the Democratic Convention tonight and just heard Michelle Obama speak. She is smart, a good speaker, and very smooth. And she could be our first lady. Will it, can it? I sure hope so.
Meanwhile, David and ShaDiamon were riding the big ones! Traci caught another side of David's ride.
After a great lunch which Becky planned and Jenae's grandma helped with, naps for the littles, swimming for my girls and Tracie's big kids, the group assembled for dinner.
Becky did so much great planning for the weekend. She and Calvin and Jenea are waiting for a son and little brother coming home soon.
The Smiths -- Valerie and Kevin played with ShaDiamon and Julia in the pool and around the lodge. By the end of the weekend, Julia was hugging Kevin and telling him that she would miss him. WE miss all of thm!
Angela and Lainey looking happy and doing so well. We missed Lainey's daddy but we expect him next year.
Julia found time to make a little sculpture with some play dough. .
The girls ran aound and danced around.
While Tracy and I talked.
Next morning, we tried once again to a great red couch picture. Our previous attempts -- 2006 in China and 2007 in Indianapolis -- were not entirely successful. The best picture taken in 2008 can be found here. The out takes are right here!
Julia was the first to advise us that she was finished posing . . . .
22 August 2008
Julia opens her eyes wide when she searches for mine. She meets my eyes easier and she initiates the meetings more often. She has so much more to say – I am repeating myself over and over, but her language continues to change. She is asking questions, and her ‘wanting to talk’ has taken on a more direct and longer scenario.
Babja: (Is not listening.)
Babja: Yes, Julia.
Julia: I want talk to you.
Julia: (Quiet now)
Me: Julia what do you want to say to Babja?
Julia: I want . . . I want . . . I want . . . . talk ‘bout pets.
So this is not brilliant conversation yet, but she is closer. Last night, she also interrupted me in the car when I was talking to my mother. She said, "Julia want to talk Mommy." I see in this a recognition that I am doing something that interferes with Julia’s ability to talk to me – there are things going on outside of her. She is seeing that she is not the world in toto.
Today, our late morning plane is cancelled because of some leaking hydraulics, and she tells David on the phone, "We late because plane is broken," capturing the message and relaying it to the person who needs to know. We change our flight, have some lunch (and thank goodness she is willing to eat chicken fingers – not a favorite – and a salad, have a bit of candy – sour and green – , and sit quietly to watch a movie. We were lucky to decide to get off the broken plane at the first mention that the air conditioning was to be turned off and to move to the forming line behind just a few people who were inquiring about connecting flights. We waited pretty patiently, got our later flights, and found somewhere to eat lunch, and then seats to watch a movie on the little DVD player. She gives me time to write, and I write and take breaks to watch some important movie scene with her or to talk about broken planes, mommy and daddy planes, and just where Daddy is right now. She also asks where Cheshire went, where Abby is, and if Michael is going to school.
It is almost 8 pm and Julia and I are now bound for Milwaukee. We are above the clouds and have a view of the sunset that is magical. Julia is watching Spirited Away and I will join her soon. She has been such a good traveler today. She has moved and changed when necessary, she has waited on lines and eaten what was available. She has not complained, whined, or tantrumed. She has been cheery, has talked to strangers (especially one guy who wore a golden dragon and white tiger on his shirt) and followed my direction. She has also yawned a few times in the last few minutes. I am so happy and proud of her behavior.
Yesterday, we visited Julia’s orphanage sister, MiaoMiao. I drove to Pennsylvania and we spent about 4 hours with MiaoMiao, her sisters, and mother. I am so very glad that her mother wants us to stay in touch and keep up some kind of relationship for the girls, but I am worried some. MiaoMiao, a year and a half younger and home about 6 months less than Julia, is far beyond Julia in her maturity, her communication and social skills, her use of her intelligence. She accepted Julia and played with her. Julia was first uncomfortable – sitting on the front lawn of the house as MiaoMiao danced around her – and then very happy to see her, but will/was MiaoMiao embarrassed or disappointed by her friend’s behavior. Does she think that Julia is a baby, unable to understand her, stupid? Julia is who she is and is making the progress that she is making. I want to continue to be in touch with MiaoMiao, albeit on a very limited basis because of our distance, I want to save the friendship so that they both have it when they are grown. I do have a bit of fear that Julia will be rejected.
Cheshire said, that she perceived some discomfort in MiaoMiao. Cheshire compared it to my relationship with Carolina, almost mute with alzheimer’s – that I am living, moving on, going past my dear friend, and she is frozen where she is, no longer able to be anything more than be physically present and my friend only in memory which may be all mine. The relationship between Julia and MiaoMiao is not so dramatic, but I can patiently visit Carolina and do what I can to connect, be sad, but still be there. My question is whether MiaoMiao can be that patient with Julia.
Julia and MiaoMiao played dress up, which Julia rarely does. She was a princess, and then a ballerina. MiaoMiao put a braid in Julia’s hair, and presented her handiwork, mentioning how she dressed and braided Julia. Julia very happily explored her friend’s house and room, and played with her toys and her sisters. It was interesting to see Julia and MiaoMiao play together with the same kind of tiny toys – poly pocket instead of little pets – both of them seem to have an interest in the very small. MiaoMiao has developed into a girly girl, with dolls and dress up and princesses. Julia tends to sit more on the tom boy side of the fence, although nothing compares to being dressed as a ballerina. When Julia draws figures now, she sometimes adds crossed lines to the shoes which makes the person or animal or fish into someone "doing ballet."
All the girls sat at a big kitchen table to have lunch together – hard boiled eggs, hotdogs, watermelon, and little cupcakes. Julia was in heaven. She tried to direct all the girls, as she does. She was able to answer a few questions that the sisters asked. (She really has her age down pat and answer the "how old are you question" of almost anyone.). Julia and MiaoMiao were referring to each other by their American names most of the time, although neither rejected the other for the names they were called in China.
The girls went to ride bikes on the drive way, and as MiaoMiao rode loops on her two wheeler, Julia struggle on a bike with training wheels. We took a walk around the block with one of the sisters pulling a wagon that Julia and MiaoMiao rode in. What did they talk about? Julia is still so alive in the present, I wonder how she regards MiaoMiao.
When it was time to leave, both girls wanted to stay together, but it was Julia who wanted the extra hugs. MiaoMiao did run to the car and did wave very hard. Oh, I hope they can stay friends.
19 August 2008
Uncle Nick was a childhood friend of my mother’s half-brother, Nick, our real Uncle Nick, when they both lived in Ukraine. Both came to the United States as young men, my mother’s brother after years of being brought up by paternal grandparents who were less than happy to be saddled with a young boy after their son died and his young wife immigrated to America. My grandmother did not save sufficient funds to get her son to the US until he was 16 years old. By that time, she had re-married and produced two daughters. I wonder at his thoughts and feelings as he entered a family and got to know the mother who had left him in her old country when he was a little more than an infant. She expected to make a start in America, and to have a home ready for her husband and son when they joined her as soon as the husband was released from the Russian Army. Instead, the husband died during boot camp, probably of influenza, and Uncle Nick had to grow up a virtual orphan.
Nadia’s father married before my Uncle Nick, to a woman named Genya They had one daughter, the very Nadia we visited. She, in turn, married John and had two sons, who produced a set of triplets (two girls and a boy), another daughter, and a son. One of Nadia’s sons is an artist who draws political cartoons for the NY Post and decorated St. Agnes’ Church in NYC (incredibly gorgeous) and authored and illustrated a kids’ book with his young son. Nadia and her parents (and parts of her extended family) lived in the same neighborhood on Baldwin Street in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1930's that my mother and her family lived. Their life was probably typical of the time and revolved around their church with everyone participating in choir, dance troupes, after school and Saturday Ukrainian classes, and sports clubs. From what I gather, and have gathered all through my life, our families have always been very warm and close. My mother talks of Nadia’s aunt, Olga, who favored my mother (and put bows in her hair) when her own mother was busy caring for an ailing husband and supporting their household, and possibly neglecting her youngest daughter. Nadia at 10 was the flower girl in my parents’ wedding with a long ruffled dress and long hair in fat baloney curls. She was very beautiful as a child (actually all her life) and I often thought that the pictures of her was what my mother would have preferred for her own daughter. I remember Nadia visiting my family when I was very young – 4, maybe 3 even. She brought me a big, fat, blue book that had nursery rhymes, short stories, and portions of chapter books in it. I cherished this book, the first book that was all my own, and to this day, my favorite gift to any child, especially young children, is a book. I once told Nadia how much I thought of this gift to a rather shy, fat, and plain little girl and she laughed off its importance. And that is part of her as well.
Nadia is in possession of a rich spirit and her home is full of memories. Paintings and sketches adorn the walls – both John, her husband and one of her sons are responsible for much of the art work. Then there are pictures of parents, relations near and far, children, and grandchildren. There are cabinets and cases that enclose crystal, china, and dolls from a few generations of girls and souvenirs of lives lived with great curiosity and spirit. Nadia and her family have kept their connections with Ukraine and Ukrainian relatives alive. Both she and her father visited often and for long periods of time, and send supplies often. They have hosted relations coming to the US and have helped those left behind.
Nadia’s spirit is expansive and rich. Her welcome to all of us was effusive. She knows of my life mostly through my mother’s reports, she met Cheshire when Ches was about 9 and playing violin for my parents’ 48th anniversary party. She welcomed Julia, admiring her beauty and spirit, and finding for her perfect toys and presents, some hidden and some out to be played with immediately. Nadia took Julia into her basement and offered her dolls. I think that Nadia loved/loves dolls and I understand the happy possibility of sharing a doll with a child. But Julia is Julia, and dolls are not her favorites. I was not there but Nadia regrouped and found a playschol camper set which Julia immediately set upon. Julia was more than excited. She has a bit playschol toys – little people, a hotdog stand, and some plastic clothes – from Matthew, but I have not found any sets that I like and think appropriate for Julia. This set with a travel camper, a family of five, and tiny accessories kept her occupied for hours. Julia pulled all of the pieces apart from their plastic holders and set tiny tables, put people onto tiny chairs, and even arranged tiny flowers. And when later Nadia asked her to bring some of it to the diningroom table to show her father, Julia ran to the porch room, gathered up some of the pieces into her skirt and brought them to the table. This reaction of Julia’s, so ordinary, is nonetheless such a leap! Julia is now responding by doing. Oh, I hope this continues in school. How much easier it would be for Christy and her therapists if Julia started doing what she was asked to do.
The visit with Nadia was so tinged with the old fashion visits I remember from my very young years. An hour visit that turns into the rest of the day. The children – child in this case – playing part of the time in another room, and the adults talking, catching up and telling stories, giving time to the oldest ones to say something and listening to an occasional opinion for the youngest of the adults. Well, I don’t remember the last, but saw it happening in this house. Cheshire was listened to, advised and offered all wishes, support and love. I got to talk about Julia and her challenges as both John and Nadia worked with children, some with special needs, during their working years. And again, I was listened to, advised, and offered love and support.
We ate cold cuts and cheeses and peach pie and poppyseed cake that we had bought in a bakery. My mother praised my poppyseed cake, but Cheshire found the store bought (the first store bought that she has ever eaten) good enough to indulge in three pieces – so uncharacteristic of her. Nadia told us about her own pies even though this too was bought. Nadia’s tasks right now are taking care of her aging father – 99 this year, a bit feeble but very alert – and her ailing husband. She seems to do it with such good cheer and very few complaints – those being only in relation to how her charges are unable to enjoy things as they used to. Her good cheer and devotion is natural, and both Ches and I felt that Nadia enjoyed every day. I was so happy to be included in this visit. I am so glad that Cheshire got to know such a woman. Nadia fills all of us with her expansive spirit, and possibly we caught her excitment for every day.
Nadia, Babja (my mother), and Uncle Nick. And below, Julia gets into the act.
Julia shows Babja and then Great-grandpa Nick her new toys that Nadia magically produced from her basement.Great Granpa investigate for himself and shows Julia a things AND two.
18 August 2008
Good line from last night: "Mommy, I am very so sleepy tired." This from the kid who never seems tired. And that is another thing I want to talk to the shrink about.
17 August 2008
Julia's behavior not the best but still holding together most of the time. At my mother's house, Julia is working many days and her letters are getting better. She asked me to spell a few words although she still guesses at the sounds and gets the wrong letters. She did a dot-to-dot by herself today, a big step considering that a few weeks ago she had no idea of what to do. Connecting 1 to 10 to make a dino's tail without my help feels like a leap forward. More and more language.A just hatched Julia waiting for her mommy bird and a few fat worms.The spicy dragon rides a fierce tiger.My darling, darling face.
Oh, my girls.
15 August 2008
Later, after dropping Cheshire's stuff off and admiring what she had done with her room -- a soft yellow now with roman shades and pictures on the walls -- we walked 7th Ave in Brooklyn and visited Carolina and David.
David and Julia in front of Cheshire's brownstone home.
Carolina's alzhiemer's is progressing very rapidly. She has had a recent change of medication and David told us that she was doing better than a few months ago, but there was no sign of recognition, and only mumbling with a few words. At times, she looked in my eyes and started to say something, almost as if, as if there were whole thoughts and a recognition of our whole past, but if she got out two words or if she blinks, the herself that I have always known vanished. Only the shell, the lovely outside of my friend remains. Our visit did not upset her in any way, and again, I took that as a positive sign.
We walked Julia so much today. She was fidgity and alive with interest in all that was around her. Brooklyn is a feast for the senses and she wanted to take it all in. It was very hard to walk with her head turned to where she was walking and to continue when she so wanted to stop after every step to see something or someone new.
David leaves for home tomorrow; Cheshire is still with us. Maybe we will try the Museum of Natural History tomorrow. Maybe we will stop eating tomorrow!
13 August 2008
She is loving the visiting. She hugs and kisses all the relatives, is so excited to play with Michael and Sarah, and tries to get Cheshire's attention whenever possible. She is also trying very hard to start and maintain conversations. She names things and whose house is whose, talks about her favorite movie characters, and talks about what she is making out of clay. She is also willing to do her writing work and to do the listening therapy. We are not making great strides in anything but the fact that we can keep our work going and Julia can keep talking, I feel very good about the traveling time.
And even walking back to the start of the riding. Unfortunately, Julia lost one of her flip flops to the river. She needed them walking on the rocks (as I did) and now all she has are her shoes until we get home.
David and Cheshire relax on our picnic blanket.
Most of our crew -- I am snapping pics and Nick was working. But what a beautiful bunch!